Wadi Rum’s White Desert
The Wadi Rum desert is UNESCO listed and visited daily by tourists from around the world. Wadi Rum is especially famous for its steep red sandstone cliffs. However the vast Protected Area offers natural beauty in its south that is little explored by visitors. As you move away from the tourist crowds into the white desert you will find different yet as stunning scenery. The quietness and isolation of the southern Protected Area offer an entirely different Arabian desert experience.
The white desert is named as such because it does not have the iron oxide red colours. It is yellow in colour, more familiar to sandy desert landscapes. It was however included into the Protected Area due to it beautiful scenery. As well as the different colour, the sandstone is softer and has eroded much more quickly. This has created very different landscapes, with vast valleys and smaller rocky outcrops. Therefore offering vast viewpoints and a greater understanding of the expanses of the desert.
The much more rapidly eroded sandstone has created completely different formations, with sinkholes and caves in all directions. Furthermore the granite base, stone formed over a billion years ago, is very exposed in some areas. Sites such as Siq Nuqra have purple coloured sandstone caused by the presence of manganese. The lack of human activity has also allowed for more flora and opportunities to see wildlife.
Wadi Rum’s wilderness zone
The white desert area is represented on the Wadi Rum tourist map as the wilderness area. Without the concentration of tourist attractions available in the red desert, the white desert offers an opportunity to enjoy the scenery and isolation of the desert. If you want to avoid the tourist crowds and are visiting in the high season, this is your best option. There are also a number of good trekking opportunities where you are unlikely to see any other people.
Umm Ad Dami is the highest point in Jordan. It is located within Wadi Rum’s white desert. It is possible to summit the mountain on a half day trek where you can see across the border into Saudi Arabia. Although the vast valleys such as Wadi Sabet are the primary appeal while exploring the white desert, sights such as Cow Rock are included on 4×4 tour itineraries.
The white desert sights are spread over a wider area and can be split into 3 categories. There are locations in the quieter southern white desert: Umm Ad Dami, Wadi Sabet, Wadi Nuqra, Cow Rock as well as Jebel Hash. Several locations are centrally located and feature on the red desert tour: Burdah Rock Bridge, Burrah Canyon, Mushroom Rock, Um Frouth Rock Bridge, Um Mugur. Additionally some locations are in the north alongside the commercial hub of At Diseh: Alameleh Inscriptions, Um Al Tawaqi.
The red desert should not be missed as it offers some of the most unique desert landscapes in the world. However, the white desert is a worthwhile addition to your Jordan itinerary. If you have the opportunity to spend two nights in Wadi Rum you will find that the contrast between the concentration of sight in the red desert and the quiet expanses of the white desert is the perfect combination.