Some experiences are simply too strange to adequately describe. The morning I spent climbing in May in the desert area of Jordan called Wadi Rum is one example.
My guide for this particular adventure was Abdullah, a man more at ease rock climbing with a panama hat than a helmet. During our day together he wore white trousers, a white t-shirt, and Italian designer sunglasses. I had the impression my climbing companion should be doing something more fashionable. Perhaps drinks poolside with George Clooney.
Abdullah is Bedouin, a nomadic people that make up a significant percentage of Jordan’s population. He picked me up at the desert camp where I had been attempting to live like the Bedouin for two days. Abdullah said my experience lacked authenticity because he’s never been offered a refreshing iced towel before the start of any meal. He had a point. I finished my freshly squeezed orange juice, jumped into Abdullah’s 4×4, and off we went across the dunes.
The landscape of Wadi Rum is the backdrop for the movie The Martian starring Matt Damon. Red sand fills the valleys that lie at the base of steep and dramatic cliffs. This place is the Mars of our Hollywood imagination.
We arrived at the base of the rock face and Abdullah had the look of a small child caught playing with matches. The Islamic celebration of Eid was about a week away, so Abdullah was fasting during the day and trying to avoid physical exertion. Rock climbing definitely requires exertion.
Fortunately Abdullah had a brilliant solution for our little dilemma. He would belay me as I led the route, and as a bonus, he would shout encouragement from the desert floor. Um, OK.
After a great time climbing, Abdullah drove me back to my ‘Ritz Carlton in the Desert’. There were a few stops along the way to look at camels because his father had one wander off the week before. Arriving at the camp I was very grateful to be greeted by Sa‘id with an iced towel.