Traveling to Jordan? Camping with Bedouins in Wadi Rum, وادي رم is a MUST! Also known as “The Valley of the Moon”, Wadi Rum is one of the world’s most magical Desert Landscapes, a valley naturally cut into sandstone and granite rock. Whether one is looking for a one or few night stay, for the budget traveler or the luxury, family or romantic honeymoon vacation, there is a perfect experience for everyone! Wadi Rum Bedouins Camps offers a wide array of accommodation for every type of traveller.
Located in the southwest region of Jordan, Wadi Rum is a UNESCO World Heritage site that is 750 square kilometers of protected wilderness. The Nabateans were the original inhabitants, living there thousands of years ago and where Bedouins still occupy today. On a clear day, it is possible to see the Red Sea and the Saudi Arabia border from the top.
A Little History of Wadi Rum & Jordan
During the 1917/1918 Arab Revolt, the local people joined forces under the leadership of King Faisal. They fought along with T.E. Lawrence, also known as “Lawrence of Arabia“, to fight the occupying Turkish & German armies. In the famous book “The Seven Pillars of Wisdom” by Lawrence of Arabia, he makes many references to the mountains of Wadi Rum. When visiting, one can visit the home of Lawrence, although whether or not he actually resided there is debatable.
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Petroglyphs etched into the cave walls depict humans and antelopes dating back to the Thamudic times in Khaz’ali Canyon.
Culture of Wadi Rum
Virtually all of the people (a few hundred) living in Wadi Rum are of Bedouin origin (7 tribal groups), the native people of Jordan (and Palestine). The Zalabia Tribe make up the majority of the population and have thrived on tourism, running the camp, jeep and camel tours, which is organized through the Rum Tourism Cooperative, a locally run organization that shares the tourism between villages. The second most popular tribe is the Zweideh Tribe who are also involved in tourism but not entirely.
Most Bedouins in Jordan are rich in land ownership, inherited through generations. But many still prefer a nomadic life living in tents, while wandering with their flocks depending on seasons and maintaining their goat herds for milk, meat and ‘jameed’, a type of yogurt. They have consistently been recognized as the most hospitable group of people in the world.
The Start of the Wadi Rum Tour: Captain Desert Camp
For many, the starting point of your Wadi Rum experience would be at the “Captain Desert Camp“. There is option to camp there or to just enjoy lunch, a delicious buffet with BBQ meats and fresh Jordanian vegetable dishes. Some people go to enjoy a day trip while going back to the city at night.
Note: If of interest, Wadi rum hosts dozens of other private camp sites for a more unique experience.
Jeep Tour through Wadi Rum
After lunch at Captain Desert Camp, we all boarded on the back of 4×4 trucks with our camping luggage. The jeeps had comfortable bench seating in the trunk bed and we headed out for a 5 hour jeep tour of the desert. This would be the highlight of our whole Wadi Rum experience.
It was remarkable to see first hand how the desert had naturally formed these huge mountains of sandstone formations and granite. And how it’s sustained after thousands of years. The Bedouins have also worked hard in maintaining & protecting their land, while developing this popular eco-adventure tourism for travelers & adventurers like us to enjoy.
Along the way, we spotted birds as our guide Mohammed is an expert in identifying them. Every couple meters we drove, our perspective broadened to new picturesque landscapes. It was almost too much (in a good way) to soak in, as I wished I had some time-lapse photographic memory to soak it all in, from narrow canyons to wide sandy valleys to ancient rock drawings sketched by people who inhabited thousands of years ago.
Other activities one can partake in the desert is hiking, ATV’ing, trekking, horseback riding, yoga, meditating, camel riding, rock-climbing, sand-boarding. Or simply unplugging from society/electricity and just relaxing.
It is Always Tea Time in Jordan
There is always time for tea. Even in 105 degree Arabian desert heat. Even during our Jeep Tour, our hosts found time to stop by a Bedouin tent for some tea. It’s a time to connect with friends and bond. There is no wrong time for tea: morning, noon, afternoon, middle of the night, in all special times as well as ordinary occasions. Alcohol is not as popular in Jordan or the Middle-East, except more so in the city life and in younger generations.
In the Bedouin Camps, the tea is always freshly brewed over the campfire with loose tea leaves, cardamom pods, sage, thyme with sugar or honey. Jordanians love their tea super sweet.
Note: When visiting a Bedouin home, the first thing they offer is tea. It is rude to turn down tea from your host, unless you have a serious reason why.
Sunset Gazing Over the Magical Canyon
We arrived near our private campsite around sunset, where I lead a mini Yoga session as everyone needed a little stretching from the long car rides and travels.
Living in the city, where noise becomes our norm, there is something magical about spending time in pure nature with absolutely no sound but the sound of the wind and birds flying by. This is why we traveled thousands of miles away to do, while the locals find this their day-to-day norm. We all found serenity in being still and silent as we watched the sun set over the vast rock canyons.
While wildlife does exist in Wadi Rum, it is rare to see many animals as they are mainly nocturnal. It is possible with enough patience and a telescope at night to spot them though.
Dinner Time & Semi-Glamping in Wadi Rum
Once the sun set, we wandered over to our camp site where we settled into our glamp-tents. Full-size mattress beds in cozy goat-hair tents would keep the shelter warm in the winter, along with modern bathrooms equipped with toilets and decent showers.
Our Bedouin hosts prepared dinner as we settled in. We got to see how they barbecued the meat by burying them below a fire pit underground. Along with the delicious meat, was fresh bread, organic vegetables & salad dishes.
As we concluded our casual dinner, we wandered back to the camp fire where we smoked hookah and sipped Jordanian red wine while gazing up at the stars. Instead of sleeping in my glamp-bed, I opted instead to sleep outside under the stars. It was quite extraordinary, to say the least.
Camel Ride During Sunrise
My morning alarm was the sunrise itself, just before 6am. We all gathered the little belongings we brought into the desert, and hopped on board to our designated camels for a ride out of the desert. My camel was a bit anxious, constantly rushed to lead the pack although chained as 2nd in line. Our Bedouin guide recognized this, so he switched up the line up so alpha-camel can lead the way.
Camel riding is not as smooth as riding a horse, there is something very unique about being on a camel. For me it was imagining life back hundreds and thousands of years ago, where Bedouins and other merchants traveled along the Silk Road used this resourceful animal as standard transportation across the desert. It was their vehicle, like cars & planes are ours today. They rode these camels for days & weeks, slept next to them and trusted them as companions. And also used the camel backs to transport goods for trade.
While our 24 hour experience in Wadi Rum was just perfect, I could have easily stayed for a few more nights.
How to Get to Wadi Rum
Wadi Rum is only an hour drive away from Aqaba Red Sea. 3.5 hours from Amman or 1.5 hour from Petra. One can easily arrange car transportation through a private tour company or through your hotel. You can also contact the Wadi Rum Visitor Center directly ahead of time to arrange transport and affordable tour package.
It is a fairly easy & accommodating task to arrange the tour as it is the most popular excursion in Jordan next to visiting Petra. On average, it would cost approximately 65 Jordanian Diners a night per person for camping & food. Prices range depending on level of luxury of campsite (ie: one night can go up t0 10,000 JD with fine champagne & an 8 course meal arranged!).
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“Shukran!” Thank you for your Bedouin hospitality.
For more information on Traveling to Wadi Rum, visit the Jordan Tourism Board of North America.