Monday, July 21, 2014

Wadi Rum Desert Camp - The Facts and the Experience

Wadi Rum
had been a long day, but then again I was getting used to it during my
trip to Jordan. There was a lot to do and see in the country, and the
itinerary I requested from the Jordan Tourism Board had
been ambitious. That meant after an excruciatingly exhausting, but
completely soul-enriching experience at Petra, I hoped in the car to
make the hour and a half drive to Wadi Rum.

When I was planning my
trip to Jordan, the one place everyone said I simply had to see, after
Petra of course, was the vast desert reserve known as Wadi Rum. Although
we have some fairly significant deserts here in the United States, I
have never spent time in them, apart from occasional trips to Vegas to
donate my earnings to Mr. Wynn. That’s why I was so excited for the
opportunity to not just see the desert, but to spend the night there. I
mean, anyone can see a desert, but how many people get to spend the
night in a Bedouin tent, under a million stars relishing in the whole
desert-ness of it all?

Captain's Desert Camp Jordan
The Facts

are many desert camps in the Wadi Rum desert, most of which are run by
locals. They run the gamut from backpacker friendly (ie, cheap) to super
luxe. I stayed at a place called Captain’s Desert Camp,
best labeled as an upper-middle class camp. Rather than erect unsightly
monstrosities that would mar the simple beauty of the desert landscape,
the desert camps are well designed and fit into their surroundings as
if they’d always been there. More importantly, for those of us
interested in sustainable tourism, money from these camps go back to the
local communities, with exceptions of course, and not to line the
pockets of a large, multinational corporation. (not that there’s
anything wrong with that either)

Meals were taken communally in a
very large, open air Bedouin style tent. The food, while buffet, was
truly excellent. All of my new favorite Jordanian foods were there:
hummus, a variety of grilled meats and my beloved shraak bread, made fresh right before our eyes.

annoying parts are few, but rate high on the annoying scale. While we
were there, one of the camp’s two generators failed. The result was that
none of the private sleeping tents had any lights. So, from sunset
onward, I had to navigate my way around using my iPad, on the whole not a
bad light source actually.

The baths were communal, but that was
to be expected. I do wish someone had told me that I would need to bring
my own towels, shampoo and soap. Lacking all three made a cleansing
shower a bit of an illusion. No, this wasn’t the worst bit. The truly
awful part is one few others will tell you about – the bugs.

Captain's Desert Camp Jordan
thought it odd when above my bed was mosquito netting. I honestly had
never thought the desert had a mosquito problem. I mean, it’s the
desert, as in no water and all that. Yet there it was, staring back at
me, a portent of evil things to come.

When it was time to finally
go to bed after an exhausting day, I attempted to set up the mosquito
netting. I say try because it apparently was made for a doll’s bed of
some sorts, and it simply would not fit the bed. I regrouped and thought
that if I could at least cover the exposed parts, like my arms and head
I’d be ok. So I went to sleep, my head encased in a pink mesh of teeny
tiny mosquito netting. It wasn’t until the next day when I noticed the
holes in the netting and it wasn’t for another 24 hours when the bites

I won’t go into the gory details, but when all was said
and done, I had about 30-40 bites all over my body; particularly hard
hit were my arms. It looked as if I’d been beaten with a particularly
ineffective bat.

Those are the facts, but there was much more to the experience, including moments I certainly never expected.

The Experience

not sure what I expected exactly, but I obviously had not put any
thought into what the desert experience would be like. I say this
because the first thing that shocked me was the incredible heat; I’m a
genius, I know.

I signed up for an off-road adventure through the
desert, culminating in a stunning view of the sunset. My guide, driver
and our Bedouin truck driver all climbed into an extremely aged, but
well performing, Toyota truck and off we went into the vast unknown.

Within a few minutes I understood why everyone told me that I had to visit Wadi Rum. It was like nothing I had ever seen before.

drove across the desert plain, between canyons and oddly placed
mountains springing out of the desert floor without rhyme or reason. We
stopped a few times to soak in particularly breathtaking spots, and
other times to see examples of people long gone in the form of
petroglyphs, looking as fresh as if they were drawn yesterday.

we stopped at a bluff overlooking a vast plain, and everyone got out
and found a seat in the sand. We had misjudged the timing a little, so
we needed to kill some time before moving on to the famous sunset
watching spot. And we started talking.

Abed, my guide, out of the
blue expressed his true, honest love of Wadi Rum. A true Arab
nationalist, he knows the importance of the desert, home to crucial
moments in the Arab resistance movement during World War I. More than
that though, it brought him back to his roots, to the desert. He said,
“all Jordanians, we were all Bedouin once and we all love these places.”
We stopped talking for a few moments to gaze out across the range and
right on cue, a man riding a camel trundled past. I can understand why
Lawrence of Arabia was filmed here and why the real T.E. Lawrence found
Wadi Rum so captivating.

lapsed into more quotidian issues, how expensive it is to marry in
Jordan and the issues inherent with the process, and a lot of questions
about what certain aspects of life are like for me at home.

it was time to carry on to the amazing sunset watching place, which was
actually pretty amazing, and revel in the transformation of the desert

In a rare case of travel advice gone right, everyone was
spot on about Wadi Rum. It is a remarkable place, one of the natural
wonders that we instantly feel lucky for the opportunity to visit. More
than that, I learned a lot about my hosts that evening and that alone
made my experience one that I will never forget, in spite of those damn

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