Wadi Rum (November 4, 2019)

Wadi Rum lies in the far south of Jordan on a high plateau at the western edge of the Arabian desert. Gargantuan rock formations and wind-sculpted mountains + pastel-colored sand dunes = dramatic effect. Stone Age petroglyphs mix nicely with camel rides, seasonal glamping sites, and rides on old trains running on tracks dating back to the Arab revolt against the Turks. This red-rock wilderness was the location for lots of films including Lawrence of Arabia (winner of seven Academy Awards), the Martian, Prometheus, Aladdin, and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.

We explored the beautiful moonscape in the bed of a six-man Toyota four-by-four truck. We made a brief stop for a demonstration of how a particular unassuming plant could be smashed on a rock and then rubbed between the hands to make a form of soap. No rinsing required. We saw petroglyphs, small camel caravans, and simple sculptures of King Hussein and Thomas Edward Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia).

To fortify ourselves until lunch, we stopped at a long, narrow Bedouin tent made from metal supports and goat hair blankets. There were thin rugs on the sand floor with an area set aside at the far end for prayers. Abdullah gave us a detailed explanation of how the traditional cardamon-laced coffee is prepared starting with roasting beans over an open fire. He showed us both a wood and a metal vessel used to grind them once roasted. Next comes boiling the brew in a cute pot with a long, graceful spout and finally the addition of cardamom. He went on to explain how ingrained coffee is in hospitality rituals. When offered, you graciously take a cup, which holds about four ounces but will be filled only halfway, and basically toss it back. The host will not offer others coffee until you have had your fill, which will not exceed three mini-cups. An indication to the host that it is OK to move to the next guest is a slight wiggle of the cup. With all this buildup you can imagine we were pretty excited to give this treat a try. As if on cue along came a man in a flowing robe with a tray chock full of mini-mugs of TEA! Say what?

Being denied coffee might have been a disappointment but, lunch was certainly not. We were treated to a meal cooked below ground in a round, metal-lined oven. Coals at the bottom of the pit provided the heat. The chef waited until we arrived at the dining camp to remove our meal from the ground. First a little mound of sand was scrapped off a large metal lid. Once the piping hot lid was tossed aside, a three-tiered rack, at least three feet tall, full of food was gingerly lifted out of the ground. The top two racks had lamb, chicken, and vegetables and the bottom rack had a pot of rice. Clever! 

After lunch we headed back to the bus for our four-hour trip into Amman. Abdullah shared information about Jordanian customs and answered our questions on topics still lingering after our four days together. We all enjoyed the story of his dad who took a second wife once it was certain that he could not have children with his first wife. Abdullah is the last of eight children by wife number two and, unmarried at 36, still lives at home with his two moms. He explained that a man may not take another wife until each can be treated the same. One gets a car, they all get a car. One gets to travel, they all get to travel. One gets a cell phone, they all get a cell phone.

Dating as we know it is not allowed in traditional Jordanian families Abdullah explained. A man and woman can meet over tea or coffee or take a stroll, but once there is a glimpse of chemistry the families must meet casually to suss out the character of the love interest and his or her family. If this step goes well, the couple can see one another. Sometime during the courtship, dowry to be given to the bride and divorce money for the bride must be discussed. Engagements are typically a year long. The groom foots the bill for the wedding.

We covered other topics too: the inordinate amount of trash, especially plastic, everywhere; the Five Pillars of Islam that every Muslim must satisfy in order to live a good and responsible life; exports; mining; and the confusion between religious teachings and the obscure cultural practices that sometimes make the international news.

With one potty stop, a little shut eye, and the stimulating commentary the drive to Amman passed quickly. We settled into our beautiful room at the InterContinental and then freshened up for our farewell dinner in the hotel. Our delicious meal resembled many others with a bevy of starters and then delicious main courses and desserts. It ended with our group saying goodbye and wishing each other safe travels.

… Tell Me More …

Wadi Rum is second only to Petra as the main attraction in Jordan.

Wadi Rum gets less than an inch of rain a year.

Wadi in Arabic means valley, ravine, or channel that is dry except in the rainy season. Rum means mountain.

Turkey’s Ottoman Empire ruled Jordan from 1516 to 1916.
England helped the Arabs get their independence from the Ottomans.
The revolt started in Wadi Rum with help from, among others, Lawrence of Arabia, a British archeologist.

Approximately two percent of the Jordanian population is Bedouin.
They have a summer camp and a winter camp on land that they own.


One thought on “Wadi Rum (November 4, 2019)

  1. You are so good at writing mom!! I love the meal that was cooked under ground

    Matt Mongeon, PMP, Technical Project Manager II
    Engineering Management Office
    PMP,ITIL Foundation, RCV, OSA, SOA, PPO
    5159 Federal Blvd., San Diego, CA 92105
    • 619.266.5675 (ex. 55675) |( 619.822.4661 | • matt.mongeon@cox.com


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