WADI RUM is a spectacularly scenic desert valley in southern Jordan.
Described by Lawrence of Arabia as “Vast and echoing”, Wadi Rum is an outstanding desert landscape. Sheer sided mountains of sandstone and granite emerge from open valleys to reach heights of over 1700 meters, and narrow canyons cut deep into the mountains, often concealing ancient rock drawings. This remarkable landscape is now a protected area covering 720 square kilometers and is available for everyone to explore and enjoy.
The mountains of Wadi Rum are home to several Bedouin tribes, including ours. We have lived here for generations, and while many of us now earn our living through tourism, we still retain a traditional way of life.
WADI RUM HISTORY
Geologists think that this Wadi (the Arabic word for “valley”) resulted from a great crack in the surface of the earth caused by an enormous upheaval, which shattered mammoth pieces of granite, and sandstone ridges from the mountains of the Afro-Arabian shield. Some of the ridges are a 1000 feet high and topped with domes worn smooth by the desert winds.
The Massive Mountains of Wadi Rum everywhere, in this timeless and empty place, are indications of man’s presence since the earliest known times. Archaeologists are certain that the Wadi Rum area was inhabited in the Prehistoric periods, mainly the Neolithic period between the 8th and 6th centuries BC, and was known as Wadi Iram. Fresh water springs made Rum a meeting center for caravans heading towards Syria and Palestine from Arabia.
Neolithic flints, Iron Age pottery and Minaean graffiti indicate settlement of the area prior to the Nabataeans. Before Islam, it served as the gathering place for the tribes of Ad, Thamud, Lihyan and Main. The Nabataeans, however, surpassed those early tribes in trade activities and monumental achievements.
Recent excavations in the south have uncovered a Caleolithic settlement dating from 4500 BC. On a hill, at the foot of Jabal Rum, lies the Allat temple originally built by the Ad tribe and remodeled by the Nabataeans in the 1st century BC.
Thamudic Inscriptions at Wadi RumA small village to the northwest of the temple was founded by the Nabataeans including a bath complex. Thamudic inscriptions, at the foot of the cliffs on both sides of the main Wadi, can be found in ancient stone constructions. These inscriptions on the temple confirm the pre-Islamic involvement of the Arabian tribes in the construction of the sanctuary. The temple was taken over by Thamudic tribes and Thamudic graffiti covers earlier Nabataean inscriptions, walls and columns.
Approximately 8.5 kms east of Wadi Rum, at Disi, an Italian excavation uncovered an early Nabataean site, which was occupied before the Nabataeans moved to the rose-red city of Petra. Throughout the valley, are scattered slabs of rocks with inscriptions in early Thamudic writing, recording the names of travelers who passed through centuries ago.
Wadi Rum was the headquarters of Prince Feisal bin Al-Hussein and T.E. Lawrence during World War I, to fight for the Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire. Lawrence became a legendary figure for his key role in the fight for the Arab cause. He made his home in this magical area. Ain Asshallaleh, also known as Lawrence’s Spring is just a short walk up the hillside from the Nabataean temple. The mountain aptly known as the Seven Pillars of Wisdom, was named by T.E. Lawrence, and was the inspiration for the title of his book of the same name.