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Our day in Wadi Rum starts with a small commotion. While I had been bitten by a couple mosquitoes (or one very vicious specimen) during the night at the camp and look like I have just come from a bar fight, this isn’t what all the excitement is about. Not one, not two, but three camels are pregnant at the Captain’s Desert Camp and according to the Bedouins, could give birth at any moment. Naturally, we head to the camel pen to have a look.
While the very pregnant camels decide to not give birth right then and there, Brendan and I do get the chance to meet an adorable baby camel, only a few weeks old, but as ill tempered as any of the adult animals. Making the typical gargling noises, it tries to attack us, mounts its mother and chases a herd of frightened goats around the property. We observe the tiny camel racing around the pen, laugh as we dodge its clumsy attacks and watch in wonder, when a Bedouin takes it in a headlock and cuddles it lovingly, before it rips free again to get up to some more mischief.
After only narrowly escaping the moods of the baby camel, we take our seats on the back of a 4×4 and head out into the desert. I am glad to see the camps, the tours and the management firmly in the hands of the local Bedouins, who seem to have a keen sense for eco-adventure tourism. Wadi Rum is one of the most amazing, as well as truly authentic landscapes I have ever seen. The Bedouins still live fairly traditional lifestyles, there are no huge hotel complexes and no greedy businesses pulling money out of visitors pockets for sub-par experiences in an overrun place.
Wadi Rum can only be described as serene, a word that oddly fits it’s second name “Valley of the Moon”. Impressive rock formations rise out of the orange sand everywhere, jagged granite and sandstone, which seems to be ripe for climbing and exploring. Once in a while, a little caravan is seen crossing the dunes, children race each other on camels and little camps with their tents and colourful carpets hide behind rocks. The silence is only broken by the hum of our 4×4, as we hold on for dear life while our guide makes his third attempt at getting up a particular dune.
After a successful day out in the desert, but with some time to spare before heading back to Aqaba, we are offered the chance to have a look at the Oryx reserve near Wadi Rum. Visitors aren’t usually allowed in, as the purpose of the reserve isn’t safaris and entertainment, but breeding the rare animals for a later release into the wild. Which of course means, keeping them away from locals as well as visitor and in their natural surroundings as much as possible.
The Arabian Oryx used to be at home throughout the deserts of the Middle East, and is even depicted on cave drawings in the region. When the animals went extinct in the area in the 20th century, decimated due to overgrazing of their habitats and hunting, a project was introduced in 2002 to save them. If the program ends up being successful, visitors in Wadi Rum might soon be able to spot the occasional Oryx within the Wadi Rum Protected Area and the Bedouins might get the opportunity to start offering Oryx-spotting tours. It’s a wonderful project and I am glad that I get to see the Arabian Oryx outside of a zoo and in their home: the wild landscapes of Wadi Rum.