Wadi Rum: Jordan’s Desert Crossroad

(November 2008)

A journey to Wadi Rum is a journey back in time, its stark subtle beauty a sharp contrast to the gaudy junky tourist circus called Petra. Located in south Jordan, 68 km north of Aqaba, the six days I spent exploring the sands, canyons and mountains of Wadi Rum were the highlight of the three weeks I spent in Jordan.

Jordan has numerous cultural and historical sites and I enjoyed seeing many of them. But there was something magical about Wadi Rum. Despite being the site of numerous human occupations and migrations, very little remains to mark this human ocean. With single story, modest sized and stucco clad exteriors, the town buildings blend in to the desert as if it has always been there. The desert landscape takes centre stage with massive mountains that rise vertically, the multi hued desert sands, the oddly shaped and sculpted sheer rock faces that grab your attention.

Wadi Rum is a UNESCO world heritage site.

As a kid, the movie ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ made a huge impression on me – I didn’t understand the plot, but as a young horse back rider, the image of camels loping across the desert caught my imagination. The similarities between that arid environment and my own, in  Kamloops BC also struck a chord. It was only recently that I read more about the 1917 – 1918 Great Arab Revolt and the role T. E. Lawrence played. Somehow, all the Lawrence fuss bugged me – typical glamourization of the white man despite his rather minor role. When in Wadi, I deliberately avoided photographing the mountain side now known as ‘the Seven Pillars’ and focused on the more interesting, current and long term residents, the Bedu.