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(Credit: Daniele Colucci)


The Valley of the Moon: Wadi Rum, the Jordan desert used as an otherworldly filming location


It is an ode to the filmmaking prowess of directors such as Ridley Scott and Denis Villeneuve that when we are watching their respective science fiction films, The Martian and Dune, we do not even question the legitimacy of the film’s setting. Whether a production is attempting to replicate the red sands of Mars or the dusty jagged rocks of Arrakis, many take the trip to Jordan and the protected Wadi Rum wilderness.

Otherwise known as ‘The Valley of the Moon’ Wadi Rum is a desert in southern Jordan that bears a striking resemblance to the surface of Mars, or indeed any otherworldly setting. With vast towering stacks of rock and impossible natural archways, the desert is a barren wasteland teeming with some of the most staggering views on earth, as it breathes a strange, ethereal presence.  

Now one of Jordan’s most popular tourist sites, thanks to the 1962 film Lawrence of Arabia starring Peter O’Toole that used the location for many of its scenes, Wadi Rum is home to the Zalabieh tribe who run several services throughout the area. These services include tours, accommodation, general facilities and personal guides who have an unmatched knowledge of the local area. 

Such tours can let you experience ‘The Valley of the Moon’ exactly how you’d like to, offering the opportunity for 4×4 tours, camel rides, horse rides, hiking and even rock climbing, making use of Wadi Rum’s stunning natural pillar formations. There are also opportunities to camp out underneath Wadi Rum’s stars and its undisturbed, stunning views of the cosmos. Alternatively, travellers can stay in the area overnight in Bedouin Camps and glamping hotels.

Whilst Lawrence of Arabia was one of the very first films to utilise Wadi Rum’s unique landscapes, the location has since been used for several blockbuster films. Such films include Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Prometheus and The Martian, where lead actor Matt Damon commented on the otherworldly location, stating: “I was in awe of that place. It was really, really special. One of the most spectacular and beautiful places I have ever seen, and like nothing I’ve ever seen anywhere else on Earth.”

More recently, the barren deserts of Jordan’s tourist attraction were used for scenes in Disney’s Aladdin, as well as their space epic Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. Like Matt Damon, the star of Denis Villeneuve’s Dune, Timothée Chalamet, was also stunned by Wadi Rum’s marvellous space, stating to Empire magazine, “That part of the Wadi Rum is so awe-inspiring, you might as well be getting chased by that cliff in the background”.

As one of the country’s most visited tourist sites, travellers can get to Wadi Rum by availing any bus headed to Amman, Ma’an, or Petra from the Aqaba bus station and getting off at the famous Wadi Rum turnoff, which has proper signs.

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