What an adventure – and what a fabulous time was had! Firstly, just crossing the Arava border between Eilat and Aqaba is an experience – you really feel that you are ‘travelling’ as you cross by land between these two very different countries. It was also an education for my young daughters to learn about what an international border means in concrete terms.
Wadi Rum is an experience for both the landscape and the people – both of which are totally different from anything you can experience in Israel. The landscape is truly unique, it is vast and desolate with desert which stretches on in every direction for miles on end. The desert – sand dunes, rocks and all – is traversed by jeep. Sitting in the back of the open jeep, you feel a palpable sense of adventure, and that rare sense of freedom which travel brings.
The people of Wadi Rum are almost entirely Bedouin, and there is a wide range of Bedouin experiences available from pretty touristy to extremely authentic. We of course went for the most authentic and ate lunch in a Bedoin encampment which consisted of a large black tent, split in two parts – one part for the men and the other reserved for the women. Men and women do not eat together, though the ladies in our group were permitted to eat in the men’s part of the tent as we were Western visitors. The tent was modestly decorated, with worn carpets covering the floor. We sat directly on the floor which was adequately clean thanks to the strict ‘no shoes inside the tent’ rule. Needless to say there was no air-conditioning and it was really pretty hot. There were plenty of chickens around the back and lone goats tethered to rocks on the desert floor, but not a bathroom is site.
The food was delicious – sweet tea to welcome us and then chicken (yup – one from the back turned up on our plates!) and rice cooked for hours in the ground served with fresh traditional flat bread. In terms of being an eye-opening cultural experience which will help our children understand that not everyone lives the way we live, this ranks pretty high. They were fascinated by the people they met and their lifestyle. They also loved spending the night under the stars in tents (though rather different from the Bedoin tent!), and are already asking us on a frequent basis when we will be returning to Jordan. In summary, this was a great family trip all round.
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