The warm sun colorfully sneaks behind the jebels (mountains) closing out our seventh day of volunteering in the Wadi Rum desert. The temperature drops from a mild 70 degrees to sub 60 degrees quicker than the flip of a light switch. Sure, we are used to the desert climate being from Las Vegas, but we are both ill prepared for anything less than tank top weather. We quickly make our way down from a sunset lookout point where we passed time by having a rock stacking contest and trek across the desert sands to the semi-permanent tent camp set up against the red and white mountains, excuse me jebels. We know that inside the communal tent we will find Mohammed and Khaled prodding the fire and keeping the tea warm. Leading up to this point we have been served sweet tea (emphasis on sweet) a minimum of four times daily. The recipe seems to be; one liter of water, two tea bags and one heaping cup of sugar. It’s no surprise our host had a massive toothache when we arrived and left us in the care of his friends while he went to the dentist. Our host, Mohammed, is the proprietor of one of the Bedouin camps, aptly named Wadi Rum Bedouin Camp (I’ll post a link at the end).
Three weeks ago, I reached out to Mohammed on WorkAway.info to see if Jazmin and I were a good fit to help out with his photography, marketing and computer/internet needs. We had received an offer or two from other camps but upon reading his profile and checking out his website, we were both hoping we could find our home at his. Fast forward to the Monday when we arrived from Israel. We crossed the border from Eilat to Aqaba (the south), and shared a taxi with an older solo traveler, James, to Wadi Rum. First shock? The Jordanian dollar is 30% stronger than the US dollar, a situation I haven't come across in the last 15 months. 30 Jordanian Dinar ($42US) and one hour later finds us at the visitor center of Wadi Rum where Mohammed is waiting with his white Toyota pick up truck. The backdrop is desert, camels, and a small village that we have now walked every corner of. Mohammed offers a sincere welcome and invites us and James to his home for tea. We are here to work, but Mohammed enlightens us that in his culture, the first night we are guests and from there on out, we are family.
Aside from drinking tea and eating way too much ‘pita’ bread, we’ve gone on a couple of jeep tours around the desert as well as many drives to pick up climbers. Other days are generally spent in the village. In the morning Mohammed brings us tea, pita, hummus and occasionally some hard boiled eggs and leaves his phone which is our wifi tether. Jazmin has been tasked with every secretarial job he needed covered, ranging from but not limited to creating e-mail templates, problem solving with booking.com and TripAdvisor, answering booking requests, reviews and even occasionally hanging up the laundry when it’s dry. I have replaced most of his images on all of those websites and am currently working on making an advertisement video for the camp. In return he provides food, an insight into muslim culture, and some camping mattresses and bedding for us to sleep on in his living room. Truth be told, the sleeping situation varies, sleeping at the camp is obviously our preference but isn’t where we spend most nights. We generally trek out to the desert around sunset, enjoy dinner, star gaze a bit and then return to his home eleven and a half minutes away.
As our first week comes to a close and our final week looms, we are definitely looking forward to sleeping under the stars tonight. Aside from lunch today; hummus, pita, falafel, and a cucumber/tomato salad which cost 7 JD, we haven't spent anything. We have one more week to enjoy the incredible hospitality of the people here and hopefully leave a positive impact. Speaking of hospitality, wherever we wander in this small village people are constantly inviting us for tea or to share some food. Whether it be at the counter of a small market or in shade of a tree on our way to go hiking, the people have been nothing but welcoming. It’s nice to be in the Middle East. The food is good, and the only thing sweeter than the people is… you guessed it, the tea.
If you're thinking about making a trip to Israel, Jordan or Egypt feel free to reach out. If there are any questions you have I will do my best to answer them. As always, thanks for reading and keeping this blog alive, you guys make this dream a reality. Comments and feedback are always appreciated!