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a personal guide

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Wadi Rum

Cliffs, sand and camels at Wadi Rum,

Anyone who has seen the movie Lawrence of Arabia will have seen Wadi Rum. Some of the film was shot there, though much of it is geographically inaccurate. In real life, T E Lawrence made Wadi Rum his

desert headquarters and fell in love with the place. Lawrence's book The Seven Pillars of Wisdom is named after a particularly striking rocky outcrop at Wadi Rum. His fascination for this amazing desert scenery is easy to imagine.

Wadi Rum (or Rum Valley) is a huge area 2km by 130km, some 60km drive north-east from Aqaba.

The desert scenery is constantly changing because the daylight appears to change the colours of the huge granite, basalt and sandstone mountains (jebels) that tower 800m above the desert floor. The sand is of many colours from white through yellows to Martian

red (in fact, a film about Mars was shot here). Wadi Rum is a protected area and access is possible only with a local guide. Only approved four-wheel drive vehicles are permitted.

We visited one morning in early November and had left Aqaba basking in 20+ degreesC. However, we found the desert cool, especially when travelling in an open sided vehicle. We had got into the mood by wearing headscarves - I wore my kuffiyeh and igal (see Shopping in Aqaba) - which proved to be a wise move to keep us warm and to keep the sand out of our faces.

Wadi Rum, Jordan
The vegetation gives away the site of a dried up river
Sand dune at Wadi Rum
Those tiny dots on top of the slope are people

There are a few things on a touring holiday that you could term "Wow!" moments. Wadi Rum was certainly one of those. The scale of of the place is simply stunning; it is huge and remote and barren. Although we only travelled a few kilometres from the entrance we really felt like explorers. A particularly memorable time was when we had tea in a remote Bedouin tent (see below).

Bedouin tent, Wadi Rum, JordanBedouin pours tea Tea in a Bedouin tent, Jordan

The furthest part of our tour was a cliff that was split rather like a small version of the Siq at Petra. We were able to walk into the cliff at ground level and on a narrow ledge some 3m up. There was evidence that water cascaded through this gorge during the winter. Outside, the ground was flat and the sand a different colour showing that it was the site of an occasional pool.

Oasis at Wadi Rum
We cross a dried up waterhole towards the cliff . . .
Siq at Wadi Rum
. . . where we venture inside

Wadi Rum in JordanAfter a couple of hours we returned to the Visitors Centre where there are clean toilets and some souvenir shops. After visiting a small exhibition about geology, flora, fauna etc, we sat in an auditorium and watched a movie about Wadi Rum. The film displayed different images on three screens, which was confusing, and the commentary was full of cliches (reminiscent of Peter Sellers' spoof travelogue: Balham, Gateway to the South) - well worth missing.

Before leaving we had a buffet meal at the Visitors Centre. Eating outdoors with the desert alongside and the Seven Pillars of Wisdom mountain as a background was nothing short of magical.

Rum Gate Restaurant Eating lunch beside the Seven Pillars of Wisdom - wonderful!

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