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Wadi Rum
Ripping off - Disseh

ALL THE PHOTOS ON THIS PAGE CAN BE ENLARGED

If you pre-reserve as advised previously on the page about recommended guides, you are sheltered from the worst of the scams going around. If you don't, you should know that some of the Bedouin are specialists in cheap tours for cheap prices. In theory I have no special objection to this, but too often tourists don't realise that they are getting less than they might do; many people would prefer to pay a bit more for a better tour.

The problems arise when you get to the Wadi Rum Visitors' Centre independently, not having reserved a local guide in advance and knowing little about what to expect. You then have no alternative but to accept one of the tours on offer (see Rum Visitors' Centre.) On the whole in Wadi Rum you get what you have paid for. If you want to sleep in the desert in one of the camps, again you have to accept what is offered - and it is expensive, the official price for an overnight is 25JD/person, including supper and breakfast and all equipment for sleeping in the desert.

You might decide to omit the "sleeping in the desert" however attractive this prospect is. But since no public transport whatsoever leaves Wadi Rum at the end of the day, the alternatives are few. It is still possible to sleep at the Resthouse for a small sum and forage for your food.

Remember also the problem about speaking English. By no means all of the drivers waiting at the Visitors' Centre speak English. The great majority do not consider themselves as guides, and make no attempt to describe to you what you are seeing.

The bus from Petra to Wadi Rum : There have been several complaints about the fares charged on this bus, so perhaps it would be a good idea for me to clear things up. This information is correct in November 2008.

The normal fare is 7JD in either direction. Occasionally you might be asked for more money if 1) there are fewer than 4 people on the bus or 2) there are a number of people there but you have a large backpack. 1) It is not economical for the driver to go if there are not at least 4 people. This bus is classified as a tourist bus, and he is not allowed to pick up paying passengers on the way to Wadi Rum (it's different on the way back). He does frequently take the Bedouin children who might otherwise have to walk several kilometers to school, but obviously he does not charge them. Paying an extra 2 or 3JD comes out cheaper for you than taking a taxi which is your only resort if the bus does not run.  If 2) you have a quantity of luggage occupying the seats, you might (rarely) be asked for a dinar extra.

The driver's phone number is 0795411546   or   0795235257

Hotels whether in Aqaba or in Petra are no longer allowed to organise "tours to Wadi Rum". All too often these were simple ripoffs, in which the tourist paid (say) 25JD to the hotel and the hotel passed on 15JD to their bedouin contact - who gave the tourist a 15JD tour. If anybody in Petra or Dana does offer to "organise" a tour for you, you can be 100% sure that a ripoff is involved. Only if you are given the card of somebody in Wadi Rum and advised to contact him yourself can you be reasonably sure of a good tour there.

The current scam concerns the area north of Disseh. I have said elsewhere that it is "nearly as beautiful as Wadi Rum". Yes, but not only is it not the same thing, but its comparative isolation from tourists has gone. Since it is not included in the "Protected Zone" it is exempt from the controls in Wadi Rum and many people take advantage of this. A tour going to this area will not have the same qualified guides and will all too probably be a short one. Also look at all the rubbish to be seen there! This distresses many locals, but unscrupulous operators don't hesitate to discard all rubbish in the desert with no attempt to collect it and bring it back - or even to burn it!

Many hotels in Petra will offer to organise a tour for you. They are no longer allowed to take tours to Wadi Rum, so operators in Petra will almost always take you to Disseh, even while insisting that they are taking you to Wadi Rum! If you find yourself in a camp with several dozen tourists then you can be 100% sure that you are in Disseh, the Wadi Rum camps seldom have more than ten or fifteen tourists sleeping there. You might be told that the bus to Wadi Rum is not running - unless this is the lowest period of the low season, you might like to check on this directly with the driver - his mobile number is 0795.235.257 and his name is Mahmoud Asri. (You might also like to look at the web page entitled "Excursions from Petra : Humeima, Disseh and the north of the Wadi Rum area")

This applies very largely to "operators" in Aqaba. There are dozens of people rushing to "organise a tour of Wadi Rum", most of them pushing "cheaper" at you. All too many of them are unlicensed operators who will avoid at all costs the new Nature Reserve and its rangers, and here also you will be lucky to get your money's worth however little it was. You can nearly always do better independently than by going with these cheap operators. If anybody offers you a low price, then you should immediately be suspicious.

I am not including the reputable agencies in this, but the sad truth is that a good tour of Wadi Rum is seldom very cheap! By "a good tour" I mean the kind of tour that makes people say afterwards "Wadi Rum was the high point of the holiday". I have never known ANYBODY who has visited Wadi Rum with a reputable guide not to say this - even when they have already enjoyed Petra.

Disseh


The bridge at Jebel Kharazeh in the Dissieh area

I should like to say a quick word about the region of Dissieh, to the north and the east of Wadi Rum. Dissieh has much the same scenery as its neighbour, and is just about as beautiful. Until recently I was very happy to suggest that people go there as an alternative to the more popular Wadi Rum. However it has become the area to which cheap tour operators take their clients, since it is outside the Nature Reserve recently established and hence much less governed by rules. In a word, it is less expensive to take people there and it is not necessary to be a recognised tourist guide to do so. I mentioned higher up the camps in Disseh. These are very large indeed, frequently holding several hundred people, and equipped with chalets for individuals to sleep in. They are find if this is what you want. Most of the tours offered in Petra and in Aqaba will take you there to sleep.

These "outsiders" to the area are invariably far less scrupulous than the members of the Bedouin Societies of Rum and of Dissieh about such matters as respect of the environment, and most of their rubbish is simply discarded in the desert instead of being brought back to the village. Dissieh is fast becoming a rubbish dump, which it simply doesn't deserve. If you should decide to go with one of these people, usually from Aqaba (taxi drivers are particularly enthusiastic about taking people here) please try to persuade them to pick up any empty tins, plastic bags, etc etc.

Besides the rock bridge at Kharazeh, you should also have a look at "Abu Hawl" (the "father of terror"). These dramatic two meter high rock drawings are not far from the road, and certainly any driver should know how to get there! The bridge at Kharazeh is a good 30kms from the village at Wadi Rum though.

You might also be interested in the "Palace" built for the filming of the television game "Desert Forges" which is nearby. This looks like becoming one of the local monuments - one wonders what guides will say about it in a few decades.... At the moment the story told by the stranger to the area that bring tourists here, is that it was built for the Lawrence of Arabia film. Sorry but no. It was in fact built in 1998.  A number of people from Shakriya and Disseh participated in its building and in the filming of the programme. The programme was not particularly successful and filming was abandoned after the first season.

See the web page "Humeima, Disseh and the northern area of Wadi Rum"

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