Everyone knows who Lawrence of Arabia is. Now you’re view on him being an enemy or a friend may vary from your political standpoint but that’s not something we’re going to discuss at length here. Instead, we’re going to focus on the Hejaz railway which was integral to the rise of Lawrence of Arabia’s popularity.
The Hejaz railway was built more than a century ago and it has managed to survive to this day and age. Granted, some parts of the Hejaz railway are no longer functional, but it is still relevant and can still pull in some tourists to partake in an adventure/ trip on the old fashioned steam train.
The Hejaz railway starts in Jordan and ends in Aqaba. In between point A and point B are a lot of interesting stops.
First, you have the old desert castle in Azraq. This is a truly amazing place as it was once considered nigh impregnable thanks to the basalt walls at least a foot in thickness providing protection. To add to that, they also had a stone door to seal it off from the outside world. Who would’ve thought that this once foreboding place is now open to people without any form of resistance at all.
Another interesting place is Petra, once home to the Nabatean people but nowadays serves as a mausoleum of sorts to this extinct group. What’s more interesting about this is the architecture of their city. It is literally carved out of rock. And another fascinating thing about this city is how they managed to create a water conduit system, which, at that time, was a pretty advanced technology! Nowadays, the only life you find in this place are the tourists coming in to marvel at the place. It’s hard to believe that a hundred years ago, it was able to protect a man named Lawrence.
Shobek is another place Lawrence visited that you can access. It isn’t far from Petra and it’s a great site to visit if you’re truly interested in the life of Lawrence of Arabia.
Next up is Wadi Rum, a place that truly astonished Lawrence for its sheer beauty from the rock formations to the naturally formed ramparts which was used later on to stage the attacks from the Bedouins.
The Hejaz railway continues to get attacked today by Bedouin riders. But, unlike in the past, today, these Bedouin riders want nothing to do with destruction and more to do with preserving it. Getting ‘attacked’ by Bedouin riders during the trip is considered a highlight of the journey and is a much anticipated event by people who ride the train. What happens is these Bedouin riders meet the train and ride alongside it.
Tourists are treated to a firefight between the guards on the train and these riders. It’s usually a tense couple of minutes before the horseback (and camel back) riders manage to overpower the guards and take their guns away.
This is when you get captured.
But don’t worry, no harm will befall you unless you consider listening to an extended discussion of the history and other things that transpired in the area from a true Bedouin in their camp. You’ll also be treated to some authentic food and that’s a great experience in itself.
Once all of that’s done, you’ll get taken back to the train and you’ll be off on your merry way to finish the train ride and reach Aqaba.
This is about as detailed as we can get about the entire journey but there’s much more than words can ever do justice to the experience you’re bound to get if you visit the place and get on the train.
We haven’t mentioned how friendly the people are and how they truly value their history and wish to share it with us.
What we can do however is point you in the right direction so you’ll have an exciting time when you visit. So, try to take down some notes because we’ve got a lot of tips below!
What to wear during your Hejaz railway trip/ adventure
It’s going to be hot. Scorching hot. In fact, hot doesn’t even begin to describe the heat in the place. This is an extreme habitat that only the strongest can survive for as long as they have. You’ve got to give it to these people, they are tough for surviving the heat out here in the desert!
So, wear light clothing because you’ll be sweating profusely thanks to the heat of the sun when you’re on board the open area and the steam coming from the engine.
You’ll also be sweating from all the moving around that you’ll be expected to do. This is an interactive experience that requires you to get off the train as a ‘captive’ or to tour the remnants of the ruins where the Bedouins hid and Lawrence camped out.
Since it will require some walking, you’d have a better time on your adventure if you’re wearing comfortable shoes that can easily deal with the desert sand. A good pair of boots should suffice. Wearing anything less than that is going to result into sand getting into a lot of odd places.
You’re also expected to have the proper protective eyewear during your trip. In this case, a good pair of sunglasses should do just fine. Just make sure it can keep out the sand and harmful UV rays bouncing off of the sand and other parts of the terrain!
An added protection is a wide brimmed hat so you don’t burn to a crisp under the heat of the sun!
And heaven forbid you forget to apply a protective layer of sun block on before you even step out of the hotel!
Make sure you have the proper attire on and you should have a great time during your train ride!
Other things to consider during your Hejaz railway adventure
Since the Hejaz railway ride/ adventure takes a lot of time to complete, you might want to make sure that you and your family pack some lunch along. Cooking your own meals during the trip is definitely going to be out of the question since you’re going to be on a moving vehicle with no place to start a fire in. Not that starting a fire within the confines of the vehicle is even permitted.
This is where XMRE comes in handy. These are the same type of products that the military forces eat and can basically provide all of your caloric needs for the entire trip. You won’t have to worry about eating cold food as the XMRE comes fully equipped with a heating pad,
All you have to do is place the meal inside the sleeve and insert the heating pad, add water and presto! You’ve got a hot meal in front of you! And just in time to see some action when you’re done eating.
The XMRE comes in many flavors and there’s also a clear indication as to the caloric count on each package. Bring along the food that you find tasty enough so you’ll finish the entire pack and get the full benefits of the entire caloric content of the XMRE.
Aside from being tastier than most MREs out there, the XMRE is also lightweight and packed in compact vessels allowing for easy transport. Imagine having an entire bag of food fit for your breakfast, lunch and dinner in a small pack that barely weighs 3 to 4 pounds! Placing it inside your bag should be an easy feat!
Keep yourself hydrated at all times. We’ve already told you it’s going to be hot.
Bring along at least 2 liters of water for each person and make sure to ration it out so you don’t run out.
We’ve seen some tourists wear a camelpack on their back instead of the regular bag and that’s actually a good idea as it keeps their hands free to do other things. All you need to do is push a straw into your mouth and suck and you’ll be hydrated!
Or you could just keep asking the train assistants for some water during the trip. They have a lot of it aboard for passengers who forgot to pack their own!
Bring a camera
Although we always advise people to experience the world in front of their eyes, we also make it a point to give them the advice to capture the memories through the lenses of a camera. If you have one of those nifty action cameras that you can set to capture videos or time it to capture pictures every couple of seconds or so without you having to click it, that’s going to be a great way to get some quality footage during your vacation. That’s also a great way to just experience things without having to place a camera in front of your face every second of the journey.
But, there are also some things you encounter outside that deserve to be framed before getting shot at and that’s why bringing a professional camera is also a good thing to do during your trip. It’s optional.
The point is, use the camera to capture certain pictures that’ll bring back worthwhile memories without impeding your chances of interacting with people properly.
Bring an extra battery or two to make sure you don’t end up with a dead gadget in the middle of your trip. And memory cards. Never forget the memory cards!
If you’re a nitpicker and you want beautiful shots, you might want to bring a tripod, some reflectors, specialized lenses and other professional gear to take really great pictures. Just remember that those things can get heavy towards the end of the day!
Aside from the heat and the noise, it was actually a pretty interesting ride/ trip. We managed to snap a few pics worthy of gracing those travel magazines and the people were extremely friendly and helpful!
It also helped that we were quite comfortable during the trip as we were dressed appropriately. We also managed to keep ourselves hydrated all throughout the trip. 2 liters can quickly disappear if you’re truly thirsty so make sure you bring an extra bottle or just be extremely nice to the train assistants so they won’t mind bringing you glass after glass of water.
Our XMRE was also consumed within the day. We divided it into 2 meals instead of 3 and ate the desserts and snacks in the middle to keep from getting hungry throughout the trip.
Make sure you properly protect your gear as sudden gusts of wind can blow sand into it. This can wreak havoc on the electronics inside your gadget.