Without a doubt, Wadi Rum is another stunning place to visit in Jordan. The word “Wadi” in Arabic means “Valley”, so you can translate it as “Rum” Valley to English, although you’d better not, as it has nothing to do with the alcoholic drink :)
I dreamt of visiting Wadi Rum for many years and during my visit to Jordan, I definitely did not want to miss the opportunity. The problem was, I had nobody to go with! I definitely did not want to take my family to Wadi Rum, not only because of the harsher conditions, but also because it was going to be my only real opportunity to do some serious photography work – the rest of the time I was on vacation with my family. And by now, I know very well that it can be either a family trip or a photography trip, but never the two together…
So anyway, having nobody to go with, I reached out to our readers on Photography Life, asking if anyone would like to join me for the trip. A number of readers responded, but the first person to respond was Mr. Tareq Hadi. He gave me a number to reach him at and by the end of the day, we already set up plans to not only visit Wadi Rum, but also a few other places in Jordan.
I have to say, I am always amazed by the amazing readers we have all over the world. Meeting Mr. Tareq Hadi was an experience on its own – what a remarkable person he truly is! Not only did it turn out that he runs one of the most visited photography sites in the Middle East called DPClick.com, but he is also one of the most well known individuals in Jordan. While in Amman, he invited me to a number of local photography exhibitions and he even had his own exhibition during the Independence Day of Jordan.
But what truly struck me was not his accomplishments, but Mr. Hadi himself as a person. What a heartwarming, knowledgeable and inspiring person to look up to! After sharing the road on a couple of trips with him, I was dazzled by his rich knowledge in many fields – he literally is a walking encyclopedia. It turned out that Mr. Hadi spent a few years studying in the USA and his family still visits pretty much every year.
Here he is, taking pictures on a beach in Aqaba, where we spent some time swimming in the Red Sea after Wadi Rum (what an experience on its own!):
Big thanks to Mr. Hadi for his hospitality!
And by the way, he is not the only one with such background – many Jordanians are highly educated in the West and in general, I found Jordanians to be not only friendly, but also very smart and motivated people. Conversing with a cab driver gives you a similar experience as when talking to cab drivers in London, you learn a lot!
Visiting Wadi Rum is nowhere as easy as visiting Petra and other Jordanian landmarks. And the reason is vastness and complexity of the valley – not only is Wadi Rum huge, but the driving conditions are pretty tough, as it is just sand all over the place. Again, you will be greeted by Bedouins here, who I found to be much more friendlier and nicer than in Petra. Although you can bring your own 4×4 and drive in Wadi Rum, I personally would not recommend it. Not only can you get easily lost, but if you also get stuck somewhere, you will have to walk for miles to try to get help. Bedouins know the area better than anybody else and they can easily navigate through the sand with their trucks easily.
On your way to the Wadi Rum entrance, you might get a chance to photograph some camels:
They are everywhere and they belong to local Bedouins.
You could spend a week in Wadi Rum easily. There is so much to see! On the first day, Mr. Hadi decided to drive himself in the valley with his 4×4. We drove for a few miles and found an interesting spot. But after assessing it from the car, we decided to move on. We did not have much time and sunset was approaching fast, so we needed to find a good vantage point quickly. After driving a bit and scouting the area, we found ourselves only getting to more dangerous areas, where the sand was very deep and hard to drive on. We decided to go back to the first spot.
After we arrived, I started looking for something that I could use for the foreground. Being low down in the valley did not give me anything interesting, so I started moving up. The sun already reached the horizon at that point and we started to get some color in the sky, with sun rays reflecting off the clouds. I found an interesting desert bush and some rock formations and put them as my foreground to capture the below image:
Anyone who has shot with me before knows that I move around quite a bit at sunrise and sunset times. That’s because I do not want to lock myself to a single composition. With light being beautiful, I try to find other compositions for completely different shots. And that’s what I did with the below image, which I captured around the same time. I wanted to get a “complete” shot, with nothing cutting my framing, so it took me a while jumping between rocks (mostly not to screw up the sand) to find a solid foreground:
Love those beautiful, long shadows and the pristine beauty of this place!
Here is another angle from the same area:
While taking a ride across Wadi Rum is an amazing experience, I quickly found out that asking Bedouins for good sunrise and sunset opportunities is pretty useless. They are not photographers and the place is not that popular among photographers, so it is kind of a given that they would not know about light. We asked our driver to take us to a good sunrise spot and if I showed you where we ended up initially, you would be smiling, as it was in the middle of nowhere. Nothing interesting, just a vast valley with nothing but sand around us. We asked the driver to leave us near a big formation.
I looked up and saw some clouds. Judging by the direction of the brightness of the sky and some tips from our driver where he thought the sun would appear from, I started preparing myself for some hiking. Mr. Hadi and I climbed about 50 feet up and started setting up our tripods. Looking at the view in front of me, I knew that I had to move and find something more interesting. Armed with my trusty Nikon D750 and the Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8, I ran up.
As I was climbing up with my gear, light was changing quickly. Along the way, I tried to find some vantage points that might work, with an interesting foreground element. The problem with photographing with a wide angle lens is proximity – unless you have something large in front of you, everything will look too minuscule. I had the Sony A7R with the 24-240mm lens on my neck and my D750 with the 15-30mm f/2.8 was secured on my Gitzo traveler tripod. I needed both focal lengths to capture both wide and telephoto.
Once the first light hit the valley, I took a couple of quick images of a large rock formation to my left:
I was almost at the top of the peak by then, almost breathless – I was racing against time! I looked back and I saw the sun piercing through the clouds. It was time to shoot! With the final 30-40 feet up to the summit, which was not easy to do with all the gear I had with me, I climbed as fast as I could. I quickly needed to find something that I could use in the foreground for the wide angle shot I was aiming for, so I decided that it would be part of the mountain top. My camera was ready to go on the tripod, so once I put the feet on the ground, I made quick changes to my exposure and captured the below image:
I’m quite happy with how this one turned out. Love the sky, the sun rays and the colors I got on the rocks in front of me. The image depicts Wadi Rum nicely in my opinion, showing its vastness and its sheer beauty. By the time I took a couple of images, the light was already gone – the sun was moving up quickly and the colors changed drastically. There was no reason to stay anymore, so I started moving down.
On my way, I tried to see if there were any more good opportunities to capture the scenery. Sadly, with the light getting a lot less colorful, there was not much I could do. I took a few snapshots of that same formation, with some foreground when the sun was behind a thin layer of clouds to give me some orange glow:
Wadi Rum is truly stunning. I would highly recommend you to visit this magical place! With so many photographic opportunities, you will definitely come back with not only beautiful images, but also amazing memories.
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