We picked up a rental car this morning and began our exploration of south western Jordan. We began with a quick drive towards the Saudi border – about 40 km from Aqaba. Along the way, we saw the various southern beaches – for the most part they were abandoned at this time of year, only the occasional tent or VW campervan.
After being turned around by a security guard (we were approaching an industrial area just before the border) we followed the “truck route” which bypasses Aqaba. We were amazed at just how long and steep the hills were. In most cases the trucks were only able to go 10-15 km/hr both up or down the hills. The scenery was awe-inspiring in a desolate kind of way. There was very little vegetation and the few small bits of scrub had black plastic bags stuck to them, blowing in the wind. We stopped to take a picture of the river bed and the hills in the distance.
Our drive then took us to Wadi Rum, a protected desert area where there are several small Bedouin communities. The majority of the Bedouin make their money from tourism. It was an odd feeling arriving, as you were not at all pestered by touts. We had to actively try and figure out what the different options were for tours – but were not feeling inspired about the tourist experience. After talking to one of the people at the tourist cooperative, we learned that we could drive to Rum village with our rental car. Camels could be hired directly at Rum village, if that is what we wished to do.
We got to Rum village and decided to start with a walk in the desert. We walked for about half an hour, and Becky was ready for a rest. We sat upon a rock in reflection for a few minutes, and then Scott went on a longer walk (about an hour), while Becky sat and watched the world go by. While Becky was resting on a rock, and Scott was walking the Call to Prayer sounded. The echo was amazing – a full 10 seconds. It was an incredibly beautiful sound made all the more intense by the sight of the desert and surrounding sandstone mountains.
Then came the airplanes. Five propeller-driven stunt planes flew up and down the Wadi for 45 minutes. Scott found them annoying as he tried to contemplate the silence of the desert, but Becky was entertained by them. It was like having her over private air show. At one point, the moon began to rise between two mountains, and the airplanes flew past doing their aerobatics. All-in-all, it was a beautiful way to spend a peaceful afternoon. Had Becky not been recovering, we would have enjoyed spending a night in the desert in one of the rustic Bedouin tents. Perhaps that is an adventure for another time.
In the end, we skipped the camel ride, as it was getting close to sunset and we did not want to do too much of the drive to Petra in the dark – about 85 km away. The drive to Petra involved climbing many long hills through the desert mountain landscape. Petra is on the King’s Highway, which runs along the upper ridge of the Shara mountains in the south of Jordan. While it was still light we could see the mountains rolling down into valleys far below. We are looking forward to driving the rest of the King’s Highway and enjoying further amazing scenery. It would have been really neat – but very challenging – to cycle the highway. The roads are
steep and many stretches are completely desolate.