A Walk in Jordan’s Wadi Rum

Adrian V. Cole
9 min readMay 15, 2018

In David Lean’s “Lawrence of Arabia,” Prince Feisal looks piercingly at T.E. Lawrence and asks him: “Are you one of those desert-loving Englishmen, Colonel Lawrence? What do you love about the desert? There is nothing in the desert!”

Standing in the middle of a sea of sand, in the national preserve that is Wadi Rum, I came up with a few answers to Feisal. Not to sound like Christopher Robin — but Nothing is precisely what one loves about the desert. Feisal, perhaps, had not had much experience in bustling cities or in sprawling suburbs, where the great press of humanity can be felt. But here! I stood still and looked around. There was no wind, and no trees either, for the wind to make noise in. The silence was almost terrifying — a sign of the place’s isolation, of the deep solitude offered by such landscape. Here you can imagine God talking to Moses. Or Gabriel talking to Muhammad. Whatever conversation there was, it registered as a slight, small distraction from the yawning chasm of existence, and our miniscule place in the cosmos.

The sand underfoot was fine and slightly red in color; about five-hundred yards to our south there rose up a thousand-foot sandstone cliff, whose sides were almost sheer, and collapsing in constant rock slides into the valley floor. Because it was not yet seven in the morning, the sun at our backs cast long shadows on the plain ahead of us, making half of the valley a dark, cold place, and half burning bright and quickly warming.

We had an hour or so until our predicament became worrisome. We could have used Feisal now, or anyone with a camel, because my guide, a nineteen-year-old Bedouin by the name of `Oudi, had forgotten to gas-up the 1950’s era Land Cruiser before leaving. He would have called his grandfather, but his cell phone battery was dead. As it was, we were in the middle of nowhere, with nothing.

I offered `Oudi some bottled water, for which he seemed grateful. He frowned as he looked out over the desert, and the way home, as if he had never contemplated it without the aid of a jeep, or as if asking himself how he could have forgotten to gas-up. Maybe, I thought to myself, these modern Bedouin have a thing or two to learn about the desert. So `Oudi and I began walking.

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Adrian V. Cole

Writer of fiction & non fiction. Author of “Thinking Past: Questions and Problems in World History to 1750.” Politics Reporter at the American Independent