Wadi Rum and Petra - A Night in the Desert

If you visit Jordan, the number one thing I recommend is visiting Wadi Rum and Petra.

I had a chance to do so during my visit back in June, and in this post I want to share some of the photos and memories from my time in the desert.

Thanks to Sarah's careful planning, our journey to Petra went without a hitch. We caught the bus in Amman and began the 3.5 hour long journey further south into the country. This bus was unlike any I've rode in Europe, with a designated guide and "mood maker" who specialized in getting the energy going for our arrival, playing music, and giving out prizes for group games. This was not the kind of journey you cuddled up in your seat and fell asleep during; there was clapping and loud conversation the entire way through. All in all, we paid about 40 JOD for this trip, which is around 56 USD. It was worth every penny. 

Thanks to my Jordan pass, I was already set with my ticket for Petra, I simply had to go into an office once we arrived and show them my QR code to have my ticket printed with my name on it. It was a hot day, as it was the end of June, but when we began to walk the road to the historical site, I wasn't feeling the heat too much. 

As you continue on the path, it transitions from rocks and sand to these huge rock walls surrounding a smooth path. There are a few men and male children seated in the shade along this path, and depending on how tourist-y you look, they may try to reach out and offer prices on tours, photos, or donkey/camel rides. Our group continued on without buying anything, and I have to say this rock area was one of my favorite photo spots. In some places, the shine of the rocks almost made it look like there were striped patterns of orange, white and light blue. 

Finally, we reached the end of the tunnel to the 45 meter high carving of Al Khazneh.

This place was teeming with activity. There were vendors and tourists all around, and huge camels lured overhead ready to be ridden all around. Our group was approached by a child wearing a hoodie, asking us if we would like to go on top of a rock for a photoshoot with the carving. He told us that if we gave 2JD each, he would take us there. Though I was extremely apprehensive, I was assured by Noor and Sarah that this would be an excellent photo spot and well worth the money, and so we followed him towards an area with a bit of barbed fence and a steep rock incline. 

Climbing up was a nightmare. Sweat was dripping down my back and I often moved my hands to cover my backside, as I was wearing a dress. My sneakers, worn down from walking hundreds of miles in their lifetime, didn't grip the rocks well at times, leaving me in constant fear of slipping should my foot land on a smooth rock. After what felt like forever, we reached a rock that had a few other tourists and some men sitting in a tent, one with black kohl smudged on his eyes.

The child offered us tea or coffee as we waited our turn to take photos. When it was our turn, he held my iPhone with the level of photography experience I've never seen in a kid before. He did a strange swooping motion I had never seen, resulting in an awesome photo. For the rest of the trip, we referred to this type of photo as a 'swoosh' picture and tried replicating it ourselves, with mixed results.

At this point in the day, the sun was high in the sky with few clouds to block it's rays. We were starting to really feel the heat kick in, especially after tiptoeing our way down the rocks we had climbed up. As we walked past the huge carving, we came to a road with many vendors on the sidelines selling different forms of jewelry, kohl, stones and pottery. I noticed that many of the vendors and children were fully covered from the sun in jackets or sweaters, something I couldn't fathom as I was sweating in my thin cotton dress. 

We ended up heading back to the entrance on a very, very long walk that required many water breaks and rests in the shade. My advice to anyone visiting Petra: invest in a sunhat, sunscreen, comfortable sneakers and water bottles. Don't be afraid to take it slow, as it's a lot of walking, and rest in the shadows when you feel overwhelmed by the sun. Stay safe!

Since we were part of an organized group, we boarded back on the bus to head directly to Wadi Rum. I distinctly remember the AC on the bus hitting me in the face and feeling so blessed. 

When we arrived in Wadi Rum, certain people were loaded into designated Jeeps to take them to their assigned camps. Our group was given to a nice, young Bedouin guy with glasses who seemed very friendly, though I didn't catch his name. We were lucky in that it was only us headed to this camp, so we had the Jeep entirely to ourselves. 

The drive over was beautiful. The sand was so smooth and silky it looked like waves in the horizon. The sun setting created this beautiful orange hue over the top of the rocks, and the breeze from the speed of the Jeep had my hair whipping every which way. It was a moment where my mind felt totally empty, just enjoying the scenery and the expanse of the desert around me.

When we arrived at the camp, we put our things away in our cabin and were offered tea. We all accepted, and I made a point to say yes every time tea was offered since I loved it so much. We all sat by the fire as the kettle with the tea boiled, chatting a bit and enjoying the light breeze and empty camp. 

