The Great Arab Revolt in Wadi Rum

The Great Arab Revolt in Wadi Rum

It is a very hot day with scorching sun roasting us. Well, almost. It feels like peak of summer. Our train is chugging at a slow pace, emitting black coal smoke at regular intervals. I can see an expanse of brick-coloured desert around us with occasional small sandstone hillocks. The land seems to be so barren.

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I am in Wadi Rum, Jordan, taking a ride on one of the last working stretches of Ottoman-built rail line that, once upon a time, used to travel from Damascus, across what is now Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, to Mecca and Medina. This is Hejazi train.

I am inside a coach which has wooden seats on both sides. Some cargo coaches are open, to carry grain, rice, sugar, cloth etc. but today there are other passengers sitting in it.

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All of a sudden I hear some noise. Is it some crackers or gun shots? Anxiously I look out of window. There is some movement behind the rocks on the left side. I see a man with his face covered, crouched behind sandbags, aiming at us.
All I see are sparks and smoke spewing out of his rifle. Instinctively I duck and so do other passengers.

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The train slows down. I can hear some more noises and commotion. Dozens of men on horses and camels race towards us amidst dust and haze. They are raiders! … Holding rifles, galloping across the desert waving banners. Their faces are covered with keffiyeh. The train screeches to a halt and our hearts stop beating!

arab revolt wadi rum

arab revolt wadi rum

arab revolt wadi rum

arab revolt wadi rum

A few of those men board the train, scan the passengers audaciously and shout orders to alight. The first ones to alight are railway police. The whole thing happens very quickly.

Raising my hands, I try my best to keep my eyes down, staring at the floor, looking at those heavy boots pacing back and forth. No, I am not going to be spared. I am also ordered to alight and join others.

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We are captured! Some of us are made to sit in jeep, rest walk. This looks like a scene straight out of Lawrence of Arabia. Back then, Hejazi trains travelling on this stretch were often hijacked and robbed during the Arab Revolt at the end of World War I.

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After walking for sometime, we stop in front of a Bedouin camp. I wonder what is in store for us.
Some of us hostages sit on the rugs under an open tent… hands still raised above our heads. It was time now to negotiate. After a few yes, no and raised voices, a deal is struck. The hostages are freed. A toast is raised with a cup of cardamom-scented Arabic coffee.

** This drama was re-enactment of the historical Arab Revolt 1917 in Wadi Rum and I was part of it. 😀

Let me know what was your reaction? 😀

The Great Arab Revolt was initiated by the Sherif Hussein bin Ali with the aim of securing independence from the ruling Ottoman Turks and creating a single unified Arab state spanning from Aleppo in Syria to Aden in Yemen.

**This experience was offered to us by Jordan Heritage Revival Company. The aim of the company is to promote Jordanian history and heritage through tourist experiences while offering employment opportunities to local communities and military retirees. The company has other historical revival shows organised around Jordan. I wish to participate in all of them. 😀

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40 thoughts on “The Great Arab Revolt in Wadi Rum”

  1. Wow! A gripping story. It is fantastic way to tell their history. More like a reality show!.
    This would be a big draw if we can do something like this in India . There are so many things to talk about.

    Thanks for sharing .

  2. phew! I thought it was for real.. until I got to the photo where you got the Arabian men up close.. and then someone holding a camera to their faces.. but I still thought, hey, maybe they wanted the attention and get published for ransom?! hahaha..
    interesting story!

    1. Vira,
      I am so glad that you thought it was for real. Indeed it was real. Only thing is that we came to of it later. 😀

      So, fun all the way. Now I think, I shouldn’t have told it was a drama. Should have kept the secret. 😐

  3. Somali K Chakrbarti

    Great to read or for a movie, but I am sure I don’t fancy myself in the coach.:) I loved reading your narration though.

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  5. OMG, what a story! I fell for it, what can I say? As I was reading through I was thinking to myself “no way I’m going to visit Jordan! I don’t want to take any chances.” Even though this was intended as a reenactment of the Arab Revolt, I don’t think I would have enjoyed it. I don’t like anybody playing with my nerves.

  6. What an epic rail trip to take. Your photos of the surrounding dessert are stunning. Makes me want to pack my bags and head over that way

  7. ok, you tricked me. In the beginning, I thought that it indeed was like a scene taken out of Lawrence of Arabia and I was petrified! What an amazing and unique experience! Definitely going to try it!

  8. For quite some moments, your article made me stop breathing. 🙂 If imagine going by train and suddenly spotting these horses and camels. What a great story now that I know that you are safe!

  9. OMG. Till last I was thinking you actually faced this and how did you manage to escape. I took a sigh of relief when you said it was enacted. So wonderfully written and captured. loved it.

  10. Interesting way to experience Wadi Rum. I had no idea there was a train line there. Any hostage situation that ends with cardamom coffee is okay in my book 🙂

  11. I always wanted to try this because it’s amazing to relive some of the greatest moments of history in first person POV! Great experience of Wadi Rum!

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