By Antonio Malara
This post about Wadi Rum starts where the one about “Petra” ends. As for the previous posts about Jordan, I recommend reading above all "Amman" in order to better understand the facts and people involved in this beautiful adventure. Together with Petra, Wadi Rum was very important to me because it was one of the reasons that pushed me to visit this beautiful land. In fact, Wadi Rum is one of the most beautiful deserts that exists in the world, I knew its unique landscape thanks to the famous sequences of "Lawrence of Arabia". I have always been fascinated by the desert and it was a kind of scenario that I had never seen before so I was very motivated to realize this dream that I had since childhood.
We left Petra around 1 PM and once on the bus we ate there thanks to the lunch that had been prepared for us by the hotel staff that morning. Our destination was the Wadi Musa area and personally I didn’t know in detail where and how we would move, I only knew that we had to see the desert. Before 3 PM we stopped to make a break on the road between Maan and El Quweira and there we began to see the first change in the landscape. To be exact, the point where we stopped was still influenced by some glimpses of green in the middle of a scenario still dominated by yellow land. But from there we began to see the typical jagged mountains of Wadi Rum in the distance, the show was certainly impressive but the presence of large electric pylons gave a strange contrast to the landscape. After the break we traveled for about an hour and at 4 PM we arrived in a place that was definitely the desert. Even the bus pitch was unpaved, all around it was an immense plain of thin yellow sand and in the distance we could see the typical mountains seen in “Lawrence of Arabia”. Those jagged mountains resembled giant reptile backs, it seemed that huge animals were underground leaving their backs out of the sand, at least this was the effect they had on me, especially from a distance. There we made the acquaintance with several young local guys, they were the drivers who would take us around on board the pick ups to let us explore the whole area. I had bought a keffiyeh and one of those young guy helped me to wear it correctly, it should have protected me from the desert sand and if worn in the right way it would have left only my eyes uncovered.
We formed groups of six people, in fact many were those who entered the seats mounted in the back of those Toyota pickups, some new but all the others very old. We started like this, totally exposed to the wind and sand, personally I sat on one of the worst pick-ups but it was not important, in fact it was just how I liked it; rough and unprotected! What is formed by nature can never be linear and coherent, and what looked like a plain quickly turned out to be its opposite. Immediately after the departure, in fact, the journey was a continuous series of bumps, dunes and irregularities that made the vehicle jump, which by now had no type of suspension. Initially I was caught off guard because I could not have an optimal position to enjoy the view and document it with photos. However, after a while I got used to the jolts and what initially seemed like a bad thing, turned into a unique fun. In fact, once we got used to it, that up and down was like a carousel, not only me but also the others were looking for the jolts and that feeling of emptiness made us laugh. All this in that very particular landscape context was truly a fantastic experience. The feeling of depth of space that was perceived there was unique, the vast plain and low mountains in the distance made us better perceive the grandeur of space, like certain cloud formations that can be seen when we fly by plane. Along the way there were also quieter routes and there was certainly no more beautiful and fun way to visit that vastness, I don't think it was possible to do a walking tour. That safari was beginning to be too much fun, especially thanks to the drivers who, not taking into account that some of them transported older people, overtook each other as if in a race, making everything very electrifying.
At around 4:30 PM, after an infinite number of jolts, we stopped in a refreshment area, in reality it was a point where there were only essential bathrooms. Before using them Don Valerio at the suggestion of the locals, he recommended us not to waste the water that was scarce there and therefore very important. This area was also where there was the "classic" desert, I’m referring to the high sand dunes that were all around. With my sister we also took advantage of that stop to take two photos with that landscape as a background, the one that represented the cliché of the desert in general. We didn't stay there long, in fact we left immediately after about ten minutes. Back on board the pick-ups, we set off running towards a new destination. After a while on the road we approached one of the mountains-backs that previously could be seen in the distance. Running alongside the mountains gave a more terrestrial sense to the safari, in fact before the landscape was totally alien while with the nearby mountains there was a more common element, something known. I had a great desire to immortalize those scenes that I photographed and took pictures despite the continuous jolts, after about twenty minutes of this type of race we arrived at a new destination. After parking the pick-ups in the middle of two mountains, we climbed one of them, a short and not particularly difficult route. The top of this hill where we climbed was a long rocky platform, wide but which ended in a pointed and overhanging canyon, right in the direction of the horizon. The view from the edge was beautiful, we were in the middle of two mountains that formed a sort of “V” and on the horizon we could see the desert and beyond it other typical jagged mountains. It was like looking out the window, only there we were between two mountains and hovering over a small triangle of rock with the void below us. Once again, as was the custom in Jordan, I had found another authentic and natural setting, I liked that place so much that with my sister we took dozens of photos. That glimpse has always remained inside me and impressed in my memory. A singular, unusual, unique place!
