April 9, 2008

Wadi Rum, Jordan

I have taken a break from the campfire group to create a marriage between modern technology used in an ancient landscape. This marriage, typing on my laptop sitting on a cliff under the stars in a desert valley millions of years old, seemed a little more appealing than the one camel I was offered as a dowry to a local Bedouin. Although, if the stakes were a little higher, let’s say 10 camels and a jeep (I’m worth that, right?), I might have considered it being as Wadi Rum is a stunning location in Jordan that takes a day or two to fully seep into your senses. I arrived here late at night after making an all day ferry journey from Egypt to Jordan on the “fast boat” that, I think, had two guys rowing us across the Red Sea into the port that is way to close on a map for the time that elapsed. Good thing I had a motley crew of fellow independent travelers to turn every mishap and delay into a joke.
My international cell phone is proving to be an invaluable resource on this trip as I am able to call ahead a day or so in advance and book some things that make traveling a bit easier, like this tour through the desert with a well known guide in the area named Atiaq.
I arrived in Wadi Village at 11:00 p.m and was immediately whisked away in a jeep that drove about half a mile on a paved road and then hit nothing but wide open sand, sky, stars and dark rock formations. Because the group was already asleep at the camp, Atiaq and I found a tiny cave at the base of a mountain in the desert valley, built a fire, threw down a mattress and some blankets on the sand, had tea and biscuits, some pleasant conversation and then drifted off watching and listening to the complete silence of the night. Um, Welcome to Jordan!
As Atiaq drove off at sunrise to meet the group at camp, I was left to get my bearings, so when I realized I was surrounded by nothing but long stretches of sand and textured, rocky mountains spackled about, I decided to leave the Moses at Mt. Sinai moment behind and climb one, feeling more like a monk searching for a lifelong meditation spot. There was not one tourist to be seen from the top and the view was absolutely phenomenal – I was just hoping that someone was going to remember where I was because at that moment, it seemed like I was in the middle of nowhere. Atiaq collected me soon enough and I met up with three lovely and adventurous English women on the trip, 2 daughters with their mother, and we drove by jeep through sand dunes and a vast landscape that was so intriguing; even more so later, when I found out that the entire area had been under water millions of years ago and that was why the rocks had more of a coral reef than mountain effect. Which , at most times, made them a dream to climb, there were grips and foot holes almost everywhere, so what seemed to be a really difficult rock formation didn’t take that long to reach the top which gave more time to take in the view. And it was on the top of one of these mountains close to sunset that the beauty in this sparse and rugged landscape had finally made sense of itself.
Now I have found another little “cave” on the plateau of a small mountain by camp where I will lay out my mattress and sleep in the open air, dreaming perhaps of Lawrence of Arabia while praying I don’t decide to pick this night to sleepwalk and fall off the ledge into a big pile of sand.

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