Is Wadi Rum worth it?

Wadi Rum 6

When Ridley Scott was directing the blockbuster film The Martian, he knew he needed a landscape that closely resembled Mars in order to keep the film as realistic as possible. He settled on filming in the Wadi Rum desert region of Jordan.

I have not seen that movie but when I got to Wadi Rum myself, it’s easy to see why this location was chosen.

Initially, Wadi Rum wasn’t in our itinerary because given our very short time in Jordan (fly in Friday morning and fly out Monday night). We covered the Dead Sea on our first day (Friday) and Petra on the second (Saturday). We rested on the third day spending just a few hours strolling through the shores of the Red Sea, visiting the city center at Aqaba and hunting where to eat the traditional dish mansaf and just chilling at our very fascinating accommodation at Movenpick Resort & Spa Tala Bay. On our last day (Monday), we checked out at 9:30 am and headed to Wadi Rum.


Wadi Rum lies in the south western corner of Jordan 58 kilometers north of the coastal town of Aqaba. It can be reached easily by main roads from Amman (3.5 hours), Aqaba (1 hour) and Petra (1.5 hours). Car-hire and bus tours can be arranged through hotels and travel agents and taxis can be negotiated from Aqaba and Petra.

* We had a private van arranged by Amani Tours for the entire time we were in Jordan, including to Wadi Rum


Wadi Rum 1

The first stop to Wadi Rum is at the Visitor’s Center. It overlooks the Seven Pillars of Wisdom – an imposing rock formation with seven enormous folds, named after the autobiography by T.E Lawrence of the same name. There are several tours to choose from, depending on the amount of time you can spend. Two hours, three hours…the staff at the Visitor’s Center contacts the local Bedouin drivers as required.

The best way to enjoy Wadi Rum is to get on the back of a 4×4 pickup truck. Our guide contacted a Bedouin driver she knows personally to take us around. The Bedouins are still the people of the desert and you can trust them to show you everything there is to see. Just hop on one of their jeeps and enjoy the view.

We paid JOD50 + tip for a three hour excursion (that stretched into four hours in actual).

Wadi Rum 2

The truck is improvised to have ‘seats’ for four people at the back. There are no seat belts which could make you think twice about doing this – if so, you can sit beside the driver inside the truck. Otherwise, be a little adventurous (and face a little danger). The driver won’t drive fast so I never felt unsafe.

Wadi Rum 4

Prepare for a bumpy ride, but it will be well worth your aching bones. Don’t worry, you will have plenty of opportunities to get off the vehicle and admire the place on foot.

p with camel in wadi rum

There is nothing more exhilarating than speeding through a desert landscape in the back of an open-air pickup truck. We were there on the 2nd week of December when it’s winter and though the glaring sun makes it look like it’s hot, it’s not! On the contrary, it was very cold. See my daughter’s thick jacket! She wished she could fix the hood to cover her head but alas, the oncoming wind keeps on blowing the hoodie off.

I loved the feel of the crisp, cold wind on my face.

back of truck in wadi rum

Jordan’s desert is, in a word, MAJESTIC. Its lunar-like landscape (Wadi Rum is also known as the Valley of the Moon), crevice-riddled cliffs and ever-evolving light took my breath away.

It was quite an experience but a word of caution: photographing out sitting at the back of a fast moving truck travelling in uneven pathways is so challenging – with both feet needing to anchor for safety, looking for the perfect timing and clicking the camera, trying hard not to throw it over or throw myself over.

Most of the “good” photos I have taken at the back of that moving truck is accidental, but I loved them all anyway.

Wadi Rum 5

camel in wadi rum 4
Wadi Rum 3

The desert can seem at first to be an empty expanse, save for some camels in the wild.

camel in wadi rum 1

camel in wadi rum 5


I suppose finding the right guide for your Wadi Rum tour is not easy. I did a lot of research before our flight to Jordan and still didn’t have a clue where to find a good guide and just left it all to ‘fate’. However, the best way to keep ‘fate’ on your side is by asking other travellers who had “been there, done that”, to read their stories and personal recommendations.

mushroom rock 2

We got lucky with our guide and she made our trip to Wadi Rum even more wonderful. She did not only got us a good driver, she took us to places in Wadi Rum that isn’t in the list staple points of stop for tourists.


