Traveling The Land Of Lawrence Of Arabia

Friday, July 30, 2010

Let’s face it, “Lawrence of Arabia” is one of the best travel movies of all time. I dare you to watch this flick (and, yes, that means you’re going to have to put aside about 3 1/2 hours) and not want to pack your bags and follow in the famed footsteps of T.E. Lawrence (except, perhaps, that part when those footsteps enter that Turkish prison).

Today, that trip would entail traveling from the northern reaches of Syria to the southernmost portion of Jordan, where the country meets the Red Sea in Aqaba. Just outside of the famed city on the sea, in southern Jordan, is Wadi Rumm, or the Valley of the Moon, a swatch of land towered over by sandstone and granite outcrops, akin to Monument Valley, but, you know, not even close.

It is here that The Australian recently visited, taking in the vastness of the region, sleeping under the stars in the surprisingly cold night air, and bumping into local Bedouin nomads, a people whose hospitality is unmatched in the world — even with interloping Aussies who stumble upon random tents in the desert.

[A]lthough we intend only to ask directions, Ouda’s younger brother Ali gently insists we take tea. It would be churlish to refuse and besides, after a chilly night spent under the stars in a remote corner of the wadi, this traditional Bedouin hospitality is welcome.

Then Ouda materializes and lays out mats. The extended family joins us: Ouda’s wife and four young children, his mother, his mother-in-law and his grandmother. The other menfolk are out on the wadi tending their goats. Ali produces a venerable aluminum bowl and fills it with cold water.

He washes the glasses methodically, then pours the steaming tea from a blackened kettle. We drink gratefully. Despite our protestations, the family will not drink until we drain our second glass.

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