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Wadi Rum Desert, Jordan

Visiting Jordan

Before I launch into my adventures in the Wadi Rum desert, just a few quick notes on visiting Jordan. Firstly it is worth considering buying a Jordan Pass.  The tour company advised me to buy the Jordan Wanderer Pass which waives the visa entry fee to Jordan, covers a one day visit to Petra and covers the entry fees of numerous other attractions. It costs 70JOD (approx $99USD) which is expensive, but is actually worth the money. It’s new to Jordan, so make sure you print out your copy and always keep it on you, together with your passport.

Wadi Rum Desert - photo by KeraThe Jordanian currency is very strong and with the turmoil in the Middle East they seem to have very few tourists visiting. As a result, prices can be obscene and it feels like they are trying to get every possible penny out of you! Despite the crazy costs of many things, eating locally is actually incredibly affordable. I mostly eat for under 2JOD per meal, but you could easily pay up to 20JOD depending on where you go. You are also expected to tip for any kind of service.

Even though the locals want all your money and can sometimes hassle you a little, I did find them all to be very friendly and mostly respectful when you say “No Thankyou” or “Shukran” with a wave of the hand to indicate “no”.

Wadi Rum Desert

The Wadi Rum desert is often referred to as the Valley of the Moon due to it’s moon-like landscape. Fittingly it is also where parts of the movie The Martian were filmed.

The Bedouin clanThe term Wadi actually translates to Valley and Rum stems from the word rum which refers to the tribe who inhabited the region for a long time. Over the years erum got shortened to rum. Though wikipedia implies that it may have an Aramaic root meaning “high” or elevated”.

The desert became popular for tourists as it was seen as a great location for rock climbing and bird watching. I assume it remains popular for these reasons, in addition to the gorgeous natural rock formations in the area.

I spent one night in the Wadi Rum desert, staying in a tent/hut in the Hillawi Camp. As it is low season, and with the tourist issue previously mentioned my tour buddy and I were the only two guests at the camp, the staff were incredibly friendly and helpful throughout our visit. For dinner a bus loads of Jordanians joined us for a traditional Bedouin meal, music and dancing. This made the evening rather entertaining.

I did two activities in the Wadi Rum, a Camel Ride and a Jeep Safari.

Panoramas at sunset

Camel Riding for Sunset

Abdullah and his CamelsAt around 4:30 in the afternoon Abdullah the camel rider turned up at our camp with a small caravan of camels. We hopped on up and off we wandered into the desert. Abdullah taught me a new, and more comfortable way to ride a camel. Rather than sitting with a leg either side, as you would when horse riding, sit cross legged. It is much more comfortable.

The camel driver Abdullah was an absolute hoot!! We walked through the sands, took photos of ourselves on the camels and of the beautiful environment around us.

Camel ridingSuddenly with the cry “Yalla! Yalla” (Let’s Go!!!) we were trotting along in a rather ungainly fashion on our camels. It was hilarious!!! For all those women out there reading this, if you go camel riding and think there might be a chance of travelling faster than a slow walk, wear a sports bra!

As the sun dropped we “parked’ our camels by a mountainous rock and climbed up for a good view of the sunset. The rocks were lit up a fiery red and while the sunset wasn’t a huge array of colours it was simply magical. After some entertaining sunset photography we headed back to our camels for some more laughs before dinner time at the camp.

Cost: 15JOD

Sunset Fun in the desert

Jeep Safari

Promptly at 9am our jeep driver Akram turned up at the camp to take us on a jeep safari into the desert. Jeep safari’s in the desert are mostly driving with a few stops.

A natural bridge in the wadi Rum DesertWe sat on the back of the ‘jeep’ and enjoyed the wind whipping through our hair and the golden red/orange glow of the sand and rocks around us.

The desert scenery was spectacular. I was throughly surprised at how much vegetation there was when I had expected to see none. There were even sea’s of little purple flowers.

We made a stop at some ancient inscriptions on the rock walls, Lawrence’s house, a natural bridge, some sand dunes and some spectacular view points. Along the way we also made two stops for tea in Bedouin huts. Also learning how to tie a headdress/scarf like a true Bedouin. While I didn’t feel like we actually saw much of what the Wadi Rum has to offer, I certainly had a spectacularly fun time seeing the bits I saw!


Cairo, Egypt

My trip to Egypt was part of a Travel Talk tour of Egypt & Jordan. Within Egypt there were four main places we visited, Cairo, Luxor, Aswan and Dahab. Egypt has a population of around 91 million, approximately 22 million of who live in Cairo.

The streets and markets of CairoOn arrival in Cairo I was met by the Travel Talk driver Baseem, who helped me with the arrival visa and security. Before entering the security line, on the right are some banks where you pay US$25 to buy a single entry visa. You stick the visa sticker on a blank page, which gets stamped as you pass through security.