Before we got on the truck, our guide told us we will be doing a “little” climbing. One of my favourite parts of our Wadi Rum tour was the stop of at a rock bridge-arch structure. Yep, its pretty dangerous looking so I wasn’t really keen on climbing, lugging along my camera but I’m glad I did because once we were at the top the precarious looking arch, it really did feel like we were in an adventure movie.

arch bridge from far

arch bridge 2
arch bridge 1

I gave my camera to our driver, a local Bedouin, who, despite his outfit, could climb up and down the steep rocks as fast a cheetah! (The third one on the pic, in white is our guide)

Next, our guide took us to a rock formation that she calls, “The Titanic”. Of course she invites us to climb again!

wadi rum titanic

So to come back to the essence of this blog post, is Wadi Rum worth it?

wadi rum 2

T.E. Lawrence elegantly described Wadi Rum as “vast, echoing and God-like…” and I could not agree more. Wadi Rum is a stupendous, timeless place, virtually untouched by humanity and its destructive forces. Here, it is the weather and winds that have carved the imposing, towering skyscrapers.

If you want to experience what I and other travellers refer to as “other-worldly”, include Wadi Rum in your Jordan itinerary. The scenery is truly out of this world. Miles of solitary sand dunes and rocky hills open up in front of your eyes, making you feel as if you were walking on Mars without having to set foot in a spaceship. There are options to stay for the night at the Bedouin camps. I can imagine the dark, starry skies sans light pollution in the big cities and howls of desert wolves or just the stillness of the night here.

Wadi Rum 8

I live in Dubai and I have been and seen deserts. However, if you ever thought that once you’ve seen a desert you’ve seen them all, think again. Wadi Rum, the red desert of southern Jordan is a marvel you shouldn’t miss.

* I tried hard to take decent photos to share the beauty of Wadi Rum but I think even the best photographers, not one photo would give justice to the actual beauty of the place. You simply need to go there and see it with your own eyes.

The worst dust storm in 8 years


We woke up this morning with a little haze outside. Another sandstorm/dust storm? The above pic was taken Thursday morning (it’s Tuesday now).

Dubai had one hell of crazy weather last week. It changed from clear blue skies on Wednesday to apocalyptic dust storm on Thursday and again beautiful, beautiful weather on Friday!

This is not new. We get this often when the season changes from ‘winter’ to summer. Haze, heavy fogging. But then it didn’t stop right there. The dust storm escalated and became worse until it blanketed the whole city (maybe the whole country?) with thick, yellow dust.

dust storm

The above photo has no filter whatsoever. It is what it is, the view outside my office, straight from the camera. It lasted until late afternoon. At first I thought everyone was suddenly using Instagram and applying a yellowish filter or sepia. Nope, see the dust storm photos shared by readers of Emirates 24/7.

Last Thursday’s haze that saw wind speeds reach 65 km per hour and visibility drop to a mere 100 metres in some places. The dust storm has forced Saudi Arabia and Qatar to close down schools.

That was the worst dust storm/sandstorm I’ve seen in our 8 years living in the UAE.

Have you seen the movie Mission Impossible 4, where Tom Cruise is being chased by a massive sandstorm? I was like, what an exaggeration! That never happens in real life! Dang, movie special effects!


But whoa, last week, we were reminded that it could happen!

Thankfully, the weather cleared up and we had our glorious clear, blue skies back again, just in time for the weekend. We drove to Umm Al Quwain, one of the seven emirates of the UAE, just less than an hour from Dubai.

umm al quwain

What a nice, quiet community just off the main road in Umm Al Quwain.

villa in umm al quwain

Our friend and his family are leaving the UAE and going back to Japan. I feel bad we didn’t see them as often as we should have. They’ve been here for about 8 years too and now, they’re going back ‘home’. Again, we were reminded of the transient life here, one day, we may be the one to say goodbye too.

But first, barbecue and pool time!

pool gate

pool time

And then playing with their dog!


I have a confession to make: I am scared of dogs (especially the small, aggressive ones) but this dog was so gentle. He is already 15 years old with very mild character. The kids LOVED him and asked whether our friends would bring the dog back to Japan because if not? Insert puppy dog eyes of pleading here.


There is a forecast of fog/haze and dust storm again in the next few days. I hope it’s nothing serious like the one we had last Thursday.

First sandstorm of 2012

There you go… the first sand storm of 2012. Last Friday, strong winds picked up dust and sand and blanketed Dubai, reducing the visibility to 800 meters. In this part of the road, tall buildings including the world’s tallest Burj Khalifa should appear on the right but nah, they are in invisible mode.


Needless to say, it wasn’t a good day to be outside. My cousins had a reservation for desert safari but had to cancel it – who would want to spend time outside in the vast desert closing their eyes? Or having sand in their food?

The car swayed as strong winds battered from its side, made me recall how strong these winds are during sandstorm of 2011.

Sand storms during the ‘winter’ months of Dubai not only bring sand (a lot of it), it also signals the coming of warmer days and usually tells us, it is time to crank up the air condition at home!

Another day, another abandoned pet

Yesterday as we were heading out for dinner, we saw a cat lying outside our building door, conveniently positioning herself near the small gap between the floor and the glass door. What a smart kitty. In this  hot weather, she found respite from that small gap where cool air from inside of the building ‘leaks’.

