Sleeping in a Bedouin Camp in Wadi Rum, Jordan

Coming from an all-day trip to Jericho and Bethlehem, crossing from Bethlehem to Jerusalem with all our luggage, and then doing a 5-hour overnight bus from Jerusalem to Eilat to cross to the border of Jordan in Aqaba, one would think we would yield to exhaustion and just give the day a miss. I myself doubted whether our stamina – or what was left of it – could take up the gauntlet. But I underestimated my mind’s power over my body: just the thought of camping under the stars in a Bedouin Camp in Wadi Rum in the middle of the desert, in winter, AND with real Bedouins, were enough to get my brain cells wiggling in excitement!

And so we found ourselves in the back of a pick-up truck two hours after crossing the border.

Bedouin Camp Wadi Rum Jordan

Me on a pick up truck (you could opt for a camel)

Our Bedouin driver/guide met us at past 9 in the morning in their little village. Yes, Bedouins now have permanent homes in villages so that their children could attend school and have access to other facilities. Others have also chosen to work in offices. But a number of them still cling to the ways of their forefathers. Our guide, in particular, could not see himself anywhere else but the desert. He says he misses the quiet, the peace, the vastness, and the beauty of the desert. It was something I would not understand until much later in the trip.

From the village, we started off in a relatively narrow valley between two huge mountains. Unlike my notion of a desert which was all sand dunes, Wadi Rum also has mountains of sandstone and granite, gorges, and natural arches. The temperature must have been in the single digits, and our layers of clothing – which in the village felt like enough protection against the cold – suddenly felt insufficient once the winds started slapping our faces. Thankfully, the sun’s occasional peeking over the mountains tempered the cold a bit.

Bedouin Camp Wadi Rum Jordan

Mountains and rock formations kept on blocking the sun. So cold!

Wadi Rum has been inhabited since thousands of years ago, and it has the Nabatean inscriptions, among others, to prove it. These, together with copious rock carvings, other archaeological evidence, and the variety of landforms make the Wadi Rum Protected Area a UNESCO World Heritage site. We looked at some of the inscriptions in what they call the Lawrence Spring, and then entered a narrow canyon – the Khazali Canyon.

Bedouin Camp Wadi Rum Jordan

We entered Khazali Canyon. Looks like a melting cake to me though. 😀

At every stop, there was a Bedouin tent where you could have some tea, or buy trinkets and other stuff.

Bedouin Camp Wadi Rum Jordan

One of the many Bedouin tents in the desert of Wadi Rum

After the mountains, we entered a vast desert plain where it was just impossible to tell north from south. Without a compass, I wondered how the Bedouins navigate this 74,000-hectare desert. But of course, I should have known: aside from the rich mental map they have formed from years of traveling through this desert – of the mountains, the peaks, the cliffs, valleys, even the few trees in the area – they also use the stars, the sun, and sometimes even the wind. We even saw a 12-year old Bedouin boy acting as lone guide and driver of another group!

For lunch, we stopped at one of the tents, where our guide cooked for us.

Bedouin Camp Wadi Rum Jordan

Waiting for lunch

In the afternoon, we went to the Big Arch, where the intrepid [hiked? climbed?] to the top. I was left on the ground in self-pity, looking at the people on the arch longingly, knowing there was no way I could go there. Perhaps my despair became almost tangible, as our guide soon came to me and asked whether I wanted to reach the top. DID I WANT TO REACH THE TOP? OF COURSE!

Before I knew it, I was already making my way to the top, feeling super cool and adventurous.

Bedouin Camp Wadi Rum Jordan

I DID IT!  That’s me on top of the Um Frouth Arch!

We also saw the place where Lawrence of Arabia was said to have stayed for a while. Can’t find the photo, though.

Anyway, of course, there had to be some sand dune action as well! I’ve never been so thankful for having invested in quality footwear! Going up the Red Sand Dunes which I computed to be roughly 33% grade slope (ah.. and I finally made use of Trigonometry in travel! haha) – the steepness was in itself challenging, but imagine your feet being constantly swallowed by the sand… I almost gave up if not for the two other travelers, already on top, who cheered me on.

Under stars Bedouin Camp Wadi Rum Desert, Jordan

I reckon this is a 33% grade slope of feet-swallowing dunes. I might be wrong.

Bedouin Camp Wadi Rum Jordan

These Australian guys who got to the top before me cheered me on

You know what I’m gonna say next, but I’ll say it anyway: It was worth it!

