Aqaba, Jordan (Day 1)–Wadi Rum 2022
We arrived in the port of Aqaba, Jordan, early in the morning of October 30 for an overnight stay. This seaport on the Red Sea is Jordan’s only sea outlet. If you have seen Lawrence of Arabia you probably know that one of the key moments in the Arab uprising against the Turks during World War I was the capture of this town. It was a much smaller town then and because it was backed by a large desert all of its guns were pointed toward the sea, from which any attack was expected to come. But the Arabs and Lawrence instead endured a punishing trek across the desert from Wadi Rum to attack from the land side & took the town easily. Wadi Rum, from which this attack originated, was where we were going today. Actually, we were on an overnight excursion in which the first day would be spent in Wadi Rum and the second in the ancient city of Petra. This was our second visit to Aqaba and to Wadi Rum & Petra, although in our first visit we explored both areas in a single exhausting day; you can read a lot more about Wadi Rum there:
Our excursion met on the ship then we rode in a bus to Wadi Rum. Flying above Aqaba as we left town was a Jordanian flag on a skyscraper sized flagpole that is one of the largest in the world. The drive to Wadi Rum took us through some rugged mountains and past some small hardscrabble villages.
Wadi Rum is run by Bedouins; only they can drive you through in an open deck truck & no outside guides are permitted. Therefore, at the entrance to the area we had to leave our bus and climb into the back of an open bed truck that had bench seats for three people along each side. The step up to the truck bed was quite tall; one of our Bedouin guides found a concrete block to carry with us that could be put on the ground to serve as a step up (still pretty challenging for some folks). Leaving the entrance we drove out across the desert, past beautiful mountains and rock formations.
Wadi Rum has been inhabited for more than 10,000 years, during which it has been a crossroads for camel caravans. There are some 25,000 petroglyphs in the area, many dating back that far. We stopped at one of the petroglyph sites. It is an interesting feeling, receiving a communication set down by someone living thousands of years in the past.
This area was also a camel gathering place. A number of folks leading camels stopped here, apparently for a rest since they weren’t trying to sell camel rides. They kept coming and going while we were there.
One thing new since our last visit was a series of tent camps in the desert. We saw nothing like that in 2018. They must have been built by entrepreneurial Bedouins. They look like interesting places to spend a night or two.
We drove past a guy sandboarding in the desert, pulled by a truck. It looked like fun.
A couple of other stops took us to beautiful mountain and desert vistas.
We stopped in the shadow of a mountain where our guides built a fire and prepared tea. On a mountain across from us someone spotted some climbers about two thirds of the way up a stone mountain. We found out later that climbing these mountains is a popular activity (for some folks). Despite looking carefully through the camera zoom lens at the spot where we were told the climbers were, Rick was not able to see them (old eyes, I guess). But he took some pictures of that area anyway and when we got home and enlarged them two climbers turned out to be in there. Better yet, Robert got individual pictures of two of the climbers moving up the rocky face.
Our last stop in the desert was at a very large gift shop (yes, in the middle of the desert). We didn’t buy anything, but it was impressive enough just that it was being operated out there.
At this point we were driven to a large geodesic dome set up as a buffet restaurant where we had lunch. It was a good lunch and a better view.
After lunch we all piled back into the bus for the approximately 2 hour drive to Wadi Musa, the town at the entrance to Petra. Musa is Arabic for Moses and this town was named after a spring that they say is where Moses made water flow from a rock for his thirsty people by hitting the rock with his walking stick. On the way there we stopped at a large gift shop/cafeteria sitting on top of a cliff for a rest stop. The bathrooms were down a couple of flights of steps and the wall across from them had a very large picture window with a pretty spectacular view of the surrounding mountains and desert. Their sign said it is the best view in Jordan (or maybe it said in the world). We don’t know about that, but it was pretty good. Unfortunately there was some fog that obscured the view somewhat.
As mentioned above, Wadi Musa (Moses’s Valley) is supposed to be where Moses got water for his thirsty people from a rock (and got in trouble with God, but that’s another story). Moses’s brother Aaron is said to have died not far away (I’m not sure whether before or after the water incident) and there is a shrine commemorating him on top of a nearby mountain that we drove past, although quite a distance away. On the way there we passed shepherds herding sheep and goats.
Wadi Musa is built on a steep hill leading up from Petra. We entered on one side and had to drive around the town near the top of the hill to find our hotel. This was the newly opened Petra Moon Luxury Hotel and while we probably wouldn’t describe it as “Luxury” it was more than adequate. It was the end of a very long and rewarding day and we were glad to get to bed after our buffet dinner, since we had to leave early in the morning for our walk down into Petra.