Camping in the desert? With three young kids including a baby? No thank you!
That was my first reaction to the suggestion. And how happy I am I changed my mind….
Visiting Wadi Rum with kids was A-MAZ-ING!
Wadi Rum is an easy drive from Petra. For the camping, we used a company called Bedouin Lifestyle. It was easy to arrange through email exchange and quite reasonable. They have different tour options – we opted for the 1/2 day jeep trek. The jeep is a rugged jeep with open air seating in the back. You start off in a small village by the park entrance/visitors center. From there a guide drives you into the heart of Wadi Rum.
Our guide was awesome. He was great with kids and lent an extra hand picking them up out of the truck and carrying them around. And he was gorgeous. Not that it matters professionally, of course…. I kept trying to look at his eyes to figure out if he was wearing eyeliner and then get caught staring. My husband was right there too – awkward! And oh yeah…I was breast-feeding a 3 month old baby.
Breast-feeding in the Middle East
So let me digress for a moment. Yes you can travel through the Middle East as a breast-feeding mother. Let’s be real here. Breast-feeding in public is not well supported in the Middle East. The Jordanian woman are not exposing any skin at all in public – not even ankles or elbows, and they mostly wear the black abayas and niqabs (face coverings), so to expose a breast here is just not something I wanted to do. I did not feel this was the time or place to make a stand for breast-feeding in public.
The upside is that Jordanians and other Arab/Gulf countries have big families and are very family-oriented. They bring their children everywhere and take such delight in babies and young children. They never expect children to act perfectly and are playful and helpful with children. Motherhood is truly revered here and babies are a blessing.
Here are my do’s and don’ts.
If possible go to a quiet private area – this is where hiring a driver and van for the trip was huge! Also feed in the hotel room before you head out. Having a patient husband willing to watch the other kids while you feed is also a necessity. Nicer hotels will often have comfy seating areas in the ladies restroom or small conference rooms you could sneak into.
In public cover up and sit in the corner. We were mostly in tourist areas and nobody ever said anything or gave me dirty looks. If somebody were to say something, politely ask them if they have a women only or “family” section/area – sometimes you can find booths with curtains that give you more privacy. More conservative establishment in the Middle East will have areas that are segregated for men and women.
How has your experience breast-feeding in the Middle East been? I would love to hear from you…
Back to Wadi Rum!
Some sights on our jeep ride:
- Ancient Nabatian ruins (Nabatians are the same people that lived here long ago and built Petra.)
- Narrow canyons where you can see old drawings and Islamic text carved into the walls.
- Hidden springs – the Bedouins are able to survive in this environment with a very small
amount of rainfall and fresh water. Laurence of Arabia lived out here and was shown the spring after gaining the trust of local tribes and sheiks.
- Red Sand Dunes – the best for kids. They could have spent all day climbing and then rolling down!
- Feeding camels. Riding camels. Camels are just cool.
- Watching the sunset. The desert landscape is bare and cruel and beautiful all at the same time. There are wide open vistas here – perfect spots for watching a sunset with not a speck of civilization for miles.
The campsite was about 10 tents covered with a thick black cloth material. We had a family tent to ourselves. We slept on elevated cots that came with linens. There was a bathroom tent with sinks toilets and showers. It was much nicer than I had imagined and it felt good to wash off some dust and sand. There was also an outside fire pit with comfy cushions on the ground surrounding it.
For dinner we were first served tea by the campfire. Then, as it got dark they gathered us around to reveal a goat cooked under the sand. They bury a metal barrel and light coals, place the meat over top, cover everything carefully with aluminum foil, and then bury it under the sand to cook. We saw them pull out the dish. Then we all went into a big tent where a modest buffet dinner was laid out. You could fill a plate and then sit on the side bench to eat. The food was alright – nothing too fancy, but plenty to eat after a busy day. I was going to try these camping recipes you can make ahead of time so I knew I’d get the type of food I would have back at home but, I ended up trusting the pre-paid catering which wasn’t as bad as I’d initially thought!
Afterwards we were treated to some drum
music by the fire. At this point we were exhausted and headed to bed. The next morning we rose and headed back out on the jeep.
Overall this is a very fun and easy way to experience the famous Bedouin hospitality and experience desert camping. I highly recommend it to families.
Have you been desert camping? Let me know in the comments!
For more information on our trip to Jordan with Kids, see my posts: