What is the absolute opposite of a rainforest? Think about it. It cold be a few things, the tundra of Siberia, a cold mountain range of Argentina or the North Pole – but I think I was just there. In the absolute opposite of a rainforest. The Wadi Rum desert of Jordan. I have been to some deserts around the world and even if they look and feel the same, they are slightly different. Small differences. Colors, shapes, temperature and life forms. Wadi Rum was also different, let me tell you how.
After hours of driving in the dry landscape of south Jordan we finally arrive in a beduin camp where we spend the cool desert night. Beduin camps are strange small villages in the middle of the most unsuited landscape for human life. When looking around it is endless hot and dry sand in every direction as far as your eyes can see. Big rock walls make out the outer rim of the camps. Then long rows of planted palm trees everywhere inside. The walls are not because they are expecting uninvited guests, it is to prevent the camp to be buried in sand when the wind picks up and all the palm trees are a natural and robust way to create shade. With only 8 days of rain each year and temperatures reaching 120 degrees Fahrenheit in peak summer, shade is important to survive out here.
After a short breakfast we grab a few bottles of cold water and jump on the back of a pickup car. We sit on thin cushions humping away in high speed into the dry wilderness as we see the camp disappear in the dust clouds behind the car. As long as the car is moving the heat is bearable. After a while the humping stops but the car is still moving in high speed. We are on a huge and complete flat and hard surface. It is a dry lake. In the few days it rains it fills up for a few hours then returns to this cracked flat surface. This exact spot, where we have stopped, is a very popular place for filming science fiction movies and that makes sense. We get out of the car and it really feels like being on a different planet. We kneel down and feel the hot cracked surface. It is hard as rock and the cracked pattern makes out an even texture as long as you see. It ends as a sharp horizon and then the magic blue sky takes over. The yellow ocher color of the desert is in perfect harmony with the bright blue sky. Even the sky is lifeless with no clouds anywhere.
We drive further into the desert and get into a valley of rock formations and sand dunes. Wadi Rum is also known as “Valley of The moon” in arabic. This area is a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site and probably best known for the british officer T.E. Lawrence who passed through here during the Arab Revolt. Scenes from Lawrence of Arabia was filmed here and this probably kick started tourism to this area.
We stop the car in a very special place. The sand around the car is yellow, a little further out the sand is red, further away it is yellow again, then almost orange, then far away the dark mountain range before the bright sky takes over. We walk in the warm red sand and this is when it dawns on me. There is hot but no flies, no ants or bugs on the ground, no birds in the sky, no mosquitos, no summing from bees or crickets – it is absolutely nothing.
I get a flashback to when I was standing in the middle of the dense Amazon forest. I remember the moment. I was standing completely still and just observing with all my senses and realized that absolutely everything around me was alive and moving.
Right now I have a similar moment, only completely opposite. The absence of every form of life was screaming at me. As strange as it sounds, the absence of sound was loud.
But Wadi Rum was a magic place to visit. The rich minerals in the ground made the colors absolutely amazing. The huge formations of limestone shaped of rain and sand for thousands of years was spectacular. The mix of flat dry planes to valleys of wild colors was amazing.
After a few hours we returned to the beduin camp and enjoyed shade and cold water more than ever.