When first I spooled through Trip Advisor looking for interesting places to stay in Petra I noticed some ‘Bedouin camps’ in ‘Little Petra’ and mentioned these to Jolanda in my ‘booking’ email. (See here for more on Jolanda and my stay in Petra.) She suggested I wait until I arrived as it would be easy to arrange at the last minute. However, when I got to Petra she suggested that it might be more interesting to go out into the desert ‘proper’. She had a friend (also Dutch…) who, with Fawaz Mohammad, a Bedouin from Wadi Rum, ran Wadi Rum Nomads, organising overnight stays and two or three day hikes in the desert. That did sound appealing especially as Jolanda said that if she had no last minute bookings, she would come too.
I had abslutely no idea what to expect – although I had some concerns about the temperature if we were literally going to sleep out in the desert….
However, Saleh, the trusty taxi driver who had collected me from the airport, duly delivered us into the hands of Fawaz and Bianca and their laden jeep just in time for us to drive 20 minutes out into the desert to watch the sun set.
The Wadi Rum desert is not an endless-vistas-of-sand Sahara type desert as it is bounded on all sides by carved sandstones mountains and floored with sandy rock rather than sand – but it is none the less a pretty good desert!!
The sunset was also pretty good but the rich warmth of the evening sun on the rocks was even better. Although Wadi Rum Nomads hike and camp all over the desert, for this season Fawaz had selected a spot under an overhanging cliff, built a low protecting wall to keep out the wind and filled the area with sand to keep it soft. While Bianca, Jolanda and I caught the last of the sunset – they both with their long lenses, me with my iPhone….. – Fawaz had built a fire and already had the tea brewed. Despite the chill when I had arrived two days earlier (5 degrees on night two…..) the weather had dramatically improved and we were genuinely able to sit out with just a light jacket – although Fawaz’ wonderful fire, fuelled by dead desert bushes, certainly helped.
I must admit that sitting around a fire in the middle of a desert and then sleeping under the stars had not been part of the plan in going to Petra, but I have rarely spent a more magical night.
I am so used to the light pollution of London that I have all but forgotten what stars look like, but you try watching from the middle of a desert! Unfortunately, although it can cope with most things, a sky full of stars was too much for the iPhone, but I assure you, they were wonderful! But, you have to be quick – or certainly we did! They soon had to contend with an almost full moon which lit up the desert so clearly that we were able to go for quite a long night walk with no chance of getting lost.
(13th March – Bianca has just sent me more images of Wadi Rum including this great picture of the stars.)
And when finally we went to bed on our mattresses, tucked up in a sleeping bag under a thick woolly blanket, far from being cold I was, if anything, too warm!! I could have slept like a top but it seemed a terrible shame to waste the experience so I did spend a good deal of the night just watching the moon and the stars move slowly across the sky until gradually dawn broke and the sun, once gain, lit up the hills.
The fire was soon stirred back into life and the breakfast tea was brewed – along with delicious hardboiled eggs with flat bread dipped in oil and za’tar, for which I have developed a belated passion. (For anyone who has not met za’tar it is a herb and spice mix which includes sumac and sesame seeds and which is unbelievably more-ish at anytime but especially when eaten on bread dipped in olive oil…)
Breakfast over, the camp was packed into the back of the jeep and we set off on a three hour tour of the desert’s more dramatic sites – like the bridge…. And yes, I did climb up although it was quite a scramble.
A totally unexpected benefit of the storm and rain which had greeted my arrival three days earlier was that it had rained in the desert and the spring flowers which do appear at this time of year had flowered in abundance shedding a pale purple haze over great swathes of desert.
Tiny purple and white flowers, white broom, little yellow flowers in the ravines….
While Fawaz drove or chatted with friends at the various Bedouin camps around the beauty spots, we three climbed and snapped and chatted and soaked up the truly amazing scenery – back drop to a swathe of films including the Martian (recently) and, way back, Lawrence of Arabia.
(Being less environmentally aware in the ‘60s when Peter O’Toole‘s blue eyes were roving the desert, the camera crews drilled a whole serious of holes in the rocks to hold their tripods and camera gear which are, along with the inevitable ‘I woz here’ carvings, still all too in evidence.)
Much of the desert floor is flat with mountainous outcrops –
you can see it rather more clearly in this short – and rather bumpy – video!
However, there are also number of ravines which are cool and pleasant – and where many flowers grow!
There were a number of different flower and bushes but I am afraid that I do not know the names of any of them… However, they will all appear in the garden blog and if anyone can suggest names I will be only too happy to hear them!
A number of Bedouin families still live in the desert, some full time and many more for short breaks. Many also still keep herds of goats and camels out there and you can often see their black tents in the distance – and, at closer quarters some of their camels. More families, such as Fawaz’, have moved into Wadi Rum village at the entrance to the desert.
And that is where out desert tour finally took us– back to Fawaz’ family’s guest room in the village where he served us yet another delicious meal – this time a sort of tuna salad with beans and feta – before we set off once again for Wadi Musa and Petra.
Wadi Rum Nomads run overnight stays like ours, but also two, three, five and even nine day treks around the desert. I am not sure that I could have done nine days, but I could certainly have stayed for at least another night. And if you are going to Jordan, I think at least one night is an absolute MUST. Not something I would ever have expected to hear myself say…. The scenery is awesome, the tour organisation excellent, the food delicious, the sand soft and the Fawaz and Bianca welcoming and charming. Not much more you could want really…..
PS. For those of you suffering from environmental or pollen allergies, the desert (according to Bianca who suffers from a truckload of them) is brilliant….. Absolutely nothing there to ‘set you off’!