Friday 19 April 2013

Wadi Rum!

It is morning in Wadi Rum. Managed to get up at 0530 or so to catch the sunrise. It began to be bright at 0500, but the sun came up only at 0630 or so.

Yesterday: a late-ish breakfast, then to the border, which was okay, better than the Jericho crossing, but it took time all the same. Then to Wadi Rum.
The Seven Pillars of Wisdom - name given by Lawrence of Arabia to this formation, and eventually to his book
What remains of Lawrence's house

An Italian L of A

And a Canadian version

Long walk to lunch - 'restaurant' at the foot of that faraway hill

Thamudic drawings and inscriptions... 

Arch inhabited by STS students 

preparing for a desert dinner

Modern Bedouin village in Wadi Rum

We had 2 buses and 2 guides. Wadi Rum turned out to be better than I expected. It is huge, and impressive. The spaces are enormous, and the sensation of time standing still. The formations are extraordinary, and somewhat familiar, having been the site of several Hollywood movies, among which The Red Planet, according to our students. Most of our time was spent walking from a Bedouin village to the foot of a hill, where we had a very informal and vegetarian lunch. Then in jeeps, 8 of them, seeing this and that, among which also the ruins of the house of Lawrence of Arabia. Our guide said they were no longer sure whether Lawrence was used by the British, or whether he knew well what was going on the fact is that he never returned to the Wadi, changed his name, disappeared, and died in a motorcycle accident.

By about 1830 to the camp. The sunset. Then mass with evening prayer, and dinner. Chicken and mutton and potatoes cooked under the sand. Then some singing and dancing, and then bed. With all the snoring on several sides, some late night singing, and the cold (6 degrees in the morning!) it was still quite wonderful. I got up thrice in the night, the second time was truly spectacular: thousands of stars, perhaps also the Milky Way.

Some information about Wadi Rum.

  • It has been inhabited since Prehistoric times, mainly the Neolithic (8th to 6th c. BC). 
  • Recent excavations have uncovered a Chalcolithic settlement dating from 4,500 BC.
  • Fresh water springs made it a meeting centre for caravans between Arabia and Palestine / Syria.
  • Before Islam, it was the meeting place for the tribes of Ad, Thamud, Lihyan and Main. Thamudic inscriptions are found throughout the Wadi.
  • These were replaced in time by the Nabateans, who surpassed them all in trade and monuments.
  • At the foot of Jabal Rum lies the Allat temple, originally built by the Ads, and later remodelled by the Nabateans (1st c. BC)
  • Wadi Rum was the headquarters of Prince Faisal bin Al-Hussein and T.E. Lawrence during World War I, fighting against the Ottoman Empire. Lawrence made his home in this magical area. Ain Asshallaleh, also known as Lawrence's Spring, is a short walk up the hill from the Nabatean temple. The mountain known as the Seven Pillars of Wisdom was named by Lawrence, and was the inspiration for the title of his book.
  • Nowadays, several Bedouin tribes inhabit the Wadi, the most prominent being the Howeitat. While most have turned to tourism as an occupation, some still live in the traditional way, moving from grazing area to grazing area with their tents and sheep, goats and camels. 

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