Wadi Rum (Valley of the Moon) is a desert wilderness in southern Jordan, 60km east of Jordan’s Red Sea port city, Aqaba. The valley covers about 778km² and is famed for its stunning landscape of sandstone and granite rocks. This is the desert scenery you see in films and story books with dramatic canyons, rolling sand dunes, clear night skies and small, isolated Bedouin communities. Iron oxide gives the landscape its reddish-hue and millions of years of floods, wind and sand storms have smoothed and carved the gorges and natural arches and towers of sandstone.
Human inhabitation in Wadi Rum can be traced back 12,000 years thanks to the inscriptions and paintings left on the desert rocks. Thousands of years ago Wadi Rum was part of the ancient trade routes from the Arabian Peninsula and Africa to the Mediterranean and Syria. Today most of Wadi Rum’s Bedouin community lives in Rum Village, the only settlement in the protected area. The local Bedouin still keep their traditional ways but are also involved in the tourism industry and offer overnight stays, cultural experiences and guide services in the desert.
The rugged landscape of Wadi Rum can be explored on camelback, on foot or on a thrilling jeep excursion, it is also possible to go rock climbing, hot air ballooning or star gazing. There is plenty to see and do in Wadi Rum with points of interest including over 40,000 prehistoric rock paintings and inscriptions; abandoned ancient ruins and strange rock formations shaped by the elements.
Wadi Rum and Lawrence of Arabia
T. E. Lawrence introduced Wadi Rum to the Western world through his writing. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) served as a British officer in the region and during WWI aided Prince Faisal Bin Hussein in the Arab Revolt of 1917 against the Ottomans. Lawrence called Wadi Rum “…vast, endless and God-like…” The release of the 1960s film “Lawrence of Arabia” brought Wadi Rum to the attention of the general public and it started to attract a steady flow of tourists.
Things to do in Wadi Rum
Jabal Umm ad Dami is the highest point in Wadi Rum and in all of Jordan making it a sought after destination for hikers and climbers. At Khazali Canyon and Anfishiyyeh there are ancient inscriptions on the rock walls. The impressive Anfishiyyeh Inscriptions feature Nabataean and Thamudic petroglyphs and images of a camel caravan.
Jabal Ram is a monolithic ridge and Jebe Burdah (Big Rock Bridge) is the tallest of Wadi Rum’s natural arches; you can climb to the top for stunning views. Jebel Umm Fruth (Middle Rock Bridge) is one of the most unique rock formations in Wadi Rum and one of the most photographed. This 15m-high natural rock bridge looms over visitors. The Seven Pillars of Wisdom were named by Lawrence in his writing. The rock formation appears to have seven naturally formed pillars.
To learn about the legend of Lawrence of Arabia visit Lawrence’s House and near the entrance to Wadi Shalalah is Lawrence’s Spring, named for the legendary Lawrence of Arabia. The 5km long Barrah Canyon is often visited on tours that include rock climbing, hiking or camel riding.
Visiting Wadi Rum, Jordan
Visitors from Israel making their way to Petra or Aqaba can often include Wadi Rum in their itinerary and it is also possible to stay overnight in a desert camp. Part of Wadi Rum’s beauty comes from the way sunlight plays on the rocks creating dramatic shades of red, gold and yellow. The untouched, timeless desert is particularly breathtaking at sunrise or sundown. Although Wadi Rum can be visited year-round it is best to visit from September-November or March-May when temperatures are less brutal.