A night in the Wadi Rum desert

Cool nights, a clear starlit sky and silence all around. That’s how a night in the Wadi Rum desert in Jordan is like.  Not to mention the candles, the delicious food, the music and the dancing! 

No desert has ever left a bigger impression on me than the Wadi Rum in Jordan. The various sandstone rock formations, the impressive peaks and narrow gorges, the spectacular shades of red that change in depth and brightness in the sunlight, camel caravans crossing the open plains in the distance and the eco camps that pop up now and then, neatly tucked away between the rocks. I had visited the Wadi Rum about a decade ago and since then I always wondered what it would be like the spend a night in one of those desert camps. Thanks to an invitation of the Aqaba tourism board and the trip to Jordan I made with them in November I can finally cross that off my bucket list – but I won’t. It stays on the list in the hopes of experiencing it again in the future – that’s how much I enjoyed this night.

Desert drive

The adventure starts with a memorable ride in a pickup truck fitted with benches in the cargo area so we could all enjoy the views in open air. For sure one of my favorite activities to do in the desert: driving off road in the sand at a decent speed while the wind plays with your hair and your eyes are drawn from one spectacular landscape to another. Joy guaranteed! Even though it wasn’t a real desert safari (we drove from the visitor centre to the desert camp where we would spend the night), it’s still worth every minute.

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The Wadi Rum visitor centre with the famous ‘Seven Pillars of Wisdom’ rock in the back.

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Our tour guide Mamoun Mousa Alfarajat – firm but knowledgeable

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Desert sunset

On our way to the Rayaheb Desert Camp – our home for the night – we made a stop to catch the sunset. The guides really know all the best spots! Unfortunately the sunset itself wasn’t quite the spectacle we had hoped for due to the cloudy weather but in all honesty though, there are worse places to watch a sunset on a foggy November night, right? Clouds or no clouds, the colors and shapes of your surroundings are constantly changing nonetheless. It’s absolutely magnificent, I promise.

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The Rahayeb Desert Camp

It’s just a short drive by 4WD from the visitor centre to the location of the Rahayeb Desert camp (I could have stayed in that truck for hours), but because of its location, surrounded by high walls of sandstone cliffs, you still feel like you’re far from the civilized world and all alone in the middle of the vast desert. The camp is especially beautiful at night when the lights and the candles are lit.

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Bedouin style dinner

So what’s for dinner at a desert camp? You’ll get a taste of traditional Jordanian food in buffet style, with a large tent serving as a restaurant. On the menu: rice and lots of vegetables and salad, hummus,yoghurt, baba ghanoush, markook or shrak bread that is baked on the spot on a domed griddle (also called ‘saj’) and different kinds of meat, cooked in an underground oven (don’t ask me too much about the meat, I’m a vegetarian!). During dinner, Arabic music was played with the speakers cranked up to ear-splitting levels but you know what? It did fit the atmosphere and it even made us try Dabkeh, Arab folk dance. Here’s a taste of the music:

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Shrak bread baked on a domed griddle

As for the night itself: I was worried I might be too cold, but I can now safely say that temperatures in November are quite comfortable in the Wadi Rum, both inside (extra blankets!) and outside my tent (lovely fireplace!). Right after dinner and before bedtime, we were all invited to sit near the fire. The lights were dimmed for a few minutes in order to enjoy the starlit sky. The clouds were still there , but it was still a magical moment with everyone is silently looking up.

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The camp the next morning

Some final tips

  • Take a flashlight
  • If you can’t seperate from your phone or other electronics, take a power bank. The electricity is shut off around 11pm until early morning.
  • The Wadi Rum is nicknamed the Valley of the moon for good reason; the nights here can be stunning. If the moon is bright/full, consider a moonlight walk!
  • Try walking barefeet in the desert. The texture of the sand is like a natural scrub for your feet and the sand is no where near as hot as I imagined it would be.
  • For a multiple hour desert safari you can rent a 4WD or book a Bedouin guide to drive you around (can be done at the visitor centre). Or you can book a safari via the desert camp that you’re staying at.

Getting there

The city of Aqaba in the south of Jordan is an ideal starting point to explore the country. The Wadi Rum is less than an hour drive away and the road is a joy on own! You can book a camp directly online or via the visitor centre once you’re there.

The Rahayeb desert camp