Late start today for a change, which is nice! We leave the hotel at 10 and stop at a lookout point above Petra with a view of the pink mountains of the hidden city. It’s really difficult to situate things as most of the Nabatean constructions are hidden from view deep in mountain crevasses, but we manage to recognize the Siq and the top of the Al-Deir Monastery.
We continue our drive along the King’s Road before descending the mountain plateau to the desert road to Aqaba on the Red Sea. The temperature rises from 19 in the mountains to 32 in the desert. We soon reach the famous Wadi Rum where Lawrence of Arabia led the Arab insurrection against the Ottomans during the First World War. Spectacular, beautiful rugged mountains emerge from red sand dunes as we make a stop at the entrance of the park to buy entry tickets. We continue on to our camp and cross train tracks which are probably the same ones sabotaged by Lawrence and his Bedouin companions in their effort to unseat the Turks.
There are several tourist camps along the main road and we hope we will be in something a little more off the beaten track. We turn off the road and are happy to discover that we are being offloaded onto a 4×4 jeep to continue on to our camp further in the desert. When we arrive it’s about lunch time; there is just one other group of tourists there: a Swiss lady from Bern, her two young adult kids and her mother. The young guy we learn is studying Physics at the EPFL in Lausanne and spends all day poring over dense pages of equations. Sandra praises his mom for having such a studious son, to which the proud mother answers: oh no that isn’t work, he reads that for fun!!!
We are welcomed to the camp with a glass of mint tea and are shown to our VIP tent, which means we have our own bathroom instead of having to use the communal wash houses. Ryo and Sandra are intrigued by the mushroom shaped rock overlooking the camp and climb up despite the heat. They have to interrupt their exploration as it is time for lunch, and Ryo swears that he will go back up at sunrise tomorrow.
After a simple lunch of hummous, olives and pitas, we spend a super lazy afternoon lying in the shade, reading our Kindles, and observing the new arrivals while Mahmoud relaxes with his fellow drivers and guides smoking a shisha. We are not a big crowd: we are joined by another family of four (a French couple who live in Belgium with their two young adult daughters) and an older couple from Nice. Ryo is still holding out hope that his friend Lukas from Petra will be in our camp, but we tell him that the chances are slim, Wadi Rum is a vast area.
As the sun sinks in the sky everyone starts leaving for their evening 4×4 drive through the desert. We are the last to embark as we only have a 2 hour tour planned, but it’s the best time of the day as the sun is setting and the rocks take on beautiful golden colours. We follow what we quickly understand is a standard tour with several programmed stops: at some places we enjoy the scenery alone but soon we reach the more touristy spots and are one among dozens of 4x4s to see some rock paintings, drink some tea, pay our respects to the Lawrence of Arabia memorial, and drive to a sunset lookout.
We arrive at a rock for the sunset, one of many already covered in tourists. As we climb the rock Ryo shouts: It’s Lukas!! And indeed, we are once again reunited with our French friends, to the delight of the kids. They scamper about while Sandra & Skye watch the sun disappear behind the mountains in the west. Back at camp, we just have time for a quick rinse, then don warmer clothing as the desert night is getting cold quickly.
All the guests are summoned to gather around a pile of sand at the entrance of the camp. The Bedouins start digging at the pile of sand to reveal a metal lid, under which there is an oil barrel sunk underground with a charcoal fire. Earlier in the afternoon they dropped in a rack laden with carrots, potatoes, whole onions, spicy chicken and lamb, before covering the oven over with sand. After three hours of slow cooking everything is roasted to perfection, and we enjoy our dinner under the stars around the fire. We then settle into our tent to read our Kindles while Ryo prepares his clothes and sets up his alarm for 6:30, as he is committed to his promise to climb above our camp in the morning.