I was especially looking forward to our time in this desert, and pleased that Nashat had arranged for us to stay two nights. I woke up very early and refreshed this morning, and went out into the desert with my camera in time to take sunrise photos. It was not an original thought, and several other tourists were out there as well. We have large groups of Italians and French with us. We can say hello and good morning in each others’ languages, and that’s it. The local staff gets a charge out of my attempts to learn Arabic. I find it really helpful to know several words and phrases, but I also like being able to make a good impression on people when I travel to their country.
We were going to meet Abdullah again, the young Bedouin man who showed us the way to our camp yesterday. He would be giving us a tour of the desert, but not until noon. There was some sketchy internet access and some outlets in the center of camp, so after breakfast I sat there for 3 solid hours and edited photos and wrote for my next blog post. I kept trying to update Word Press, but I couldn’t do the whole thing at once. I had to try twice to get all the photos uploaded – the first time the internet went out before all the images were uploaded. The third time the internet came back, I uploaded the text I had written in Word. The fourth time the internet came up, I edited the words and images and polished the post. I finally got it published, and when I confirmed that I had successfully published a post after two hours, I threw my arms in the air in a victory sign! Then I noticed I had not included the answer to the IKEA quiz, but I no longer had internet, so I fixed it the next day. When there was no internet, I either wrote or edited photos. I’ve been taking about 400 photos a day, and that’s a lot to dig through in order to choose the best ones for the blog.
Abdullah picked us up in his truck and explained that we would start in the cab, but then we would switch to the benches in the back of the truck once we got out to the desert. First we stopped in the village of Wadi Rum, which reminded me a lot of a poor, small town anywhere. Then we hopped in the back and sped off into the desert. I’m not sure if all the Wadi Rum guides drive like Abdullah, but he seriously tore through the sand like a maniac. It was very entertaining. At one point he opened the door and stood up outside the cab while he was still driving! We caught air while leaping over sand dunes. Our hair was blowing in every direction and then the winds picked up and we got sandblasted. Margaret soon had to move back into the cab because the blowing sand was irritating her contact lenses.
We stopped first at a spring, and then went to a high hill to climb for a good view. It was mostly climbing sand, and it was a lot of work to get to the top. Abdullah offered his hand and I gratefully took it. He basically pulled me up the sand dune. At the bottom of the dune was a particularly windy area that we had to pass through on the way up and again on the way down. My eyes were filled with sand both times. After that, I had a grain of sand in my left eye that would not come out all day long. So I spent the entire day with a very irritated red eye with tears falling down my face.
Abdullah took us all over Wadi Rum – to see arches, a spring, and some petroglyphs. We were taken to a place believed to be the home of Lawrence of Arabia. Margaret was not convinced. I’m not too sure either. We stopped for tea in a tent, and Margaret bought frankincense. On the way back to camp, Abdullah drove us over some particularly steep sand dunes, and swerved the truck all the way down and it was like a roller coaster ride. I had my hands in the air and was screaming all the way down the hill.
When we got back to the camp, Abdullah suggested two more outings: one to ride a camel out to watch the sunset, and another to have tea under the stars. We wanted to do both. First we cleaned up, and ate another dinner which was a repeat of the night before, with the chicken and lamb roasted in ovens underground. Then we rode out to meet the camels. We got all the way out to the tent in the desert, and were about to climb out of the truck, and Margaret gasped. “What?” She pointed to her legs. She was still wearing her knee-length sport skirt from earlier in the day. This was not appropriate camel-riding gear. She had forgotten to change into pants. We looked at Abdullah – “What do we do?!” He paused a moment to think, then gestured to Margaret to go to the tent with him. The tent was empty. Quickly Abdullah took off the trousers under his thobe and handed them to my friend. She shooed us out of the tent and lickety split came back out in pants! Tamam! (An Arabic word I have been using in place of Viola!) This has so far been one of the funniest stories of the whole trip. We climbed onto camels then, Margaret wearing a Bedouin man’s trousers!!
The others bailed on the starlight tea, but I had been looking forward to it all day. Abdullah took me way out into Wadi Rum, away from all the lights from the many many tourist camps. The stars went on to infinity. The Milky Way was clear and obvious. He told me what he called it, but I don’t remember. He collected dead branches from the desert and lit a fire, then placed a teapot on the coals and made us tea. He laid out a carpet, and a pillow so we could get off the sand. It was warm and perfectly silent, pitch black but for the coals of the fire, with stars everywhere. It was a magical evening, but eventually I couldn’t stay awake any longer and asked my Bedouin guide to take me back home.