If you ask me what my favorite classic movie is, my vote is always split. The two old movies that had the greatest impact on my psyche are “Gone With The Wind” and “Lawrence of Arabia”. “Lawrence of Arabia” specifically ignited the nomad in me, the adventurer, the explorer in search of the exotic, and a deep fascination with the desert. Much of the movie and the real life of T.E. Lawrence… takes place in what is now Jordan, and was specifically filmed in the Wadi Rum desert (as was The Martian!). Knowing the above, made a visit to this part of the world a dream of mine. Thus, I channeled my inner bedouin and entered a land of sand…
The colors of the desert, which change with the position of the sun, mesmerize me. I am obsessed with the palette of rosy terracottas, creams, dashes of sage to lime green, and shades of charcoal. The undulating sands match the rhythm of our jeep, and the arabic crooning and staccato beats of music emanating from the jeep speakers. Wadi Rum is strewn with massive mountains of stone, bursting from the earth as imposing rocky pillars, overlooking our every move. I feel as if I am in the presence of Earth’s oldest gods.
Over two days, our driver takes us to various sites – water wells and springs hidden in crevices, ancient “cave” paintings of man and camel, shady, narrow, and dry canyons subject to flash floods, gigantic sand dunes that suck almost every ounce of strength and breath to summit, tall, natural rock bridges to traverse at your own risk, the ruins of T. E. Lawrence’s home in the desert, gargantuan rocks balancing on stone pedestals, and half hour treks through the open desert to search for the animal prints of foxes, birds, and snakes, with multiple lizard sightings, and the rare desert flower.
After long days, our evenings were spent reclining on ground cushions, propped up by pillowed bolsters, encircling a fire pit. Here we discussed the abundant stars above, and the varied paths that had brought us each here, some smoking narghile pipes, all drinking sweet tea. Dinner was a buffet feast, with the centerpiece being chicken and vegetables that had been roasting for hours in an oven pit of coals, buried by sand.
For two nights we slept at the edge of Wadi Rum, in a bedouin camp, where the red sand met the white sand, a desert divided. We were welcomed by our handsome host, Salem, a man of movie star good looks. He was dressed in a long sparkling white tunic over white pants (called a thoab and serwal) and the red & white checkered bedouin scarf, effortlessly wrapped and draped into a headdress (koufeyah), and gracefully flicked over a shoulder. Browned skin, dark-eyed and long lashed, with a perfectly trimmed goatee and mustache, this was a man who knew his presence and used charm and humor to cast a spell. Even Stella and Gabriel were enamored, hunting out his attention around the night’s campfire, and joining him for light exercise and yoga poses in the desert morning.
The children immediately adapted to the dust and sand. They clambered up rocks without trepidation, and built miniature stone corrals to cage the many black beetles that they caught. They were giddy with joy at the opportunity to trek through the sand atop tall camels, who stopped to munch on desert weeds at every pace, snorting and moaning like Star Wars creatures.
The whole experience of Wadi Rum fulfilled a dream. It was definitely one of the highlights of our travels thus far, and ended up being one of the many reasons that Jordan has become a favorite destination for us.