This travel writing piece participated in the 2018 Travel Writing Competition which was done in collaboration with Travel Garage, Egypt‘s must-go to online store for purchasing adventure and travel goodies.
An endless backdrop of scorched sand shimmered under the intense white rays of the sun. I watch as a dwindling pool of sun-light melts across the landscape, casting a dusk haze as we trek through the protected area of Wadi Rum. Commonly called ‘The Valley of the Moon’, The Wadi Rum consists of 278 square miles of desert wilderness. Valleys, gorges and sandstone towers form the dramatic landscape of the ecosystem, set on the western edge of the Arabian Desert. Our pace quickens as we catch sight of our Bedouin Campsite.
We’re greeted immediately by a tall Bedouin man wearing white, flowing robes and a distinctive red and white chequered head scarf. He leads us straight to a large tent furnished with straw mats, nut brown tables and large cushions surrounding a gently flickering fire. A blackened, iron kettle sits on the flames emitting a light trail of grey steam. Our Bedouin host, Hami, brings over a silver tray of fingersized glasses. With swift expertise, Hami fills each glass to the brim with hot, minty tea, presenting each of us with a glass, a greeting and a smile. It is a welcome relief from the relentless desert heat, where not even a wisp of cloud softened the harsh rays of the desert sun.
Hami calls us over and we gather round near a raised section of sand. The area is fenced off with small wooden poles and a candle lit lantern dangles above us, sending flickers of light across the area. He explains that beneath the sand is a Zarb, a traditional cooking practice used by the Bedouin people for centuries. It is an underground oven with layer upon layer of baked potatoes, seasoned vegetables and slow cooked meats. The food is buried and placed upon a bed of hot coals, with the sand sealing in the heat. I watch in curiosity as a large metal lid is pulled away. With a gloved hand, Hami reaches underground and unearths the Zarb, revealing the food stacked in separate sections, like a large tiered cake stand.
A glorious aroma of slow roasted meat and vegetables spreads across the air. We return to the tent in anticipation, where a banquet is set across the table. Jordanian flat breads form a soft and doughy tower in the centre of the table. A homemade hummus spread with a drizzle of olive oil is generously dolloped onto each plate and the rice is scooped into a serving bowl for each trekker.
Hami places the stack of roasted food on a low table. We watch in avid delight as the cut of lamb falls off the bone. We are served a generous helping of roasted root vegetables and baked potatoes, marinated together with the roasted meat. We feast together as we temporarily forget the heat of the desert. There is an air of quiet contentment as we devour mouthful after mouthful of the delicious feast, casting a weary eye across the desert scape of Wadi Rum.