This excerpt from Make The Most Of Your Time On Earth sees one intrepid Rough Guides writer experience a night to remember…
My Bedouin guide settled forward over his ribaba, a simple traditional stringed instrument. As he drew the bow to and fro, the mournful, reedy music seemed to fill the cool night air, echoing back off the cliff soaring above us. The fire threw dancing shadows across the sand. A billion stars looked down.
“Bedouin” means desert-dweller. It’s a cultural term: Bedouin today, whether they live in the desert or not (many are settled urban professionals), retain a strong sense of identity with their ancestral tribe. You’ll find this desert culture across the Middle East, but to get a feel for its origins you need to travel into its homeland – which is why I’d come to southern Jordan, specifically Wadi Rum.
Here, the dunes and desert vistas form one of the classic landscapes of the Middle East – the backdrop for the movie Lawrence of Arabia. Granite and sandstone mountains rise up to 800m sheer from the desert floor. The heat during the day is intense: with no shade, temperatures down on the shimmering sand soar. Views stretch for tens of kilometres; the silence and sense of limitless space are awe-inspiring.
I’d come to spend a night camping. Camels were available as transport, but I’d opted instead for a jeep ride. Bumping out into the deep desert, we headed for camp: a distinctive Bedouin “house of hair” – a long, low tent hand-woven from dark goats’ hair and pitched in the sands – would serve as quarters for the night.
As blissful evening coolness descended, the sun set over the desert in a spectacular show of light and colour, and the clarity of the unpolluted air produced a starry sky of stunning beauty.
Wadi Rum lies 300km south of Amman. The best online resource is www.jordanjubilee.com.