A 5.30pm touch down at Aqaba airport in December 2018. We only have hand luggage so breeze through passport control. There’s a bank inside the airport but I can see an ATM just outside. I reach the ATM. ‘Out of order’, it says. I walk back into customs but the official shoos me away. I tell him the ATM isn’t working and I need dinars from the bank. He says I have crossed the line and cannot re-enter. I plead my case to a security guard. He beckons me forward but the official repeats: ‘You crossed the line’. He won’t let me go. My wife is looking at me with some annoyance. I creep towards the bank gesticulating to everyone and no one. The official grabs my arm and gently pushes me back towards the exit. ‘The law is you cannot cross the line’. He says firmly, wagging his finger. Meanwhile our taxi driver has turned up. My wife turns to me and says exasperatedly, ‘there are other ATMs in Aqaba’.
It turns out this is true. Our driver takes me to one of the many other ATMs and we then head to Wadi Rum, an other-worldly desert in southern Jordan, made famous by Lawrence of Arabia. It is dark by the time we get to Rum Village. We step out of our taxi and hop onto the back of an open pick-up truck. The truck speeds through the desert valley surrounded by huge black silhouettes of rock. We don’t realise how large they are until we see them the next day. The wind is ice cold as it rips through us. I’m having a hoot as we drive across the desert which is lit by thousands of stars. Twenty minutes later we reach our Bedouin camp. Both of us are frozen stiff. We enter the dining tent where there are about a dozen other guests all wrapped up like mountaineers, it is that cold. Food is served, and my wife is shivering too much to even eat. We are shown to our tent. Two single beds. She starts to cry. ‘It’s so cold’, of course it’s cold, we’re in the desert. We go to inspect the bathroom. Only freezing water is coming out of the taps. My fingers are frozen. I feel sure the real cause of her anxieties is that the toilet and shower facilities are shared. She says she can’t rough it anymore. We argue about first-world privileges. Nobody has an en suite in the desert. We are at the mercy of the elements. Welcome to Wadi Rum everyone, welcome to all mod cons and the joy of being at one with nature.