Lawrence of Arabia’s Jordan journey

Follow in the footsteps of one of the most iconic travel expeditions of our time. It’s been over 100 years since the real-life T.E. ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ penned his awe of Jordan’s “vast” and “God-like” lands in his legendary World War I memoirs. And 50 years since David Lean’s film crews turned them into screen-stealing vistas in his 1962 masterpiece Lawrence of Arabia. Today, much of the beguiling landscapes remain untouched – so you can follow every daring raid, every battle and lose yourself in the “God-like” landscapes that captivated and inspired Lawrence’s (and our own) hearts. Here’s how you can trace Lawrence’s journey and become a desert warrior yourself.

Petra: Lawrence’s Beauty Spot

If you have a list of places to see before you die, we’re pretty sure that Petra is one of them. Hewn straight from a rock face coloured in rippling hues from blood-red to pale sandstone, Petra’s ruins are already one of the world’s greatest wonders and a UNECSO World Heritage site.

This once-lost Nabatean city is also not-to-be missed on your Lawrence pilgrimage. He first visited it in 1914 and, in a letter to a friend, claimed “till you have seen it you have not had the glimmering of an idea how beautiful a place can be.” We couldn’t have put it better.

Wadi Rum: Lawrence’s Hideout

Cameras at the ready—this expanse of soaring red-rock cliffs and tangle of sand-dusted trails just south of Amman is a photographer’s dream and where much of the Arab Revolt operations were based. You can understand why Lawrence felt the urge to put pen to paper when he first saw these red ‘Pillars of Wisdom’ as a plucky junior British officer tracking the Hashemite rebels. And why David Lean used it on set (the film’s first encounter with Prince Faisal was shot here). The startling beauty of Wadi Rum’s red canyons is another World Heritage site, treasured by historians and film buffs alike, that you’ll never tire of exploring.

Desert Dunes & Bedouin Camps: Lawrence’s Journey

You can’t think about Lawrence of Arabia without conjuring images of his daring trek across the desert. If rolling red dunes and camping under the stars is your idea of an Arabian adventure, you can hop onto a camel and have a go at re-enacting the legendary journey as Lawrence once did, or jump into a 4 x 4 and turn those dunes into a thrill-seeking playground before stopping at a Bedouin camp to share tales with the locals—some of whom descend from the very tribesman that fought side-by-side with Lawrence himself.

Aqaba: Lawrence’s Fortress Victory

It’s not all about sand in Lawrence’s tale—his valiant desert crusade eventually reaches the Red Sea at Aqaba for one of his defining moments, uniting the Bedouin tribes to attack the town’s fortress and achieve a great Arab victory. You can still visit the fortress today, although we’d also recommend making the most of the azure waters of Jordan’s only coastal town—the sloping coral reefs home to turtles, rays and technicolour fish provide an underwater wonderland ideal for snorkelling and diving.

The Hejaz Railway: Lawrence’s Raids

If there was one principle target for the Great Arab Revolt, it was the Hejaz Railway. As a direct artery to Damascus it was a vital link and Lawrence’s raids upon the line have become fabled. Continuing through the arid desert surroundings to Mudawarra, you’ll get to see the relics of this once great stretch of rail. For a true taste of Lawrence’s era, there are some original 1908 railway carriages that you can ride from Amman—a great day out with your friends or family.

Azraq Fort: Lawrence’s Oasis

No it isn’t a mirage—Azraq is one of the miracles of the Amman desert, an actual oasis of lush parklands, palm-peppered gardens and cool pools. Since it’s literally the only water source in the entire eastern desert, we can only imagine Lawrence’s relief and surprise when he visited this “Blue Fort” in 1917, where he planned his guerrilla actions on the way to seize Damascus. It’s one of a necklace of ancient desert castles and its remote location (about an hour east of Amman) means you’ll likely avoid any crowds. Tour Lawrence’s old bedroom and catch a glimpse of the birds and wildlife that flock here to quench their thirst.

Amman: Lawrence’s Writing Desk

Lawrence’s Jordan journey ends in Amman—the place where his tale became legend in his writings. While it may have evolved from its humble village beginnings those years ago during Lawrence’s time, you can still visit the house where he wrote most of his Seven Pillars of Wisdom in Darat al-Funun, now a gallery for contemporary art. Just another example of how in Jordan even the buildings of old have stood the test of time to become a place of new inspirations.