Well – Lawrence Rode Camels

While eating our lunch in the shade of the rocks scrawled with Nabataean graffiti, we watched a camel caravan of expats cross the desert in front of us.

“We should have hired camels for the day,” Louise said wistfully.  “How can we come to the desert and not ride a camel?”

There were several reasons that came to my mind, and none of them had to do with desert romance.

After lunch, we hauled ourselves into the back of the pick-up truck.  Our enthusiasm was dampened after hours slogging through sand.  We declined Abdullah’s invitation to roll down the giant red sand dune and encouraged him to continue onward.  He pulled up next to another canyon.

“You will find more Nabataean drawings.”  He pointed to mountain.  “I wait here,” he said settling under a tent.

We walked down a small dune.  At the canyon entrance, a Bedouin was having lunch with his tourists and four camels.  Louise marched up to him.

“How much for ride?”

“Three JD.”

“Three? That’s ridiculous.  Two,” she bargained.  The Bedouin nor Louise budged.  We continued camel-less into the crevasse.

After taking photos of petroglyphs of men and women holding hands, Louise and I stopped for camel photo opportunities.

“I must ride a camel,” she insisted pulling out twenty JD bill.  The Bedouin did not have change.

“Here,” I said opening my wallet.  “I have change.”  I figured it was the least I could do after all the photos she took of me.

Perched on the camel, Louise hummed the opening score from Lawrence of Arabia.  The night before we left, she watched the entire 216 minutes featuring the young, handsome Peter O’Toole.  Her eyes looked dreamy as the Bedouin took her on a 3JD journey to our waiting truck.  I followed like the lowly, servant girl.

At the top of the dune, I found Louise and her camel surrounded by television reporters.  It was Jordan TV.

When I walked up, the camera swiveled towards me.  The lead reporter said something in Arabic, and the cameraman said to me, “Take two” before he turned away.

The reporter shoved a microphone into Louise’s face.  She began an exposition on the beauty of Jordan’s desert.  The men were astonished by their luck at having found an English woman riding a camel.  Louise finished her soliloquy and sat smiling.  The reporter nodded and turned to the Bedouin guide and spoke to him in Arabic.

Then it became clear.

The Jordanian reporter and camera men did not speak a word of English.  The Wadi Rum Bedouin had to translate for the hotshot, film crew from Amman.  When they said “take two” and turned to me, I called our Bedouin, Abdullah, to stand with me.  The reporter pushed him away.

I sent greetings to King Abdullah and Queen Rania from the people in Bahrain and blabbed on about something.  I doubt it will be aired.  Unlike Louise with her bedu guide, camel, blond hair and diamond-studded, gold hiking shoes, “take two” lacked glamour.

Left in the sidelines, Abdullah informed us it was time to go.  We said good-bye leaving the men without enough footage.

At the truck, Abdullah told me, “Tomorrow I will go back for my interview.  I told them no cameras today.  I want to wear a nice thobe.”

“It is better,” I agreed.  “Your future wife might see you on television.  You want to look good.”

To be continued…..

ABOUT TOURING WADI RUM

You can hike Wadi Rum, take a camel tour or a drive around in a truck.   We did not price the camels or walking.

The 7-hour, driving tour of all the key Wadi Rum sites cost 80JD for the three of us.  It included a sack lunch and water.

Along the way enterprising Bedouins have set up tent shops that serve tea.  Your guide will likely stop there for a drink.  He will also prefer to rest at lunch although we pressured ours to carry on. However, it is smart to be like the Bedouin and find shade in the hottest hours between 1-3pm.

HINT: If you are allergic to dust, take antihistamine in the morning and/or bring a scarf to cover your face. By the end of the day the fine red dust is in your nose and clothes.  I could not stop sneezing.

If you hike, then you must get up early to avoid the heat of the day.  Our camp mates told us the big bridge was a scramble not a hike and took two and a half hours.

On to Aqaba

On to Aqaba south on the desert highway

Inspired by Peter O’Toole’s portrayal of Lawrence of Arabia, “On to Aqaba” became our cry as we headed south on the Desert Highway.

WAdi rum rest house v2

After parking our SUV at the Wadi Rum Village Rest House, a young Arab pulled up behind us.

