In the West, Wadi Rum may be best known for its connection with British officer T. E. Lawrence, who passed through several times during the Arab Revolt of 1917–18. In the 1980s one of the rock formations in Wadi Rum, originally known as Jabal al-Mazmar (The Mountain of (the) Plague), was named “The Seven Pillars of Wisdom” after Lawrence’s book penned in the aftermath of the war, though the ‘Seven Pillars’ referred to in the book have no connection with Rum.
The area is centered on the main valley of Wadi Rum. The highest elevation in Jordan is Jabal Umm ad Dami at 1,840 m (6,040 ft) high (SRTM data states 1854 m), located 30 kilometres south of Wadi Rum village. It was first located by Difallah Ateeg, a Zalabia Bedouin from Rum. On a clear day, it is possible to see the Red Sea and the Saudi border from the top.
Jabal Ram or Jebel Rum (1,734 metres (5,689 ft) above sea level) is the second highest peak in Jordan and the highest peak in the central Rum, rising directly above Rum valley, opposite Jebel um Ishrin, which is possibly one metre lower.
Khaz’ali Canyon in Wadi Rum is the site of petroglyphs etched into the cave walls depicting humans and antelopes dating back to the Thamudic times. The village of Wadi Rum itself consists of several hundred Bedouin inhabitants with their goat-hair tents and concrete houses and also their four-wheel vehicles, one school for boys and one for girls, a few shops, and the headquarters of the Desert Patrol.
Wadi Rum is home to the Zalabia Bedouin who, working with climbers and trekkers, have made a success of developing eco-adventure tourism as their main source of income. The area is one of Jordan’s important tourist destinations, and attracts an increasing number of foreign tourists, particularly trekkers and climbers, but also for camel and horse safari or simply day-trippers from Aqaba or Petra. Its luxury camping retreats have also spurred more tourism to the area. Popular activities in the desert environment include camping under the stars, riding Arabian horses, hiking and rock-climbing among the massive rock formations. All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) and Jeeps are also available and new camps have opened that offer accommodation for tourists.
The Bedouin have climbed in the Sandstone mountains of Wadi Rum for many generations. Many of their ‘Bedouin Roads’ have been rediscovered and documented by modern climbers. Several are included in the climbing guidebook by Tony Howard, and online by Liên and Gilles Rappeneau.
In 1949 Sheikh Hamdan took surveyors to the summit of Jabal Ram. The first recorded European ascent of Jabal Ram took place in November 1952, by Charmian Longstaff and Sylvia Branford, guided by Sheik Hamdan. The first recorded rock climbs started in 1984, with the first of many visits by English climbers Howard, Baker, Taylor and Shaw. This group repeated many of the Bedouin routes, accompanied by locals and independently, including, in 1984, Hammad’s Route on Jebel Rum, and, in 1985, Sheikh Kraim’s Hunter’s Slabs and Rijm Assaf on Jebel Rum. Many new routes were climbed in the 1980s, by this team, French guide Wilfried Colonna, by the Swiss Remy brothers, and by Haupolter and Precht. The first dedicated climbing guide book, Treks and Climb in Wadi Rum, by Tony Howard, was first published in 1987. Some of the many Bedouin routes have been documented online by Lien and Gilles Rappeneau. A new routes book for climbers is held at the Wadi Rum Guest House.
The route Guerre Sainte was climbed in 2000 by Batoux, Petit and friends. This was the first route in Wadi Rum to be entirely equipped using bolt protection. The route, on the East Face of Jebel Nassarani North, is 450 m (1,480 ft) long, and graded F7b or F7aA0.
The Location Managers Guild recognized the Jordanian Royal Film Commission with its LMGI Award for Outstanding Film Commission in 2017 for its work on Rogue One, which filmed at Wadi Rum. The RFC was previously nominated for its work with The Martian.
- Lawrence of Arabia – David Lean filmed much of this 1962 film on location in Wadi Rum.
- Red Planet – Wadi Rum was used as the surface of Mars in this 2000 film.
- Passion in the Desert – The area was also used for scenes in this 1998 film.
- The Face – BBC Film, Rock climbing in Rum, featuring Wadi Rum pioneers Tony Howard and Di Taylor.
- Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen – represented as being in Egypt
- The Frankincense Trail – scenes from train, and aerial filming too
- Prometheus – scenes for the Alien Planet
- Krrish 3 – the song ‘Dil Tu Hi Bata’
- May in the Summer – a film by Cherien Dabis presented at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. Long shots of Wadi Rum set the mood for the film, it’s a place where the main character finds peace away from the world and within herself.
- The Last Days on Mars – filming for exterior shots representing the surface of the titular planet for this 2013 film.
- The Martian – filming for the Ridley Scott film began in March 2015, for shots that stood in for the surface of Mars.
- Matt Damon on Wadi Rum:
|“||I was in awe of that place. It was really, really special. One of the most spectacular and beautiful places I have ever seen, and like nothing I’ve ever seen anywhere else on Earth.||”|
- Theeb – Filmed mostly in Wadi Rum, as well as Wadi Araba.
- Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, used for scenes set on Jedha.
- Aladdin (2019 film)
Thamudic inscriptions in Wadi Rum
A Nabatean temple in Wadi Rum