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An hour's drive south of Petra brings you to magical, majestic Wadi Rum -- a vast, silent landscape of ancient riverbeds and pastel-colored stretches of sandy desert, suddenly shattered by towering sandstone mountains and sheer, shimmering cliff-faces. Wadi Rum is hauntingly beautiful, and always privately moving -- a marvel of God's enduring creation, against which the measure of humankind seems so small and fleeting. Its moonscape-like surface takes on subtly different hues throughout the day and night, changing with the seasons of the year. It offers something of interest for every taste. Here is an unspoiled natural beauty forged by millions of years of geological formation, erosion and evolution, but easily accessible on a good paved road for those who want simply to drive into Wadi Rum for an hour on their way south to Aqaba. This is also home for the semi-nomadic Bedou living in their great goat's hair tents, tending their herds of sheep and goat, and preserving an ancient lifestyle that has been practiced in the Arabian desert for thousands of years.

For history and antiquities lovers, Wadi Rum is a vast house of clues from the past -- for almost every valley, mountainside or large fallen boulder has some vestige or hint of human activity that took place here during the past several thousand years. Everywhere there are Thamudic, Safaitic, Nabataean, Greek and Arabic graffiti and some formal inscriptions, a rich repertoire of rock art depicting hunting scenes, cultic symbols or just the fanciful creations of a passing shepherd or soldier, sophisticated hydraulic wrks such as dams and water channels, simple stone burials, remnants of little houses, rudimentary Stone Age rock shelters, and even an elaborate Nabataean temple. More recently, Rum was the scene of the exploits of Lawrence of Arabia during World War One, and the setting for the film that carried his name.

For outdoor action vacationers, Wadi Rum has recently been discovered by the world's mountain climbers and hikers, attracted by its many as yet unscaled peaks, spectacular natural scenery, ease of access, comfortable year-round climate, and variety of available walks, climbs, hikes and treks catering to advanced climbers or novice hikers alike. The region has also become a favorite of hand-gliding clubs in the area, with its near perfect conditions for hand-gliding and kiting. The less hardy can wander through Rum's vast expanses in four-wheel-drive vehicles, or on camel caravans that can be arranged on request for day-trips or overnight stays. Many adventurous travelers camp in small groups inside Wadi Rum, to capture the lasting memory of a warm summer night's moonrise against a backdrop of the star-filled southern sky of Jordan.

A Beau Geste-style police post, at the end of the paved road into Rum, houses a small garrison of tough, handsome and hospitable Jordanian desert police. Adjacent to them is the Bedouin settlement, and the small Tourism Ministry rest house with basic facilities for climbers and day visitors. There are no sleeping facilities at Wadi Rum, which is usually visited from Petra or Aqaba.

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