Wadi Rum is located between Petra in the north and the Gulf of Aqaba in the south of Jordan. A wadi is a river or valley that is dry most of the time and only carries water after heavy rainfall. The name rum most likely refers to Rome because an important trade route to the Roman Empire led through this valley. Wadi Rum became famous through the British officer Thomas Lawrence, who carried out attacks on the Turkish railway line during World War I and instigated a rebellion. His life was filmed as Lawrence of Arabia. The red rocks of Wadi Rum also served as a backdrop for many other films such as Star Wars, Red Planet, The Martian and Dune.
Wadi Rum was formed by geological faults about 30 million years ago. This created a large valley that, through erosion, turned into a spectacular landscape. The upper part of the mountains consists of red sandstone, which stands on solid granite. The porous sandstone allows water to seep away, which comes to light as a source at the transition between the two types of rock. These springs lie above the desert floor and have washed canyons into the rock over time. These sources made it possible for the Wadi Rum to be settled as early as the Neolithic Age. Wadi Rum was declared a World Cultural and Natural Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2011. In the south, the red desert borders on Saudi Arabia.
In the visitor center of the Wadi Rum you can get information about tours through the red desert. However, it is better to reserve a tour in advance. Many hotels in Jordan and Eilat (Israel) work with providers and can book tours through Wadi Rum. The desert valley belongs to a Bedouin tribe from Wadi Rum village, this is where most tour operators are based. Below is a link to the Wadi Rum visitor center. On organized tours, visitors are usually driven through the desert in open jeeps. The Bedouins, however, prefer air-conditioned SUVs.
If you want to get to know Wadi Rum, you should definitely stay in a Bedouin tent. Most tours offer this type of overnight stay. In the desert it gets relatively cold at night and you can warm around the campfire. It's good to have a sweater and long trousers with you.
The sunrises and sunsets are particularly beautiful at Wadi Rum. The red rock walls begin to glow and offer a beautiful play of colors. The night sky can be seen very well here, as there are hardly any clouds and little artificial light.
Other sights in Wadi Rum include the stone bridges. The Um Frauth Rock Bridge is the best known. Brave tourists climb the stone bridges to pose for photos.
There are many gorges in Wadi Rum through which water gushes in winter when it rains. In the summer months, the streams carry very little water or are completely dry. The canyons worth seeing include the Abu Khashaba Canyon and the Burrah Canyon.
The spring water in the gorges made it possible to colonize this hostile environment. Rock carvings from the Neolithic Age (10,000 - 6,000 BC) are testimony to the first people who lived in the Wadi Rum desert.