This is my twenty-fifth (Y) entry for the Blogging From A to Z Challenge.
As you know by now, I live in Dubai. Before that, I spent 5 years in Saudi Arabia so I’m pretty much fluent in Arabic (if Arabic consisted of 10 words). Yeah, I know about a word a year for every year I’ve been here. “Yalla”, was the favourite word of taxi drivers in Saudi – it basically means faster, get going, move it. I think you get the drift. “Habibie” is what a female would say to a male to call him “dear”, “sweetie”, etc. A male would say “Habibtie” towards a female. Okay, I have educated you enough. All you need to do is watch any Arabic music video to know what Habibie means. Seriously, it’s said every third or fourth word in most of the songs. But I digress.
Following our day in Petra, my friend Kay and I, led by our guide, headed towards Wadi Rum, or the Valley of the Moon as it has been called. Located in Southern Jordan, it is probably best known by westerners for English officer T.E. Lawrence, who passed through the area several times during the Arab Uprising in 1917-18. In fact, one of the rock formations in Wadi Rum was name the Seven Pillars, after Lawrence’s book, although the Seven Pillars mentioned in the book have nothing to do with Wadi Rum. Apparently I haven’t educated you enough.As we stood in the back of a beat up Toyota pick-up truck, our driver raced along the red sands that swept across this majestic setting. Tire tracks criss-crossed in every direction, the mountains surrounded us, the hot sun leaving sparkling diamonds on the loose grains below us as we ventured deeper into the valley. We didn’t cruise over any sand dunes, but as the magic of the desert unfurled around us, it was hard to bounce around in the bed of the truck from pure enjoyment. Holding on to the roll bar as we slowed and drifted through softer sands around corners was the highlight, until we stopped at the foot of some small cliffs we could climb for a better view of where we were. Our tour would see us spend only a couple of hours in Wadi Rum, and in retrospect I wish we had a lot more time there. The area has many overnight camps to stay at, which offer a greater view of the desert, and you get a more expansive experience. We climbed the soft sand dune leading up towards the rocky crags of a cliff, and we looked out around us. The mountains rose like jagged sentinels keeping an eye on these lands for millennia. The wind kicked up sand, shuffling it along grain by grain, so no two days would look exactly the same. The Bedouins have been here for a thousand years or more, and the secrets they know would be as awe-inspiring as the land that lay before me. Desolate, barren, a footprint of how things used to be, but ultimately stunning.
We had tea and dates with Bedouins, took photos of camels and the mountains and sands that these camels have mastered, and then began our journey back towards our car and out of Wadi Rum. It is an area of immense beauty, despite it being sand and rock, and the footprints of man reveal so much in this place. Its otherworldly presence leaves one in no doubt as to why so many films are made here – especially if you can’t afford to build a film set on Mars. Once here, you will not want to leave. And you never really leave. You take Wadi Rum with you.
If you don’t believe me, believe my buddy Matt Damon (editor’s note: Ger and Matt Damon are not really buddies). Damon filmed the movie The Martian here, and his words about Wadi Rum are wonderful:
“I was in awe of that place, it was really, really special. One of the most spectacular and beautiful places I have ever seen, and like nothing I’ve ever seen anywhere else on Earth.”
And yet somehow, like my words, they just aren’t enough.