Known as "the valley of the moon", Wadi Rum in the south of Jordan has been home to human civilisation for more than 4000 years.
Dermott Brereton visited the UNESCO World Heritage site which is one of the planet's most amazing natural landscapes, spreading over 720 square kilometres of desert.
Wadi Rum is a naturally occurring work of art created by the Rift Valley. Once submerged by the Red Sea, the desert of Wadi Rum is one of Jordan's most beautiful parts. The nature lover's paradise is under Rum Mountain, Jordan's second-highest point. The village of Rum has rest houses, shops, restaurants and Bedouin handicrafts.
It's in the territory of one of the largest Bedouin tribes in Jordan, the Howeitat, who claim descent from the prophet Mohammed and the Nabataeans. The dramatic terrain, although overwhelming, can be enjoyed in lots of ways from hot-air ballooning over it, hiking through it, rock climbing, riding on the back of a camel to four-wheel driving across it.
Light constantly changes the scenery and the sand changes colours from white to yellows and reds. Huge granite, basalt and sandstone mountains tower 800 metres from the desert floor.
A Nabataean settlement was discovered in Wadi Rum in the 1930s. In 1962 the Jordanian Department of Antiquities began a large-scale clearing operation which exposed more than 2800 square metres of antiquities. A 1995 earthquake caused severe damage but there is still much to see, including the temple, several villas and building complexes.
The temple is near the Rum Village rest house and the surrounding area is covered in Thamudic and Kufic rock art. Stone used in its construction was reused from a previous structure. It was built around the first century BC and the rear section seems to be the last part completed. A Latin inscription attached to an alter indicates the temple was in use in the first half of the third century.
Seven Pillars of Wisdom
Anyone who has seen the film Lawrence of Arabia
will have seen Wadi Rum. Some of it was shot there, around the impressive rock formation of Seven Pillars Mountain.
In real life, TE Lawrence made Wadi Rum his desert headquarters and fell in love with the place. So fascinated was he by the desert scenery, his book The Seven Pillars of Wisdom is named after the rock outcrop.
Burdah Rock Bridge at 350 metres is one of the highest natural arches in the world. Carved over the years by wind and sand, it's a highlight of the trip.
A deep, narrow fissure in the mountainside has thousands of examples of ancient graffiti left behind by the Thamudic tribes. They go back to the fourth century BC. It is believe they passed through Wadi Rum on their way to Syria.
This is the first stop on the way to Lawrence's House, now in ruins. There are amazing views across red sands to Jebel Rum. Then you drive through sand dunes on the slopes of Jebel Umm Ulaydiyya and to the Umm Fruth Rock Bridge where you will see Bedouin tents. They are made of knitted camelhair and decorated with carpets and cushions.
You'll need a few days to see the sights of Wadi Rum and the Jabal Rum Camp is one of the permanent camps set up in the desert. Accommodation is simple, but unlike many other sites, this one has running water and electricity.
Dinner is taken with other guests in the middle of the camp, around a fire as the meat is cooking and traditional dancers entertain you. Food will be traditional zarab, a method of cooking underground in holes. There will be plenty to eat, including lamb, chicken and lots of salads and breads, washed down with Arabic tea.
After some hectic climbing, walking and dancing, Dermott decided to slow down a bit and took a full-day cruise on the ship of the desert. It was his first camel ride and once he was used to the rocking motion, he felt quite comfortable.
Wadi Rum, a three-hour drive south from Amman, the capital of Jordan.
Greece & Mediterranean Travel Centre has seven-day Jordan Discovery tours out of Ammam. They include a night's accommodation in Wadi Rum, must meals, transfers, a four-wheel drive and entrance fees. They start at $1571 per person twin share.
Emirates has flights to Ammam from:
- Perth $1779
- Melbourne & Adelaide $1832
- Sydney $1851
- Brisbane $1855
Prices are for a limited time only so log on to their website for up-to-date details.
Prices correct at May 13, 2010.
For further information
Tel: 1300 303 777
Greece and Mediterranean Travel Centre
Suite 2, 644 Botany Road
Tel: (02) 9313 4633 or 1300 661 666
Fax: (02) 9313 4475
Travellers to Jordan should be "in date" for the standard Australia and New Zealand immunisation schedules and should consider routine traveller vaccines against food- and water-borne illnesses. Other health precautions may be recommended and are best discussed with your doctor about six weeks before travel. For further information, visit www.smartraveller.gov.au.