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Friday, October 28, 2016

The Unlikeliness of Being a Speck in the Vast Otherworldly Setting of Wadi Rum



The landscape of Wadi Rum almost empties your soul of worldly worries. Looking at the immense rolling hills entwined with chiseled canyons and sand dunes blemished by camel footprints, one is reminded of the words of British archaeologist, military officer, and diplomat Thomas Edward Lawrence more famously known as Lawrence of Arabia, when he described Wadi Rum as “vast, echoing, and God-like.

I find it a fitting side trip to our spiritual tour of the Holy Land. How else could I describe the colossal grandness of it all? Even in its barren environment almost devoid of plants and trees, the way Mother Nature sculpted a dramatic expanse of landscape that stretched as far as the eyes could see—it honors the fact that only God could fashion such magnificent creation.


Inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2011, Wadi Rum is referred by many as the “quintessential desert” because of its extreme weather conditions, scorching during summer and violently cold every winter, the unforgiving elements and the peaceful exquisiteness of Wadi Rum makes it a testing but gratifying home to the Bedouins.


The Bedouins are descendants of these nomadic Arabs who inhabited the Syrian and Arabian deserts for many centuries. The name “Bedouins” originated from the Arabic term for “dessert dwellers.” Divided into various tribes, they thrive in the most challenging conditions of the deserts of the Middle East to North Africa and are known to live a low-key lifestyle herding goats and camels while owning a few set of possessions. Our guide Mohanned told us while still on the bus “These Bedouins have very few belongings, aside from few set of clothes, you can only see them with a tent, a 4x4 truck and a generator set – that’s it, all they ever need to exist in these sterile land”


During a tea session with a small group of Bedouins I learned from one of them about a Filipino who settled in Wadi Rum. “He lives here and married here, but too bad he went somewhere, you should have met him,” one of the Bedouins told us.


After our brief interaction with some of the Bedouins we clambered over a small rocky hill to wait for the sunset. Mohannad gave us slices of watermelons swearing at its sweetness while we sat idly, with myself getting lost to my own thoughts again. As the sky slowly faded into crisp golden hues, a strong wind started blowing. I looked down below me and I saw the sands forming a mini tornado as it circled past to cover the lined footprints of camels. The otherworldly scenery reminded me of the movie The Martian, which was filmed against the very same backdrop I am staring in awe at.


As the sun slowly sank into the distant mountain, all the audible dialogue just faded out completely. It is either everyone became too astonished to utter a word or I heard nothing but my own contemplations. As the wind whispered its hissing in my ear, I heard an echoing of breathless reactions from the others.


Exhausted from the long trip to Wadi Rum but with spirits filled to the brim with delight, we feasted at our luxurious Sun City Camp over a traditional Jordanian meal of Zarbs—a Bedouin barbecue of chicken and lamb marinated with various herbs and spices pre-heated in an underground oven for three to four hours. That night, as I walked toward our luxurious tent I caught a sight of the blanket of stars above me. Overwhelmingly countless and beautiful, I have never seen such sheer number appear so clearly in the nighttime skies before.


For the first time I was able to mingle with everyone from the group. All 17 of us, being the only non-travel operator I instantly felt as one of them. Over a lighted bonfire, I listened attentively as they enthusiastically shared interesting and inspiration tidbits about the travel industry. On our second night, I felt a tint of joy knowing that apart from in the midst of creating a wonderful memory of Wadi Rum, a budding camaraderie among all of us has been brewing as well.


Day 2 of our 12-day Holy Land trip couldn’t have ended more wonderfully – ticking off Wadi Rum from my personal ‘bucket list’ was just one of the many highlights forming and a truly is, welcome gift handed to me by sheer good karma. I can’t acknowledge the travel Gods enough.   

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This article was part of a longer story that appeared on the pages of the July 24, 2016 issue of Manila Bulletin

I came along as an embedded media writer for a ‘Business Familiarity Tour’ of the Holy Land that includes Jordan, Israel and Egypt. It is a 12-day jaunt participated by members of NITAS (Network of Independent Travel & Allied Services Philippines), a network of leading travel operators in the Philippines. For Inquiries on how to avail of the “Holy Land Tour” in Egypt, Jordan and Israel please email the NITAS consortium at afroasianworldevents@gmail.com and nitassecretariat@gmail.com



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