Phenomenology is the new black

Journey to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan

 Wadi Rum – The Valley of the Moon


picture of Wadi Rum

Wadi Rum – Sonia York-Pryce 2013 – early morning

Wadi Rum – Rumm the Magnificent

Following in the footsteps of T.E. Lawrence one cannot but be humbled by the sheer size of the sandstone and granite rocks accompanied by the vastness of the Southern Desert in between – the rift valley – as Lawrence wrote in his great book the Seven Pillars of Wisdom,  (1926)  as he rode his camel into Rumm for the first time:


We rode between two great pikes of sandstone to the foot of a long, soft slope poured down from the domed hills in front of us. It was tamarisk-covered: the beginning of the Valley of Rumm. We looked up on the left to a long wall of rock, sheering in like a thousand-foot wave towards the middle of the valley; whose other arc, to the right, was an opposing line of steep, red broken hills.


It is a place of majesty and one is dwarfed by the huge rock formations and the vast expanse of desert, here and there dotted by camel caravans, 4WDs and very little else. Even birds appear in tiny numbers, perhaps a hawk on the therms or a random swallow, no birdsong just the swirl and howl of the wind as it spins past and along the great domes of  Wadi Rum and through the great valley. We, my family and friends have arrived from Amman and pre-arranged a bedouin guide with his trusty well worn toyota 4WD, who will ferry us for many hours through the desert to landmarks, great rock bridges, a Nabatean temple, ancient inscriptions and various sites associated with T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia). There is much excitement and general delight to be outside in the elements, enveloped by the sheer magnitude of this incredible place – mere specks on an endless horizon. The tranquility of this vast space is overpowering.

image of Wadi Rum Southern Desert Jordan

Wadi Rum Southern Desert Jordan – Sonia York-Pryce

First stop is an ancient water hole/ springs, high up in the hills, now known as Lawrence’s Springs (Ain Ash-Shallalah). This is quite a climb and with good walking shoes this is not impossible although my fear of heights only allowed me to reach a half way point – the views were breathtaking. As Lawrence wrote in his book the Seven Pillars of Wisdom:

In front of us a path, pale with use, zigzagged up the cliff-plinth….From between the trees, in hidden crannies of the rock, issued strange cries: the echoes, turned into music, of the voices of the Arabs watering their camels at the springs which there flowed out three hundred feet above ground.

I could only imagine how the cameleers pulled their beasts up this escarpment to find refreshing water flowing so high above ground it must have been a sight to behold.

Ain Ash-Shallalah - Lawence's Springs Jordan

Ain Ash-Shallalah – Lawence’s Springs Jordan – Sonia York-Pryce

Every now and then one can spot a line of camels or goats traveling along the endless trail like some seemingly endless roll of ochre coloured silk undulating in the desert breezes – its a bird’s eye view from up here – silence but for the whistle of the wind and the occasional rock tumbling down to the ground.

He goes on to say:

The crags were capped in nests of domes, less hotly red than the body of the hill; they gave the finishing semblance of Bzyantine architecture to this irresistible place: this processional way greater than imagination.

On our assent we venture back to our rusty vehicle holding on very tight to the iron bars as we race along the valley to the next point of interest – but it is all so beautiful – the ancientness of it all is very humbling.

Cameleer Wadi Rum Jordan

Cameleer Wadi Rum Jordan – Sonia York-Pryce 2013

We stop to take in Nabatean incriptions, bas reliefs carved into the flanks of towering sandstone cliffs – the meaning of these drawings lost forever – ancient graffiti if you like.

Nabatean inscriptions Wadi Rum Jordan

Nabatean inscriptions Wadi Rum Jordan – Sonia York-Pryce 2013


On we fare. somewhat dusty and sweaty, still holding on tight, white fists, as the 4WD rolls and swerves along old desert tracks,

the wind blowing in our faces, some already showing some signs of sunburn. We are approaching Al Qsair, Lawrence’s House,  built on ancient Nabatean ruins. The story goes that he had a base here during the Arab Revolt, its location is ideal for spotting any movement in the desert, so from a strategic point of view – ideal. All around are cairns, memorials to Lawrence – is that too romantic a thought? One could certainly imagine him esconsed within this sandstone ruin in 1916 watching like a spy for any hint of movement down in the valley below. It is a shame little remains of his abode only imagination can help us picture what was once a vital vestibule in Wadi Rum. Its remoteness is all encompassing.

image of Lawrence's House Wadi Rum

Al Qsair – Lawrence’s House – Wadi Rum – Sonia York-Pryce 2013


A suitable picnic spot is found with shade from the great cliffs as we sit recumbant on slabs of rock enjoying our simple but enjoyable repast. It is a joyous spot to listen and ponder whilst we let our minds wander as we enjoy no movement – a sleep could be on the menu!

image of Wadi Rum

picnic lunch at Wadi Rum – Sonia York-Pryce 2013


image of lunch Wadi Rum

picnic lunch Wadi Rum – Sonia York-Pryce 2013

Fed and watered and we are off again cameras at the ready to capture the imagery in Lawrence’s words:

vast echoing and Godlike – of this wonderful place.

