A Night in Wadi Rum: My Spiritual Encounter with the Desert

Travelmakerkai | Wadi Rum

Is it’s possible to have more than one spirit place?…

That place where your soul feels completely as one with your mind and body. It’s as if you’re on familiar territory; perhaps from a previous encounter, perhaps from a previous life…

Travelmakerkai | Wadi Rum

That feeling usually comes to me when I’m by the sea and was especially strong during my 2 month healing-stay in Salvador da Bahia, Brazil. I have to admit, it’s been nothing short of a struggle being back from Brazil. It’s strange to think I could go from a dreamy ‘living my best life‘ status, to ‘is this my life?‘ self-pity back in London. Every trip I’ve thought about booking (or and booked and cancelled – St Lucia!) has been to try to re-enact a state of mind I’ve found only in Brazil, knowing fair well it won’t be the same… Perhaps even if I were to go back to Brazil.

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Travelmakerkai | Wadi Rum

So when I received the call from DoGoodFilms to join the team on a commission from NetHope in Jordan, I took up the opportunity without any fairytale exceptions. Three days filming the No Lost Generation (NLG) tech summit in the comfortable setting of the Marriott Hotel in Amman – not a bad!

No Lost Generation Tech Summit at the Marriott hotel, Amman

But let’s face it, you can’t come to Jordan and only see Amman – it should be a crime considering all the history and culture this country is rich in. And since I’m guilting of such crime when I visited Jordan previously and skipped the tourist sights opting to just hang out in Amman, I knew too well I couldn’t make the same mistake again. So once the summit was over, I upgraded my stay from a 5* hotel, to a billion experience sleeping in a Bedouin camp in the Wadi Rum desert!

Amazing time-lapse of the moving stars - a labour of love captured by Ivo, DoGoodFilms!

Wadi Rum

Travelmakerkai | Wadi Rum

Travelmakerkai | Wadi Rum

The desert is the last place I would have expected to feel spiritual. In fact, if I’m being really honest, when I think about the desert – I can’t help but think about countless sub-saharan Africans making the pain-stacking voyage to get to North Africa and cross the sea into Europe for a better life. When I think of Bedouin, hospitality isn’t the first thing I think of, but rather the suffering of people who look like me whose vulnerability has been known to be exploited for parts of their bodies – their teeth, kidneys, hearts, their dignity and their lives crossing the Sahara desert.

I can recall New Years Eve spent in Taba, Egypt, four years ago. I did a boarder-crossing trip which took me from Cairo across the Sinai into Israel and Jordan. I met a super cool black girl, Miriam, in Israel also travelling solo so we joined forces (and what a force we were together!) spending Christmas (in Bethlehem, Palestine) and later accepted an invite from my friend Rashwan from Cairo to spend New Year in Taba, close to the Egypt-Israeli border, to be hosted by Bedouins. Myself and Miriam, being the only black girls amongst a gathering of Egyptians from Cairo escaping the bustle of the city, tourists and hippies, were spotted by a Bedouin who’d been amusing his guests, when he called out to us; “How is it in Africa?!” Baffled, I responded without hesitation, “The last I checked, we’re in Africa, Egypt is part of Africa“.

This isn’t Africa, this is Asia!” he responded.

And with that the conversation ended. This Bedouin wanted us to know, we weren’t just tourists. We were black, we were subsaharan Africans, and we were in his territory. I suddenly felt the energy change. This show of power was to intimidate us (because how dare these black girls be tourists!), but we didn’t let it ruin what was a unique experience.

Travelmaker Kai | Wadi Rum

Travelmakerkai | Wadi Rum

Black in the Middle East

So for this trip, I had to let go of any preconceived bias which could hinder my aura (I’m a big believer that the energy you give out is generally what you’ll receive), without dismissing my feelings; I’m often silenced to a ‘it’s not always about race’, yet race has a lot to do with power play. Let’s also not forget Arabs, as with white colonialists, have a deep rooted history of enslaving sub-Saharan Africans. The word abd is a common term used to describe black people, which it literally means “slave” in Arabic.

Black in the Middle East is often a connotation for; slave, house help, refugee, migrant, prostitute. As a visibly black woman, my experiences will differ from a white woman or a racially ambiguous woman of colour (WOC), despite our gender being a commonality. So yes, whereas a white woman might also get the stares, I doubt any of the listed labels are associated.

I do acknowledged my privilege of being a tourist, a temporary visitor. So what’s it like being a black woman living in the Middle East? I’ll be sharing in the next post my interview with Key, an African American living in Jordan for the past 3 years.

Putting my problems in perspective

In the desert I had solitude. A 6am hike up a canyon helped put a my first-world-problems into perspective as I reflected on how small I felt in the vastitude of the desert (if I’m small, my problems are tiny!). I felt a connection, and dear I say a spiritual one too, I hadn’t felt since leaving Salvador, Bahia… How opposite these two places could be?!

Before leaving Wadi Rum to head back to Amman (via Petra, which I have to say was a ‘meh’ experience considering all the tourists and people trying to sell you something or another), we stopped by a coffee shop which to my delight had wifi! My Aunty, Mama Lou was the first person I messaged. “Greetings from Jordan Mama Lou.” I sent via whatsapp along with a picture I felt summed up my experience of sheer gratitude. Mama Lou called me straight back to share her delight that I was in the ‘Holy Land’ and requested I bring her some anointing oil! Now where will I find anointing oil – that’s oil which has been blessed from the Holy Land, in a Muslim country? “Pray whilst you’re in the Holy Land” Mama Lou reminded me in a text message. “Put your heart desire before the Almighty

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Catch the sunset, Wadi Rum | ©Travelmakerkai
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Battle of the camel toe: Zara culottes are desert friendly… if you don’t mind a wedgie every now and then all in the name of fashion! lol

I’m not the most religious person (if at all), preferring to be in tune with spirituality. I’ll take my blessings wherever it’s been given, under whatever name it wants to be given. Funny, I didn’t think I’d find Mama Lou’s ‘anointing oil’, but when passing through Duty-Free at the airport, I spotted a section at the back with local souvenirs. And there was some Holy oil!

Travelmakerkai | Wadi Rum
Mo Mo our guide

If I’ve learnt anything from this trip, it’s that spiritual encounters can happen in places you least expect. I’m on a journey learning more about myself and what brings me peace… Who would have thought I’d find it being in such solitude and vastness?…

Interested in visiting Jordan? 

It’s worth getting a Jordan pass which includes visa fee, entrance into Petra and other attractions. CLICK HERE to find out more. 

I’m thinking about about organising a small group trip later this year! If interested – let me know!

Do you have a special place which brings you peace? Let me know by sharing your thoughts in the comment box below!

Travelmakerkai | Jordan

Travelmakerkai | Jordan
Ivo, DoGoodFilms director and I at the airport… Now the real work begins in post production!

p.s I teamed up with DoGoodFilms to film my first ever travel segment! Special thanks to Ivo Belohoubek for the amazing pictures – and videos! I can’t wait to share more very, very soon!

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