Wadi Rum

A climbing trip to the Valley of the Moon.

In Arabic, it literally means “Valley of the Moon”, even if from the window of the airplane you have more of the feeling of participating in the first landing of humanity. You can perceive it from the lack of a swollen and blue river and the very strong presence of the earth of the chromatic spectrum of the lava, with shades from red to brown to ash black.

And yet, once I walk on that ground, I marvel at the whiteness of the white sand which is so fine as not to be perceived by the touch.

The uniqueness of Wadi Rum lies precisely in its wild nature, in the complexity of the mechanisms of the Bedouin life and in the desolation on the tops of the sandstone towers. Unfortunately, like any aesthetically sublime place, there is no lack of macabre western influence that over the years has translated into a technological village to simulate life on another planet or on a “zero stress” tour with the ass resting on a jeep.

Fortunately, I managed to escape from all this.

Although I almost tasted the true spirit of Wadi Rum, all together with a geographically diverse and highly motivated team.

Together with me there were Matteo Faletti, Matteo Piccardi, Claudio Migliorini, Alessandro Beber, Lisa Angelini, Mirco Grasso and Dimitri Anghileri. People from different places that  are usually the fundamental prerequisite for an interesting journey, they are that extra laugh at the end of the day because of an unknown and incomprehensible saying.

Wadi Rum is a poor country, consisting of 2000 inhabitants but continuously growing due to the high birth rate. Children walk barefoot and the dirt on the streets is primarily a cultural rather than an environmental problem, but obviously nobody seems to care much about it since the priorities are different.

Each family has a jeep to transport tourists into the desert at an enviable speed to the first classified in the Paris Dakar. The Bedouins who live outside the village have dromedaries to move around with or, more simply, to earn a few more dinars as an attraction always for us stupid western tourists.

What never fails is the smile that the inhabitants reserve for a rusty “as-salamu alaykum”.

A few millennia ago this valley was crossed by a river that would have left only large rocks, in this case climbing walls, our playground. Already in the early 1980s climbers from all over the world explored part of this huge desert that stretches between the borders of the state of Israel and Saudi Arabia.

The territory is vast and finding your way in the canyons dug by the water and the wind is complicated without a local guide. Atayek was the one who not only hosted us in his home, but who drove us between one wall and another, proud to show us the horsepower of his new car. Atayek was born and raised in Wadi Rum. Nowadays his job is hosting climbers. Atayek is the man to contact in case you would like to go climbing in Jordan without losing the quality of the experience.

Fixed menu based on what the earth offers (and which in any case reserves pleasant surprises), a dusty mattress on which to rest with a sleeping bag, and little else to get used to the idea that to feel good, very little is needed.

I discovered a rhythm of life that almost made me uncomfortable because of its slowness. Yet in that way of life, I rediscovered a part of myself that I thought no longer existed: the peace of slow time.

I have an unpleasantly nice feeling when reality is slammed in my face. I consider it a privilege not to have seen any photos of a place, not to have even heard of it. Sometimes I do it on purpose: I don’t look for information in order to better enjoy the experience; impossible sometimes for those who, like me, are victims and accomplices of social media. Looking at an image on Instagram automatically triggers the prejudice of the place and the annihilation of the discovery.

If curiosity has always been a genetic nature of the human being, for me it seems to have turned into an exercise, an art to be refined in order not to live in a superfluous way.

God, if it’s difficult.

Curiosity lies in knowing as little as possible, in reserving in giving yourself ignorance. The main allies of curiosity are sensitivity and empathy, which make up the fourth and fifth dimensions of inner wealth, which then technically should make you grow.

The short trip to Wadi Rum was therefore the search for my lost time and not just a journey of friendship and discovery. I realize, now more than ever, that although I do everything to abstract myself as much as possible from the mechanisms of stressful western life, I am incapable of it and I often find myself complaining about my chaotic life, without balance, in suspension.

The solution is light years away, it seems like I could never reach it. The simple immersion in a world and in a different time, however, has helped me to improve. It’s just a matter of awareness.

Climbing, like no other sport that I have ever been lucky enough to exercise, is the emblem of concentration on the present moment, which is unique and unrepeatable. Climbing helped me and still does to isolate myself from the superfluous, from the useless, even though Lionel Therray defined it as the “the conquest of the useless”.

The introspective feature of climbing combined with the search for an isolated environment was for me a breath of fresh air, a way to put things back into place, a heartfelt recommendation to climbers and everybody else.

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