Wadi Rum

L – Tourists visiting this Mars-like landscape by camel
R – Spectacular sculptures shaped by Mother Nature over millennia

Wadi Rum: Chasing Sunsets In The Valley of the Moon

“Welcome to Wadi Rum, the Valley of High Places, also known as the Valley of the Moon”, our guide proclaimed as we stared into the magnificent desert scene in awe.

Wadi Rum lies deep in the southern part of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. A desert scape so unique and alien that it often stands in for Mars in Hollywood projects, it is the place that birthed the myth around ‘Lawrence of Arabia’. Its crimson sands and near-vertical mountains have been home to tribes of nomadic Bedouins who once crisscrossed their way across the massive dunes upon their camels, setting up their goat-hair tents along the way. These days, though you still find echoes of T.E. Lawrence in the names of several natural formations, you will no longer see the Bedouins riding camels as their mode of traditional transportation. It has been abandoned in favour of the infinitely more convenient four-by-four pickup trucks that now transport visitors across the vast landscape. The magic of Wadi Rum, though, remains enthralling to all those who lay eyes upon it, whether in person or on screen.

Getting comfortable for the ride to our desert camp.

Our journey into Wadi Rum’s desert did not begin in what could be considered a peaceful unhurried manner. From the plane, we were hustled through Aqaba airport by our local tour guide, who hastily informed us that we needed to be on our way if we were to make it to our desert camp in time for the sunset, which her tone seemed to suggest, would be the highlight of our one-night stay there. It simply couldn’t be missed, and so we must hurry.

Feeling a bit breathless – but not from the scenery outside the car windows – we made a quick pit stop at the Wadi Rum Visitor Center, where we got our first glimpse of the remarkable landscape we would shortly be heading into. The endless views of the vermilion dunes and imposing sandstone formations stretching far into the horizon beckoned us with their otherworldly beauty and promise of serenity as we stared at the magnificent desert scene in awe.

Leaving us to stretch our legs and admire the breathtaking view, our guide disappeared into one of the nearby shops, emerging a few moments later with three colourful keffiyehs, each with a unique pattern, and offered them to us as a welcome gift, enlisting the help of the shop-keeper to wrap them around our heads in the traditional Bedouin manner. 

Standing back to survey their work, she declared with satisfaction, “Now, you are ready to go into the desert.”

The sunset over Wadi Rum, as seen from our tent deck.

Chasing the Sunsets

A short drive brought us to Wadi Rum village, a small and disorganized collection of brick houses, Bedouin tents, ramshackle hostels, and open-air eateries, where we had to meet our Bedouin driver for the ride to camp. We understood we would be heading deep into the recesses of this never-ending sea of red-rose sand that spread out before us, contained on either side by huge granite and sandstone mountains shaped by Mother Nature into the most spectacular sculptures. It looked forbidding and yet alluring all at once.

We waited for our Bedouin guide, his lateness putting us all on edge as the sun started sinking lower and lower in the sky. Were we going to make it for the not-to-be-missed event, the magical sunset over The Valley of The Moon?

That is when a rickety, white Toyota pick-up that had certainly seen better days pulled up behind us.

“Finally,” our guide exclaimed and jumped out of the car, gesturing feverishly for us to follow.

Within minutes we found ourselves bumping along over the soft desert sands, our luggage piled into the passenger seat next to the driver, while we held on for dear life in the back, sitting on iron benches that had been cleverly welded on either side of the truck, shaded by a colourful cloth canopy that matched the cushions we sat upon. It wasn’t the most comfortable ride I’ve ever been on, but it was definitely one of the most exhilarating and, perhaps, the most memorable.

L – Our simple but luxurious desert camp hidden amidst the dunes and mountains.
R – The vermilion sands and towering rock formations of Wadi Rum.

A Moment of Magic

A half-hour later, we were climbing out of the truck, windswept but happy, in front of a small collection of safari-style tents nestled into the foot of a rock formation, with the timeless terrain of Wadi Rum stretching out before us in every direction and not another hint of civilization in sight. I immediately felt a softening and lightness that took me by surprise, the heightened energy of our experience since landing in Aqaba slowly dissipating as my nervous system started to sync with the peaceful rhythms of the desert. 
Another half-hour had us firmly settled on the small platform outside our tent, sipping a refreshing mint lemonade and eating dates and pistachios as the blazing orange sun majestically dipped below the horizon, lighting the surrounding dunes on fire before bathing the entirety of the desert in hues of pink and violet and scarlet that dazzled. As a sucker for sunsets, I was enchanted, captivated by every detail, as the sun sank into the sands and the darkness expanded around us in creeping shadows. 

Sunset over the Valley of the Moon was indeed the spectacular event that had been promised. But what stayed with me most from our one night there was how the infinite carpet of soft sand creates a comforting, pleasant silence that penetrates even the noise inside your head. The manner in which the vast distances and beautifully unforgiving environment invites you to embrace your isolation, the giant dunes and towering mountains blocking all signals, so that disturbance simply cannot get through. Truly, the feeling of disconnect is so complete because no other choice is given to you. 

Yes, the sunset in Wadi Rum was a sight to behold, but the sense of timeless tranquillity and all-encompassing peace that I discovered there is what I will hold on to from our short visit to this harsh but beautiful place. A place brimming with a rich history and rare energy that lures you in so completely, that you are more than happy to lose yourself entirely, even if only for a little while.

Wadi Rum: Sunset in the Valley of the Moon is magical indeed.
Camila Castro

Camila Castro

Camila Castro is a seeker, global citizen, mindful traveler, storyteller, and certified Travel Coach. As a Mindful Travel Coach, she guides multi-passionate seekers in harnessing the power of Mindful Travel to create more purposeful, meaningful, and impactful experiences in their travels so they can enhance their lives. Email – [email protected]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *