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Wild about Wadi Rum – flatulent camels and all

The first day started off with a three hour camel ride in Lawrence’s old stomping grounds, Wadi Rum. Yes, camel riding is the iconic Middle Eastern experience (not to mention Lawrence’s preferred method of transportation) but believe you me, we could have lived without the angry, farting camels and all the leg and back pain associated with being perched atop them for three hours.

The above description come courtesy of a couple of best friends studying the Arabic language – who took some time off to visit the desert T.E. Lawrence described in his famed  ‘7 Pillars of Wisdom‘ as  ‘Vast and echoing and god-like.‘

A landscape whose plains are challenging by camel as its numerous jagged and jutting rock structures are for rappelling and ‘trad climbing‘ . The latter explained by Ben Heason in his RockRun.com post entitled ‘Tales from Wadi Rum:’

Whilst the climbing is often of a serious nature, there remains an air of convenience when climbing in Wadi Rum. More akin to alpine climbing than UK cragging, Wadi Rum offers some long and memorable outings, of all grades, but without the arduous approaches, slogging up long steep hills so often associated with alpine climbs…

… After a couple of days familiarising ourselves with the climbing style, which is often of a slightly crumbly nature, repeating delightful classic shorter routes such as Inferno (E2 5c) and The Beauty (E2 5b, 5 pitches) we decided to go for our first big route of the trip – Inshallah Factor …

After repeating the super classics of Merlin’s Wand (E1 5b, 5 pitches), Star of Abu Judaidah (E2 5b, 7 pitches), Les Rumeurs De La Pluie (E2 5c, 3 pitches) and the less traveled, run-out and technical Neige Dans Le Desert (E5 5c/6a, 7 pitches) my appetite for a return trip to Barrah Canyon had been sufficiently whetted.

…  I have rarely had such a feeling whilst climbing, of elation and fear combined, and for such a lengthy period. For almost the entire day I remained petrified, yet in my element at the same time, thriving on the experience.

Of course one not need be an expert climber to enjoy some if the heights and sights offered in this amazing landscape.  An experience nicely described by this GW student of Arabic and history:

The above picture of the Rock Bridge is one of the famous sites at Wadi Rum because it forms a natural bridge. To climb up it, we had to scale the face of the rock to the right of it, which was an exercise in conquering your fear. The nearly vertical climb up was not for the faint of heart, and I would be lying if I said it was easy. Once atop, I quickly walked across the bridge and descended (which was even more difficult) to the safety of the ground below. On the way down, as I’m slowly making my way, some Bedouin tour guide is calmly and confidently walking down the rock face as if it’s nothing. It was a pretty funny sight: I’m doing a crab walk next to someone walking normally.

Uncomfortable with climbing? Not a problem, there’s always camping:

We stayed the night in the Bedouin camp and traveled to Petra the next morning. What a spectacular place. Words don’t do justice to treasure trove of amazingly preserved – Beholding the World

And while the ‘tent’ accommodations may not be entirely authentic Bedouin, it certainly makes for an entertaining experience:

Moving along in the afternoon we went to a “Bedouin camp” in Wadi Rum. Obviously most people visiting Wadi Rum want to spend the night in a “Bedouin tent” are not the authentic homes of the Bedouin, but are erected for the tourists. It is nevertheless a special experience to sleep out in the desert, several of them have “amenities” like toilets and showers.

… I sleep with socks, gloves and my jacket and hood on. The bed is just full of sand, as we had to change tents last minute due to the kerosene spillage…it was quite cold and the bed very uncomfortable but it beats sleeping on the ground. Thank god i only had to walk once to the bathroom before going to bed, but it was a pain to have to walk the distance through sand … – Judie’s Travels

Sure it gets a bit chilly at night, but there’s nothing like seeing Wadi Rum for the moonscape that it is … by way of full lunar illumination:

Last weekend I went to Wadi Rum and Aqaba for a conference sponsored by the Rotaract of Amman-West. It was incredible! Wadi Rum is a desert canyon area, and Aqaba is the little bit of coast that Jordan has with the Red Sea. We got down to Wadi Rum after the sunset unfortunately (it is supposed to be spectacular), but it was close to a full moon which was also incredible. We stayed at a camp called “Beit Ali” and went up to the top of the hill for a breathtaking view of the moonlit desert.  – Greg Sheppard’s Blog

Personally, I’m conflicted – as I found myself more impressed with Wadi Rum than Petra after my first visit to Jordan in my post: Wadi Rum: vast and echoing and god-like, magically haunted.

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