Exploring Wadi Rum

Visiting the set of Lawrence of Arabia, aka Wadi Rum in Jordan. Bracing views, breathable air and boundless bouldering.

Just back from Jordan, I now bring forth tales from the Valley of the Moon – a maze of monolithic rockscapes that rise up from the desert floor to heights of 1,750m. This is Wadi Rum – the largest valley in Jordan and one of the most breathtaking places on earth.

In our current political climate, a trip to Jordan might not seem like a wise move – just by looking at a map you’d be forgiven for thinking you’ve entered a war zone. After all, Jordan shares its borders with Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Israel and the West Bank – not exactly the cornerstones of peace and tranquility. Yet similar to the UAE, Jordan has so far managed to keep away from the growing unrest in the Middle East.

Most people have only heard of Petra and its famous rock-cut architecture, but Jordan has a few more interesting towns, plus a whole lot of glorious terrain for an uprooted adventurer to conquer. In spite of the political instability and subsequent decline of tourism to the area, the country remains in good spirits. The locals and Bedouins are friendly and welcoming; the majority of natives speak English pretty well; and, while Petra gets the majority of the typical foreign tourists, Wadi Rum welcomes more spirited explorers.


We jumped in the back of an old pick-up truck, met our guide Salem Mohamed from Terhaal Adventures and headed out towards the valley. Within moments, the colossal cliffs and caverns surround you; great rolling oceans of desert that stretch for hundreds of miles are ahead of you, uninterrupted except by the occasional camel or shrub.

The Bedouin tribes that once populated the plains are mostly gone – though there are a few that remain who still farm camel in the valleys. The tourist scene, however, is firmly rooted, and tours like ours offer guests trekking and climbing opportunities as well as Bedouin camping experiences.

We went up there for a taste of all of that, and it was simply mind-blowing; the scenery, isolation and climbing opportunities through the narrow gorges and natural arches were magnificent.

Through the day, Salem would drive and drop us off at particular iconic spots in Wadi Rum. The first was a narrow gorge with interesting petroglyphs carved on the walls. We climbed like monkeys up and over the huge boulders. To slip, was to fall into a rockpool and die, so we traced Salam’s moves with precision.

Then we foolishly climbed this huge dune.

A huge dune

A huge dune

And for much of the day, we trekked and climbed – channelling our inner big kid as we clambered up rock faces until sunset.

I'm smiling, but I'm genuinely stuck.

I’m smiling, but I’m genuinely stuck.

As the evening drew on we travelled to our Bedouin camp, which had about 15 wooden cabins and one large majlis for dining in. To be honest, we didn’t even need a tent – we would have been satisfied with sleeping outside under the stars.

The real draw here is the nature and the space, and that was all around all the time in the silent, endless desert plains.

Would I return? If I had my way, I’d never leave.

Getting there

If you’re coming by plane to Jordan, you have to go through Amman because the Queen Alia International Airport is the country’s only international airport. Then from there, you’re looking at a three-hour drive to Wadi Rum. It’s about 60km away from Aqaba – Jordan’s second biggest city which sits along the Red Sea.

But once you arrive at the entrance to the UNESCO protected nature reserve, the drive is long forgotten.

Tour operator

We organised our entire trip with Terhaal – they arranged pick-up from the airport, our entire Wadi Rum tour as well as our overnight experience at a campsite.

For more information, visit Terhaal Adventures

Writer, self-proclaimed adventure junkie, traveller and founder of UprootedAdventure.com.

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