At 5 PM we got back on board our jeeps and shortly after we stopped at another refreshment area. This was a point where there were bazaar-tents where local people sold typical souvenirs. This time the stop was not only dedicated to rest but also to leisure and to help the local economy by purchasing some peculiarities of the place. But since my thirst for discovery was endless, I moved just outside the area where there was a huge mountain of fine sand that rose until it was lost with the mountains. I invited my sister there and together with her, we also immortalized that truly singular glimpse of it. My desire was to climb up to the top of the sand mountain, where the real mountain began, but unfortunately I didn't have the time. In all, we stayed there for about half an hour, after which we got back into the jeeps and left for a new destination.
At 5:40 PM we arrived in a large space that was downstream of two large mountains, an indescribable landscape that increased in beauty once we reached the top of another small desert hill. There Don Valerio called everyone to gather and began to tell an evangelical story that had the desert as its theme. After the lesson of Machaerus I had begun to love Don Valerio's stories but that afternoon I was too busy with that unique place. While he was talking I wandered around, taking pictures and playing with the fine sand so I listened to him in the background but I could not perceive his parable on the desert. After finishing with the story, Don Valerio said to separate us and to go and find a place each on his behalf and perform the ten minutes of silence. The space there was infinite and each separated from the other mostly by exploiting the width of the place. I, on the other hand, climbed the rocky mountain that was above the sand hill, from there there was another beautiful view in any direction I looked. From my position I could see every single person in the group, that surreal situation of people meditating in a desert context and without any sign of life except for the wind, in that huge space where the distant mountains made one perceive the infinite depth, it was something unique. Before starting with silence, I couldn't resist documenting that incredible situation with photos and videos, then I lay down on the sand and started meditating too. The experience was something that I cannot describe, it was true peace, infinity with just the breath of the wind, something that I have not experienced anymore since then, probably the feeling was strongly influenced by the place.
At the end of the meditation I further explored the top of the mountain where I was standing. The view from there was so beautiful and photogenic that I invited my sister to go up to where I was. From the top we took a lot of photos together, both of ourselves and of the view and in all directions. After a while my sister joined the others who were at the bottom but I honestly couldn't get away from the top of the mountain. I made a long video to document it in detail and I really wanted to stay there as long as possible. That had become my kingdom and there was only me and nothing. I don't know if that feeling was born from the meditation suggested by Don Valerio but there I understood that unconsciously my real nature is to be alone, in every sense. The feeling of peace and freedom where nothing can happen. There I reached an awareness of myself that I didn’t have before; nature, represented only by sand, some mountains and the wind was the only living thing besides me and at that moment it was enough.
We left when it was already dark, inside of me I was a bit sad to leave that place that had made me understand something more about myself. After about half an hour we reached the camp where we would have dinner under the tents. Immediately after arrival we witnessed a particular procedure for cooking food. It was a sort of oven but placed underground, the show was quite spectacular and long, honestly I don't remember the name or what kind of food was cooked that way. The evening at the camp passed in a pleasant way, we dined practically sitting on the ground under the tent, another experience that I had never had before. That dinner had been the final prize of a very long day, which began early in the morning with the visit to Petra and ended in the desert. This place for which I had waited so long had given me not only the sight of unique scenarios but also a new awareness of myself. There is a text from an Italian song that says "days like this should never end". It's amazing how many things can be done on certain days like the one I had experienced that day. The discovery of unique and enchanting places and a new self-awareness. I always think about it, especially when on a typical day I think I don't have enough time to do things. It is not the time but the will, with it you can get anywhere and make a single day lasting forever.
Pictures: Antonio Malara
Camera: Nikon D800