Out on the roads, I was unsurprised to discover that Cairo roads are absolute mayhem. You duck and weave between cars and trucks, tooting the horn to prevent being side swiped by another vehicle. There is always one more lane of cars than marked lanes on the road. People occasionally pull over on an outer lane of the highway to wash their car or chat to someone else. Motorcyclists plow through the mess without care for helmets or any kind of safety. Pedestrians run across the highway at random, even mothers with babies seem to have no fear running across multiple lanes of crazy traffic. It was an interesting welcome to Cairo.

Cairo, Giza and New Cairo are all parts of greater Cairo. Cairo and Giza are the two main areas visited by tourists, and the Nile River separates them.

On day one the tour guide Mega introduced himself to the group and with great enthusiasm and love for his country and history he took us on our Egyptian adventure.

The Pyramids of Giza

As most people are aware the Ancient Egyptians believed in reincarnation and that they worshipped many gods including the sun. The concept of reincarnation comes from the sun as it rises (is born) every morning in the east and it ‘dies’ at the end of every day in the west, to rise again the next day. For this reason, all tombs are built on the West Bank of the Nile, the body is buried on the West, so that it may rise again in the East. In alignment with this belief all pyramids were built on the West Bank of the Nile. For those that haven’t established the link, all pyramids are the tombs of Kings.

Camel Riding at the Pyramids of GizaIt is not part of the pyramids of Giza complex, but the first pyramid we visited was Sakkara. There are several pyramids in the complex. The most famous one is the Pyramid of Djoser. Djoser has a stepped construction and was one of the first pyramids ever constructed.

Within the Pyramids of Giza complex are also several pyramids, though the design is more refined and doesn’t display the stepped construction seen at Sakkara. Some of the pyramids show the remains of a smooth rendering over the top of the construction.

Great Pyramid of CheopsThe Great Pyramid of Cheops is the largest of all the pyramids, with a height of approximately 149 metres. It is one of the original Seven Wonders of the World, and was the world’s tallest construction until the Eiffel Tower was built. King Cheops was one of the most loved Kings of ancient Egypt and to the people of Egypt it seems fitting that he is celebrated with such a magnificent monument.

The other pyramids in the area belong to Cheops’ family members, son, wife and sister. The famous Sphinx guards the area. The Sphinx has a construction of a lion’s body with the head of a man. The head of a man represents wisdom and the body of a lion, representative of strength or power.

The site is spectacular to visit. It is so challenging to understand how people in ancient times were able to build such immense structures. I felt awed to be a witness to such creativity and display of ingenuity.

In addition to wandering around the complex, I enjoyed a short camel ride around the site, to get some fun photos!

Cost of Sakkara and Giza: 160EGP
Cost of Camel Ride: 50EGP (from memory)

Pyramids of Giza

Cairo Museum

A sarcophagusCairo Museum is certainly worth a visit to see many ancient Egyptian artifacts. Many of the treasures found in the tomb of Tutankhamen can be viewed here. You can also see the mummified bodies of many of Egypt’s great rulers of ancient times, including the most important pharaoh in history Ramses II.

Be aware that if you want to take your camera into the museum you need to pay an additional 50EGP. You can leave the camera in a storage space for free. We were advised it was very secure, but with stories of theft out of safe storage spaces at other sites, we decided against this.

Cost: 85EGP

Mohammed Ali MosqueMohammed Ali Mosque

The Mohammed Ali Mosque is in the old citadel overlooking the city of Cairo. It’s alabaster walls and meticulously designed interior are absolutely gorgeous. While I probably wouldn’t have put it high on my “to see” list, it was a thoroughly enjoyable place to visit.

Cost: 60EGP

Cairo Markets

One of the many Cairo Markets

Around Cairo downtown are many different markets where you can buy souvenirs. I would recommend visiting at least one or two. Be prepared to haggle, but don’t engage in discussion on price unless it is something you are actually willing to buy.

They are some fabulous jewellery stalls which can create rings, bracelets and pendants with a cartouche of your name in hieroglyphics.

Pyramid Light and Sound Show

At the Pyramids of Giza there is a nighttime Light and Sound show. It’s a little bit cheesy, but otherwise fantastic. I did this at the end of my tour and they presented a reasonable summary of the Egyptian history I had learned throughout the tour, which pulled together the information nicely for me.

It was fun to see the pyramids and sphinx lit up with various different colours. If you are on a budget, I would not recommend going, but otherwise it’s quite a bit of fun.

Cost: 170EGP

Pyramids of Gaza Light and Sound Show

Check out my Cairo photos on Flickr

As the wifi in Egypt has been very poor, the album is not yet complete – I will add the remaining Cairo photos as soon as I can.