General introduction, sleeping and getting there
(You can see more photos of Wadi Rum in the Photo Gallery pages)
Now we come to it!
I am certainly blasée about Petra, living near to it, and having visited it so many many times. But Wadi Rum is a region that I do not think I could ever become blasée about. It was something of a relief when I realised that nearly all of the Bedouin who live there appreciate it as much as I do! It is beautiful, beautiful, beautiful!!!!
Having said that, let’s try to be a bit factual. While a great deal has been written about Petra, far less has been written about Wadi Rum, and much of that is specialised information. Many tourists to Jordan know little about it, except that it is a place to visit and that it is supposed to be beautiful. So I am giving a lot of space to Wadi Rum on these pages.
- Wadi Rum page 1 :
Introduction – Sleeping in Wadi Rum – Getting there and away again
- Wadi Rum page 2 :
What to see there – prices and tours (including horses and camels) – some longer trips in 4×4
- Wadi Rum page 3 :
Reliable contacts and guides – “ripping off” – Nature Reserve
- Wadi Rum page 4 :
Trekking and hiking – climbing in Wadi Rum (See also the “Jordan out of doors” section)
INTRODUCTION AND A FEW GENERAL INDICATIONS
First of all a note on drinking water. In general in Jordan I advise tourists to stick to bottled water; although the quality of the tap water is pretty good, you are not used to it and it would spoil your holiday if you got a bug. However, in Wadi Rum the water comes directly from the aquifer in Dissieh, and is very pure. For this reason, mineral water is not supplied by the guides with the food so if you prefer mineral water you should bring it with you. But remember that the water in the jerrycans is likely to be of just as good a quality as the bottled water, and possibly better!
There are a few small shops in Rum Village but which sell only food and drink and rudimentary household equipment. There is a post office, small but reliable, but I do warn you that the post arrives and leaves here only twice a week. There are NO other shops; no bank or ATMs, no Internet café, no pharmacy etc. For any of these you have to go either to Qwaireh (about 35kms), or to Aqaba (about 60kms).
There is a small clinic for emergency treatment, where among other things you can find anti-toxin for snake or scorpion bite. (They can be nasty, but rarely more than that!) You might like to check the “hard facts” section under “Health treatment”. You will also be interested to know that in Jordan, emergency treatment not needing hospitalization is free.
This note is really for the ladies, but if the men want to read and act on it, fine. It is a good idea to bring plenty of moisturizing cream with you if you are spending any time in Wadi Rum (say more than 24 hours). I use Nivea Soft here, and find I need to put more on every few hours. The air is very dry indeed. A headscarf or an Arab “kefiya” is useful against sun, wind and windblown sand, and I advise also bringing some lip salve and some moist cleaning tissues, the sand sticks to you very easily – even if you don’t use any cream.
Sleeping in Wadi Rum : At the moment the only accommodation is in various tents or camps.
There are tents “furnished” with mattresses etc. behind the Resthouse costing 2JD/day, they are fairly primitive, but perfectly comfortable for a few days. There is access to the showers and toilets at the Resthouse. It is also possible to pitch your own tent here for a small sum if you wish, obviously in this case mattresses and blankets are not supplied. You can camp behind the Resthouse in Wadi S’Bach and still have access to the toilets and showers for a small fee. The restaurant in the Resthouse, although complete with bar which is sometimes appreciable, is rather more expensive than the other local ones – try the Wadi Petra (locally known as “Amjid’s place”) close by – take the first turning on the left and it’s about 50 meters/yards down. The stairs leading there are a climb in themselves, coming down them I often feel that I should really be roped up!
The Wadi Rum equivalent of two star hotels are the camps in Dissieh, which are close to the northern end of Wadi Um Ishrin. I recently visited the “Captain’s Camp” which impressed me! Real beds, with real mattresses and blankets! The toilet and shower block was scrupulously clean, and there is a restaurant which is a rather successful blend of “desert” and “civilised”. Their phone is +922.214.171.12405, fax +9126.96.36.19904 email email@example.com. They have a website at http://www.Jordan-explorer.com/captains. The price for supper, sleeping and breakfast is 27JD per person, but if you reserve in advance and say that you have their address from Ruth you will get a discount which should be somewhere between 15 and 20% (insist on this! – ask for “Rafiq”). They do not themselves organise any tours, but will put you in contact with reliable guides if asked. I believe the other camps at Dissieh to be much the same (but no discount). Most of them organise evening entertainment a few times a week.