A stray cat – not uncommon scene here in Dubai. In fact, we have picked up a few and homed one through social media in 2009.

But by the looks of this one, we knew this was not an ordinary stray cat bred on the streets. The body is round and healthy (fat if you may put it), fur is clean and most of all, it was obviously very used to people touching it.

The cat was new on the street. If our speculation is true, this cat has just been abandoned and thrown by its owner.

Of course Pristine immediately asked if we could keep the cat, forgetting the fact that we are all allergic to fur. And that cats have the smelliest poo in the animal kingdom!


(1) I looked for the cat again this morning but I couldn’t find it.

(2) When I came home at 5pm after work, I found the cat with dirtier fur and with a hint of exhaustion in its eyes!



The desert safari that might be my last

I had a good dose of Friday the 13th curse last week. We went to the desert to treat friends to a Desert Safari. My husband booked a reputable desert safari provider – good desert course (he claims), dune bashing, delicious food and lively entertainment. Well, the desert safari provider delivered everything, except that the “good” desert course wasn’t so good for ME.

It was too long, around more than 30 minutes of going up and down the sand hills, shaking our whole bodies. During the first 10-15 minutes, we were still screaming with excitement but after that, everyone was silent and I was blue. Pale, heavily breathing and seriously wanted to throw up. This was my third desert safari but the first time that I got bat-sh*t crazy motion sickness.

We stopped (I begged the driver to STOP so I won’t flood his Land Cruiser with vomit) and got some air. Funny how posing for a photo can make you look a little normal even if you’re not. (I am the one in the white shirt)


Pristine, however was fine. Goodness, my powers don’t match that of a five year old because apart from some hair clips out of place, she was perfectly ok with the rough and long desert course and even smiling naturally.


When we arrived at the camp, I wasted no time and rushed to the toilet to do my thing. It was my first time having a major throw up session like that! I was disgustingly sick. Until now, I was not aware that vomiting can be so involuntary, that no matter how you try to stop it before all your internal organs come out, it is all involuntary. One advice if you are on the verge of throwing  up: empty your bladder first!

Ok, I won’t go into details.

But if there was any consolation, we saw a WHITE CAMEL in the desert! I had no idea there’s a camel with color other than the usual brownish ones.


It’s raining but I don’t mind

We’re having continuous bad weather for three consecutive days now. Dubai bad weather means gray skies and dropletsof rain but this morning, we woke up to a real downpour. The forecast says more rain will be expected today. Rain is a rare occurrence here in the UAE (although it has rained a lot in 2007 than in 2006) so I don’t mind a little rain every now and then. If only it doesn’t immediately flood, that is!

The rain clouds behind me.

Jan 15 morning rain

Photo taken on my side mirror while driving to work today.

By the time I reached Deira (and got stucked in heavy traffic), the skies have cleared up.

clear skies in Deira

Here’s an interesting photo from Gulf News taken at night in Sheikh Zayed Road, where the tall buildings are. Notice how the Burj Dubai, the world’s tallest building also the world’s most popular lightning conductor (due to its height) – was struck by lightning last night.

So it’s a little bit chilly again today and I like it. I’ll enjoy this weather until the dreaded summer comes.

longest day is dusty

Today, the 21st of June is the longest day of the year and for the first time in years, I am aware that today is summer solstice when I woke up this morning! Before, I would only know the day after when I read in the news that this place and that place received x hours of daylight.

It just gets to me why I wasn’t aware of the longest day or the longest night of the year – it would be a little bit interesting if we know from the start of that day, isn’t it? But of course, that’s just me.


So what’s up here in Dubai? Winds has stirred up thick dust across the Emirates and reduced visibility for the last 5 days or so. The dust has badly hit Kuwait, Baghdad, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, where visibility has dropped to 500 meters. People are stuck in their homes or offices and there’s almost no outdoor life due to dust and humidity. People with breathing difficulty or suffering from allergies are advised not to venture out into the dust haze if possible. No fun, hey!

Thursday Thirteen #47: Dubai Desert Safari

An hour and a half away from the hustle and bustle of Dubai, the wide golden sand dunes awaits everyone. We went to experience a desert safari – an off road adventure you will never forget!

Here are 13 (+1) photos from our desert adventure.

dubai desert safari

Here’s what happens if you go on a desert safari:

  • The tour operator will come to your house or hotel to pick you up, depending on your location, between 3-4 pm.
  • After an hour drive, you will stop for toilet and refreshments. Also, your vehicle will wait for 15-30 minutes until all other vehicles arrive. It is the tradition that group of vehicles go together to the desert.
  • The driver checks for the tire pressure and deflate the tires (not completely, just take out some air). This is a necessary procedure for the car to run in the desert sand.


