It was another early morning start as I fumbled for my belongings in the dark of my hostel room. I had booked a bus with my German roommate to Wadi Rum, and true to form, the bus was 30 minutes late. I was fortunate enough to get a seat, but it seemed that the transit was overbooked, meaning my roommate ended up in a shady side truck that also was designated as our luggage carrier. We all watched as they threw, and even dropped, our belongings into the back of an F350 and hoped that we would be reunited with them.
As the journey progressed, we had strange moments of random music playing from the bus speakers, including the Indian national anthem, to which a Desi tourist stood throughout. At one point, the bus stopped at an uninteresting shop somewhere in a small town outside of Wadi Musa. The driver came back with a huge piece of Arabic bread and some falafel. He encouraged us to share, but those in the back of the bus were not too chuffed at getting the food that dozens had already touched.
It was shortly after this that I had found my camera missing from my bag. I checked over and over, then called the hostel in a panic. The owner said nothing was seen around my bunk, though I had left not even an hour before. I recalled my roommate lamenting the fact that his charger disappeared overnight, and I realized my camera may have gone the same way. Annoyed and disappointed, I simply wanted to get to Wadi Rum and forget about the whole damn thing.
We crossed into the vast expanse of desert and immediately lost signal. My host for the next 24 hours was already at the visitor’s center waiting. As he walked, his long cloak brushed the ground, with his sandaled feet peeking out. He took my things and helped me into his truck and we drove off further into dead air and away from literally everything.
Wadi Rum was everything that Wadi Musa was not. Populated only by bedouin camps stretched out over expanses of sand dunes and rock formations, there was a peace that came form more than just the lack of mobile network. The people seemed calmer, both tourist and locals alike. When I reached camp, I had my own tent outfitted with a bed, a heater, and any amenities I needed. Settling in, I left the door open to feel the breeze of the desert and napped away the stressful morning.
My host woke me to take me on a tour. The desert stretched on with rust colored sand dancing around the vehicle as we stirred it on our journey. After seeing the infamous sites where movies such as Lawrence of Arabia and The Martian were filmed, we settled back into the camp. Feeling energized, I continued to climb around the camp area, reaching the highest points of the rocky faces and figuring out how to take decent photos with my phone instead of my camera.
For the first time in the entire trip, I was without an agenda. The camp had a common area with blankets, tea, and other guests coming and going. In between the meals and conversation, I immersed myself into a book and decompressed with the serene silence. Dinner was a traditional Bedouin meal of chicken and rice, with plenty for second and third helpings. As the sun set and the temperature dropped, I made my way to the tent, slowly gazing at the stars and hearing the laughter from the common area. Sleep came fast and heavy.
The sun rose and I awoke to pack my things and have a breakfast of beans, bread, and cheese. My host got his brother ready and took me back to the Visitor’s Center so that I could meet my driver to head back north. A mere 24 hours had transpired and yet I felt I had been away from the drama of the transit for weeks. While waiting at the pickup, my phone started to vibrate incessantly. One could say I was reconnected to the world, yet I had already been reconnected as I sat in the desert, far out of reach.