This area of Jordan is quite isolated and largely inhospitable to settled life. The only permanent inhabitants are several thousand Bedouin nomads and villagers. There is no real infrastructure, leaving the area quite unspoilt. Apart from the Bedouin goat hair tents, the only structures are a few concrete shops and houses and the fort headquarters of the Desert Patrol Corps.
T E Lawrence (of Arabia) spent a significant amount of time here during the course of the British-inspired Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire during the First World War (1914-1918). Fans of the 1962 film Lawrence of Arabia will be familiar with the landscape, which is not so much sand dunes as it is a mass of soaring cliffs and sandstone and granite mountains (jebel in Arabic).
Wadi Rum seen from Desert Highway
Wadi Rum is a short detour from the Desert Highway between Amman and Aqaba. A side road leads to the entrance where you will find the Wadi Rum Visitors Centre, a police office and a lot of potential guides offering camel and 4x4 treks. The cost to enter into Wadi Rum Protected Area is 5 Jordanian Dinars (JD) per person as of June 2011.
Any bus that travels the highway between Aqaba and Petra should be able to drop you at the intersection to Wadi Rum. Once at the intersection, you can hitch hike (common in this part of Jordan, no problem for women alone even) or take another minibus (they seem to turn up quite regularly) to the Visitor's Centre where you can meet your guide. This final leg of the trip shouldn't cost more than 5JD per person.
Direct buses from Aqaba leave two to three times a day during the high season (Spring and Autumn) - the last regular bus leaves at 1pm. During the low season (summer and winter) it is less regular: there is a daily minibus from Wadi Rum Village to Aqaba that leaves at 6:30am, arriving about 7:30am, and this returns when it is full or the driver feels like it.
However, you can simply jump on any bus headed to Amman, Ma'an or Petra and get off at the Wadi Rum Intersection mentioned above. The minibus journey should cost around 3JD per person.
A private taxi from Aqaba will cost you 15-25JD depending on where you are in the city, but will take you to the Visitor's Centre where your guide will meet you. Taxis from the Israeli border will probably cost 20-25 JD.
There is currently one bus per day from Wadi Musa (Petra) that leaves at 6:30AM and costs 5JD. The trip generally takes 1.5 hours and tickets should be booked through your hotel at Petra, it will then collect you from your hotel directly in the morning. The bus stops at the Visitor's Centre and Rum Village and returns to Wadi Musa for visitors travelling on to Petra.
Taxis to and from Petra cost 25-30JD.
Again you also have the option of taking any bus heading to Aqaba and asking to be dropped at the Wadi Rum Intersection (see above).
No bus goes directly to/from Amman, but regular buses head towards Aqaba or Ma'an. Again, you can get off at the Wadi Rum Intersection (see above). Expect to pay not more than 12JD. Service taxis will also stop here for you and are generally quicker than the buses, although be aware that this is not a private taxi, so it will pick up other passengers and make detours as the other passengers require. Service taxis should cost 15-25 JD per person.
Private vehicles are prohibited past of the village of Wadi Rum. If you want to experience the grandeur that the Wadi has to offer, you will need to hire a guided camel or 4-wheel-drive tour. The costs may vary based on the guide, the length of the trip, and your willingness and ability to bargain. You'd get the best price by contacting the local Bedouin directly. A tour including a taxi ride from Petra, 4 hours in Wadi Rum, not including the 5JD/person entrance fee, and a taxi ride to the Israeli border cost 130JD (April 2011). Not cheap. Avoid the scammers in Petra who try to take you for a tour in the desert north to Wadi Rum for 80JD. Ask specifically which sites they visit and whether it's in the reserve or not (there are no such things as "Rum 1" and "Rum 2").
Umm Fruth Rock Bridge
Lawrence's house: Nobody is certain that this was Lawrence's house, although there are stories that he both stayed and/or stored weapons here. The current structure is built upon the remains of a Nabataean building, however, and it's another beautiful spot in the desert. The house itself is bunch of rubble, though, and not very impressive.
Lawrence's Spring: Just 2km (1.2 miles) south-west of the village of Rum. The spring is at the top of a short scramble - head for the fig tree! Although the pool itself is largely unprepossessing, being a stagnant puddle, the views across the desert are truly spectacular.
