I am a very organised person. Horribly organised, in fact. However, I really struggled to assemble a plan for visiting the Wadi Rum desert in Jordan, due to the fact that I found a real lack of comprehensive information online.
Luckily for me though – being disorganised in Wadi Rum really paid off.
We had approximately four hours free time to visit Wadi Rum in our itinerary. I had been checking out all of the available jeep tours online, but the information seemed quite sparse and so I wasn’t really sure what the tours actually entailed. I just wanted to see beautiful red sand dunes!
We had a hire car and we drove to the Wadi Rum Visitor’s Centre. The entrance fee for beyond this point and into the desert’s protected area was 5 Jordanian Dinars (JOD) for international visitors. However, if you purchase the Jordan Pass (a pass that doubles up as a tourist visa and admission to over 40 attractions in Jordan, including Petra) then this fee is included within the pass.
Unsurprisingly, a sea of jeeps seemed to be located next to the Visitor’s Centre with a number of Bedouins milling around and so we approached one gentleman to discuss the possibility of a tour. He advised that the minimum cost of a tour was 50 JOD for a 4 hour trip. Cash only. We were down to our last 20 JOD note and, funnily enough, there were no cash dispensers on the edge of the desert. However, we bargained with the Bedouin and managed to negotiate a two hour jeep tour for 20 JOD (approximately 20 GBP).
We jumped onto the back of one of the open-air jeeps and set off on our tour, first driving through the Wadi Rum Village, where the Bedouins live. Our driver pulled into a ‘petrol station’, where one of the residents had simply placed a large number of petrol cans outside the front of their house. A teenager emerged from the house, filled the jeep up with petrol and then took the cash payment from our driver, adding the bank notes to a HUGE wad of cash in his pocket. Our driver told us that the petrol was imported from neighbouring Saudi Arabia, costing a mere quarter of what we pay for petrol in the UK!
Leaving the Village, the jeep went off road and onto the desert sands. Our driver told us that, in two hours, we would be able to see Lawrence’s Spring before climbing a sand dune.
It took around 10 minutes to reach Lawrence’s Spring by jeep, a regular stop on any of the jeep tours. One of several natural waterholes across the Wadi Rum desert, legend has it that Lawrence of Arabia drank and washed (and allowed his camels to do the same) at this particular water spout. The presence of water is evident through the sheer amount of greenery uncommon to this arid environment. The area also features a number of ancient inscriptions, apparently translating as a signpost for the presence of water. These inscriptions indicate 12,000 years of human occupation in the Wadi Rum desert.
We spent around 20 minutes at Lawrence’s Spring, before continuing with the jeep tour. On arrival at the dune, we scrambled up it and were faced with the most beautiful panoramic views of the red sand desert. We spent around an hour taking photographs before heading back down to the jeep and returning to the Wadi Rum Village.
If you are a traveller limited by the constraints of time and simply looking to take a few more unusual holiday snaps of a desert environment, then I think this two hour tour would be perfect for you. However, for someone looking for a more authentic experience, then this brief jeep tour would definitely not be suitable.
I realise that we only touched the tip of the iceberg in our two hour trip but, for me, this small amount of time was sufficient to capture the mystique of the desert.
I do wish I had been able to stay overnight in one of the desert camps, but not necessarily to have seen ‘more’ of the desert, as – this may sound small-minded, but – I think you sort of get the ‘gist’ of the desert from simply travelling around by jeep for a couple of hours. Rather, it would have been wonderful to have stayed overnight in order to have seen the clear starry night skies of an area with reduced light pollution.
Therefore, the main takeaway that I would like to convey to readers of this blog is: if you’re not staying overnight, do not book a tour of the Wadi Rum desert in advance. Get yourself to the desert and negotiate a bespoke trip with a Bedouin on arrival.
If you’ve visited the Wadi Rum desert and have stayed overnight, let me know what it was like in the comments below!