Our Jordanian tour guide, Mustache — whose real name is Isam — rendezvoused with us at the Captain's Hotel this morning, tearing, I imagine, into one of the made-in-front-of-you omelettes that the chefs were serving up (I know I did). Isam is privy to vast amounts of knowledge regarding the history of the Kingdom of Jordan; it spills from his lips and over the speaker system on the tour bus during our rides along the desert highways, much to the chagrin of those of us who would prefer to catch up on some sleep while we are traveling.
Even as a fan of all things historical, I am, admittedly, among that camp of individuals more often than not. But this is not a bitching session about overzealous Middle Eastern tour guides; I would not know where to direct you if you were in search of such a topic. Rather, we are here to recount Day 11's trip to Wadi Rum, a vast valley of sandstone and granite wonder to the east of the city of Aqaba.
Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2011, Wadi Rum is literally the real world incarnation of Star Wars' Outer Rim desert planet, Tatooine: sparsely populated, filled with rock formations and boiling sand, and often with a scorching sun keeping watch over everything. Fortunately, traversing the desert valley by foot was not even entertained as an option. Instead we climbed into the back of pickup trucks — three Toyotas and a Mitsubishi — and held on as some young Bedouin gentlemen drove us about.
Wadi Rum is another location, like Petra, that once was inhabited by the Nabataeans (see: Day 10). Graffiti and rock paintings serve as the ancient people's calling cards. Near one spot where a group of Bedouin were stationed with a caravan of camels, we came across these petroglyphs left behind from hundreds of years ago. Among them were human and animal shapes, all fairly visible on the rock face even after so long.
Another stop saw us to a shaded structure in between two towering rock formations where some Bedouins were selling head scarves and other various paraphernalia. I was tempted to purchase a head scarf, but I left that to Chris — another student — instead. He rocked the thing the rest of the way, whereas I feel like I would have looked a tad ridiculous. There may still be time for me to find one in the next few days if I change my mind. We'll see.
Before arriving at Captain's Desert Camp for a lovely buffet lunch, the trucks had to zip down a slight incline, turning what had been a relatively tame ride through the valley into a roller-coaster-like affair. Flying through the sand was, as the kids say these days, dope. The only casualty was the loss of Jenna's Red Wings hat (hashtag R.I.P. *sad face emoji*), which flew off somewhere between the beginning and the end (it would be pretty difficult for it not to have fallen off in that spectrum) of our short race down the sandy slope.
Lunch beneath a large tent was sublime — save for the pesky flies. A blind man serenaded us in Arabic while playing an oud, accompanied at one point by another man banging on a drum (or some kind of percussive instrument). The lamb and beef kabobs were a wee-bit blackened as I enjoy, and a cool-ish can of Sprite has never tasted so good.
It's off to the Dead Sea tomorrow, so back to Israel we go. Heavens, is it hot right now.