Wadi Rum -- Jordan's Southern Desert

In Jordan Friday is the beginning of the weekend so late Friday morning I joined six colleagues to go explore Wadi Rum. We took a break for tea and it was 2:00 PM before we arrived at our desert camp.

There were only a few people there and we were pleased that our host agreed that it was lunch time and quickly grilled some chicken to accompany the humus and salads.

It was very hot in the sun and nobody objected to the plan that we take a break before heading out into the desert.

There are two means of transportation in the desert. Fortunately it had been less than ten years since my previous camel ride and I was in no rush for another. Instead we crowded into two Jeeps and headed out. The sun was much lower and the heat less oppressive than it had been at lunch time.

Our first stop was a cave. Inside we found writing carved into the rock. The guide explained that the writing and a map were at least a thousand years old.

We drove through the soft sand to the top of a large dune. We admired the view, then got back in the jeeps and were shocked that the drivers took us straight down the hill. We thought we would roll over on the way down and were concerned by the lack of seat belts but we survived.

Next we found a castle that was used by Lawrence of Arabia during World War I though it was much older. Unfortunately now it is privately owned and we were not allowed to explore it.

We continued through the desert, finding many volcanic rock formations emerging from the sand. This one they called the Titanic.

Then we came to a natural bridge. Of course there is little rain here but there is plenty of erosion as the wind drives the sand into the rock. A British man had climbed over the bridge -- his size shows how big the bridge was. I decided this was too high for me.

Fortunately we soon came to another bridge that was not quite as high and I felt a little braver. Ayman led the way and I followed him to the top. Someone took a picture looking up at me -- I have to track that one down!

We drove through the desert to a deep well. Many centuries ago be Bedouins had discovered the natural well, covered it to protect the water from animals and carved drains to direct water from the adjacent hills into the well. Though it had not rained for several months, they do get some rain in the winter and there was still water in the well. The guide sang a Bedouin song that reverberated from the bottom of the well.

The sun was sinking lower and the drivers drove very rapidly to get to a hill where we could admire the sunset. We enjoyed some wine and beer as the sun disappeared behind the mountains.

In the desert it gets dark quickly after sunset. Our jeeps got separated on our way back to the camp. The drivers raced through the sand, following tire tracks through an otherwise unmarked desert. We had the younger driver who spoke no English. I was concerned because he kept looking out the side window trying to figure out where the other jeep was. Not seeing it he drove faster and faster. I had no idea where we were going because all we could see were the tracks illuminated by our headlights. But the driver apparently knew what he was doing and before long we were back in our camp.

While we were out exploring the desert more than a hundred people had arrived. They were dancing to loud Arabic music before, during and after dinner. Apparently Jordanians come here for dinner and dancing.

By 11:00 most of the dancers had left and we were ready for bed. The tents had beds and the temperature had dropped enough that opening the flaps a bit gave enough air. In the morning we ate a leisurely breakfast (humus, falafel, beans, salad, bread. cheese and tea) and headed back to Amman.

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