Holy Land – Day 4: Sailing Across Wadi Rum

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After visiting the ancient Nabatean capital of Petra, we hightailed it south to Wadi Rum.  Also called The Valley of the Moon, it’s the largest wadi in Jordan.

What’s a wadi?  Good question!  Apparently, in Arabic and Hebrew, the word wadi basically means a valley.  In geologic terminology, we were taught that it means a dry (desert) river valley, which would definitely cover Wadi Rum.

Students of history would know that this area was crossed several times by the British officer T. C. Lawrence (aka “Lawrence of Arabia”) during the Arab Revolt of 1917-18.

The dry, desolate terrain deserves the name “Valley of the Moon” and has in fact been featured in numerous Hollywood films, most recently “The Martian” with Matt Damon.  This is the closest I’ll ever get to traversing the surface of Mars.

With haste, we headed to Wadi Rum to meet our Bedouin drivers who would take us across the roadless desert, first to climb sand dunes to look at what I would call a playa lake (an ephemeral lake, dry most of the time, infused with alkali salts).  Although we weren’t quite sure why we stopped at this particular place, it was a fun climb and a beautiful view.


Our main goal was to reach a special vantage point from which we could watch the sunset across the desert.  To be there in time, our caravan of three small pickups, driven by local Bedouins, sailed across the (mostly) unmarked desert, racing each other and holding on for dear life.   Riding in the back of the pickup, clinging to the tailgate, bandana’d face against the stinging grit, and thoroughly enjoying the experience, this was one of the most unusual experiences I’ve ever had.

The drivers seemed to enjoy it too, racing each other across the sandy wastes, cheered on by the hoots and hollers of the passengers in the back.

Here’s a little video that will give you a better idea of what crossing Wadi Rum was like.


It was totally worth it.  We made it to our vantage point with time to spare before sunset.  Climbing  to the top of a rocky outcrop, we looked westward up a portion of the valley just in line with the setting sun.  The photos speak for themselves, I think.


Next up:  “Camping” in the desert and camels at sunrise.