One can call that a "place". Look around a bit!
Photo M. VERIN
As far as the eye can see there are mountains with their baroque shapes divided by immense arteries of sand which stretch on towards the horizon. The discovery of a complete massif seemed too much to hope for.
Just imagine, one isn't lucky enough to stumble across entire labyrinths of rock faces every day, nor to trace out such a profusion of climbable lines!
Nassraniya Towers - photo DOMENECH
In 85, fate was with us: the vast desert of south Jordan met all the conditions at the time, for us to embark on that fabulous period which as yet is barely over…
At the initiative of Tony Howard (the first on the spot the autumn of 84), a few of us were able to enjoy that rare pleasure: launch wholehearted attacks on whole lines of rock faces!
Tony Howard and Di Taylor: I had met them in Morocco, in 1979, in Zaouia close to the circus of Tarhia (central Atlas). I came there with a merry band of French friends, to climb, visit, and to sell off our two Peugeot 404…
For Tony, like me, it was the descriptions of Lawrence in his book "The Seven Pillars of Wisdom" which were at the origin of our attraction towards the mountains of Arabia. And also David Lean's film - "Lawrence of Arabia". Look at it again and don't say that you can't see the sumptuously carved walls of rock!
"Everyone to Wadi Rum!" orders Anthony Quinn (Sheikh Aouda Abou Tâyeh), and just look at the scene where the Bedouins troops move off – right opposite the magnificent valleys of Rum and Um Ischrin. It gives a wonderful view of the east face of Jebel Rum and of the proud towers of Nassranyia!
A few advertising leaflets distributed by Royal Jordanian Airlines when I took advantage of their cheap fares to Asia also caught my attention – there were several photos of the Rum mountains in the middle of the desert. They were very tempting.
In the autumn of 84, Tony headed off with Di Taylor, his companion, Mike Shaw, his climbing partner, and the truculent Alan Baker, towards the southern borders of Jordan. It was the first contact.
They began exploring, opening the few first routes to be climbed in the Western fashion, and especially, they managed to reach the summit of Jebel Rum, the supposedly highest point of the massif. And perhaps more importantly still they got on good terms with the local tribe, the Zalabieh.
I arrived the following spring, in 1985. I had already been mastering – through the car windows - the first buttresses as they grew bigger…. And here we finally reached what, for us all, was going to become for a while our palace of pleasures. Wadi Rum…
It was towards the end of the afternoon, when the light softens… My friends were enjoying an emotional reunion.. Made stupid by the long journey, my eyes already burning from the bright light, I turned my frenzied look in all directions. When for months you are dreaming of something, perpetually under tension, the shock of reality frees you and leaves you emptied, stupefied…
Surprising. Never, oh never had I seen such cliff faces!
Such a view electrified the young climber that I was. I could already see myself up on the heights.