“No man can live this life and emerge unchanged. He will carry, however faint, the imprint of the desert, the brand which marks the nomad; and he will have within him the yearning to return, weak or insistent according to his nature. For this cruel land can cast a spell which no temperate clime can match.’ – TE Lawrence The Seven Pillars of Wisdom
Wadi Rum conjures up images of colourful desert sands, rocky gorges and Lawrence of Arabia riding through the desert with an Arab army at his back. The reality meets these expectations and more – well except for old TE and his army of course. Though if you are lucky you may get a glimpse of the famous desert police with their flowing head dress. And there are always the camels.
The best time to visit Wadi Rum is afternoon when the setting sun creates a spectacular ever-changing light and colour show across the rocks and coloured sands. The trade-off is the built up heat from the day… But it’s a small price.
Getting into the heart of Wadi Rum is part of the experience. Open topped jeeps and canvas covered 4WD utes in various stages of repair (or disrepair), race each other across the sandy tracks and through the gorges, stopping here and there to climb rocky peaks or sandy dunes for a magnificant view.
An afternoon tea break with a local Bedouin tribe gives us time to mix with the natives, drink the local tea, ride camels and overpay for headscarves all under the shade of their goat hair tents.
The area of Wadi Rum covers more than 720 square kilometres. And it’s sandstone and granite rock formations give the landscape a moonlike appearance. Aptly, the name Wadi Rum means Valley of the Moon.
The area is best known to westerners as the base for British Officer Thomas Edward Lawrence, better known as Lawrence of Arabia. Lawrence set up camp here during WWI to stand against the Ottomans, and fifty years later, in the same setting, Peter O’Toole reinacted the story of his life.
We stopped a brief afternoon on our way from Aqaba to the town of Petra, but for those with the time and inclination, camping adventures are available. Perhaps at night you may hear the ghost of TE Lawrence galloping across the desert yelling “No Prisoners”…