Over thousands of years, Wadi Rum has played an important part in both Eastern and Western cultures, as the site of ancient Nabataean rock carvings to providing the setting for T. E. Lawrence’s famous book “The Seven Pillars of Wisdom”.
Wadi Rum has been inhabited since the Stone Age, with people settling here to take advantage of the life-giving springs which supplied reliable sources of water in a harsh desert environment.
However, the most readily accessible evidence of ancient civilisations is the magnificent rock art which can be seen throughout the Khaz’ali Canyon, inscribed in the soft red and orange sandstone of the cliffs.
These engravings, also known as petroglyphs, are made up of both pictograms, which are simple images representing people, antelopes and camels, and logograms, which are characters and text which represent words or syllables.
Archaeologists believe that the petroglyphs were created by the Nabataean people, an ancient civilization who lived around springs and oases in Southern Jordan 2,000 years ago.
They had a sophisticated written language system, as can be seen on the logograms on the rocks in Wadi Rum, which is believed to be a pre-cursor to the Arabic language written and spoken today.
In more recent times, Wadi Rum has become well known in the Western world due to its association with the historian, soldier and writer T. E. Lawrence, known as “Lawrence of Arabia”.
Lawrence spoke Arabic, Turkish and Syriac and specialised in field archaeology, travelling extensively across the Middle East.
He served in the British Army during the “Arab Revolt” of 1917-18, spending much of his time in the Wadi Rum area and extensively documenting his experiences there in his book “The Seven Pillars of Wisdom”.
The title is believed to refer to one of the more famous landmarks, Mount Rum, a pipe-organ like formation of seven colossal sandstone pillars, which now shares the iconic name.