T.E. Lawrence described the Wadi Rum desert, Jordan, as ‘vast, echoing and god-like’. After so many years of wishing, I finally got to follow in his footsteps and visit it myself. I was travelling across the Middle East with a group, and we started the day by visiting a herd of camels, which happened to be trotting on the pavement beside us. Nothing unusual. Eager to see the camels myself, I steadily approached them, getting closer and closer. The closest one seemed more interested in his grass à la desert than looking at me, but it was fascinating to be so close to a camel without being harangued about riding it.
Moving on, our coach finally reached the entrance to the Wadi Rum desert, a vast, colourful expanse, a fiery gateway into the Bedouin world. At the entrance lay a large, impressive rock, with clear protrusions which appeared to be pillars from a distance. The Seven Pillars of Wisdom. The infamous rock which enchanted Lawrence was in front of me, magnificent to see, serving as a guardian between the modern world we were leaving behind and the vast expanse of beauty we were about to enter.
At the entrance, we met our Bedouin hosts, dressed in traditional Bedouin clothing, who would take us across the traditional Bedouin desert, in a traditional Bedouin….jeep. Well, I couldn’t match Lawrence in every way, but the jeep ride was exhilarating. We set off and raced through the desert. I sat in the front, getting a spectacular view of the sandy metropolis rapidly emerging as we sped across the sand. Leaning out of the window. Feeling the rush of the warm desert air, rocking up and down as we passed each sand dune. Seeing the sandy shadow created by the jeep in front. The imperious mountains and canyons looming over this incredible location, changing size as we passed them, as if stretching. I shall never forget the rush of racing through the Arabian desert, and even though it generally looked the same, the desert never lost its charm or amazement.
We stopped a few times on the way, firstly by a canyon to eat lunch. Eating on the sands, overlooking the desert, was spectacular, and I climbed the rocky hill beside us to get an incredible, sweeping view of the landscape, colourful and vast, silent but for the slow rush of sand moved by the wind. As we continued rocking through the stunning scenery, we stopped by a gorge. In the middle of the Arabian desert. And we got to explore it! Entering its mouth, I saw that the path was narrow, filled with holes and tiny walkways. I started, climbing from rock to rock – DON’T USE YOUR HANDS PEOPLE! It was our guide, Faisal. He told the group that the rocks were precious, so if we could avoid it, could we please jump and sidestep our way across this difficult path without the use of our hands? Easy. I moved along the narrow path, so small that it required me to sidestep, back against the rock, staring out onto the drop below. The path ended. It continued on the other side – and so I jumped. The experience was exhilarating. After five minutes of sidestepping, jumping from rock to rock and even launching myself across a hole to get to the other side, I made it to the centre. Faisal showed me ancient drawings of camels, thousands of years old, inscriptions which gave an insight into the human history of this natural wonder. To see such inscriptions so close was fascinating. This was adventure, and we had only just started.
However, the next stop proved to be slightly more dramatic than I’d hoped. We stopped at a canyon, a series of rocks leading to an incredible feat of Mother Nature, a narrow stone bridge in the middle of the desert, connecting this canyon with another. The canyon was by no means the highest we climbed, but its smooth surface made it the most dangerous. There was no path or stairs as in Petra, but a series of ridges in rocks, providing the only protection from a sheer drop into the ground. Having climbed higher mountains, such as the High Point of Sacrifice, I set off, knowing that there would be no problem at – AAHH! I slipped slightly. I was halfway up, cradled on the only ridge between the first set of rocks and the entrance to the bridge. Between the two points was a smooth surface, at a 45 degree angle, with no ridges or protection from a huge fall below. I was stuck.
Image Credits: Tom Dobin
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To see the rest of Tom’s blog, ‘A Mosaic of Adventures’, visit http://tomdobin.wordpress.com/