“Mohammed Mutlak camp?” he inquired.  “Welcome,” he said pointing to the back of his Toyota pick-up.  “Please get in.”

The padded seats did not look too comfortable to me.

“Why don’t I drive my car,” I suggested.

Abdullah shrugged, “If you want but you will miss breathing the fresh desert air.”  He waved his hand in the air.

“I think I should drive,” I told my waiting friends.

“Thelma,” my friend counseled, “They do this all the time.”

I relented, and we hefted our luggage into the back of the truck.

As Abdullah sped through the deep, red sand, our hair was mussed.  Our noses were filled with pink dust.  Dogs chased us.  Our teeth rattled.  Still, it was better that I had not attempted to drive.

We officially arrived at our camp just before the sun set.  We had enough time to do some yoga before cracking open a bottle of white wine and toasting our driver and our lovely camp.

To be continued……

ABOUT MOHAMMED MUTLAK CAMP

Mohammed Mutlak Camp is found in the southern-most tip of Wadi Rum.  It is a lovely camp.  You can contact them via email or call Mohammed directly at 00 962 7 7721 5675.  My review is on TripAdvisor.

ABOUT ARRIVING IN WADI RUM

Driving south on the Desert Highway, just past the town Ar-Rashdiyya, (past Ma’an) there is a big petrol station on the left.  You pass it and the road to Wadi Rum, then make a U-turn.  You turn right (east) onto the Rum road.  It is about 12 kilometers to the Wadi Rum Visitor Center.

There you will be greeted by a hoard of young Arab men offering taxi rides or camps.  If you have made reservations, one of them will announce himself as the Mohammed Mutlak representative.  You pay him the entrance fee to the reserve.  20JD for a four-wheel drive and 5JD per person.  Do not despair, there does not appear to be any “official” manning the ticket counter at the center.  Wadi Rum is run by the Bedouin.  They all know each other.

He will direct you to drive to the Wadi Rum village and to park at the Wadi Rum Rest House.  There someone else will pick you up.

ABOUT WINE IN JORDAN

Jordanians grew grapes and make wine.  However, the only places I have noticed wine or alcohol for sale is at the airport or in higher-end hotels.  We bought our own bottles at Bahrain Duty Free and carried them on the plane, car and camel as we traveled.

Jordan – The Holy Land Museum

view of holy land from mount nebo jordan by Eva the dragon

“If you put a fence around Jordan, it would be the world’s largest museum,” the archaeologist told me.

Most Westerners visit the Holy Land by flying into Israel to see Jerusalem and, perhaps, Bethlehem.  Jerusalem is important, and Bethlehem is central for the Christians, but if you want to travel the Old Testament, then Jordan is the place to go.

national geographic human migration-990_32314_600x450

According to National Geographic’s Genographic Study, about 50,000 years ago, a large “second” migration out of Africa occurred. These became the first, large settlements in the Fertile Crescent.

Biblical map of Jordan king's highway petra

Modern Jordan is smack dab in the middle of recorded, human history.  Jericho, located on the other side of the Jordan River in occupied Palestine, is considered to be the oldest city on Earth.  But the ancient Nabataean city of Petra, inhabited by Bdouls, has been dated to the same era – 9000 BC.

From 9000 BC onward, Jordan houses remains from every era.

Copper Age (4500-3000 BC)

  • Copper mines are found at the Dana Reserve.

Bronze Age (3300-1200 BC)

  • Egypt’s influence is noted in pottery and jewelry.
  • Canaanites in the Jordan Valley were first mentioned in Genesis 9:22 when Noah cursed his son Ham, the father of Canaan.
  • Abram and his brother Lot, Genesis 11:21, split up.  In Genesis 13:10, Lot choose to move to Jordan to live among the wicked Sodomites.
  • 2300 BC Sodom and Gomorrah destroyed.  Lot and his daughters found a cave to live.  The cave is along the Dead Sea Highway (Highway 65), a bit south of the Dead Sea.

