How to Sleep in the Desert with the Bedouins in Wadi Rum, Jordan

Sleeping with the bedouins in the Jordanian desert prevails as one of my most remarkable travel adventures.   With no prior planning, we managed to doze deep in the dramatic desert where the movie, Lawrence of Arabia, was filmed.  It was such a unique and stunning experience.   I highly recommend it to any intrepid voyager looking for a truly unforgettable opportunity.  As such, please find my guide on how to sleep in the desert with the bedouins in Wadi Rum, Jordan.

How to Sleep in the Desert with the Bedouins in Wadi Rum, Jordan

View desert in Wadi Rum, Jordan from atop our bedouin jeep tour.
View desert in Wadi Rum, Jordan from atop our bedouin jeep tour.

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Map of Jordan

Map to How to Sleep in the Desert with the Bedouins in Wadi Rum, Jordan

A Bit of Background on Wadi Rum and the Bedouins

The Wadi Rum Desert in southern Jordan covers 720 square kilometers (448 miles) of dry terrain surrounded by stunning granite and sandstone hills.   You can wander aimlessly through the auburn painted sand dunes while admiring this almost martian like land.  Truly it’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen.

Adding color to this already amazing landscape are groups of friendly nomadic tribes called bedouins.   Historically these Arabs have lived here for centuries in their tents made from goat hair.  Now a days when they are not attending to their camels, they arrange and lead tour groups into the desert for day and overnight adventures.

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What the Bedouin Tour Entails

Whereas many desert camping experiences include sleeping in a rustic tent just on the edge of civilization, the Wadi Rum venture I had was different.  We drove at least 5 miles (8km) far into the depths of dessert.  Truly I felt far removed from civilization.

Surrounded by a sea of coper-colored sand and towering crags, we were transported to a lunar-like landscape. Uneven sandstone and granite hills cut ruggedly into the dusty, dry wilderness. It’s no wonder Wadi Rum is called the Valley of the Moon for it’s lunar-like landscape.  The entire area is euphoric.

Bedouin tour in the Wadi Rum desert. View of the sunset from our bedouin camp called Rumshines. Those are our tents below.
Bedouin tour in the Wadi Rum desert. View of the sunset from our bedouin camp called Rumshines. Those are our tents below.

By night, the black sky is filled with an incalculable number of sparkling stars.  Comfortably we slept in beds nestled in permanent tents made from raised metal frame structures.  We really felt like we were resting in a safe and comfortable environment relatively deep in the desert.

In terms of necessities, there are bathrooms with sinks, showers and toilets.  However, cell phone and internet service is non-existent.  You can also forget about TV.  Remember you are in the middle of nowhere.

Bedouin tour in the Wadi Rum desert. View of the surrounding landscape and sunset by the camp. The rock I am on sits right behind the tents.
Bedouin tour in the Wadi Rum desert. View of the surrounding landscape and sunset by the camp. The rock I am on sits right behind the tents where we slept.

Additionally a bedouin guide will serve you both dinner and breakfast.  The food is decent, but not exciting.  But it serves the purpose.  Overall if you are expecting at least a 3-5 star hotel experience, you  can skip this trip.  Otherwise, for the hearty and adventurous souls who want a unique experience and a comfortable bed, this one’s for you.

Cost of the Camp: $25 JD ($35 USD) per night per person as of the time of this article.

 

Bedouin tour in the Wadi Rum desert. The sun is setting as we approach camp after our jeep tour.
How to Sleep in the Desert with the Bedouins in Wadi Rum, Jordan. The sun is setting as we approach camp after our jeep tour.

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The Optional Jeep Tour

The bedouins offer an expedition exploring the Wadi Rum Desert on the cargo bed of a pickup.  Certainly I can recommend this as a perfect way to enjoy the jaw dropping scenery.  Plus, riding in the open air on the back of a truck adds excitement to this already thrilling endeavor.  

With the wind in our hair we observed the carved cliffs jutting out from the auburn abyss.  Up close rock carvings displayed petroglyphs and inscriptions dating back almost 12,000 years. Reportedly there are over 45,000 variations of these markings all over Wadi Rum.

Bedouin tour in the Wadi Rum desert. The sunset and our tents in our bedouin camp. Salem's cousin cooked our meals and stayed overnight as our watchman. However, he seemed more like the bitter outcast rather than favored family member.
Bedouin tour in the Wadi Rum desert. The sunset and our tents in our bedouin camp. Salem’s cousin cooked our meals and stayed overnight as our watchman. However, he seemed more like the bitter outcast rather than a  favored family member.