The Nabataean Temple: Near the Rest House in Rum Village. The surrounding area is covered in Thamudic and Kufic rock art.
The Anfashieh Inscriptions: Not far from the red Sand Dune area this mountain has depictions of a camel caravan from the Nabatean and Thaumadic period.
Burdah Rock Bridge: On many tours you only view this from a distance, but it is possible to climb up to this rock bridge if you have a guide and a reasonable level of fitness.
Umm Fruth Rock Bridge: A lower rock bridge which is featured on many tours and can be easily scrambled onto.
Red Sand Dunes: There are various places in Wadi Rum where the white and red sands meet, but the most commonly visited is a dune sloping up alongside a jebel - a bit tough to climb up, great fun to run down! It can be difficult ascending those - use small steps.
Seven Pillars of Wisdom: Although most people can only count five, this is an impressive rock formation near the Visitor's centre. It is named after T E Lawrence's book - not the other way around!
Jebel Khaz'ali: This narrow canyon contains numerous Nabataean rock carvings of people and animals. Beautiful.
Red Sand Dune
The genuine attraction of Wadi Rum is the desert itself, best seen by four wheel drive or on camel. Some visitors only spend a few hours in the Wadi, but it's definitely worth taking a guided trip of several days duration, staying overnight in Bedouin camps in the desert.
Picking up a guide at the gate is a hit and miss affair and many of the best guides rely mainly on advance bookings. Many of the guides have websites, through which you can arrange your tour. Some camps/guides include:
Bedouin Adventures, ☎ 00962795127025 (email@example.com), . Specializes in customized desert adventure tours for backpackers and travelers. Camel trekking, hiking and scrambling, and camping under the stars.
Bedouin Directions - Mehedi Saleh, ☎ +962 776886481 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . A genuine young man who specializes in tailor made, hiking, and camping in the wilderness for independent travelers.
Khaled Mohammad Al Zalabia, Wadi Rum, ☎ 00962777540229, . Hiking and walking trips, jeep and camel tours, bedouin camp in the sunset area - perfect English of the guides, glamorous Bedouin team.
Wadi Rum Discovery (Ayesh Zalabani), email@example.com (Jordan), ☎ +962776924937. Camel rides, walking, trekking, hiking, Jeep Tours, 4x4 tours and trips in Wadi Rum Desert in Jordan.
Wadi Rum Full Moon Tours and Camp (Tyseer Mohammed), Wadi Rum, ☎ 00962777946394, . Bedouin camp in the desert, and jeep, camel and hiking tours. The brothers are truly hospitable and have a great sense of humor.
Climbing is another popular activity and a number of guides are also trained climbers. Wadi Rum Rock has details.
The Distant Heat Festival is held every summer on the last Thursday of July which features trance and electronica music.
Jordan Tracks Camp, Wadi Rum, ☎ 00962796482801, . Camping,horse and camel riding trails,jeep safari,hiking and scrambling.
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Eat & Drink
Food being prepared at a Bedouin camp
At the entrance to the park, a small tent-restaurant serves simple Jordanian fare of bread, yogurt and such. There has been one report of food poisoning here, however.
When you arrive at the Village there are a couple of shops where you can buy water and other soft drinks. Note that almost all the fruit juices are actually labelled as "fruit drinks", with sugar as the main ingredient. You might be able to find some pure fruit juice, such as Tropicana, if you look closely.
Many camps will provide traditional Bedouin meals. One speciality is chicken or goat cooked under the desert sand, generically known as "zarb" in the same way as we might say "a roast". This has a barbecue flavour, but is very moist and falls off of the bone: try to be nearby when they unearth it as the smell released is gorgeous!
You won't be able to avoid the Bedouin tea, which is almost forcibly served in every tent you will visit. It's hot, very sweet and usually flavoured with mint and/or sage. It's surprisingly refreshing on a hot day and you may develop a slight addiction to it...
