My two days in Jordan gave me two of the most amazing places I have ever been to. We already talked about Petra. The following day my destination was Wadi Rum.
Wadi Rum is inscribed both as a natural and a cultural World Heritage property. I left practically all of the cultural aspect of it aside. The awe-inspiring natural beauty of Wadi Rum bowled me over all by itself.
A visit to the protected area of Wadi Rum starts at the visitor center on its northern edge.
The distinctive rock in the background is called Seven Pillars of Wisdom, after a book by T.E.Lawrence, familiar to many as “Lawrence of Arabia”.
The cars seen in the shot above belong to local Bedouins, many of whom work as Wadi Rum tour guides. If you show up at the visitor center without any prior accommodations for seeing the desert, you can hire a local guide on the spot. Each guide will have an SUV on hand to drive you around. If you come in a 4×4, you can pay for a self-driving permit, but I do not expect many people take that option.
In my case, four people including me were picked up by a professional guide directly from our overnight lodgings near Petra in a closed, air-conditioned SUV, and driven to Wadi Rum and around the entire day.
We stopped for supplies at Wadi Rum village, the only population center in the 74,000-hectare area.
Near the edge of the village there are remains of a Nabatean temple. We drove up for a closer look, which was our only nod to the cultural history of Wadi Rum for the duration of the visit.
The temple sits under the mountain that is the main feature of the shot below. This mountain happens to be a prime spot for rock-climbers. From this distance, human figures are too tiny to identify, but there are a dozen of people at different stages of assent on the face of the rock. When we explored the temple, we counted them, even though they were still no more than tiny dots in that perspective.
The view from the temple towards the village.
A tourist group is making its way to the next stop on the itinerary.
It should be noted that at first I was disappointed with the closed aspect of our car but very quickly came to appreciate that – the sand kicked up by the wind and the vehicles themselves would surely become a nuisance. I don’t think I would be able to enjoy the place if I was in an open-air vehicle such as the ones in the caravan above.
The lone-tree “movie shot” spot at the mouth of the Wadi Rum valley.
Perspectives of Wadi Rum featured in a non-trivial number of movies, frequently as otherworldly landscapes but occasionally as Oriental desert settings. Lawrence of Arabia, filmed in 1962, started the trend which picked up significantly in the last couple of decades.
Another view towards the village.
Notice how insignificant the houses appear against the mountain backdrop.
We are not too deep into the desert yet. Nearby way station of Lawrence’s Spring is a place where you can hire a camel ride.
A view across the valley with a couple of cars offering scale.
We are now at Al Ramal Red Sand Dune, a series of rock formations on the valley floor about 3 miles from Wadi Rum village.
Here is what the village looks like from here.
Bedouin camps are nested in various nooks of the mountains. Practically none these days offers primary dwellings for the locals – these camps are primarily used as tourist overnight lodgings.
Below is not a great shot that nonetheless encapsulates my impression of the grandiosity of the place. At 240mm focal length the figures of camels still appear tiny. The lens compression surely distorts the distance between the travelers and the mountains behind them – it has to be at least 5 kilometers or so between them and the shade.
A 180° panoramic view of this part of Wadi Rum from the top of the Red Sand Dune.
And what do you know!? Two posts in a row there is a picture of yours truly.
Something must be said about traveling with a group of strangers in which everyone else is constantly attempting selfies or asks to be photographed in front of a specific backdrop – at some point you become self-conscious of the fact that you are the only one who does not do that.
A few assorted angles.
Another interesting rock formation is that of Little Bridge, a natural arch another few kilometers deeper into the desert.
As you put more distance between you and Wadi Rum village, the area becomes divided into relatively narrow valleys. Our last stop on the tour was in a fairly secluded nook in one such valley for lunch, prepared on the spot by our guide. We saw passing cars and camels in the distance, but it was likely the most isolated – and serene – lunch experience in my entire life, with only three fellow group members and the guide within a radius of a couple kilometers from me.
We sat in the shade of this mountain wall.
And here are a couple of different focal-length views across the valley. Passing cars again provide a bit of scale.
We spent around five hours in total within the protected area, of which a bit over an hour was spent on lunch-related activities. This is enough to get the overall impression such as mine, but a more in-depth appreciation of the place probably requires an overnight stay.