Picture this: You open your eyes after a deep, uninterrupted sleep, make your way from the bed to the window and draw the curtains to reveal a vast canvas of red sand dunes and sandstone plateaus stretching as far as the eyes can see. You have spent the night in one of the many camps scattered under the starry skies of Jordan’s Wadi Rum.
Whether you opted for a traditional Bedouin tent or a futuristic Martian bubble, the calm and serenity of the remote desert is just as magical.
Known as ‘The Valley of the Moon’, Wadi Rum spans nearly 300 square miles of terrain across the southern Jordanian desert with sweeping red sand dunes, striking sandstone mountains and remarkable rock formations.
Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2011, Wadi Rum was inscribed as a mixed natural and cultural site. The otherworldly beauty of Wadi Rum has attracted hikers, campers and nature lovers from all over the world for decades, but the area’s rich cultural heritage tracing human existence in the region to as far back as 12,000 years ago makes it an ideal destination for history enthusiasts too.
Wadi Rum was introduced to the West by British officer T. E. Lawrence, commonly known as Lawrence of Arabia, who made the area his military base and home during the Arab Revolt of 1917–1918.Describing his entrance into the valley in his book Seven Pillars of Wisdom, Lawrence said: “The hills on the right grew taller and sharper, a fair counterpart of the other side which straightened itself to one massive rampart of redness. They drew together until only two miles divided them: and then, towering gradually till their parallel parapets must have been a thousand feet above us, ran forward in an avenue for miles.”
The stunning desert landscape featured in the 1962 epic ‘Lawrence of Arabia’. It was also the filming location of the 2015 film ‘The Martian’, which featured Wadi Rum as the red planet, and more recently appeared in Disney’s ‘Aladdin’ and ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’.
You can explore Wadi Rum’s staggering landscape from the back of a Jeep or the top of a camel, but make sure to climb some of the valley’s spectacular rock formations and canyons for a more compelling experience.
The long and narrow Khazali Canyon hosts incredible ancient petroglyphs and inscriptions of the prehistoric Nabatean society. Part of the canyon is accessible to all visitors, but experienced and equipped climbers can enjoy more of what Khazali can offer. The expansive Barrah Canyon is another one of Wadi Rum’s popular hiking destinations which would make for a tremendous trekking adventure.Among the valley’s most remarkable and photographed sandstone arches is the fifteen-metre high Um Fruth rock bridge. The highest, however, is Burdah rock bridge where you can enjoy breathtaking views of the Wadi Rum vista.
If you want a less challenging climb, the Um Sabatah hilltop offers captivating sunset views of the desert.
One of the most renowned rock formations in the valley is the Seven Pillars of Wisdom, named after the famous T.E. Lawrence book. The Seven Pillars referred to in the book, though, have no relation to Wadi Rum.
And although the Ain Abu Aineh water spring is also known in the valley as ‘Lawrence Spring’ after the British officer, it is in fact Ain Shalaaleh that Lawrence refers to in his book: “On the rock-bulge above were clear-cut Nabathaean inscriptions, and a sunk panel incised with a monogram or symbol. Around and about were Arab scratches, including tribe-marks, some of which were witnesses of forgotten migrations: but my attention was only for the splashing of water in a crevice under the shadow of the overhanging rock. I looked in to see the spout, a little thinner than my wrist, jetting out firmly from a fissure in the roof, and falling with that clean sound into a shallow, frothing pool, behind the step which served as an entrance. Thick ferns and grasses of the finest green made it a paradise just five feet square.”
Jordanian Bedouins inhabit the village of Wadi Rum, the only settlement in the entire protected area, and run eco-adventure tourism and services. Whether you are going on a day tour, camping, glamping, or staying with a host family, the charming Bedouin hospitality will sure add to the magic of your visit to Wadi Rum and give you the cultural experience of a lifetime.