We say goodbye to Zinniah, wishing her well at the border at Eilat. Awaiting us is a plush, air conditioned coach, with enough seats for double our number. We have a driver, a police escort and Mohamed, our Jordanian guide as we swing along the empty highway to Wadi Rum.
Eleven of us disembark with packed lunches to walk the 7km through the Siq al Barrah in the heat of the afternoon, while the rest opt for the easier 4WD route to camp.
We cross a railway line and settle on a rock in some shade to eat our lunch. A goods train chuffs towards us. There is no oil in Jordan, but the country exports phosphates. The sand is soft, better than walking on hard pavements, but it plays havoc with my leg muscles. The others march on ahead.
I spot some partridges. The landscape is dramatic – stark granite outcrops in fascinating shapes and shadows. Clumps of spiny bushes are dotted among the sand; tyre tracks everywhere; some lizard tracks. A 4WD keeps us company for the first half, but I am determined to plod on. There is so much more life to see here, than in the softer dunes and gullies of the Negev desert.
Our campsite hides behind an enormous elbow of rock, safe from wind and weather. It is very basic. Our communal sleeping quarters consists of one black oblong shed. Tent material in the desert is made from goats’ wool, distinguished by white horizontal stripes. Our toilet in a dark shed against the rock is a hole in the ground, not well managed by our group.
We are greeted by our hosts with delicious sage tea, but there is no luggage. A near rebellion follows. We were not warned; none of us are prepared; vital medicines have been left behind. Steph exerts her charms and a special delivery is organised.
We gather for supper round the remains of a camp fire. Jordanian food is deliciously spicey. We are treated with a sand-cooked meal and the lentil soup is outstanding.
There is no electricity and I can’t find my torch. Several people drag their mattresses out to sleep under the stars, but I am so exhausted, I can’t be bothered to join them.
After an excellent breakfast of vegetable omelettes, we enjoy a two hour 4WD safari through the fascinating outcrops and dramatic scenery of the Jordanian desert. Artistic shapes and shadows everywhere; one massif looks as if it is covered with Egyptian hieroglyphics, another is shaped like a pyramid.
We stop to admire ancient rock art, at a multi-storied spring, and at the shrine of Laurence of Arabia, who is a distant ancestor of mine.
The leading vehicle flounders in the sand, and the driver gets out to let air from the tyres. And then we transfer back into our luxurious coach to pass the site of modern day camel races. We visit the touristy “Seven Pillars of Wisdom” before taking the highway to the jewel of our safari, the ancient Nabataean town of Petra.