The desert of Wadi Rum is a magical place in Jordan and its beauty is astounding. While many people travel through Wadi Rum on a tour to visit Petra, a stop within this site offers visitors a fantastic wilderness experience in the desert. From Bedouin hospitality to riding through the desert on a 4×4 jeep, Wadi Rum can’t be missed.
Wadi Rum (Valley of the Moon) lies in the far south of Jordan, set on a high plateau at the western edge of the Arabian desert. Gargantuan rock formations, rippled sand dunes, and clear night skies create an almost fairy-tale setting across an unpopulated area the size of New York City. This is truly the “reddest” part of Jordan, colored by iron oxide, and by far the most dramatic in terms of landscape.
The Wadi Rum Desert is famed for its link to T.E. Lawrence, the original “Lawrence of Arabia”. Along with Prince Feisal bin Al-Hussein, he made his base here during the Arab Revolt of 1917-1918. At the center of Wadi Rum village is the Desert Police fort. Built in 1932, the village remained nothing more than a cluster of tents until the 1980s.
1962 is when David Lean arrived to film his world renowned “Lawrence of Arabia”. Filmed onsite here in Wadi Rum, the film won seven Academy Awards. Revealing for the first time, the dramatic landscapes to the Western world.
The 1980s marked the arrival of renowned British climber Tony Howard. Inspired by the film’s stunning backdrops, he came to publish the region’s climbing routes. As a result, the tourist boom of recent decades began. And furthermore, this has brought thousands of visitors from across the globe to the spectacular Wadi Rum Desert.
The village of Rum sits exactly one mile above sea level, and the surrounding protected area is home to Jordan’s highest point, Jabal Umm ad Dami (6,083 feet) and other popular climbs, like the monolithic ridge of Jabal Ramm (5,689 feet) and the pillared prominence of Jabal Qatar (5,271 feet).
Over 20,000 petroglyphs and 20,000 inscriptions have been documented inside Wadi Rum, tracing human existence back some 12,000 years in this spot. Even today, some nomadic Bedouin make their home here, along one of the migratory courses modern humans took out of Africa, providing a living portrait of our human origins.
Within Wadi Rum, there are a number of sites worth seeing. Burrah canyon is the perfect place to watch the sunrise or sunset as the sun creates an orange glow on the rock. Visitors can find ancient rock inscriptions in the Khazali canyon or visit Lawrence’s spring. Finally, don’t underestimate the challenge of climbing a desert sand dune. From the top, there is an amazing view of the desert landscape.
Wadi Rum can be visited easily from within Jordan or from Israel. The ideal visiting months are from March to May and September to November. The summer months can be extremely hot and the winter months have very cold nights.
A few reminders for visitors, because of the desert climate, it is important to wear a hat and carry water with you at all times. With Bedouin culture, it is polite to ask permission before taking photos of the Bedouin people. Additionally for women, dress modestly out of respect for the culture of the people.
Wadi Rum is about a 3.5-hour drive from Amman, Jordan, and a one-hour drive from Aqaba and the southern border crossing from Israel. Public transportation is available from both cities to the Wadi Rum Visitor Center.