It is the 50th Anniversary of the epic classic Lawrence of Arabia. I remember first watching it and it was quite a defining moment; the desert, the stars, the epic horse and camel battles. It was also thanks to Lawrence that I was initially persuaded to visit Jordan.
Lawrence or Faisel…?
I couldn't decide who I fancied more - Lawrence or Faisel… Or rather Peter O'Toole or Omar Sheriff. In the end I went for Omar - resonate with that intoxicating aura of Middle Eastern mystery and manliness. And besides, I decided that Peter had ever so slightly overdone it on the makeup.
The Seven Pillars of Wisdom
It all formed part of my obsession with this part of the world, and I was determined to visit Jordan and explore the desert - this Wadi Rum or Valley of Moon that Lawrence had criss-crossed on camel and foot. In fact, they - whoever 'they' are - even named one of the rock formations in Wadi Rum 'The Seven Pillars of Wisdom' in the late 1980's - named after the vast book I actually took to Jordan to specifically read in Wadi Rum.
I wasn't disappointed - with the book or Wadi Rum. It is fabulous - a vast sandstone desert with huge monolithic rock formations rising up out of the sand. We raced along the sands (not by camel or horse, although you can) in open top jeeps to visit petroglyphic sites and sat under the stars around camp fires in the evening. You can trek, ride, balloon, or just be in this beautiful landscape. Just don't forget to bring your Seven Pillars.
Jordan is often overlooked or lumped into the 'no go' category, being so close to warring neighbours. But it's safe, fun and has so much to offer, with a rich and varied history that dates back to antiquity…
Petra is breath-taking; winding your way down the narrow siq, through the canyon walls to come upon the Treasury literally it takes your breath away. Aqaba - now a smart diving resort with its own micro climate, high speed boat connection to Egypt and top hotels - is a strong contender to the likes of Eilat. And that's not to mention the Crusader castles, the Roman sites, the Dead Sea…
Really, there's no better time to visit Jordan, with its sunny warm climate, friendly people, great infrastructure and even better hotels. Even Easyjet is flying there. And I am organising an 'In the footsteps of Lawrence…' tour to coincide with the 50th Anniversary of the film.