Wadi Rum is a spectacularly scenic desert valley in southern Jordan
This area of Jordan is quite isolated and largely inhospitable to settled life. The only permanent inhabitants are several thousand Bedouin nomads and villagers. There is no real infrastructure, leaving the area quite unspoilt. Apart from the Bedouin goat hair tents, the only structures are a few concrete shops and houses and the fort headquarters of the Desert Patrol Corps.
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T E Lawrence of Arabia spent a significant amount of time here during the course of the British-inspired Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire during the First World War (1914-1918). Fans of the 1962 film Lawrence of Arabia will be familiar with the landscape, which is not so much sand dunes as it is a mass of soaring cliffs, sandstone and granite mountains.
To See & Do
- Lawrence’s house: Nobody is certain that this was Lawrence’s house, although there are stories that he both stayed and/or stored weapons here. The current structure is built upon the remains of a Nabataean building, however, and it’s another beautiful spot in the desert. The house itself is bunch of rubble, though, and not very impressive.
- Lawrence’s Spring: Just 2km (1.2 miles) south-west of the village of Rum. The spring is at the top of a short scramble. The views across the desert are truly spectacular.
- The Nabataean Temple: Near the Rest House in Rum Village. The surrounding area is covered in Thamudic and Kufic rock art.
- The Anfashieh Inscriptions: Not far from the red Sand Dune area this mountain has depictions of a camel caravan from the Nabatean and Thaumadic period.
- Burdah Rock Bridge: On many tours you only view this from a distance, but it is possible to climb up to this rock bridge if you have a guide and a reasonable level of fitness.
- Umm Fruth Rock Bridge: A lower rock bridge which is featured on many tours and can be easily scrambled onto.
- Red Sand Dunes: There are various places in Wadi Rum where the white and red sands meet, but the most commonly visited is a dune sloping up alongside a jebel – a bit tough to climb up, great fun to run down! It can be difficult ascending those – use small steps.
- Seven Pillars of Wisdom: An impressive rock formation near the Visitor’s centre. It is named after T E Lawrence’s book.
- Jebel Khaz’ali: This narrow canyon contains numerous Nabataean rock carvings of people and animals. Beautiful.
The genuine attraction of Wadi Rum is the desert itself, best seen by four wheel drive or on camel. Some visitors only spend a few hours in the Wadi, but it’s definitely worth taking a guided trip of several days duration, staying overnight in Bedouin camps in the desert.
The quality 4-wheel-drive tour depends on Bedouin driver who serves as a guide, but often do not have much knowledge and poor English. Therefore picking up a guide at the gate is a hit and miss affair and many of the best guides rely mainly on advance bookings. Many of the guides have websites, through which you can arrange your tour.
Climbing is another popular activity and a number of guides are also trained climbers.
The Distant Heat Festival is held every summer on the last Thursday of July which features trance and electronica music.
Bedouin camps – Many camps will provide traditional Bedouin meals. One speciality is chicken or goat cooked under the desert sand, generically known as “zarb” in the same way as we might say “a roast”. This has a barbecue flavour, but is very moist and falls off the bone: try to be nearby when they unearth it as the smell released is gorgeous!
You won’t be able to avoid the Bedouin tea, which is almost forcibly served in every tent you will visit. It’s hot, very sweet and usually flavoured with mint and/or sage.
How to Get There
Wadi Rum is a short detour from the Desert Highway between Amman and Aqaba. A side road leads to the entrance where you will find the Wadi Rum Visitors Centre, a police office and a lot of potential guides offering camel and 4×4 treks. The cost to enter into Wadi Rum Protected Area is 5 Jordanian Dinars (JD) per person.
Most buses that travel the highway between Aqaba and Petra should be able to drop you at the intersection to Wadi Rum. Once at the intersection, you can hitch hike (common in this part of Jordan, no problem for women alone even) or take another minibus (1 or 2JD, they seem to turn up quite regularly) to the Visitor’s Centre where you can meet your guide.
From Petra – There is currently one bus per day from Wadi Musa (Petra) that leaves at 6:30AM and costs 5JD. The trip generally takes 1.5 hours and tickets should be booked through your hotel at Petra, it will then collect you from your hotel directly in the morning. The bus stops at the Visitor’s Centre and Rum Village and returns to Wadi Musa for visitors travelling on to Petra (departure at 8 or 9am).
Taxis to and from Petra cost 25-30JD.
From Amman – No bus goes directly to/from Amman, but regular buses head towards Aqaba or Ma’an. You can get off at the Wadi Rum Intersection. Expect to pay not more than 12JD. Service taxis will also stop here for you and are generally quicker than the buses, although be aware that this is not a private taxi, so it will pick up other passengers and make detours as the other passengers require. Service taxis should cost 15-25 JD per person.
Ancient City of Petra • Locations & Activities