DISCOVER ALL ABOUT JORDAN: PART I
Wadi Rum Desert
Jordan has nine nature reserves and one protected area, Wadi Rum. The latter is a beautiful desert inhabited since prehistoric times and the Bedouin heartland where a few hundred still live a semi-nomadic life. Wadi Rum may be best known for its connection to T. E. Lawrence, most widely known as Lawrence of Arabia, who passed through several times during the Arab Revolt. The quite impressive “alien” landscape of Wadi Rum has served as the backdrop for various films such as “The Martian”, “Prometheus” and of course 1960’s classic “Lawrence of Arabia”. The spectacular Wadi Rum will blow your mind since it’s essentially untouched by humans, with monolithic rockscapes rising up from the desert floor to the sky, long canyons, 4000-year-old rock-drawings and of course sand dunes and camel caravans. The best bit is that Wadi Rum is far less crowded than Petra, which makes it a truly peaceful escape and a good chance to get in touch with nature and get as close as possible to traditional Bedouin life as you can.
There are quite a few options for exploring Wadi Rum. Visitors can book the preferred activities at the Visitors Centre, book everything in advance directly with the various Bedouin camps (online) or alternatively through a tour operator. In all three options you will be able to hire a 4x4 vehicle (or a camel), together with a driver/guide to explore the desert’s most famous sites and/or stay in one of the Bedouin camps. If you choose to stay in one of the camps you have the choice of sleeping in a tent, a little hut or simply in a sleeping bag under the stars. The choice is yours and there is a camp for every budget. Your Bedouin hosts will take care of everything for you, including a traditional homemade meal. The local dish usually served is “Zarb”, a Bedouin barbeque feast that is cooked underground for many hours and is enjoyed around the camp fire together with your friendly hosts.
There are several attractions in Wadi Rum to be visited and your tour can take from some hours to a full day. The most popular ones are the Umm Fruth Rock Bridge (one of the many natural rock bridges of the area), Makharas Canyon, the Seven Pillars of Wisdom (a large rock formation named in honour of the Lawrence of Arabia book) and the nearby Alameleh Inscriptions, Siq Umm Tawaqi (a canyon where the locals have carved the faces of Lawrence and two other important figures of the Arab Revolt), the remains of Lawrence House, Lawrence Spring, Barrah Canyon, the Mushroom rock and Al Hasany Dunes.
This place should go on top of your list of places you need to see before you die because as scientists predicted, the rapidly shrinking Dead Sea will disappear by 2050. At the lowest point on earth - 430m below sea level - the Dead Sea is a landlocked body of water 10 times saltier than the ocean and the therapeutic benefits of its water and dark mud have been exploited and attracted visitors since antiquity. Actually, researchers have discovered that the Dead Sea can help treat an array of illnesses ranging from arthritis and chronic back pain to psoriasis and even heart problems.
The best and safest way to engage with the healing properties of its warm waters is by visiting Amman Beach, a public beach with umbrellas, showers, a restaurant and drink stalls, or by booking a night stay in one of the various hotel resorts lined along the northeast coast. All resorts have their own private section of the beachfront, high quality spa and fitness facilities and some offer day access to non-guests. Another option is “Oh Beach”, a private beach that roughly has the same facilities as Amman Beach in addition to some spa facilities.
When you finally head to the beach just remember that it is practically impossible to swim so don’t try it, just let yourself float. Make sure you do so with your face up and keep your head out of the water. You shouldn’t stay in the water for more than 15 minutes. When you get out spread mud over you and just let it dry. When the mud gets completely dry get in the water again for another 10 minutes. Lastly, rinse off with fresh water in the showers. You will feel your skin clean and shiny right away.
More Tips for your journey…
Purchase the “Jordan Pass”, it contains the Visa for entering the country and prepaid entry to over 40 attractions including Petra, Wadi Rum and Amman Citadel. There are 3 different packages 70JD, 75JD and 80JD depending on the number of days you want to enter Petra. You can easily purchase it online (www.jordanpass.jo) beforehand.
“Petra by Night” is on every Monday, Wednesday and Thursday. A licensed guide will take you from Petra Visitor Centre at 20:30 to the Treasury for the show and bring you back at around 22.30. The fee is 17JD, and tickets can be bought at the Visitor Centre, the local tour agencies in Petra or at your hotel reception. Only a limited number of visitors can enter per day.
Public transport is limited so if you want to go around the country is best to rent a car. There are many rental companies both international and local and you can pick up the car straight away from the airport door. Driving is on the right and in general it is quite easy to drive in Jordan, with the exception of hectic Amman.
At the Dead Sea it’s best if you wear either an old or a black swimsuit because the dark mud will stain some light-coloured fabrics. Hotel resorts are located along the Dead Sea Highway and eating options outside the hotels are scarce.