A wadi is a valley. “Rum,” according to Wikipedia, is probably from an Aramaic word meaning “high”. Wadi Rum is a couple of hours south of Amman, Jordan, along a highway my son tells me was funded by Saddam Hussein–one more thing to hold against him. The most interesting part of the journey was seeing cars and trucks occasionally driving the wrong way in the breakdown lane. Easier to do this than to go in south to the next U-turn, then go north to another U-turn, then go south again.
Also, what’s with the stacks of tires everywhere? It’s like they’re growing out of the sand instead of grass.
Wadi Rum was developed as a tourist attraction about 25 years ago. Before that, the local Bedouins slept in tents and made their living herding goats. Now they live in small concrete houses, drive tourists around in ATVs, and communicate with each other via cell phones.
We took our tour with a delightful friend of my son’s called Suleiman who runs a camp there called Starlight. It even has a WordPress blog, although I think someone spent about three minutes setting it up.
Here is the visitor center:
Here is what you see from the parking lot:
Here is Suleiman and my wife yakking while the rest of us were climbing a small hill:
Here is my son and Suleiman’s cute kid Rashid climbing up to look at some Nabatean graffiti from a couple thousand years ago:
Wadi Rum was the location used to film The Martian and many other movies. For The Martian, they apparently had to do some post-processing to remove the occasional vegetation:
But mostly the place is just spectacularly barren:
Lawrence of Arabia was one of the movies filmed here. Lawrence is a bit of a controversial figure nowadays, but Suleiman had nothing but good things to say about him. The is supposed to be the remains of a place where Lawrence stayed in Wadi Rum:
Here we see a small camp against the backdrop of a massive peak:
Here’s what a camp looks like close up:
The tents were fine, although I would have appreciated a flashlight to help me find my way to the bathroom. (As it was, I used up the battery in my iPhone using it as a flashlight.) We ate in a tent with Suleiman, his associates, and the rest of the campers. The food, cooked in a sand pit, was delightful. I took a pass on the after-dinner hookah. A full moon prevented us from seeing the spectacular display of stars that is a feature of nights in Wadi Rum.
There isn’t much wildlife, but you occasionally see scenes like this:
The scenery became particularly breathtaking towards sunset:
And early in the morning: