Desert Camping in Wadi Rum, Jordan

Few places compare to the Canyonlands of Southeastern Utah. The sheer size and gravity of nature at its best. The innate sense of freedom; the euphoria of standing still amid a waste of wild air. Wadi Rum is one of those places.

I was sitting in the back of a bouncing 1982 pickup truck as I decided this, flying over an ocean of sand marked by towering pillars of sandstone. Our driver was Saleh’s brother, an avid climber and Wadi Rum local. He was chasing down the sun, determined to reach a vantage point where we could climb high enough to see it set. We scrambled to catch the last rays of light while Attic gathered firewood for camp.

We reached camp just as the first few stars were beginning to show. Ours was a bedouin oasis in the vast Wadi Rum wilderness, nestled against a towering mountain of red sandstone. Saleh had a tent prepared for us, complete with a full size bed and nightstand. We tucked in for tea while Saleh’s wife prepared a traditional bedoiun dinner. We sat together on the floor and ate until we could eat no more, then curled up by the fire for shisha and some drumming with Aliya and Saleh.

The air was cool as the sun began to peek through the folds of our tent, and I shuffled out to the fire where Attic was busy preparing breakfast and coffee. Justin was high above camp, photographing sunrise from the massive sandstone mountain and I was wishing we could stay forever.

We tossed our packs into the back of the pickup and Attic had us bouncing over stretches of sand into the nether in no time. We climbed, hiked, photographed and (tried to) sand board. By the time we had returned to Wadi Rum village, we had sand in every fold of our clothing, and pretty much everything else. Together we discussed our inevitable return over biscuits and tea while Saleh’s son stole spongecakes from the table to feed the camel outside.

"No man can live this life and emerge unchanged. He will carry… the imprint of the desert… and he will have within him the yearning to return… for this cruel land can cast a spell which no temperate clime can match.” T.E. Lawrence (of Arabia)