Iron Age (1200-330 BC)

  • Starting with Numbers 21:31, the Old Testament included stories about the three kingdoms of the dreaded poly-theists: the Edomites in the south, the Moabites and the Ammonites.  They occupied the eastern desert of Jordan.
  • These Old Testament tribes occupied Umm Al-Rasas, Theban, Ma’in and Arnon in Jordan.
  • It was the Edomites who blocked Moses and the Israelites.  To get north, they resorted to the mountains along a road which for millennia has been called the King’s Highway.  You can still drive the King’s Highway today.
  • When Moses finally made it north, Deutoromony 34:1 says Moses went to Mount Nebo in Jordan where God showed him the Promised Land.  At the foot of Mount Nebo is Moses’ spring where he is reputed to have opened a rock for his people.

850 BC Israelite Empire was defeated by the Moab king named Mesha.

  • Numbers 32:38 talks about King Mesha who lived in Ma’in, Jordan.
  • The Moabites worshiped Baal Maon which means God of Water and Asherah whom the ancient Sumerians called the Great Goddess.

333 BC Alexander the Great stormed through northern Jordan which became part of the largest empire ever seen.  After his death, Ptolemy I became the ruler and Greek became the common language.

  • During the time of Jesus the Christ, southern Jordan was controlled by the Nabataeans from their capital in Petra.
  • On top of Machaerus, aka Mukawir, is Herod Antipas’ castle.  Here is where Herod imprisoned then beheaded John the Baptist as Salome requested.
  • The Greek Orthodox Church in Madaba has a 6th century map depicting the entire Holy Land.
  • St. John the Baptist Church in Madaba is dedicated to Saint John and a running well dated to the Moabite era.

64 BC Rome conquered Syria.  The Romans began looking south towards the Nabataean capital, Petra, and its wealthy trade routes.

  • 106AD Emperor Trajan finally annexed the Nabataeans and renamed the province Arabia Petraea making Petra its capital.
  • The Roman city of Jerash, north of Amman, is the best preserved Roman city in the world – better even than Rome.

324 AD Byzantine Emperor Constantine made Christianity the official faith of the Roman Empire.

  • At Bethany on the Jordan, a church has been excavated marking the place where Jesus was baptized.
  • Old temples were transformed into Byzantine churches.  These original churches can be seen in Madaba, Umm ar-Rasas and Petra.

632 AD Prophet Mohammed’s death.  His followers began expanding north out of the Arabian desert.

  • 629 AD Islamists lost first battle against Byzantine army near Karak castle.
  • 636 AD Islamists won Battle of Yarmouk.  638 Jerusalem fell. 640 Syria was taken.  Islam became the dominate religion and Arabic replaced Greek as lingua franca.

661-750 AD Umayyad Dynasty.  During this time the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus and Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem were built.

  • Desert castles were built in Jordan: Qasayr Amra in 711AD and Qasr Kharana 710 AD.

700 AD the Holy Wars between the Christian and Islamic armies started. 1099 Christians took Jerusalem. 1187 Islamists took Jerusalem. 1517 Ottoman Turks took Jerusalem.

  • In Jordan, you can see the Qala’at ar-Rabad at Ajlun and the Crusader Castles at Karak, Petra and on the Pharaoh’s Island offshore of Aqaba.

WWI the Ottoman Turks and Germans fought against the Egyptian-based British in Jordan’s southern desert.

  • The Hejaz railway bombed by TE Lawrence, Lawrence of Arabia, and the Arab Revolt is still in existence.
  • In Wadi Rum’s desert, there is a house and a spring both attributed to “Lawrence”.
  • Further south, Lawrence stayed at both the Aqaba Fort and the Azraq Fort.

There was no way we could cover all of Jordan in five days and enjoy the trip.

the monastery by david roberts petra jordan

Instead we focused on the romance of TE Lawrence’s Arabia in Wadi Rum, the Rose-colored city Petra that David Roberts painted, and the easy to reach, high-points in Christian history – Mount Nebo, Bethany by the Jordan, the Dead Sea and Madaba.

ABOUT BOOKS ON JORDAN

Lonely Planet’s Jordan is the book I rely on and carry with me.

My friend Louise also found Jordan: Past and Present published by Vision Roma in Petra.  This is a super fun book which helps you envision the old ruins as they looked in the past.

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