Tag Archives: Wadi Rum

little petra and the seven wonders bedouin camp

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Tuesday, November 8: Back at the Rocky Mountain Hotel, I’m feeling hungry and am ready to go down to the Seven Wonders Bedouin Camp where I will meet two of my colleagues David and Mario for dinner.  Hussein drives me to a little restaurant where I buy a delicious chicken schwarma and then he takes me to see Little Petra, a short distance north of Petra.   Wild and beautiful outcrops of rock, the color of pale honey, form what is called al-Beidha in Arabic, ‘the white one’.  It’s beautiful but I don’t have much time here as the sun is ready to set and I want to get to the Bedouin camp by sunset.

Little Petra

Little Petra

Little Petra

Little Petra

more of Little Petra

more of Little Petra

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through the canyons of Little Petra

through the canyons of Little Petra

sunset over Little Petra

moonrise over Little Petra

At the Seven Wonders Bedouin Camp, the Bedouin boys, including Atef from the Rocky Mountain Hotel, have built a toasty fire.  I meet a bunch of fellow travelers, Frenchmen, Germans, and one German family who is working in Saudi Arabia.  Hussein tells us we should climb up a giant rock that overlooks the camp and so Hussein and the two German kids, a boy and a girl, and I climb precariously up and up until we reach the top and look out over the beautiful camp with its white lights, its Bedouin communal tents, its little tent-huts, and the glowing desert beyond.  I feel a real sense of accomplishment climbing this, and then, oh dear, I have to go back down.  Much of my downhill journey consists of me sitting on my butt and sliding down.

The Seven Wonders Bedouin Camp

The Seven Wonders Bedouin Camp

the two German kids who climb up the rock overlooking the Bedouin camp

the two German kids who climb up the rock overlooking the Bedouin camp

I sit around the campfire then with the other travelers, then go inside a partially enclosed tent with a toasty campfire.  There the Bedouin boys sing and dance and finally David and Mario arrive and we all sit and enjoy the music.  We have dinner then in the communal tent where David tells his story that is every traveler’s nightmare, how he got to the airport in Muscat and tried to use the ATM, only to have the ATM eat his card, his only source of money for his trip!! Luckily he had his friend Mario along who was able to lend him money along the way.

Atef stokes the fire

Atef stokes the fire

the Bedouin boys playing music at Seven Wonders Bedouin Camp

the Bedouin boys playing music at Seven Wonders Bedouin Camp

keeping warm by the fire

keeping warm by the fire

Later Mohammed Gabaah texts me and tells me to come to Petra Kitchen, which his family owns and operates, when I’m finished at the Bedouin Camp with my friends.  I hang out a bit longer, then go outside to ask Atef about a ride back into Wadi Musa.  Atef says, “I see you and Mohammed.  I see love in your eyes!”  I say, “No! I don’t love him!  It takes me a long time to fall in love.”  He says, “Yes, but if you have love, you should change your life.  You could come here and make it work.”  We talk about Mohammed and the general consensus is that he doesn’t have women in his life, he works a lot, he needs a woman.  But I hardly know him and don’t really think, actually, that he would ever be the one for me.  Atef keeps at it though, telling me I should try to make it work.  He points to himself and Jane as an example of a couple who rearranged their lives to make things work.

me at Seven Wonders Bedouin Camp

me at Seven Wonders Bedouin Camp

Atef tells me to follow him and he takes me into one of the tents at the camp.  “Look, I have Arab clothing, an abaya, scarves.  You should wear one of these tonight when you go to see Mohammed.”  I say, “No, that is not me and I would never change for anyone.”  He says, “Mohammed would be so surprised!  He would like it!” I stand my ground. “No, I won’t do it.”

