When you first hear of Wadi Rum, you may picture otherworldly landscapes, Lawrence of Arabia, bubble tents in the desert and an ocean of red, red sand. It’s one of those unique places that just is unlike any other and one of the original draws that put Jordan on the top of our bucket list. We had to experience Wadi Rum for ourselves!
After a four hour drive from the Dead Sea and northwest Jordan, we arrived in Wadi Rum about 345pm just as a pretty large group was getting ready to head out on a sunset camel trek. We had booked a Martian tent at Hasan Zaweidah Camp which had very good reviews overall. We got settled in our room and then spent some time outside, walking around and exploring the small camp at sunset as the landscape and accommodations were all too surreal.
Around 6pm, we went out to the main area where everyone was surrounding either an outdoor fire or indoor fire, having tea. After sunset, the temperature drops pretty quickly and we were expecting to be pretty cold. Shortly after a ceremony of removing cooked food out of the ground took place (where everyone clamored and fought to witness it) and then a buffet style dinner was served. Overall the food was good, but not remarkable and we later retreated back to our martian tent to relax. We had a long day of driving and still were trying to adjust to the time difference.
Our accommodations were clean, but pretty dated. Our Martian tent consisted of a king bed and a twin bed, two chairs and table, AC/Heat and a bathroom. Terrible gold curtains lined the window facing out into Wadi Rum, mostly hanging awkwardly with no ease of shutting or opening them as they constantly got stuck on the track. For some reason there were 30 of the same toiletries in vanity, yet no towels were left for us so we had to go retrieve them from reception. Overall, the room was fairly disappointing considering we were paying close to 300 dollars a night for the ‘experience’. When we first started looking at Wadi Rum, I had read a review from The Points Guy about his experience at Wadi Rum Luxury Camp and his sentiments were pretty similar. First, there’s no need to stay more than one night, unless you love the outdoors and landscapes. Second, there’s definitely not a lot of luxury here. This camp was two or two and a half stars at best, so if you’re expecting much more, be advised. I will say that we really did enjoy the sunset, being under thousands of stars and watching the sunrise over the desert from the comforts of our bed through the Martian tent window.
Would I do it again, probably not. To be fair, we didn’t really take part in the after dinner activities, although we could hear the music for a short time. I had an amazing experience at a camp in the Sahara once and it was certainly unforgettable, but I didn’t get the sense that this place had the same type of magic. Not sure if it was “Macarena” playing in evening or something else other than instinct. They did offer a stargazing tour for additional cost, but it was pretty chilly outside, and again, we just didn’t have a ton of energy by this point. If I were to do it again, I’d probably visit some of these unique bubble camps and take some photos while enjoying a beverage or two, but I’d go with a guide or tour for sunset and stay in nearby Agada at one of their nicer hotels. Agada was one place that we didn’t get to see that I wish we had.
Wadi Rum in Four Hours
The next day we ate breakfast somewhat early and then opted to head to the Visitor’s Center to book our tour. We wanted to check out the shops onsite, get our head scarfs and feel like we were channeling Lawrence of Arabia. Our camp host, didn’t seem too interested in offering up information about tours and we figured we would get better service from the Visitor’s Center, so we checked out and headed that way. Interestingly, the Visitor’s Center personnel seemed very confused by the fact that we were booking direct. They kept asking us about which camp we were at and it was very difficult to explain that we had checked out and that we wanted to depart from the Visitor’s Center. At one point they were going to make us go back to our camp which was pretty ridiculous. We selected our tour, which was Operator Tour 2, #5 and was supposed included Burdah Rock according to the chart. I wont go into detail about the tours or operators as there is plenty online already about that, but when we booked our tour, our printed ticket or receipt said Um Froth Rock Bridge which matched the description of the tour for Operator 1, #5. When we went back to confirm which tour we wanted they basically said, “Yeah, yeah, it’s included”, however we still didn’t believe them. Our guide, Mohammed, spoke pretty good English, so we should have confirmed with him before leaving, but that was our mistake.
We hopped in the back of Mohammed’s Mitsubishi truck and made our way to the first stop at the base of Al Hasany Dunes. we climbed up to the top through the heavy sand to take in the views of Wadi Rum.
Next we made our way to a stretch of sand along a rock wall that had inscriptions in it, Alameleh inscriptions. Hundreds of tourists were here taking photos. We were more interested in talking to he camels. You can do camel rides here, but we opted not to. I’ve ridden a few camels before and they are highly uncomfortable after a few minutes. Still, they do make for fun photo opps.
We rode along through the expansive desert and took in this unique landscape. Fortunately, the weather was very mild and the sun was not overly hot. It was low 70s in late November which made for pleasant hiking weather and allowed for us to sit in the back of a truck for 4 hours without getting too hot.
Our next stop was at Lawrence’s House. What’s amazing about Jordan and especially many of the sights at Wadi Rum is that if you can climb it, you can explore it. I guess that can be good and bad depending on who you are or who you are with, but the sights are all just one big giant playground. There are no ropes or sectioned off areas. No ‘Do Not Enter’ signs. We were amazed that there weren’t more safety measures in place as you see at other major tourist destinations in Western countries. Certainly made for fun when exploring. At Lawrence’s house, everyone was climbing a path and rocks in one sections to take in the views and snap some photos. There was an equally impressive peak on the other side and no one around it so we just made our own route instead.
Next we went to Um Froth Rock Bridge, which is a pretty impressive structure and not the easiest of climbs. Surprisingly, there were only a handful of people here and it was easy to navigate our way to the top and pose for some fun photos. Unfortunately, to no one’s surprise, this was the last rock bridge we saw as we never did get to go to Burdah Rock Bridge.
The way out had been calm and leisurely but the way back to our starting point was anything but. Our driver drove like he was in a race against time. We did see a few more cool sights, going up and around dunes and in narrow valleys nestled between giant rock facings. We stopped at Mushroom rock, which literally requires no more than 30 seconds of time and stopped awkwardly at Siq Um Tawaqi. We thought we would get to venture into the Siq, but Mohammad was really just excited to show us a small rock carving of TE Lawrence. We were fairly unimpressed.
At the last stop Mohammed asked “Back to camp?” I replied, “yes”, then quickly realized my mistake and corrected myself, “By ‘camp’ you mean the Visitor’s Center, right?” Thank goodness I checked or we surely would have ended up back at Hasan.
Overall, and even despite not getting to Burdah Rock Bridge, we loved our half day trek through the desert of Wadi Rum. It’s definitely worth the experience and the hotel accommodations, although not my favorite, were very worthy of some incredible and unique photo opps. By all accounts, Wadi Rum is definitely a must do for any Jordan trip, whether you stay overnight or not.