Escapism

Jill Worrall leaves Timaru to take on the world - bringing adventure travel to your desktop

Jordan: Romantic notions dashed in the Wadi Rum

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The discovery that Lawrence (T. E.) of Arabia was possibly not attracted to women was a bitter blow to me... I'd always had something of a crush on him.

But I'm over it (the fact that he is dead helps enormously). Now I am maturely focussing on his Middle Eastern exploits rather than on fruitless dreams of his strong arm reaching out and whisking me up behind him on his camel and galloping to his tent just before a sandstorm threatens to engulf us...

When Ahmad the Bedouin stopped his battered Jeep beside a tumble of rocks in Wadi Rum in Jordan and said "This is Lawrence's Spring" I was enthralled in a purely historical fashion.

Lawrence, in his book The Seven Pillars of Wisdom had swum here, watched intently by a local Bedouin. I knew the feeling, and I had all my clothes on.

Ahmad had already offered me the obligatory night under the stars but he wasn't making any headway against the jaw-dropping splendour of Wadi Rum.

Wadi translates as valley and it's thought that Rum refers to the ramparts of mountains that rear up from the desert floor.

Shadow-striped dunes rippled across the valley, lapping the feet of the russet, ochre and rust red cliffs. Silence hovered in a dusty sky and seeped into the skin, powerful, a little eerie but at the same time deeply satisfying.

Ahmad and I clambered along a cleft in the mountains, its walls worn smooth by water. Small pools lay cradled in sculpted basins. Ahmad had bare feet under his blinding white robe, his head covered in a red keffiyeh.

"Would you like to drive?" Ahmad asked when we returned to the Jeep. Now he was talking.

It was left-hand drive and the gears were worn but I was driving in Wadi Rum.

"My god," Ahmad said.

"You can drive."

Well, I could until I applied the brakes. We continued to bump along the rubbly tracks.

"There are no brakes," Ahmad said calmly - and as something of an after thought.

He gestured at our surroundings.

"Why would I need them?"

On the way home we stopped to talk to Ahmad's friend who was breaking in a new riding camel.

The camel was bellowing its protests at being made to kneel down and Ahmad had to drape himself across its neck before it would stay put long enough for its owner to mount.

We last glimpsed them side-stepping erratically across Wadi Rum, the camel still moaning and its rider singing at the top of his voice.

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