RTW Trip Wadi Rum, Jordan Day 68 and 69: Desert Sleepover on a Mars Film Set

If being a film location scout means that you can visit Mars-like locations like Wadi Rum, it must be one of the best jobs in the world.  Movies like Prometheus, Red Planet, Transformers 2, and Lawrence of Arabia took advantage of Wadi Rum’s sandy environment, with orange and red cliffs, dusty sand dunes, mountainous arches, and the vast and barren landscapes that seem to go for miles and miles.

Out of this world landscape at Wadi Rum

Out of this world landscape at Wadi Rum

Since you really need a guide to direct you to key sights, it’s virtually impossible for a tourist to navigate the grounds on your own.  We ended up booking our overnight desert trek through Mohammad Mutlak Camp, which seemed to offer an upscale trek in comparison to the desert treks we had taken in India and Morocco.  It is a highly advisable to book your trip before arriving to Wadi Rum, because there are numerous tour groups, and they all seem to scattered all over Wadi Rum, rather than in one central location.

Greg looking at the amazing view.

Greg looking at the amazing view.

As many tourists in Jordan find out, getting a taxi can be costly.  There is a public bus from  Aqaba to Wadi Rum village, but it didn’t seem like we could find specific information about when they would come, and we wouldn’t know where to get off.  We ended up taking a taxi for 20 JD from Aqaba, that was very quick, expensive,  and comfortable.  Our driver just got a new car, and we were officially his second customers to ever step in his car.  Along the drive, we saw a lot of tomato farms with most pickers from Syria. Our driver said that he would come out this way to buy big boxes of tomatoes, as he said they were really delicious and very cheap. We also booked this same driver to pick us up in the morning after the trek, so we wouldn’t be stranded.

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When we arrived to the village just outside from the desert area, we waited for our guide to get the Toyota ready with all of our sleepover gear.
Our Toyota ready to go off roading.

Our Toyota ready to go off roading.

For the first few hours, our newly married and very chill guide drove us around to different sights around the desert.  We saw some boulders, huge mountains of sandstone, arches, sand valleys, ancient carvings of camels, and some amazing narrow canyons that reminded me of images of Utah. Wadi Rum seemed to be like Arches National Park‘s Jordanian cousin.
Greg on bridge-like arch.

Greg on a bridge-like arch.

Since Wadi Rum is so vast, it often seems like you have the entire desert to yourself.  We saw a lot of stunning views of vast nothingness, and you can really see how films used these locations for exotic and even out of this world film sets.
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Lunch was a basic picnic of apples, tuna sandwiches, a packaged cake, water, a juice box, and a boiled egg.  Our guide Mohamed talked to us about marital traditions, and even invited us to his cousin’s wedding, which definitely was intriguing, but I think he was just inviting us in passing rather than giving out a real invitation.
Eating lunch with Mohamed.

Eating lunch with Mohamed.

It was a long day of walking, climbing, and driving through the heat, so when it was getting to sundown, we were ready to head to our camp.

Us in Wadi Rum

Us in Wadi Rum

The camp seemed sooo fancy to us. In India, we slept under the stars and ate food that was cooked in pans washed with camel poop littered desert sand.  In Morocco, we slept in fabric tents with a separate western toilet in another tent.  In Wadi Rum, we were in elevated metal framed tents with locking doors, bed frames with nice pillows and bedding, with a western flushing toilet in a building.  This seemed like luxury!

Our living quarters for the night.

Our living quarters for the night.

We thought we would be joining other tourists at our camp, but we were the only ones in our camping area.  We then headed up on the hill behind our camp and watched the sun go down.

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Mohamed, and another guy named Mohamed were at the camp busily making dinner and starting a fire.  We had read about zarb, an amazing meal of meat and veggies cooked in a pot underneath the ground, but thought we would get something rather basic since it was just the two of us.  Mohamed and Mohamed definitely did not skimp on the food. When they called us for dinner, they had candles lit, and showed us a huge spread of food that included everything we had hoped for and more.
Mohamed getting our dinner out of the ground!

Mohamed getting our dinner out of the ground!

We watched Mohamed take a shovel to the ground, revealing a large hump in the ground.  He then took a brush to get the remaining sand off, and mounted the large pot onto a holder.  When he took off the lid, the most amazing smells of chicken and root vegetables hit my nose and made my mouth water.  The chicken was falling of the bone, the vegetables were perfectly cooked and seasoned.  It was by far one of the best eating experiences in Jordan.

Our delicious meal

Our delicious meal

We of course are more than a lion’s share, and we still had a bunch of food leftover.  We were rather comatose, lying on the carpets and looking at the sky.  The night was just as spectacular as the day, as it was probably the darkest place I have ever been in my life.  It seemed you could see a shooting star every minute or so.

The gorgeous northern star and his friends.

The gorgeous northern star and his friends.

Like most desert treks, there is always a VERY early wake-up call, so we called it a night early and had a great snooze in our tent.

By morning, a simple Jordanian breakfast was on the table in the main tent area.  We ate, and were back on our way to the village. The drive back to the village seemed much quicker than our drive out, and we only had to wait 5 or 10 minutes for our taxi driver to drive us back to Aqaba.

We spent another night in Aqaba, for a total of 2 full days there.  Even though we were flying out of Amman, we opted to stay in Aqaba since the weather, food, and accommodation was much better than in Amman.  We caught a bus in the evening from Aqaba to Amman, got off at the 7th Circle, and caught a cab to Queen Alia Airport to head to our next destination.

Costs:
Day 68
Taxi to wadi rum 20 JD
Mohamed Mutlak Camp 90 JD
Total cost for Day 68: 110 JD / 2 = $77.69 per person

Day 69
Taxi to Aqaba 20 JD
Popeye’s 7.10 JD
Beer and water 6.90 JD
Falafel and chips 2.70 JD
Al Qidra Hotel 30 JD

Total cost for Day 69: 66.70 JD /2 = $47.12 per person
What I learned:  I always find desert treks to be way more fun when you are with other groups.  It may help to find out if there will be other groups doing the tour on the same day, so it isn’t too private.  Bring extra water and closed toe shoes wen walking around Wadi Rum.

Also, when finding a cab in Amman to go to the airport, if someone tells you that their “uncle” or “cousin” drives a taxi, do not go with them as they are probably ripping you off.  Our ticket taker on our Aqaba to Amman bus told us his uncle drove a taxi and that we could ride with him to the airport for 15JD.  We found one on the street for just 10JD.  We would have taken the airport bus, but they are not as frequent at night.

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Actual dates of travel: Nov. 10 and 11, 2014
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