Then we stopped to climb a gigantic sand dune in our bare feet.  Towering hundreds of feet above the terrain, we soaked up the alien like scenery as the warm afternoon sun beat down on our skin.  I would say we enjoyed the jeep tour at least as much as camping in the desert.

Bedouin tour in the Wadi Rum desert. Allan and I stand atop the flatbed during our jeep tour.
How to Sleep in the Desert with the Bedouins in Wadi Rum, Jordan. Allan and I stand atop the flatbed during our jeep tour.

There are various tours available from the 2 hour odyssey that we chose to a full days extravaganza.  The jeep can pick you up in the main Wadi Rum village and drop you off at camp, or any combination of the two.  As such, it’s an ideal way to observe this amazing area while also conveniently reaching camp.

Cost of the Tour: $50 JD for 2 hours or up to $90 JD for a full day ($70 – $127 USD) per person as of the time of this article.

Bedouin tour in the Wadi Rum desert. This is called the Um Fruth rock bridge and is one of the more popular stops on the jeep tour.
How to Sleep in the Desert with the Bedouins in Wadi Rum, Jordan. This is called the Um Fruth rock bridge and is one of the more popular stops on the jeep tour.

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How to Book Your Bedouin Adventure

Salem and his bedouin family run and own the camp called Rumshines.  Basically you can call, text or send an email to Salem to book a stay in his tents.  According to him, calling is the best way to reserve.  Plus, it’s how I secured a spot, so it worked just dandily for me.   Alternatively you can try booking online.

Bedouin tour in the Wadi Rum desert. The sunset from our camp. The sunsets in the desert are just amazing!
How to Sleep in the Desert with the Bedouins in Wadi Rum, Jordan. The sunset from our camp. The sunsets in the desert are just amazing!

And for those nervous about calling or staying with some strange guy who lives in the desert, here is my impression of Salem.  I found him to be very friendly, generous and honest.  Immediately he made me feel comfortable.  In fact, when I told my mother back in Boston that I was going to sleep with the bedouins in the Jordanian desert she, of course, was quite nervous.  Therefore I video conferenced her while I was with Salem, so she could see for herself that he was a genuine and peaceful person. Needless to stay that call assuaged her fears.

Salem: Tel. +952-7-9531-9996, Website: http://www.rumshines.com/
Online booking at Booking.comwww.booking.com/salemcamp

 

Bedouin tour in the Wadi Rum desert. During our jeep tour we stopped here at this formation called "chicken rock".
How to Sleep in the Desert with the Bedouins in Wadi Rum, Jordan. During our jeep tour we stopped here at this formation called “chicken rock”.

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How to Get to Desert in Wadi Rum, Jordan

Wadi Rum rests in the southwestern corner of Jordan, 58 km (36 miles) north of the coastal town of Aqaba. It can be easily accessed by main roads from Amman (3.5hrs), Aqaba (1hr) and Petra (1.5hrs).  You can hire a taxi, drive your own car or take the bus.  

We asked Salem to book a taxi to pick us up.  Luckily I asked Salem ahead of time for the price, so I knew the driver was trying to rip us off when he demanded significantly more.  Even though the cabbie  acted more like a Nascar professional, he did slow down when I reminded him for the 5th time.  In the end I paid him Salem’s price, and I have one more gray hair to remind me of the race.

Taxi Costs (Approximate):
Petra – Wadi Rum $40 – $50 JD
Aqaba – Wadi Rum $35 – $40 JD
Amman – Wadi Rum $110 – $120 JD

Bus:
From Aqaba – The mini public bus leaves from the Aqaba Police station at approximately 6:30am, 11am, 1pm and 2pm.  It costs JD $3 one-way. 
From Petra – the bus leaves from the Wadi Musa bus station at 6am.  There is only a 27 person capacity.  The bus costs $5 JD.
From Amman – there is no public bus directly to Wadi Rum.  You would need to take a bus to Wadi Musa and then grab the minibus to Wadi Musa.

 
Bedouin tour in the Wadi Rum desert. Allan with our bedouin guides, Salem and his brother.
How to Sleep in the Desert with the Bedouins in Wadi Rum, Jordan. Allan with our bedouin guides, Salem and his brother.

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Matt Weatherbee
Matt Weatherbee

Hi, I’m Matt.  In 2008 I quit my job, sold everything and drove from Boston to Mexico to start a business.  Now I live and work in the Carribean, and spend my free time traveling the globe.  Learn more.

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