You also have a camp at “Bait Ali” at Shakriya, which is closer to Rum village than Dissieh. They have a website at www.desertexplorer.net. This camp is well placed for anybody wanting to climb or to ride in Wadi Rum.
These camps are a little way away from public transport ; if you come in your own car or with a taxi, they are adequately signposted. Otherwise if you call from the Resthouse they will arrange for you to be picked up for a small charge.
Photo M.C. Kind
Obviously most people visiting Wadi Rum want to spend the night in a “Bedouin tent”. I think nearly everybody realises ahead of time that these tents are not the authentic homes of the Bedouin, but are erected for the tourists. It is nevertheless a special experience to sleep out in the desert, and if you get on well with your guide, you just may be invited to visit his real “camp”. This is by no means rare. Note however, that most Bedouin also possess houses in the village of Rum, even though 90% of them seem to prefer to sleep in the desert whenever they can. (Here I am talking mainly about the men; on the whole, the ladies, especially the younger ones, are less enthusiastic!)
A number of the Bedouin have erected “tourist camps” which are something of a compromise between the genuine thing and the more touristy camps referred to above. The comfort and especially the cleanliness tend to vary a bit, but you can confidently accept to sleep in the camps run by Mohammed Ali (phone/fax 03.203.2651 email firstname.lastname@example.org – see his website www.geocities.com/wadirum_desert ), by Ali Hamed Awad (phone/fax 03.203.25740 mobile 0795.675.327) and by Hamad Lafi (mobile 077.427.811).
Getting there and away again
There are normally two buses a day from Aqaba to Wadi Rum – at 6.30am and at about 1pm. The buses return to Aqaba at 7.30am (this tends to be a bit variable!) and at about 3pm. However, things get complicated – I am told that “if there is a lot of demand there will be more buses”. While this is nice to know, it doesn’t help me with the schedule! There is a daily bus from Petra and the same bus returns to Petra afterwards at about 8.30am, usually arriving in Petra around 10.30 or 11.00. These are the only buses that go right into Wadi Rum. For any other destinations or at any other times, you should make your way to the Rashidiya Junction, and look for a bus going north or south as the case may be. Although at least one guidebook implies that there is a bus from Ma’an, this is not so, the writer meant that you should take a bus from Ma’an to Aqaba and get down at Rashidiya.
There is no regular service taxi run to or from Wadi Rum. If you are sufficient in number to fill one up (or if collectively you pay for any empty place) you can get a taxi to bring you from Aqaba or from Amman, but you absolutely cannot count on any service taxi departure from Rum.
The buses that actually go into Wadi Rum go as far as the Resthouse, which is the official terminus for all traffic not going to Rum Village. Obviously if for any reason you wish to leave a bus before it reaches the Resthouse, there is no problem, just ask the driver when you reach the spot where you want to get down. Beyond Rum, you would need a 4×4 to get very far. The Resthouse is where you are received by the officials, where you can obtain all information on trips into the desert, where you meet your guides (pre-reserved or not) and where you pay the entrance fee to Wadi Rum – right now a bargain price of 1JD! – in exchange for which you receive a rather rudimentary map of the area which is reproduced here separately (see Tourist Map of Wadi Rum), and a voucher for a glass of tea. The Resthouse (tel. 03.201.4240) is open until 10pm.
Rashidiya on the Desert Highway is 30kms from Rum; if you are asked to pay to get there, then between 3 and 5JD is a reasonably fair price, a taxi would charge 5JD for that distance. A number of minibuses regularly go past in both directions. Going south is easy, all the buses go to Aqaba. For other destinations, if the first bus you stop isn’t the one you want, then ask if there is a bus to wherever soon. Almost always the drivers know this sort of thing and will tell you at once. It is usually possible to hitch here as well – again you might well be asked to pay something, you should offer anyway. It is very easy to get around like this, except at the end of the afternoon when buses are rarer, but if you are a bit mistrustful of yourself you can always ask the Wadi Rum Resthouse to call you a taxi, which will probably come from Aqaba, so you would have to wait for a while. It is, of course, possible to order a taxi in advance. You can also usually bargain with one of the Wadi Rum drivers who would take you at least to Aqaba if required. The usual price of a taxi from Rum to Aqaba (or vice versa) is around 12-15JD.
Remember, however, that far fewer buses run in the afternoon, and none at all in the evenings.