Wadi Rum is a desert valley in the South of Jordan. The valley is situated in the Wadi Rum protected area which is named after the valley itself. The whole protected area is referred to as Wadi Rum, but Wadi Rum ‘proper’ is just the valley starting from the Visitor Center and continuing as far as Khazali Canyon.
The protected area is approx 723 km squared and is a remarkable area of desert renowned for it’s breathtaking beauty. The area is made up of sandy valleys with red, white and yellow sand. Punctuated with soaring sandstone cliffs at a sobering scale. The sandstone mountains are living examples of wind and water erosion in action. Gnarly, intricate, intimidating.
The desert is a natural landscape with interesting flora and fauna. Anyone who enjoys natural landscapes will certainly enjoy a visit to the area. Alongside this interest is the remarkable Bedouin people who have made their living in the harsh landscape. For centuries living a lifestyle that has only recently begun to concede mostly superficial changes.
In the last 30 years or so local Bedouin have begun to leave the nomadic life and made their home in Rum Village. Rum Village is the only village located inside the protected area. However, most local Bedouin people will still keep goats and camels and will spend the spring and sometimes winter in the desert grazing them. If you would like to see Wadi Rum when there are Bedouin around the protected area, living the nomadic way then Spring is the best time of year to visit.
A taste of the Bedouin lifestyle can be experienced at the many Bedouin camps in Wadi Rum. Wadi Rum Sky camp is located in the Um Sabbatah Area. Camping under the stars in other locations around the desert is also possible as a part of a hiking program, a camel trek program, or combined with a Jeep Tour.
Wadi Rum has been a UNESCO World heritage site since 2011. Earning it’s status for the beauty of the landscape, the culture of the local Bedouin people and for the remarkable legacy of thousands and thousands of inscriptions all over the area. The most famous places for inscriptions included in the Jeep Tours are Lawrence Spring, Khazali Canyon and Anfisheyah Inscriptions. However, in most places across the protected area if you stop and look around a little there is a high chance you will spot some inscriptions. Much is yet to be learned about the meaning of them but many are symbols belonging to tribes, or some were left to give other travellers “news” of something important that happened in the area. Or some were left as signs along the old caravan route (Damascus - Mecca) that passed through the area.
Wadi Rum Protected Area (WRPA) is located in the southern part of Jordan, east of the Rift Valley and south of the steep escarpment of the central Jordanian plateau. It comprises an area of 74,200 hectares. WRPA’s natural values include desert landforms developed within continental sandstones. These landforms have been developed under the influence of a combination of various controlling factors, such as lithology, tectonic activities (including rapid uplift, numerous faults and joints) and surface processes (including various types of weathering and erosion associated with desert climate as well as humid climates in the past), representing million years of ongoing landscape evolution. Widespread petroglyphs, inscriptions and archaeological remains testify to 12,000 years of human occupation and interaction with the natural environment, illustrating the evolution of pastoral, agricultural and urban human activity in the Arabian Peninsula and the environmental history of the region. - UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE
During the “Great Arab Revolt” Wadi Rum was visited by Lawrence of Arabia and later described in his book the "Seven Pillars of Wisdom”
"Day was still young as 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, they said. 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. We rode up the slope, crashing our way through the brittle undergrowth. As we went, the brushwood grouped itself into thickets whose massed leaves took on a stronger tint of green the purer for their contrasted setting in plots of open sand of a cheerful delicate pink. The ascent became gentle, till the valley was a confined tilted plain. The hills on the right grew taller and sharper, a fair counterpart of the other side which straightened itself to one massive rampart or redness. They drew together until only two miles divided them: and then, towering gradually till their parallel parapets must have been a thousand feet above us, ran forward in an avenue for miles. They were not unbroken walls of rock, but were built sectionally, in crags like gigantic buildings, along the two sides of their street. Deep alleys, fifty feet across, divided the crags, whose plans were smoothed by the weather into huge apses and bays, and enriched with surface fretting and fracture, like design. Caverns high up on the precipice were round like windows: others near the foot gaped like doors. Dark stains ran down the shadowed front for hundreds of feet, like accidents of use. The cliffs were striated vertically, in their granular rock; whose main order stood on two hundred feet of broken stone deeper in colour and harder in texture. This plinth did not, like the sandstone, hang in folds like cloth; but chipped itself into loose courses of scree, horizontal as the footings of a wall. The crags were capped in nests of domes, less hotly red than the body of the hill; rather grey and shallow. They gave the finishing semblance of Byzantine architecture to this irresistible place: this processional way greater than imagination. The Arab armies would have been lost in the length and breadth of it, and within the walls a squadron of aeroplanes could have wheeled in formation. Our little caravan grew self-conscious, and fell dead quiet, afraid and ashamed to flaunt its smallness in the presence of such stupendous hills. Landscapes, in childhood's dream, were so vast and silent. We looked backward through our memory for the prototype up which all men had walked between walls toward such an open square as that in front where this road seemed to end. Later, when we were often riding inland, my mind used to turn me from the direct road, to clear my senses by a night in Rumm and by the ride down its dawn-lit valley towards the shining plains, or up its valley in the sunset towards that glowing square which my timid anticipation never let me reach. I would say, 'Shall I ride on this time, beyond Khazail, and know it all?' But in truth I liked Rumm too much. ― T.E. Lawrence, SEVEN PILLARS OF WISDOM
The protected area of Wadi Rum has also been used multiple times as a film location. Much of the filming being done in the areas to the South of Rum Village, at Rum Village itself and to the North of Rum Village. Firstly for the 1968 Lawrence of Arabia film. Then more recently in films such as Prometheus, Red Planet, Transformers: The Revenge of the Fallen, The Martian and Theeb.
Entry to Wadi Rum Protected Area costs 5JD p.p. Children under 12 years are free. For those people who hold the Jordan Pass the entry ticket is included and there is no fee payable at the Visitor Center.
There is no charge for vehicles to drive to Rum Village which is about 7 km down the road after the Wadi Rum Visitor Center. There is free parking at the Rest House, most guides will also have additional parking at their houses.