I am in love with the desert. The jagged canyon walls and sandstone mountains surround you in a world of muted reds and pinks. You come home to the city covered in dust: orange stains between your toes and fingers and you are pulling grit out of the ends of your hair. Dark orange sand stretches as far as your eyes can see, this is the closest you will ever be to witnessing Mars.
The desert of Wadi Rum is the largest in the country, expanding 720 kilometers. The desert is home to prehistoric and biblical-age stories, inscriptions, and ruins. It was a historical treat learning all the different bible stories that took place right here, on these sand dunes! Rum is also home to the Bedouins, the indigenous nomadic peoples of Southern Jordan. They live in large tribes in the desert and serve the best tea I have ever tasted. I had the pleasure of camping in Wadi Rum near these peoples and integrate into their culture and lifestyle a little (it was definitely glamping, see below).
Among eating traditional Bedouin food cooked under the sand and dancing and singing to traditional songs, I did the Bedouin thing: they put us on our own little camel caravan. I am so stoked to finally check that off my bucket list, which is super superficial but you know, when in Rome! If you’ve never actually seen a camel before, you can’t really register how massive these guys are. It felt like being propped up on a dinosaur, no joke. They are the strangest things, watching them navigate their sandy home was truly amazing.
A little over an hour or so into the camel ride, the Bedouins stopped and switched us to the backs of their pickup trucks to spend the rest of the day drifting around the sand and touring the rest of the desert. Maybe not as traditional, but equally fun.
We also were able to spend a day in Petra, the lost city carved from rock. Despite being a huge tourist attraction, as it is literally one of the Seven Wonders of the World, Petra is still filled with Bedouin families who have lived in its caves for generations. They have actually become the tour and history guides for the whole archaeological site!
From donkeys, horses, camels, goats, and dogs, several native animals were employed as a means of transporting food, water, and people up the intensive mountain hikes. I use “intensive” subjectively as I, a small girl, am very out of shape and was really pushed trying to climb up to the steep mountain steps towards some breathtaking views that other members of program finished in half the my time. I am very thankful I made it up, though. It made for some fantastic scenery!
I am still very interested in learning more about the Bedouin peoples: their movements and traditions in a modern and continuously more progressive country. I’m sure this won’t be the only chance I get, still three more months abroad to go! Stay tuned for the Petra goats. They deserved an entire post to themselves.