Running up the Sand Dunes

Wadi Rum Travel Blog

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Yesterday we crossed into Jordan. While the day was painfully slow (waiting for immigration and the ferry across the Gulf of Aqaba), it does feel amazing to now be in a place with such history, in the Arabian peninsular, the very cradle of civilisation. Jordan saw the rise and fall of all the great empires, first the various Persian and Mesopotamian empires that fluctuated across Arabia, then the Greek empire, after Jordan was conquered by Alexander the Great in 333 BCE. When Alexander the Great died his wife was pregnant. His generals got together to discuss the fate of his empire, and decided to wait to see if the child was a boy or girl. A boy would get the empire intact, a girl and the generals would split it between them. Ptolemy, the general who took Egypt once the daughter was born also took Jordan. The Jordan region was later ruled by the Persian Seleucids and Sassanians before the Turkish Byzantines took over, and was then conquered by Islamic empires in 7thcentury, first the Umayyad Empire, then the Abbasids, Fatimids and Seljuk Turks (in 1037 CE). The region was captured in 1099 during Pope Urban II’s Crusades, and recaptured in the 12thcentury by Nur ad-Din, Saladin and the Mamluks. Jordan was ruled by the Ottoman Turks from 1516 until WWI, where the Turks fought with Germany, prompting England to send Lawrence of Arabia to convince the Arabs to rise up against the Turks on the promise of independence after the war. They did, but England broke the promise, and ruled Transjordan as a League of Nations colony until after WWII, when it finally became independent.

Wadi Rum

Last night was painful with a cold desert camp and an ear-nose-throat infection, but I got to wake up in the Wadi Rum, the desert valley where Lawrence of Arabia was based. He got first class Honours for his thesis on Crusader Architecture. This morning was spent on a jeep safari across the Wadi Rum. The desert is a yellow sandy desert between barren mountains, but the unusually heavy rains recently have caused startlingly bright green plants to blossom from the sand. When the hills roll just so, the plants line up and the desert looks beautiful and green.

We drove to a cleft in a mountain crag, squeezed in through the siq and found a 2500 year-old Persian map carved into a stone table, outlining water pools and tracks through the desert. We then drove through to see some natural rock bridges, Wadak Rock Bridge, Umm Fruth Rock Bridge and Burdah Rock Bridge, which I looked at and Michelle climbed. We saw a few camels, and some normadic Bedouin with herds of goats. There was much for the goats to eat right now, with the rains, and they have some very clever ways to survive the dry years. One of the mountains we saw rising out of the desert contained an 18m deep stone well, craved straight into the mountain. The entire mountain was then landscaped with funnels and walls to divert all rainflow into the well. I walked up and down a tall sand dune (very tough), Hudson would be proud of Michelle for following the Wiggles advice and running up and then rolling down the sand dune.

Petra tomorrow :)

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Wadi Rum
photo by: vances