We were asked if we wanted to take a drive over and see the sunset, and we all readily jumped into the car, but beforehand we stopped near a very steep slope of sand that had a big group of people and other Jeeps parked together. We all got out of the car, took off our shoes, and starting running up the huge sand dune in our bare feet. The sand felt incredible, relatively cool and not sticking to our feet at all as we ran. We got tired halfway up the dune and fell into the sand, taking pictures and smiling.

Before the sunset, our Bedouin friend also took us to this rock that looks like a face. It's just naturally that way! Next to the face rock was a small, flatter rock with pink dust all over it. He explained that, long ago, brides used to be taken here before marriage to smear the pink dust on their cheeks to create blush. Sarah tried it out on her face and it actually looked amazing!

Finally, the sun was about to set. We drove a few minutes away to a huge rock in the middle of nowhere. There were a handful of people there, but otherwise it was empty. Our Bedouin guide insisted this was the best place to see the sunset, and I quickly realized why he thought so. We were so high up, we had an incredible view of all the sand below and the rocks in the distance. This is where I took the photo of Sarah below, one of my favorites from my entire stay in Jordan. 

We watched the sun set in near silence, each of us in our own worlds thinking. I remember sitting here, feeling the edges of the rock beneath me and feeling at loss for words. I could have never imagined that I would be sitting here, surrounded by this gorgeous ocean of sand and seeing the sun slowly go down with a girl I had met in class only a few months ago. I felt overwhelmed with emotion, with pure gratefulness just to be alive, that I felt a single tear fall down my cheek. In a way, I felt a little silly for crying, but the feelings I felt at that time were so powerful and the image in front of me so moving, that I was reduced to tears. 

I don't think a photo can really capture how moving this was for me, but I tried to take one anyway!

After this, we headed back to the camp to enjoy the evening with the others who had arrived and eat a well deserved dinner. We were all starving, so we hurried back to our rooms to freshen up before dinner. The cabins were very comfortable, with AC units and large bathrooms. They had large windows on the side that were covered by big curtains, but in the morning you could move them aside to get some fresh air and light.

We headed to the center of the camp and drank more tea, dancing to the music playing. There were several other people seated in the large round seating area, but absolutely no one was budging from their seat to dance. The crowd was mostly white people in their 60s, so it's understandable why they didn't feel like getting up and busting a move at 11PM. Though we were disappointed, the music was playing and we were all in a good mood, so Noor, Sarah and I danced together. 

The trip 'mood maker', who's name I didn't catch, came over to our camp and asked if we wanted to go into the desert and do a meditation. Now, surprisingly this didn't raise any red flags for me and I thought it would be an awesome idea, so my group and a few other people who were in the camp decided to follow him deep into the desert.

At this point, it was midnight and there wasn't much light, so I used the light of my phone to see the sand below me. We walked for about 10 minutes before arriving at a smooth sand dune surrounded by very tall rocks. We all had our shoes off, and sat together in a circle. The trip guide handed each of us a candle inside of a brown paper bag, and we put this in front of us as each candle was lit and the meditation began.

I won't pretend I understood anything he was saying, but I can't forget the sound of his voice, the only sound in the quiet expanse of the desert. The Arabic language has almost a musical sort of quality to it, and I found myself laying with my back on the sand and my eyes closed, listening to his soft incantations and just feeling at peace. 

Some of the Bedouin men who were staying with us at our camp also came along for this meditation, and after we had wrapped up, they invited us to sit with them on the sand dune and chat beneath the stars. 

I couldn't contribute much to the conversation, so I don't know what was really said that night, but as I laid in the sand and looked up at the clear night sky, I couldn't help but sigh and smile. Everything in the universe that had lead me to this very moment, every choice I made that got me here, I felt grateful for.
Drunk with tiredness, I drifted in and out of sleeping and staring at the stars, my phone long forgotten in my pocket. 

When we returned to camp, we fell asleep instantly. The next day, there was a full breakfast buffet followed by more tea and coffee, which I gulped down readily. As I packed up my cabin, I was sad my time in the desert was ending, but the experience had left us all buzzing with positivity. We hopped into the Jeep for the final ride, and the driver took us off a particularly big hill, making me giggle as my stomach dropped. 

As I watched the camp fade out of view into the sea of sand behind me, I thanked Sarah for arranging such a wonderful trip, and Noor for bringing me here to explore her home country. Without these two, my trip wouldn't have been half as incredible as it was. 

I hope you enjoyed my Jordan post series. Here is my first post about my time in Amman, in case you missed it. If you ever get a chance to visit Wadi Rum and stay the night, please do your best to rent out a campsite that contributes to the local people, as they are wonderful and truly hospitable. 

I'll see you all in the next post, bye bye!