Most of the group had a well earned rest day today, with a long journey to the spectacular Wadi Rum via short stops on the way. First stop was at at the Ottoman fort at Guweira where the ruins of the fort sit interestingly alongside a modern day army camp. We have permission to excavate here at some point in the future. Then on to Abu Lissan to meet and give presents to the grandson of Auda Abu Tayi, close associate of Lawrence, (played by Anthony Quinn in the film Lawrence of Arabia). Two reasons to stop here – one being the personal relationship with David Thorp and another it being an integral part of GARP project itself.
On to the desert at Wadi Rum and two hours of spectacular travel through the awe inspiring geology of the Wadi, hurtling over and round the dunes in 4x4’s, with each driver seemingly trying to outdo the others by virtue of pace and line. Intermingled with stops for tea, photos and a look at some Nabataean desert rock art and then a final thrilling dash back the few miles to the start. Exhilarating stuff indeed. Then a fantastic lunch of traditional local produce with the Bedouins at Palms Desert Camp.
Then we moved again – this time to the sea side resort of Aqaba. A bustling town with sights and smell s so typical of the Middle East. It also boasts the second largest flagpole in the world, and as the sun set spectacularly over the water we witnessed the proud raising of an enormous (20m x 40m) flag of Jordan, gently and beautifully unfurling and climbing into the deepening red evening sky.
Whilst all this was going on, four people set off in a 4x4 down the road from Ma’an to Mudowwara and the Saudi border. Their mission was a field reconnaissance down the Hijaz Railway beyond Wadi Rutm to locate Shahm, Ramleh and Mudowwara stations and any other Ottoman military installations in between. The trip was spectacularly successful.
Our first discovery, at Shahm, was a fortified and heavily disturbed station, with breastworks, trenches, and a loop-holed mud-brick parapet on the station roof. Nearby, was a strong hilltop breastwork, and beneath the hill a large Ottoman army camp, composed of aligned and evenly spaced tent-rings, several square features, and a possibly contemporary access road.
Next we reached the site of Ramleh station, which, though recognizable from Ottoman masonry blocks and surviving in-filled trenches, had totally disappeared. Several kilometres further south, we visited a dramatically sited breastwork fort on top of a precipitous rocky outcrop. Between this fort and the railway line was a sizeable military encampment represented by numerous tent rings.
Finally we reached Mudawwara station, two of whose buildings survive intact because they are in use as Bedouin houses. The appearance of Mudawwara station, overlooked by a dominating ridge about 500 m to the west, corresponds exactly to T. E. Lawrence’s description in his Seven Pillars of Wisdom.