Text and pictures © 2011-2020 Guillaume Dargaud
Last updated on 2018/10/17
"Aladdin: Who are you?
Genie of the Lamp: Who am I ? Who am I ? I am the Lamp Genie... THE Lamp Genie. Wishes, dreams, power, premature and violent death... ohhh, scratch the last one." — Arabian Nights quote.
In the early days of Thamudic (c. 1000BC-700AD) and Nabataean (c. 500BC-300AD) people, they reached the summit of all the sandstone domes in the area save for two. Wadi Rum itself, long thought to be the summit of Jordan, was reached in ancient times as shown by various carvings on the rocks. Must have been a drag to go all this way only for grazing a few goats... Either that or they already took pride in climbing their mountains. C;-)
Left: Sunrise over the desert, seen from the west face of Wadi Rum.
Right: Going through narrow canyons carved by the rare waters of the area. Depending on the description, this route is alternatively named Western Safari, Nabatean Route or Thamudic Route. With alternate spellings.
Left: Nabatean inscription halfway to the summit, partly defaced by more recent idiots. It's a form of aramaic writing although the language was different.
Left: Jenny and Cecile on one of the more exposed section of the ascent. Rope optional here.
Right: Plenty of tricky but short moves to gain higher grounds. There's only 700m to gain in elevation, but spread over a labyrinthine 2km, it takes quite a while.
There are plenty of so-called 'Bedouin Routes': itineraries through the mountains that are supposed to be for hikers. But the bedouin can be great climbers too, so many of those routes require climbing equipment, at least for some rappels or short steep sections. That is, if you don't get lost ! As for the hiking part, some of them have grade 5 sections... So it's better not to underestimate them. Local guides are available.
Left: High above the desert but still a long way to go.
Right: Rock carved worse than swiss cheese by exposure to the elements.
Left: Bands of colorful sandstone. It looks steep but the friction gives it extraordinary grip.
Right: First view on the summit. Makes you wonder where the Minotaur is hiding...
Left: Up and down all the way over plenty of smooth domes. Techniques to accomplish your goals may vary: sturdy pants my be more important than good shoes for some people.
Right: Long successions of ridges, with the main siq (canyon) we used partly to come up right in the middle.
Right: Summit of Wadi Rum, with the Jordan flag painted on the rock
Left: OK, now which of those numerous ridges is the proper one ?
Right: It's like canyonning, except the water's missing.
Left: Up on the plateau there are only a few rare hardy trees like this old and undisturbed Juniper (which the bedouins call 'aral') whose bark comes off in long ribbons (insert Office 2010 joke here). Did you know that Jennifer and Juniper come from the same root ? Linguistically, that is.
Right: Get a good view of the town. Now how do you get there across multiple smooth domes and deep canyons ?
Left: When everybody's looking at the guidebook, it's usually a good hint that you are off route. Indeed.
Right: Going deeper and deeper into the great Siq is not the brightest idea we had that day, between short rappels on rotten slings around sandy holes and exposed moves on fragile 'rock'.
Right: Multiple exposed moves across the great Siq before we saw the light, turned around and found the proper way down. One dead giveaway was arriving on a ledge with a great view on the town and finding plenty of traces of fireplaces. Either to warm up a cold bivouac or as a signal for help in the dead of the night, it wasn't the best place to be.
Left: Vincent coiling the rope on one of the rappels of Hammad's route.
Left: Dusty shoes after coming down the final canyon.
Right: The spring at the base of the descent. It's surprising to find water and this little green patch there, but it's simply due to a layer of granite under all the sandstone. It blocks the flow of water going straight down the sandstone and gives several springs that the Nabateans were already exploiting for baths over 25 centuries ago. It also gives a few short granite routes for when you tire of all that sandstone (see Musa's slab). Plenty of mint grows there, to put into the tea.
Left: Dead and well mummified camel in the desert near the Wadi Rum village. Now imagine getting lost, either in the desert or in one of those canyons...