Jordan’s Ancient Desert – Wadi Rum

August 25, 2019
Posted in wadi rum
August 25, 2019 Beduin Guide

Jordan’s Ancient Desert – Wadi Rum

wadi rum bedouin desert camp jordan

Wadi Rum (Arabic: وادي رم ) is a protected wilderness area, situated in the far south of Jordan. It set on a high plateau at the western edge of the Arabian desert.

It is a desert valley cut into sandstone and granite mountains, it features a varied landscape of narrow canyons, towering cliffs, natural arches, inscriptions, rock carvings and archaeological remains. Wadi Rum offered the easiest passage through the area for nomadic Bedouin and trading caravans en route to or from the Arabian Peninsula.

Wadi Rum Protected Area was established in 1997 and named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2011.




Wadi Rum has been inhabited by many human cultures since prehistoric times, including the Nabataeans. These human cultures left their mark in the form of petroglyphs, inscriptions and archaeological remains. Petroglyphs, representing humans and animals, are engraved on boulders, stones and cliff faces. Numerous inscriptions in different North-Arabian scripts, Thamudic, Nabatean, Islamic and Arabic, testify to the very early emergence of alphabets from iconic representations, and widespread literacy around pastoral societies in the Arabian Peninsula.

In the West, Wadi Rum may be best known for its connection with British officer T.E. Lawrence, who passed through several times during the Arab Revolt of 1917-18.




Wadi Rum is the product of millions of years of geological processes. The continual uplift, tectonic faulting, weathering and erosion have transformed the mountains of Wadi Rum into what we see today. Since early times, the natural landscape of Wadi Rum was the main source of life for Bedouins and their large herds of livestock. The only year-round water sources for the locals were the springs along the eastern face of Jabal Rum and thus the development of the current village at Rum. The highest elevation in Jordan is Jabal Umm Ad Dami at 1,840 m high, located in the south of the Protected Area, near the border with Saudi Arabia. On a clear day from top, it is possible to see the mountains in Sinai, Egypt, the Red Sea and the Saudi border. Jebel Rum and Jebel Um Ishrin are second and third tallest peaks in Jordan, they are located on either side of Wadi Rum Village.




Bedouin are traditionally nomadic tribes living in the desert. Bedouin (Arabic: بَدْو‎), comes from the Arabic word badawī which translates to ‘desert dwellers’. The Jordanian Bedouin are an ancient population that for generations have preserved their local customs. Many still live a nomadic life but more are becoming semi-nomadic adapting to modernity, settled near schools and water resources, many still raising goats, sheep and camels.

Bedouin are most famous for their hospitality and welcoming nature. Guest would be greeted with utmost respect, and likely to be welcomed with food such as lamb cooked whole and served with rice or bread, dates and coffee. In the past, even an enemy would have been fed and given shelter for some days.

Wadi Rum is home to Bedouin of the Zalabieh tribe. Until the recent increase in tourism they led nomadic lives, relying on their animal herds. They are largely responsible for developing Wadi Rum as a tourist destination, providing authentic desert experiences. They operate many of the jeep and camel tours, working as guides, trekkers and climbers. They are modest, resourceful people, they don’t have many possessions other than essential items to thrive in the desert and live comfortably with nature. The village of Wadi Rum consists of several hundred inhabitants with their concrete homes, goat-hair tents, one school for boys and one school for girls, medical centre, a fews shops and restaurants.

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