On to stop and gaze at the wonder of the locally named, Mushroom rock and then on to walks in siqs and canyons where water at certain times of the year trickles its way down the sandstone to rock pools where herdsmen shelter for the night hidden away from the howling winds rolling from the desert.

image of Mushroom Rock Wadi Rum

Mushroom Rock Wadi Rum – Sonia York-Pryce 2013


Siq - Wadi Rum

Siq – Wadi Rum – Sonia York-Pryce 2013

Bedouin tent Wadi Rum

Bedouin tent – Wadi Rum – Sonia York-Pryce – 2013

Our last stop over point has a small stall and some camels resting in the late afternoon sun – perfect!

Some desert shopping before we drive to our home for the night at Valley of the Moon desert camp run by Mohammed Mutlak.

image of stalls - Wadi Rum

Desert shopping – Wadi Rum – Sonia York-Pryce 2013

image of camels Wadi Rum

Camels Wadi Rum – Sonia York-Pryce 2013


afternoon tea Wadi Rum

Afternoon tea Wadi Rum – Sonia York-Pryce 2013

Finally, after hours of traversing the desert we arrive at our camp site deep in The Rumm and are not disappointed – semi-permanent tents are pitched and there are further Bedouin tents where we can sit on woxen carpets as a fire crackles to keep the evening chill at bay. Ablution block is located and we all cleanse and purify looking forward to the theatre of the sun setting amongst this stunning backdrop.

sunset Wadi Rum

sunset Wadi Rum – Sonia York-Pryce 2013

sunset watchers Wadi Rum

sunset watchers Wadi Rum – Sonia York-Pryce 2013



image for Wadi Rum

Wadi Rum – Sonia York-Pryce 2013


The sun finally sets over the peaks as we sit snug against the sandstone – the first star appears and the cool night air is a welcome relief after the day’s toil – in the back ground the Bedouins have been preparing dinner – chicken and veges placed in an iron dish (zerb) and then buried in the ground – a fire is burning at the campsite dining area and we all sit and drink delicious warm tea as we await for the food to be cooked – conversations aplenty – the meal is served, a veritable feast in the middle of the desert.

We eat our fill and make our way to our tents ready to dream the night away under the stars. It is an early night, with one candle per tent to guide you to your bed and mighty comfy it is too – plenty of blankets as even now the temperatures drop dramatically –

Sleep is blissful. Up and about at 6am to catch the dawn breaking –

Valley of the Moon camp Wadi Rum

Valley of the Moon camp Wadi Rum – Sonia York-Pryce 2013

image of sunrise viewers Wadi Rum

Sunrise viewers Wadi Rum – Sonia York-Pryce 2013

All around if you look very carefully there are dots on the horizon of similar folk all trying to get the most memorable photograph of the fresh morning sunrise in the desert – beautiful – if only one could stay longer –

image of breakfast Wadi Rum

Breakfast Wadi Rum – Sonia York-Pryce 2013


Pitta Bread, assorted jams, cheese, hommus, halva and tea – not only pleasing to the eye but easy on the palate!


image of camels Wadi Rum

camels Wadi Rum – Sonia York-Pryce 2013

So with heavy hearts we pack and board the rusty 4WD for the drive back to the Visitors Centre for our meeting with Saleem our host from The Valley of the Moon campsite.

Saleem with Baz

Saleem with Baz – Sonia York-Pryce 2013

If you are considering a trip to Wadi Rum anytime soon this is the place to stay:

Mohammed Mutlak Camp

Lonely Planet give them a good write up too!





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  1. Posted April 16, 2013 at 9:41 pm | Permalink

    Astounding experience, O Sheikess of Arabia (well, Jordan). Quelle stunning landscapes!

  2. Jono
    Posted April 17, 2013 at 8:03 am | Permalink

    Awesome – looks like you guys are having a great time. Baz, I think you’d e right at home living there in the desert. Hope to share photos soon

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