Camping in Wadi Rum was high on the list of things to do before our trip to Jordan and it did not disappoint.
Located in southern Jordan, about three hours from the capital Amman or an hour north of Aqaba is the desert Wadi Rum, also known as the Valley of the Moon. Wadi Rum is everything you’d expect of a quintessential desert: it is extreme in summer heat and cold in winter; exacting on the Bedouin who live in it and vengeful on those who ignore its dangers. It features dramatic scenery with sandstone mountains, sand dunes and natural arches, the wadi the vast sandy valley beneath.
Wadi Rum has been inhabited since neolithic times but owes its fame to T E Lawrence who wrote extensively about his adventures here during the Arab Revolt in the early 20th century.
Since 2011 Wadi Rum has been declared as a protected world heritage site by UNESCO. Of course the stewardship of the desert is shared with the local Bedouin who have been roaming the area for centuries. Only native Bedouin are licensed to take tours and accommodate overnight visitors.
There are a number of options for visiting Wadi Rum, from day trips, to overnight camping. We were overnighting in the desert at Obeid’s Bedouin Life Camp. The camp arranges all your activities whilst you are in the desert. It was easy to exchange WhatsApp messages prior to our trip to come up with a suitable itinerary for our family.
We met our driver at the Wadi Rum visitor centre, piling into the back of an old Toyota and set off into the desert. The drive to the camp gave us spectacular views of the surrounding mountains and desert, leaving us in awe of this beautiful, but harsh environment. Suddenly, we were at the camp, at the base of some rocky cliffs.
After a welcome cup of tea we were off on our jeep safari, three hours, seeing the best sites of the desert. Our first stop was at some ancient carvings and inscriptions in the rocks. These Thaumadic and Nabataean inscriptions depict camel caravans, hunting warriors and various animals. They are surprisingly clear.
We then went deeper into the desert stopping at Lawrence’s house, where legend has it Lawrence stayed during the Arab Revolt. As there is little left of the house the main attraction is the remote location and the amazing view of red sand dunes.
Next, we stopped at Um Forth Rock Bridge, a natural rock bridge. We all climbed up to stand atop the rock bridge, a relatively easy scramble up some rocks before walking out on the bridge some 20 metres off the ground! A little scary to say the least, especially with your children.
As the afternoon drew on we stopped at Lawrence’s Spring. The spring was named in honour of Lawrence’s evocative description in the Seven Pillars of Wisdom:
In front of us a path, pale with use, zigzagged up the cliff-plinth….From between trees, in hidden crannies the rock, issued strange cries; the echoes, turned into music, of the voices the Arabs watering camels at the springs which there flowed out three hundred feet above ground.
The spring became an important waterhole for caravans between Syria and Arabia.
The star lit sky at night, without any light pollution was spectacular.
CAMPING WITH KIDS IN WADI RUM
Our desert experience was organised by Obeid’s Bedouin Life Camp. This camp is for you if you want to experience the true desert, in the very heart of Wadi Rum, and enjoy traditional Bedouin hospitality. It is ideal for small groups and those wanting to avoid the tourist crowd. It is located in a scenic, hidden spot of the Wadi Rum Protected Area near the Seven Pillars of Wisdom.
The camp is run by Obeid Naser Alamamreh, an experienced desert guide holding the license of the Wadi Rum Protected Area Authority, and his two sons.
The tents are basic but comfortable, with all you need for an overnight stay. The black Bedouin tents are complemented with shared hot showers and flush toilet facilities.
There is a variety of different sized rooms, from doubles, to triples and even family rooms for five or six. There is solar power wired to your tent in order to light your room, but there is nothing to charge your phone! It’s a chance to take a break from electronic devices. As we were here right at the end of October we definitely needed the warm blankets provided. We loved the darkness and stillness at night.
A traditional ‘zarb’ dinner is served in the communal tent. This consists of meat and vegetables cooked in an underground oven. Seating is on the floor, sat on woven mats, with a fire to keep you warm in the cool of the night.
HIKING WITH KIDS IN WADI RUM
Up early the next morning it was pretty chilly but we all warmed up with a simple breakfast and hot tea around the fire. At 9am we were ready to set off for our three hour hike through the desert. We were equipped with plenty of water. We walked about 10 kilometres, initially across the desert and later through a huge siq (canyon) between the sandstone peaks.
Trekking through the siq was exactly the kind of hike the boys love, clambering up and over rocks with no set path to follow.
It was wonderful to actually hike through the desert and just like on the camels appreciate its vastness and quietness. Hiking in the heat of the desert with no water to be seen anywhere, really makes you appreciate what a tough place it is to live and travel through.
We trekked for three hours but it is possible to just do the hike through the siq. This would take just over an hour. A jeep would take you to and from the canyon, making it a much shorter, easier hike.
BEST TIME TO VISIT WADI RUM
Like most deserts, days are warm to hot (very hot) and nights can be cool to freezing!
Spring (April, May) and autumn (October, November) are the best times to visit. We visited at the end of October and found this to be perfect. It was cool during the night and early morning, but comfortable throughout the day. During the summer months, May to September, day time temperatures are exceedingly hot at +40C.
Read Also: Visiting the Dead Sea with Children
Wadi Rum should definitely be included in any trip to Jordan, preferably with an overnight stay camping in the desert.