Bedouin Camp Wadi Rum Jordan

I reached the top!

Bedouin Camp Wadi Rum Jordan

Wadi Rum, Jordan

And then we waited for the sunset. We did a relatively easy climb beside what they call the chicken-and-egg formation. I got impatient. It was already close to 5 in the afternoon but it still didn’t seem like the sun was going to give a spectacular show, so I asked that we go to the camp already.

Bedouin Camp Wadi Rum Jordan

BUT, as we were driving, the sun decided to be the stunning ball of fire that it is, making everything around us strikingly gold-yellow-orange-red.

Bedouin Camp Wadi Rum Jordan

Sunset in Wadi Rum, Jordan


Bedouin Camp Wadi Rum Jordan

Home for the night!

The truth is, we could have done this as a day trip. But if there’s anything about Jordan that excited me – yes, even more than Petra – it was the chance to sleep in a Bedouin tent under the stars. Sure, some conveniences were added – toilets (thank God!), shower (though I didn’t dare take a shower with no heater during winter!), beds (mattresses on the floor would’ve been fine) and our very own cook (food was so good!) – BUT STILL!

Bedouin Camp Wadi Rum Jordan

This is actually  multi-tiered: under the chicken was a layer for rice and another for the veggies, hence it is buried way beneath the sand, and then covered with camel leather/blanket. Clever!

Bedouin Camp Wadi Rum Jordan

Dinner inside a Bedouin tent with 2 Irish girls and 1 Scottish guy

Despite the cold, I stood outside, transfixed at the gazillion bright stars and the moon that illuminated the camp. From our tent I saw the Big Dipper; and of course where there’s the Big Dipper, there’s Polaris – the true north that has guided many a nomad for centuries. As if all these weren’t enough to fill my heart with immense gratitude and awe, I saw a shooting star! Oh dear Lord, You are pure magic who create magic after magic after magic.

Bedouin Camp Wadi Rum Jordan

Wadi Rum Bedouin Camp, Jordan


*Contact Mehedi at Bedouin Directions if you want to book a night in a Bedouin Camp in Wadi Rum, Jordan. Costs JOD 130 for 2 persons, inclusive of a whole-day Wadi Rum tour, 1 lunch, 1 dinner, 1 breakfast, and overnight in a Bedouin camp (you can choose to go back to the village if you don’t feel like sleeping in the desert). There are other tours available as well – half-day, camel, multi-day, hiking, or customized if you so choose. 



12 Replies to “Sleeping in a Bedouin Camp in Wadi Rum, Jordan”

  1. I,sadly, know close to nothing about Jordan and the Bedouin people. You did a really nice job describing what the desert is like, and what it must be like for these people to navigate this area for all these years. Congrats on making that hike!

  2. I have never been to Jordan, but as a kid we slept in a similar camp somewhere in Egypt. I remember we had to sleep on really high stone beds, just in case scorpions decide to crawl into our beds at night 😉 Love your desert pictures!

    1. Hmm I am not sure stone beds would keep the scorpions out! They can easily walk up vertical concrete house walls…..

      Thank you for the nice post on Wadi Rum and your time with us April.

      Insha’Allah see you again!

  3. Wow… Just WOW! I loved this post so much, it was like picking up my favourite book and adventuring with you. I love the ‘oven’, how nifty creating a 3 tier pit. And I cannot remember the last time I was able to stand under the stars and fully appreciate just how beautiful the world is (without the distraction of lights from the city). Congrats on the walk too, this year for me is all about conquering, making it to the top of mountains or long hikes, so high fives to you achieving.

  4. Wow I think I stayed at the exact same one! It does look incredibly similar though I ma guessing all bedouin camps in wadi rum are the same. This brings back such great memories 🙂

  5. I have always thought it would be amazing to go to this part of the world. I’ve seen several desert excursions and each time want to go more! Did you ever feel unsafe in those area?

    1. My mom did – but that’s just because she didn’t know we were actually going to sleep in the desert. Haha. Our rooms didn’t even have proper locks – but our Bedouin guides and cook were all really nice.

  6. What a cool experience. I must have been really awesome to be out there seeing what it’s like to live that way in the idle of a desert. The landscape is incredible.

  7. What an amazing experience! I’ve been wanting to visit Jordan for so long. Congrats on making it to the top of the arch 🙂 Such a great spot for a photo. I would love to do this trip sometime–looks like you had a wonderful time!

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