Wadi Rum Desert: Why Visit This Out Of This World Destination

Gary Greer 5/10/2020
Arab Culture

Wadi Rum is a vast, nearly unpopulated valley about the size of New York City that sits on the western edge of the Arabian Desert in southern Jordan. Throughout the valley are colossal rock formations, undulating sand dunes, and clear night skies that create a kind of otherworldly fairyland. If you’re doing a little Wadi Rum camping at night you will see why this enchanting land is also known as Wadi al-Qamar, or the “Valley of the Moon”. However, with the rising sun shedding its daylight, the landscape turns into a variety of reds. The Valley of the Moon transforms into what should be called Wadi Almiriykh,or the “Valley of Mars”, instead.

Much of Wadi Rum geology is older than that of western Jordan’s Dead Sea Rift. So, if you take a jeep tour around the valley, it’s almost like taking a journey through the geological evolution of Earth itself. Over many millennia, blowing sand and seasonal flooding smoothed the valleys. This formed the natural sandstone towers on a substrate of older granite that is visible among the strata of the area’s higher mountains. As you tour around, it looks as if Wadi Rum’s majestic mesas popped out here and there. However, they are simply remnants of the primordial tectonic movement slicing the bedrock so exact before pushing it high above the desert floor.

Wadi Rum In Present Times

The village of Rum and the surrounding protected area is also home to Jabal Umm ad Dami. At 6083 feet above sea level, it is the highest point in the Hashemite Kingdom. Along with the 5,689 feet Jabal Ramm and the 5,271 feet Jabal Qatar, is the epicenter for those wanting to do some Wadi Rum climbing.

You’ll also discover that people have been coming to this area since nearly the dawn of mankind. Over 40,000 petroglyphs and inscriptions map out the existence of humans in the area for the last 12,000 years. Even in modern times, it’s here you’ll still find some nomadic Bedouins living along one of the oldest migratory courses our ancient forefathers took out of Africa all those years ago.

It’s not just rock climbers, campers, and Bedouins who frequent Wadi Rum, however. Hollywood filmmakers fell in love with the valley as far back as 1962. This is when the Academy Award winning Lawrence of Arabia was filmed. This was the movie that introducing the beauty of Wadi Rum to the rest of the world in Cinemascope. Subsequently, it started attracting a steady wave of tourists and a growing number of film crews ever since. More recently, remember how we said earlier that Wadi Rum seems “otherworldly” and could be mistaken for Mars? Well, Wadi Rum actually played the part of the red planet in the 2015 Matt Damon film The Martian.  

How to Get There

Wadi Rum is located on the Desert Highway, about four-hours south of Amman and one hour north of Aqaba. Besides driving your personal vehicle, buses and private tours to Wadi Rum are also available from Amman, Aqaba, and Petra.

How to Visit

For the best Wadi Rum experience, hike in the sand and camp under the stars at a “bubble” hotel. You will find these kind of accommodations throughout the desert. These camps have tents in the shape of a bubble, with a clear roof. In the village of Rum, you’ll find local Bedouin guides available for hire. They will also provide you with everything you need – gear, food and transportation. Of course, you have to experience a Wadi Rum jeep tour.

When to Visit

If you’re a hiker, climber, camper or just someone who generally likes to get back to nature once in a while, with less than three days of rain a year, Wadi Rum is the ultimate Middle Eastern destination for you. As far as the average Wadi Rum weather is concerned, the warmest time is from April to September. The coldest month is usually January, with the average daytime Wadi Rum temperature averaging about 65ºF. September sees the most rain, so be aware of flash floods at this time. The most important thing to remember is that Wadi Rum is an extreme desert. The weather can shift wildly from unbearable heat to below freezing in just a few hours. Plan ahead and dress accordingly.

If you’d like to visit Wadi Rum and maybe learn to speak Arabic to talk to Bedouins why your there, research shows that the best way to learn Arabic is through the use of Arabic learning apps like the Kaleela Arabic learning app. Visit our website and find out how you can learn Levantine Arabic or any of the other Arabic dialects spoken throughout the region by downloading the Kaleela Arabic learning app to your IOS or Android mobile device today.