Into The Wadi

Into the Wadi.

Although not a huge country, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan contains within it a surprising variety of natural scenery. In the far North the land is green and covered in olive trees. In rural areas not spoiled by the country's terrible garbage problem one could squint and think one was in Italy (an illusion made all the more real by the region's abundance of Roman ruins).

The South of Jordan looks not only like a different country but a different planet. Petra, an entire city carved out of a cliff face, could be the capital of an alien Kingdom visited by Luke Sky Walker on his way back from the Death Star. Wadi Rum, a Mars-like desert on the Jordanian-Saudi border, looks so much like another planet that at least 5 major Sci-Fi movies have been filmed there since 2009.

The beautiful, surreal landscape of Wadi Rum has attracted many an adventurer, including British imperialist T.E. Lawrence, in whose honour one of the Wadi's most famous landmarks - the "Seven Pillars" - takes its name.

The Wadi Rum National Park contains within it numerous mountains, the tallest (and the tallest in Jordan) being Jabal Umm ad Dami. At 1,854 metres above sea level it is not a huge mountain, but it is a very beautiful one, and the views it offers are breathtaking.

Like T.E. Lawrence we were guided by local Bedouin throughout our stay in Wadi Rum, and one of their number took us from our camp by Jeep to the foot of Jabal Umm ad Dami. From there the climb took no more than 2 hours. It was winter and the weather was cold, which made for ideal climbing conditions. I would not like to try climbing even this modest mountain in the summer when temperatures in the Aqaba Governate can hit 40 degrees.

Our guide was something of an Arab Bear Grills character, and interspersed the treck with tips on how to suck water through a shamagh (traditional Arab head dress) from apparently dry soil, and avoid eating poisonous plants.

After a couple of hours' steady hiking we were at the top. Thankfully the cloudy weather temporarily broke and we were treated to truly stunning vistas. Shafts of light illuminated the red rock and fiery orange sand, which in turn contrasted with the remaining dark grey clouds. We lit a fire as we quickly became chilly while we rested, and when the cold became unbearable we headed back down.

By the time we were on flat ground the weather had turned colder, windier and it had began to rain. Our guide took us to his father's tent where a fire and tea awaited us. The welcome was warm, but the weather by now was bitterly cold and we were glad to get back to our own camp to eat a delicious banquet of Zarb (meat and vegetables cooked in a makeshift underground furnace) and watch drunk Chinese tourists dance with drunk Indian tourists to French gangster rap!

We noticed later that there was snow on the tops of the mountains, and shivered ourselves to sleep in one of the hottest regions of the planet!

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