Thursday, October 4, 2012

Wadi Rum

Sometimes it's a book; sometimes a recommendation; sometimes a photograph that makes a traveler choose one country over another.  In the case of Jordan, it was a movie.  Lawrence of Arabia.  I first saw this movie when I was eight years old.  The sweeping landscapes, the Arab Revolt and Peter O'Toole's rendition of the British Officer, T. E. Lawrence, made me make a promise to myself.  When I grow up, I'm going to Wadi Rum.

I was not disappointed.  The massive sandstone mountains glowed under the hot Jordanian sun.  Black goat-hair tents lined the boundary in the distance.  Our taxi driver told us we would have an opportunity to meet a Bedouin family,  but when we arrived at the entrance, it was the desert police who offered us tea under the shade of a nearby tree.  They played with our baby boy and gave him chunks of watermelon.  Today, there is a visitor's center, restaurant and craft shop at the entrance, all run by the local Bedu who have inhabited this area for centuries. 
We hired a local man to take us into the interior.  He pulled up in an old beat-up Land Cruiser that was literally held together with rope.  It stalled out half way there and our guide grinned.  "Needs benzine," he said, his word for gasoline.  Fortunately, he was able to buy a can from the nearby Beduion camp.  I had wanted adventure, but didn't relish the idea of sleeping in the back of this truck.  However, we did get to meet a family because of it.  Many of the children who were my son's age were running around butt-naked.  All of them were caked in dirt, but happy as clams.  Water is very precious out here and used sparingly.  The children waved at my baby who was squirming in my arms.  He wanted so badly to join them!

We continued our explorations, but every time our driver stopped, he made sure his truck was parked on an incline.  It had to be jump-started in order to run.  My travel buddy and I laughed, remembering a three-month trip to Baja we had taken a few years earlier.  Our old volkswagon van had required the same attention!


We walked through narrow canyons and hopped over granite boulders until we came to some hidden walls with petroglpyhs.  Our guide said they were Nabataean, but these caves have been inhabited since prehistoric times, so who knows?

It's no wonder Lawrence made Wadi Rum his base for operations during the Arab Revolt of 1917-1918.  There are many places to hide.  It is situated in the south and surrounded by desert wilderness; yet only a few miles from Aqaba. Strategic.  Beautiful. Awe-inspiring.  A little girl's dream come true.

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