This year my big contribution to my own quest was visiting Jordan for the first (and second) time. The country had been on my short list for quite some time, and especially since reading the autobiography of Queen Noor about six years ago. Queen Noor is an American woman who married the King of Jordan and I was fascinated by her stories of moving to the country and building a life.
When I got the opportunity to travel to Amman myself for work in April, I decided to take full advantage and spend a few days exploring for fun. Since Jordan is a relatively small country (roughly the size of Portugal), it is fairly easy to get around and see a lot in a short time. I have never been to a country with more historical (ancient and modern), religious, adventurous, cultural, or environmental sights to see! One place in particular is on my favorites list as well as my “must come back to” list – Wadi Rum.
A desert reserve located about three and a half hours from the capital of Amman, Wadi Rum is one of the last places to experience the beauty of the desert landscape and the true Bedouin lifestyle. They filmed Lawrence of Arabia here, so you know it’s got desert street cred, and visitors are only allowed into the protected area when accompanied by approved guides.
The best way to see Wadi Rum (and a definite for my next trip!) is to arrange an overnight tour with one of the local Bedouins who still live in the area. You can travel by jeep or by camel into the desert, stopping to see some of the more famous vistas of Wadi Rum, make camp with your guide and his family, catch a once-in-a-lifetime sunrise, and then ride back to the headquarters. For the more adventurous, there are also 3 or 5-day treks available where you can go Peter O’Toole on everybody and “find yourself” in the desert. Check your guidebook or one of the many websites for local Bedouin guides offering tours, such as this one.
On my trip I only had time for an afternoon safari by jeep, but holy magic carpet Batman, was it an adventure. After some totally legit and above-board negotiating with Mr. Jeep Owner outside of the gates, we arranged a deal for a three-hour ride. When we first began, the weather was cloudy and slightly rainy, but after an hour or so, the sun broke through in glorious fashion, just in time for an amazing sunset. The dunes of bright red sand looked pristine after a slight rain/wind storm, and the rocky peaks hid families of goats and other creatures that would trot by at random intervals. For appreciating the wonder of a truly wild and open expanse, you can do no better than Wadi Rum!