A brief Glance at Wadi Rum

Author: Daniel Case

rum 3This area of Jordan is quite isolated and largely inhospitable to settled life. The only permanent inhabitants are several thousand Bedouin nomads and villagers. There is no real infrastructure, leaving the area quite unspoilt. Apart from the Bedouin goat hair tents, the only structures are a few concrete shops and houses and the fort headquarters of the Desert Patrol Corps.

Wadi Rum is less a sandy desert but more a mountain desert. Very good pictures can also be made from the area north of the Turkish rail track parallel to the road from the Aqaba highway to Wadi Rum. The best time to visit Wadi Rum is when it is a little clouded, so you can experience the beautiful game of light and shadow in the desert.

T E Lawrence (of Arabia) spent a significant amount of time here during the course of the British-inspired Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire during the First World War (1914-1918). Fans of the 1962 film Lawrence of Arabia will be familiar with the landscape, which is not so much sand dunes as it is a mass of soaring cliffs and sandstone and granite mountains (jebel in Arabic).

Wadi Rum has also been used for more recent films, such as 2009's Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen, where it stood in for part of Egypt. The distinctive reddish-orange sands that lend the area an otherworldly quality has brought the science-fiction films The Last Days on Mars and The Martian here to replicate the Red Planet on Earth. The BBC documentary The Face follows two British climbers who pioneered routes in the canyons.

Wadi Rum is a short detour from the Desert Highway between Amman and Aqaba. A side road, 1 40 km north of Aqaba, leads 21 km to the entrance where you will find the 2 Wadi Rum Visitors Centre, a police office and a lot of potential guides offering camel, 4x4 treks and camps. The cost to enter the Wadi Rum Protected Area is JOD5 per person.

Most buses that travel the highway between Aqaba and Petra/Amman should be able to drop you at the intersection to Wadi Rum, except the buses from Jett company. Once at the intersection, you can hitch hike (common in this part of Jordan, no problem for women alone even) or take another minibus (JOD1-2, they seem to turn up quite regularly) to the Visitor's Centre where you can meet your guide or continue hitchhiking to 3 Wadi Rum Village (another 7 km). This final leg of the trip shouldn't cost more than JOD1-3 per person.

Avoid the scammers in Petra who try to take you for a tour in the desert north to Wadi Rum for JOD80. Ask specifically which sites they visit and whether it's in the reserve or not (there are no such things as "Rum 1" and "Rum 2"). Having said that, some tourists are lodged outside of Wadi Rum, e.g. Disah, for more luxurious accommodation. The desert tours however will be the same as the one from the camps within Wadi Rum.
From Aqaba

You can get to Wadi Rum by catching any bus/minibus (JOD1-3) from the Aqaba bus station headed to Amman, Ma'an, or Petra and get off at the Wadi Rum turnoff. The turnoff is well-marked on the highway to Amman, about 40 km out of Aqaba. The buses run north every hour from 7am-3pm, but another company (Afana) operates them until 10pm, perhaps at a slightly higher cost, however.

The Trust buses departs from its own stations, but basically all the other buses (including minibuses) depart from the main Aqaba bus station.

There is usually at least one direct bus from Aqaba to the Wadi Rum Visitor's Centre and the Wadi Rum Village per day. Be careful though if you plan to go to Wadi Rum on a Friday - it is very possible that these buses are not running (you should ideally go to the Bus Station and ask the drivers the day before). These buses: 1) leave 2-3 times per day during the high season (Spring and Autumn). The last regular bus leaves at 13:00 (or possibly 15:00, according to this and this , but don't count on it). 2) leave once per day during the low season (summer and winter). There is a daily minibus from Wadi Rum Village to Aqaba that leaves at 06:30 (or 07:30 - as of 2011 there is some disagreement), and this returns to Wadi Rum when it is full or the driver feels like it. The minibus journey should cost around JOD3 per person.

A private taxi from Aqaba will cost you JOD25-35 depending on where you are in the city (though JOD30 is the price almost universally quote to tourists, and you may be hard-pressed to get most of them down even to JOD25), and will take you to the Visitor's Centre. If you decide to make round trip you can arrange with taxi driver to wait for you at Visitor's Centre for 3-4 hours and take back. It will cost 40JD. Taxi drivers usually suggest to take you there at 1pm and take back after sunset. Taxis from the Israeli border cost around JOD35.
From Petra

rum 7There is currently one bus per day from Wadi Musa (Petra) that leaves at 06:00 and costs JOD7. The trip generally takes 1.5 h and tickets should be booked through your hotel at Petra, it will then collect you from your hotel directly in the morning. The bus stops at the Visitor's Centre and Rum Village and returns to Wadi Musa for visitors travelling on to Petra (departure at 8 or 9am).

Taxis to and from Petra cost JOD30-35.

A tour including a taxi ride from Petra, 4 hours in Wadi Rum, not including the JOD5/person entrance fee, and a taxi ride to the Israeli border cost JOD130.
From Amman
No bus goes directly to/from Amman, but regular buses head towards Aqaba or Ma'an. Again, you can get off at the Wadi Rum Intersection (see above). Expect to pay not more than JOD12, usually only JOD7. Service taxis will also stop here for you and are generally quicker than the buses, although be aware that this is not a private taxi, so it will pick up other passengers and make detours as the other passengers require. Service taxis should cost JOD15-25 per person.

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