The principal route from Ma’an to Petra (33km) runs from the centre of town across the Desert Highway and through Udhruh. Continuing south from Ma’an on the Desert Highway itself you’ll pass another couple of exits marked for Petra (both of which meet the road from Udhruh just above Ain Musa), and then the Al-Anbat Tourist Complex, another rest stop. Just past here is the final turn-off for Petra, some 33km southwest of Ma’an; this is the start of the so-called “Scenic Road” which runs into Wadi Musa through Rajif and Taybeh.
A few hundred metres further, the Desert Highway reaches the edge of the highland plateau at RAS AN-NAQAB, from where the most stupendous panoramic views over the sandy deserts of the Hisma region suddenly open up in front of you. Pull off, if you can, to savour them.
The highway comes down off Ras an-Naqab before scooting away across the sandy floor of the desert, with the sheer mountains of Rum clearly visible off to the left of the road for much of the way. To the right lie the ruins of Humayma, a Nabatean village that was fortified by the Romans and later used by the Abbasid family to launch their overthrow of the Umayyads; it’s a significant historical site but the ruins are scanty and hard to interpret.
Some 41km from Ras an-Naqab and a little beyond the village of QUWEIRA, a marked left turn at Rashdiyyeh points the way to Wadi Rum.
From here it’s a clear run onwards as the highway threads a twisting path between the mountains, following the Wadi Yitm down towards Aqaba.