As I mentioned in my last blog post, the parental units came to visit for us in Jerusalem for ten days along with my aunt and uncle and wow, did we pack in a lot. I borrowed a minivan from our friends and we put some miles on their 1997 Honda Odyssey, hitting most of the major sites within a several hundred mile radius. Some I’d seen before, like the Dome of the Rock, the Sea of Galilee and Petra, but one, Wadi Rum, I’d been saving for this trip. It did not disappoint.
We drove south from Jerusalem one morning, stopping in the Israeli Red Sea resort town of Eilat for lunch where we made the major mistake of ordering market fresh fish without asking the price, thus unwittingly consuming the most expensive lunch of our lives. Eilat: Skip it if you can. We crossed the southern border into Jordan fairly easily (thanks to Diplomatic license plates) and continued driving until we entered Wadi Rum, which is a 278-square mile expanse of desert wilderness, perhaps best known to Westerners as a where they filmed “The Martian” and, decades earlier, “Lawrence of Arabia.” Inside Wadi Rum are dozens of tourist camps run by the Zalabia Bedouins, who are desert-dwelling, semi-nomads known for their hospitality. We drove to the village home of Mehedi, a Bedouin who runs a camp called Bedouin Directions and traded our van for some camels. Yes, a gaggle of Michiganders (plus Mr. Em in Jerusalem) rode camels into the sunset in the Jordanian desert. It was awesome.
After about an hour of camel riding we got into a truck with our luggage and went the rest of the way through the wide-open desert. Not another soul in sight (other than our two Jerusalem friends who joined us). We arrived to camp for a dinner prepared by our Bedouin cook and ate in a tent with our guides who shared with us interesting tidbits about a life very different from our own.
The sleeping tents had real beds and oriental rugs so some, like my aunt, would call it “glamping.” But they also had no AC or fans, so some, like my mother, would call is “just plain camping.” It was warm in those tents. Very warm. After a terrible night of sleep, we were up, caffeinated with Nescafe, and ready for our day-long “Jeep Tour,” which was our group tearing through the desert in two trucks with guides who took us to various cool rock formations throughout Wadi Rum.
A refreshing lunch prepared by our Bedouin guides, Oudi and Hussein, really hit the spot and were were stoked when they laid down in the shade for an afternoon nap, thus signaling to our tired group that we could shamelessly conk out. Promptly, our group of eight was dead asleep on a mat in under a rocky cliff, probably looking a lot like desert cult moments after committing mass suicide by ingesting scorpion poison. Wish I had a picture, but like I said, dead asleep.
Post nap: More rocks and desert and petroglyphs and sunshine and attempting to snowboard down a sand dune and we ended the day at Chicken Rock, a formation that looked unsettlingly like Donald Trump, to watch the desert sunset.
That night, following cold showers to rinse off all that sand and dust, “Kentucky-style” fried chicken dinner for the group, and lots of potatoes for me, we all slept very, very well.
To convincing your family to fly around the world to join you in a Jordanian desert adventure.
And to Wadi Rum,
Em in Jerusalem