Bedouin camp site
The closest thing to a hotel in Wadi Rum is the Rest House in Rum village. It offers very basic accommodation - a matress on the roof - as well as selling food and water. There are several camping options, from a more formal camp ground to riding out into the desert with a Bedouin guide and staying in a traditional Bedouin tent. Expect to pay 25-60 JD for accommodation, transportation and food, depending on the type of tour and number of people. Some campgrounds are:
Bedouin Directions, (email@example.com). 00962776886481  and  Specializes in longer stays for hiking, scrambling etc in the wilderness area. Offers camps at the foot of Um Sabbatah in a naturally formed 'cave'. A natural rock platform with an overhang and an open roof. Various classic jeep tours also available.
Nawaf Faqeer's Bedouin Desert Camp, ☎ 00962795537109, . Bedouin Desert Camp. Campsites are offered both in big or small tents in Wadi Rum. Food is prepared on the fire, and dinner and breakfast are always included in the price. Mattresses and blankets will be provided and transportation is also included.
The Palm Camp.
Rumstars, ☎ +962795127025 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . Camping in a real, permanent Bedouin Camp in the shade of a "humbling" cliff face, complete with proper toilets and a shower block. Perfect location for watching the sun rise just outside the camp itself, and a short walk across to the other side of the valley to watch the sun set from atop a mighty dune. They also offer jeep tours into the Wadi Rum Protected Area, Trekking and scrambling with local Bedouin guides, and Camel Trekking with real experienced Bedouin guides - ideal for a ride back to the village from the camp (2-3 hours by camel).
Seven Pillars Camp and Tours, ☎ 00962777633905, . One of the most fantastic camping sites with a sunset and sunrise points, a real bedouin camp with all facilities, a wonderful canyon beside the camp.
Suleman Abu Musalam and family, ☎ +962-795902127.
The Sunset Camp. Their amenities include tents, running water, showers and restroom facilities. Breakfast and dinner are usually provided - check the camps' own websites for further details. While staying at the camps it is possible to take jeep, camel, or horse tours around the desert and you are often welcome to sleep under the stars.
Wadi Rum Discovery (Ayesh), email@example.com (Jordan), ☎ +962776924937. Camping inside Wadi Rum protected area in real Bedouin camping
Jordan Tracks Camp, Wadi Rum, ☎ 00962796482801, . High quality camp inside Wadi Rum protected area with all facilities, bedouin fresh food, private tents, shower, toilets.'1000000 stars'
A scam in the area is that some taxi drivers in Aqaba or other places claim that they can arrange your tour to Wadi Rum. Actually they bring you to Shakariya village which is only a few kilometers away from Wadi Rum visitor centre. And the Bedouin there can also offer the 4WD that drive you around the area just north of Wadi Rum Natural Reserve. The taxi driver profits from the ticket fee that they claim to pay to Wadi Rum and price difference between 4WD in Wadi Rum. The scenery there is also very good, and the area also have something resembling seven pillars of wisdom, the rock bridge in Wadi Rum. But this is not Wadi Rum after all. Some tourists are not even aware that they actually have never been to Wadi Rum after the tour.
In Petra, some try to take you for a tour in the desert north to Wadi Rum for 80JD. Ask specifically which sites they visit and whether it's in the reserve or not (there are no such things as "Rum 1" and "Rum 2").
Just as for getting in, the route out of Wadi Rum involves joining the Desert Highway that runs between Amman and Aqaba. Petra is two hours north, and Aqaba is an hour south, and these are the most common destinations to travel on to after leaving Wadi Rum.
There are public minibuses that run every day, mostly in the morning, or you can get a taxi onwards.
There is a daily minibus from Wadi Rum Village to Aqaba that leaves at 6:30am, arriving about 7:30am, costing 3JD.
A private taxi to Aqaba will cost you 15-25JD depending on where you are heading in the city. Taxis to the Israeli border will probably cost 20-25 JD.
There is daily minibus from the Wadi Rum Visitors Centre to Wadi Musa (Petra) that departs at 8:30am, takes around 2 hours, and costs 5JD per person.
Taxis to and from Petra cost 25-30JD.
No bus goes directly to/from Amman, so your best bet is to head to either Aqaba or Petra and get a bus to Amman from there.
This is a usable article. It has information for getting in as well as some complete entries for restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!