Finally I get a ride back into Wadi Musa with one of the boys.  I go into Petra Kitchen where Mohammed is sitting at a tall table around which six men are sitting on stools eating a feast.  They invite me to join them and they start passing food my way.  I protest, say I already ate dinner at the Bedouin camp, but they insist on me trying the food.  I try some and it is delicious.  Mohammed’s brother is the owner of this place; he is impeccably dressed in a business suit and tie.  He keeps staring at me unabashedly and then asks me if I would like to smoke shisha.  I say sure, but instead of him bringing it to the table where I’m sitting with Mohammed, he invites me to another table.  The whole time Mohammed barely speaks to me, engrossed as he is by a story one of the men is telling in Arabic.  I go to join the brother to smoke shisha, but ultimately I feel uncomfortable with him.  I don’t understand why he is so focused on me when I’m here with his brother!  I finally excuse myself from the brother with the excuse that I have to use the toilet.  When I come out I walk up to Mohammed.  I say “Are you going to even talk to me tonight?”  I’m baffled by his total disinterest.  He says, “I’m sorry. I’m listening to his story,” pointing to the man who has been telling this story for about 30 minutes now.

the fire in the Bedouin tent

the fire in the Bedouin tent

Mohammed gets up and takes me upstairs to his family’s very expensive shop that sells handcrafts made by local Petra craftsmen or women.  The things are beautiful but way out of my price range.  I see several delicate hand-woven rugs which sell for 300 dinar ($422 USD)!  I don’t know if he’s just showing me these things because he’s proud of his shop or if he really expects me to buy something.  He ends up buying me a small hand-woven bookmark as a token of something, who knows what!

Mohammed has no car tonight and has to borrow his brother’s car to drive me back to my hotel.  The first night he met me, he came in a huge brand new SUV, but it belonged to the Jordanian government and he returned it the next day.  The second night, he came in an old run-down car he borrowed from his cousin.  This last night, he must borrow his brother’s car but I can tell he’s afraid of his brother and is worried about driving it far or doing damage to it.  His brother is obviously the successful one in the family and Mohammed seems to live in his shadow.

I say goodnight to Mohammed and I know when I leave him that there will be no future at all with him, in any way, shape or form.

a day in the red desert of wadi rum

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Tuesday, November 8:  Yesterday while we were at Petra, my colleague Matt asked if I’d like to share a trip to Wadi Rum today.  Since it costs 90 dinar (~$127) to take a car there alone, we agree to share the trip and split the cost.  He desperately wants to go to Aqaba as well, in southern Jordan, but I have no interest in Aqaba nor do I have any interest in paying the extra 30 dinar to go there.   So, around 9 a.m., Atef’s brother Hussein comes to pick us up and we’re on our way.

Our guide at Wadi Rum and his Nissan pickup truck

Our guide at Wadi Rum and his Nissan pickup truck

It takes about 1 1/2 hours each way to get there.  When we arrive, after stopping several times to let herds of sheep cross the road, we climb into the back of an ancient Nissan pick-up truck and begin our drive around Wadi Rum. Our driver is Najas, and that’s all he turns out to be, just a driver.  Not a guide of any kind. It’s quite cold as we head out into the desert, and I’m bundled up in a sweater and my down vest.  The sun is beating down on us and with the cool air combined with the sun, the weather is really spectacular.

a wandering camel in wadi rum

a wandering camel in wadi rum

The desert and mountain landscape of Wadi Rum were immortalized in TE Lawrence’s book Seven Pillars of Wisdom in the early 20th century.  The film Lawrence of Arabia was partially filmed here and contributed not only to the legend of the man who took part in the Arab revolt but also shone a spotlight on Wadi Rum itself.

We begin our exploration at Lawrence’s Spring, where Lawrence of Arabia reputedly washed during the Arab Revolt.  The Arab Revolt took place from 1916-1918 and was initiated with the aim of securing independence from the ruling Ottoman Turks and creating a single unified Arab state spanning from Aleppo in Syria to Aden in Yemen.  Young officer Captain T.E. Lawrence was sent by the British government in Egypt to work with the Hashemite forces in the Hejaz in October 1916.  The British historian David Murphy wrote that through Lawrence was just one of out many British and French officers serving in Arabia, historians often write like it was Lawrence alone who represented the Allied cause in Arabia.

