24 Hours in the Other-Worldly Wadi Rum Desert

Known as the Valley of the Moon, Jordan’s biggest wadi (valley), Wadi Rum is a completely other-worldly place to visit. It would more aptly be called the Valley of Mars, because its orange sandstone expanses are incredibly reminiscent of the wide valleys and sandy plateaus of the Red Planet. We spent just under 24 hours here, but I wish we’d had more time to just sit and appreciate the sheer vastness of it all. Regardless, it was a 24 hours i’ll never forget.

We began our desert adventure at the main Al Zawaideh camp just outside of Wadi Rum Village, a small community with local shops and houses but little else except sand blown in from across the valley. Bedouin-style tents with comfy sofas awaited us and we relaxed back into desert life, snacking on classic Jordanian pita and humous before moving on.

Cruising down the dunes

Jeep Riding Through the Desert

Overnight bags loaded into the Jeeps, we sped off along the main road and then onto the sand, bumping along until the village was no longer in sight. We cruised up and down sand dunes, stopping for a photo-op once we were right out in the valley, then sped up and down the dunes once more, like a speedboat flying across the waves. Our Bedouin guides were dressed in traditional thoabs and shemaghs; white robes with red patterned headscarves, held in place by thick black agal ropes to combat the harsh desert winds. These were so much of a necessity that by 20 minutes into our journey we were all wrapped up too – that desert sand is no joke!

Shemaghs on and ready to go!

We pulled in at a huge sand dune and the boys in our group and raced to the top (I politely declined the challenge as I didn’t fancy getting half the wadi’s worth of sand in my shoes, or engaging in tough cardio in almost 40-degree heat), then we contained our journey towards a remote tea stop right in the middle of nowhere.

The Bedouin tent we stopped at had a little fire burning inside, and the two men who lived there made us sage tea which we sipped out of dinky little tea glasses – a sight you’ll see everywhere around Jordan. We all sat around the fire telling stories for a while, sipping on our tea and taking in the palpable atmosphere.

Sage tea in the desert

The Rock Bridges and a Spectacular Sunset

Wadi Rum is famous for, among other things, its groupings of incredible rock arches, which make a fun-filled natural playground perfect for climbing and exploring. We visited two of the the three Kharaz bridges, both awe-inspiring in their own right.

The first is a two-part climb, one on to a flat ledge and one onto the arch itself. The view of the never-ending desert from the top is quite something, and we met some lovely Bedouins riding their camels while we were wandering around in the shadow of the archway. You definitely need some decent footwear – sandals aren’t exactly going to cut it here!

Kharaz Rock Bridge

The second rock arch required an even tougher climb and some team work – one person has to pull the next up the rock – but it was so worth the feeling of being on top of the world. Seeing these arches made me realise, not for the last time that day, just how incredible nature is, with what it can create out of nothing. Musing over – back to the adventure.

After another cup of tea (sweet mint this time) to recover from our climb we set off again across the most remote desert we had encountered yet on our journey, driving for about half an hour across the sand, past mountains and through gorges, to reach a sunset viewing spot to rival all others. We stopped on a flat plain with mountains surrounding us on all sides, the sand and the sun the same overwhelming orange hue, like a lake reflecting the sky. It looked like something from another planet – like we were on Mars – so other-worldly it was hard to comprehend. We watched in awe as the sun slowly sunk below the horizon, feeling so privileged that we got to witness this desert sunset.

Sunset on Wadi Rum (or Mars?)

Sleeping under the Stars

The final drive of our adventure took us to the Al Zawaideh Desert Camp, our home for the night. It was the most remote place i’ve ever slept, and the most incredible by a landslide. We settled in and sat around the fire for a while, drinking yet more tea before dinner time. The camp was hidden behind a sand dune, with towering rock protecting it from the elements on the other two sides. There was a dining tent and our sleeping tents, with a roaring camp fire in the middle surrounded by mats for resting on – it was idyllic.

Come dinner time, we went round the back of the dining tent to watch the big reveal – our food being pulled out of the sand. After shovelling the sand off the top, we watched by torchlight as our guide pulled a vertical grill out of a huge pot buried in under the ground, laden with vegetables, rice and chicken.

Our campfire in the desert

We spent the rest of our evening relaxing around the fire and playing cards, but not before pulling our beds out of our tents ready for a night under the stars. After about 15 games of President we settle in under our huge blankets, warm enough to keep us toasty in the desert wind. Without the light pollution from any nearby towns the stars were unlike anything i’ve ever seen; thousands upon thousands upon thousands of them lighting up the sky. Even the Milky Way was there in all its hazy glory, and we saw about eight shooting stars over the course of a couple of hours. I literally lay there and stared at the sky for hours, it was just so unbelievable, but eventually I drifted off, being woken up the next morning by everyone pottering around the camp, getting ready for our next unreal experience.

At 5.30 that morning we walked over the sand dunes to find our ride – a caravan of camels. Our trusty steeds bobbed us along through the desert as the sun rose over the mountains (I named mine Gertie). We were split into groups of five, and after one of the Bedouins had to leave I ended up being even the reins to my own camel, and therefore the rest of my little group – let’s just say i’ll be adding camel herder to the CV. And that was the end of our desert adventure, one of the most incredible 24 hours of my life. If you get the chance to visit Wadi Rum, take the chance while you can – if I ever get the chance to go back, i’ll be there without a second thought.

A caravan of camels and their riders

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