~ The driver assigned to us was a local! He gladly smiled for the camera ~

  • The driver will ask everyone in the car to buckle up and this is when the fun begins! The vehicles will go through the sand dunes, climb dune mountains, nose dive (but not quite) from atop sand hills. I can’t describe (and count) how much I screamed!


~ SUV’s in the desert! ~

dubai desert safari

~ that is a moving SUV in the sand hill ~

dubai desert safari

~ a Hummer was there too! ~

dubai desert safari

~ circling the desert ~

  • We stopped at a camel pen to take pictures.

dubai desert safari

~ camels of all sizes – there were baby camels as well ~

dubai desert safari

~ the camels were tame (but the smell is not!) ~

  • After the fun ride in the desert, we were taken to a central camp in the middle of the desert.

dubai desert safari

~ entrance to the camp ~

dubai desert safari

~ the camp ~

The tables are gathered around a big carpet. The center carpet has a purpose. I will tell you later.

The desert safari includes a buffet dinner of traditional Arabic food, Indian cuisine and barbeque. Here are the grillers preparing our dinner:

dubai desert safari

~ tandoori chicken grillers in action ~

dubai desert safari

~ Chicken Tikka skewers ~

I tell you, the delicious aroma could make your stomach growl! While waiting for dinner, desert safari participants can enjoy alcohol (you have to pay separately – not included in the cost of the safari), henna painting, camel riding, dune bashing and dressing up in traditional Arabic costume.

dubai desert safari

~ I wouldn’t even recognize my own husband with this dress! (at least when looking from the back) ~

I did henna and went to ride a camel. I wish there were plenty of time to ride a desert buggy and do some dune bashing but the queue was too long.

Dinner was served at 7:30. We were so hungry we took a dash to the buffet table – couldn’t resist the smell of barbeque!

While enjoying our dinner, music was played in the background and a belly dancer came out from her small hut inside the camp and entertained us. The center carpet was for the belly dancer!

belly dancer

Pity I wasn’t able to capture her beautiful face. The dancing was good! She also invited males on the center stage – to the delight of the audience and the invited male, of course. And you think Dubai is a strict Arab country? Look at the belly dancer, she’s practically half naked!!

The show finished at 8:45 p.m. and we headed home happy and full. Sorry for the long post. I hope you did not fall asleep reading this. 🙂

For anyone planning to visit Dubai anytime soon, desert safari is a MUST. You would like to avoid the summer months though, the desert sand will scorch your feet! All in all, our experience was great and filled with memories to keep for a lifetime.

close encounters of the humped kind

Earlier this month we had a one day holiday because it was the Islamic holiday of Hijra. We didn’t have work and no school for the babe as well. We had a rare  two-day weekend and out of the blue, M said we’ll go out see some camels. Huh?

Of course my mother was excited since she has not seen a camel her whole life and Pristine was thrilled as well. We went to Nad Al Sheba, a 30-minute short drive from where we live. This is the place where horse racing and equestrian events are held and we have read in the guide that there is a camel pen nearby.

We were not disappointed. We saw some camels along the road:


~ Dromedary or one humped camel along the road ~


~ I was scowled out, “respect my privacy!” ~

It was a delight to see camels less than a meter before us, if only they didn’t smell! I could only imagine the people who travelled using camels in the olden times.


~ some more camels, some dressed in fancy patterned cloths ~

Camel racing is a major sport in Dubai and the track is located in the outskirts of the city at Nad Al Sheba. It is quite a sight to see camels thundering along the track with small jockeys holding on for dear life. Since there was no racing event when we went there, we saw the camels in the pens being trained (shouted at and whipped!) by trainors/caretakers.

It was quite spectacular that from the empty desert in Nad Al Sheba, we can see the Burj Dubai on the background:


So it was true, the open desert can be cruel hot in the summer as it can get freezing cold during the winter. The sand was cold to the touch. The air blowing on us was very cold, I felt bad not bringing a thick jacket for the little girl.


~ amazed at the sand formations ~


~ very fine desert sand ~


~ enjoying the feel of cool desert sand on her feet ~

Next in line on our weekend plan: Get on a real camel and explore the desert (just a little).

non-stop rain floods Dubai

While I am happy that my request for rain had been answered, too much of it is bad enough. It was nice to sleep with the sound of pitter-patter in the background, something that I was missing for more than a year now but the scene we woke up to was scary. There is a newly formed pool outside our building!

Schools in Dubai and the neighboring Emirate of Sharjah are closed for today and tomorrow, the news says. There was no word, however, if workers in the public and private sectors are excused from work.


It was a strange feeling when we went home last night when while waiting for the traffic signal in the flooded road, the car rocked like a boat because of the waves made by the other passing vehicles. You can see photos of the city underwater in Gulfnews. Check it out, it’s not a sight you can see in this desert region everyday.