Lawrence's Spring

Lawrence’s Spring

We stop here and look up at the small mountain from which the spring supposedly flows, but we don’t climb up to actually see it.  My legs are way too sore from Petra yesterday and I have no desire to do any climbing today.  We wander around in the desert and see a Bedouin camp set up in the shadow of the mountain.  A Bedouin boy sits under the shade of a tree with his camels.  We also see some Alameleh inscriptions on the rocks at the bottom. These are ancient rock drawings showing camels and wildlife.

the red desert of Wadi Rum

the red desert of Wadi Rum

Our ancient Nissan pickup truck

Our ancient Nissan pickup truck

me at wadi rum

me at wadi rum

camels resting in the shade

camels resting in the shade

camels marching across the desert

camels marching across the desert

We hop back in our crusty Nissan and head to the Red Sand Dunes, where families are sitting and children are running and rolling down the hills. These deep red sand dunes seem to catch fire on the slopes of Jebel Umm Ulaydiyya.

riding in the Nissan across the desert

riding in the Nissan across the desert

the broad expanse of wadi rum

the broad expanse of wadi rum

the red wadi rum

the red wadi rum

the red sand dunes at wadi rum

the red sand dunes at wadi rum

Next we go to Khazali Canyon, a deep narrow fissure in the mountainside, containing more rock inscriptions.  One of the inscriptions here says “I miss my GMC car,” and I snap a photo of it, since right before I left for Jordan I put a 100 rial deposit down on a 2008 GMC Terrain.  This canyon is beautiful with its red rocks and its walls that aspire to touch the sky.

the entrance to Khazali canyon

the entrance to Khazali canyon

"I miss my GMC car"

“I miss my GMC car”

Khazili Canyon

Khazili Canyon

me in front of Khazali Canyon

me in front of Khazali Canyon

We drive all over the sand in our Nissan, bouncing along in the breezy sunlight.  This desert is lovely with its red sand, its looming sculpted and weathered rocks, and the slant of light throughout the day.  We spend 3 hours driving around and stopping at the various sights.   Before returning, we make a stop at the ruins of the Nabatean Temple, used by the Nabateans to worship ALLAT (Goddess).  This temple was built on the ruins of Allat Temple of the AAD Tribe.

Nabataean Temple ruins

Nabatean Temple ruins

me at the Nabatean Temple ruins, of which there aren't many!

me at the Nabatean Temple ruins, of which there aren’t many!

Back toward the Visitor’s Center, we see the large rock formation with its seven fluted turrets, named the Seven Pillars of Wisdom by TE Lawrence.

The famous Seven Pillars of Wisdom that TE Lawrence wrote about

The famous Seven Pillars of Wisdom that TE Lawrence wrote about

It’s all beautiful and I halfway wish I had arranged to spend the night in one of the Bedouin encampments.  However, it’s freezing cold at night in Jordan and I already cancelled my other Bedouin camp-out for tonight at the Seven Wonders Bedouin Camp in Petra just for this reason.

On our way back Matt starts talking again about going to Aqaba.  I wondered if he would do this once he had me captive in the car.  I finally relent and say I’ll go along if he wants to pay the 30 dinar difference.  I have no desire to go and I’m not keen on it but if he really wants to go there, I won’t stop him.  He waffles back and forth and when we look at the time and how late it’s getting, he finally decides, thank goodness, to forgo Aqaba.

We head back toward Wadi Musa near Petra and Hussein stops at the Petra overlook where we can see the folds of red stone that make up the Petra canyons below.  It’s amazing to see it from above and I’m surprised it all looks so small from this height.  From the canyon floor it’s so overwhelming that it swallows you up.  But from above, you can’t even make out more than just wrinkled folds of red rocks.

The view of Petra from above

The view of Petra from above

Petra Overlook

Petra Overlook

Hussen, Atef's brother and our driver to Wadi Rum, and my colleague Matt on the overlook to Petra

Hussen, Atef’s brother and our driver to Wadi Rum, and my colleague Matt on the overlook to Petra

the Petra overlook

the Petra overlook