Mars on Earth in the Wadi Rum Desert

Today we are headed to the protected Wadi Rum desert, which you’ll probably recognize as the otherworldly backdrop for movies like The Martian and Rogue One.  After a truly exhausting morning of hiking through Petra, we were picked up by our pre-arranged driver to take us to Wad Rum.  We had booked a “high end” transfer service, so imagine our surprise when a busted up taxi rolled in to pick us up.  The drive is less than two hours, so we figure we can make the best of it.  Except it gets worse. Once in route, our driver informed us that he had to get to a class at the University and that his dad would drive us instead.  We asked the obvious question – where the hell is your dad?  Oh, Dad is just at home.  So now we are making a pit stop at a random house in Wadi Musa to get dear old Dad.  When we arrived, Dad came out and informed us that his son would actually be driving us.  Not the son who picked us up.  His other son, who reeks of cologne and stares a little too long in the rear-view mirror.  We basically met the whole damn family at this point.  Stay with me here, people, because it gets weirder.  We stopped at an ATM and Drew hopped out to get some cash, leaving me in the car with Jordanian Rico Suave, who told me I am beautiful and said I could put my feet on the center console if I’d like.  I graciously declined.  He then mentioned that he does some side work as a masseuse “for women” in Petra, and said he can give me a foot massage “no problem” while he drives.  I laughed.  He did not.  I swear to you this man was dead serious. Homeboy had a legit foot fetish. He even asked me what size shoe I wore.  It was the longest ATM run of my life.

The rest of the drive was uneventful, through barren desert and large red mountains that reminded me of Utah.  At one point we passed by a group of shabby tents that looked like a desert crack den and I joked to Drew “we’re here!”.  I then asked him what he would have done if that was actually where we were staying and he responded, “I would strangle you and let the driver massage your dead feet”.  That boy is such a fucking gem.

Once we arrived in Wadi Rum, we transferred to a jeep and were driven out to our desert camp for the night.  From the back of the jeep, the stunning landscape of Wadi Rum came into view.  It really is Mars on earth.  We pulled up to Memories Aicha Luxury Camp, which is the premier fancy-ass desert camp of Wadi Rum. This place is supposed to be as good as it gets.  I don’t want to say the website lied, but their photographer should definitely get a raise.  And probably a job with national geographic.  There is a lot of new construction going on as they are building new domes to expand the camp.  I hate arriving at a hotel and finding construction is going on.  But you gotta roll with the punches on Mars.

Mars bubble tents in Wadi Rum

Our tent, however, is delightful.  It looks like Ali Baba’s brothel.  I’m into it.  The restaurant and lounge area in the back of the camp is also quite fabulous, so I’m warming up to the place quickly.  We have a few hours to spare before our sunset desert jeep tour, so I spend some time relaxing in the outdoor lounge while drew took a nap (he is still sick and feeling like complete and total shit).

A few hours before sunset we head out on a jeep tour of the Wadi Rum desert.  This tour was awesome.  It lasted the optimal tour length of 2 hours, and covered all the highlights.  Our first stop was a large sand dune with sweeping views of the unearthly landscape of Wadi Rum. It was an astounding view of the stark red desert surrounded by gargantuan monolithic rust colored mountains.  I’m going to let the pictures do most of the talking here…

The next stop was Khazali Canyon, a deep and narrow crack in one of the towering mountains that you can hike through, with pools of  rain water at your feet.  The walls are lined with Nabatean petroglyphs and Islamic inscriptions.  While climbing out we encountered a French couple very fond of extreme sports and going to great lengths to impress the same interests on their young child.  They were trying to teach him to rappel down a rock from a rope that his father was holding.  First mom showed him and then insisted he try.  This kid could not have been older than five.  He gave it a shot and smacked his face into the rock.  He was scolded his Lara Croft wannabe mom who yelled at him “you know how to do this!”.  Andrew speaks high school level French so we are all up this family’s business.  They were borderline bullying their own child.  As someone who has far less athletic ability than everyone else in my family, I was appalled.

The next stop was Little Rock Bridge, a bridge-like rock formation that offers more great views of the desert.  And who did we run into here?  The adrenaline junkie Frenchies, of course!  Femme fetale Mom and Dangerous Dad were urging their son to jump off a VERY high boulder.  I’m talking ankle-breaking high.  He was visibility terrified, but at the insistence of his parents he jumped.  I cringed.  At the bottom he grabbed his lower legs, crying that it hurt.  Mom told him he was fine.  Is this a child rearing technique?  Because I am not into it.   They probably made the poor kid sleep outside the tent tonight for embarrassing them.  I could practically write the script to that kid’s future therapy sessions.

Little Rock Bridge, Wadi Rum

Lastly, we made a stop at a rock formation that we climbed to watch the sunset.

Let’s talk about dinner.  It was, quite frankly, the Middle Eastern buffet of my dreams.  This was the food I had been expecting to eat all damn trip.  An amazing assortment of mezze in a beautifully arranged spread, with a chef at the end of the line serving me roasted lamb.  Finally.  Andrew was still feeling shitty with very little appetite so I had no choice but to pick up the slack.  There is no “I” in team, and there isn’t one in “fast ass” either.  By my second plate I was fully aware of the uncomfortable night I was signing up for, but I proceed eyes wide open and accepting of my fate.  Because this is food that tastes as good as skinny feels.  I brought my own wine to dinner but didn’t even crack it open because that meant less room for the food.  I’m completely serious.  I went to bed with meat sweats not shortly thereafter.

Rise and shine at 5am for our sunrise camel ride!  By the time I get home, waking up for work will just feel self-indulgent.   We did a quick fifteen minutes camel ride out to watch the sunrise, led by a ten year-old Bedouin guide.  I think this may have been the kid’s first solo mission, because he looked stoked that dad was letting him take us out on his own.  At least until one of the camels kicked the shit out of his leg.  He limped a little after that…Andrew and I both later confessed that we wondered if he got kicked on purpose to increase his tips.  We are such cynical and contemptuous pricks.

After breakfast we packed up and headed back to town for our pickup to drive to the dead sea.  I’m not going to go into too much boring detail, but suffice it to say that this tour company we used to book all our transfers screwed the pooch again.  One fuck up I can forgive.  Shit happens.  But two in twenty-four hours and I can only assume that you are either lazy or just suck at your job.  Either way, I’ve overpaid.  It was the last straw – I called the owner and lost my shit on him.   Remember in real housewives when Vickie Gunvalson goes bat shit crazy on a driver service for sending a “family van” to take her group to the airport? It was definitely not that bad. Over and hour of my trip has now been wasted, which doesn’t sound like much, but I did the math and that is almost 1% of my total vacation.  So yeah, still not much at all.  Now that I’m looking at my calculator I might feel slightly like an impatient psycho.  I’ll take a note to work on my patience if the rest of the world will take a note to stop fucking with me.  For the record, I did get us reimbursed for yesterday’s kinky-feet transfer.

We’ll continue this adventure about four hours north at the Dead Sea!

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