Horse riding through the desert sands is perennially popular, and a handful of guides offer anything from short excursions (roughly JD25/hr) to a full week or more in the saddle exploring far and wide, camping each night. These are not for novices, though; you should have some experience of handling horses before booking. On the drive into Rum you’ll pass signs for the stables of Atallah Sweilhin (t 079 580 2108 or t 077 742 8449, e [email protected]), acknowledged as the leading specialist, contactable through Bait Ali. Atallah also works with French explorer Wilfried Colonna (w desertguides.net). Also check Awad Mohammed (w badiatours.com) and Amman-based guide Hanna Jahshan (w jordanexplorers.com).
If you’re intending to do technical rock-climbing, you should contact one of Rum’s handful of UK-trained mountain guides, all of whom have full equipment and plenty of experience. A few other locals also guide rock climbs; like many Rum bedouin they are naturally competent climbers, and have learnt rope techniques by climbing with experienced visitors. However, Jordan has no system of qualification for mountain guides: staff at the Visitor Centre can put you in touch with someone suitable, but you should establish his experience before agreeing terms. There is an informative leaflet on environmental and safety guidelines, Climbing and Trekking in Wadi Rum Protected Area, available free at the Visitor Centre. For more information and contacts, see w nomadstravel.co.uk, w wadirum.net and w wadiram.userhome.ch.
Hot-air ballooning offers an incomparably romantic way to experience the grandeur of Wadi Rum. You take off – usually at dawn – from near Bait Ali for a serene float over the mountains: an hour’s flight costs JD130 per person (minimum three people). Alternatively you could buzz the sands in an ultralight, an open-air powered glider operated in tandem with a qualified pilot (JD75 for 20min; JD140 for 40min; JD200 for 1hr). Book with Royal Aero Sports Club (t 03 205 8050 or t 079 730 0299, w royalaerosports.com) well in advance.
The locals (and visiting sheikhs) regularly race camels, but generally either at short notice – with no outside promotion – or at hard-to-reach locations. In 2011 a Disi-based entrepreneur launched camel races specifically for tourists to attend. They take place on pre-advertised days six times a year, at a track near Disi. Admission (from a bargain JD10 upwards) gains you a seat in one of the 4×4 cars which drive along beside the camels as they scamper – regrettably just ordinary nags, rather than sleek, pure-bred racing camels. Check schedules and book online through Disi Camel Race (t 077 620 9328, w disicamelrace.com).
New-agey ideas are slowly entering Rum’s tourism profile, with a few guides now hosting one-off desert yoga or meditation sessions. Regular full-moon gatherings are more approachable, featuring a sunset journey to a tranquil corner of the desert outside Disi for a short camel ride, dinner under the stars and stories round the campfire, with the option to sleep in a quiet eco-friendly campsite. It costs JD75/person including dinner, breakfast and overnight, with profits staying within the Disi community. Check schedules and book ahead at w wadirumfullmoongathering.com.