Banner image 2014

Banner image 2014

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Sunday - junk, graffiti and a surprise in the rock

Today's blog will concentrate on the efforts of a small team to identify and hopefully obtain evidence of a Royal Flying Corps airstrip near Wadi Rum.

The road to Wadi Rum is interesting and beautiful, with huge rocky vistas and mountains near and distant. 

The location of the site had previously been identified from another set of photographs which show the aircraft of X Flight in temporary canvas hangers in front of a very distinctive rock formation. After many hours and trips searching for these the definitive location was found, which in the photographs shows the hangers adjacent to a large, flat strip of sand ideally suited to take-off and landing. 

Today however it is a different story. The site had originally been chosen by the RFC because as well as providing suitable landscape for the aircraft, there was precious water present. Now this water has been damned in to form a reservoir and a pumping station, as well as a range of buildings and concrete bases for more. Furthermore the land which the airstrip occupied is now very marshy, as both the natural water and leaks from the pumping house have leaked into the surrounding areas.

In addition this land was given by the King to the Bedouin in the 1960's, to allow them to build properties and make small homesteads. The airstrip location is therefore now within a Bedu compound. This has resulted in a huge amount of trashing and detritus all over the area of interest, particularly in the drier parts near the rocks. The marshiness and the overall level of rubbish in the area made metal detecting almost impossible, and the final straw was that something very close to this area of interest was generating a huge amount of electromagnetic interference, effectively swamping both the fixed and variable frequency detectors.

One of the purposes of today was to try to find and identify any graffiti or rock etchings which may have been associated with the airmen and their supporting crew. Most of the markings on the rocks were very modern however, and seem to have been made recently by local visitors who had perhaps stopped for food.

Some of the modern graffiti emulates traditional rock art which can be found in many other places in Southern Jordan, and includes beasts, snakes, human figures and the like. 

The compound has all the elements one would expect of Bedouin life, with animals, food production and storage.

While we were looking for significant rock markings a local man approached and asked if we had seen the carvings nearby. He then led us about 100 meters to the location below.

The rock carvings show Abdullah and Lawrence side by side, with their names carved in Arabic beneath and the date 1918 between. We were told that they were 'very, very old'.

He then insisted we went back to his house for tea and to look at some photographs.
On the way there was a helpful sign, pointing to the location of the carvings we had just seen. On arrival he said he had a museum, which we were invited to view. He fetched the key and showed us into a room containing all sorts of desert artefacts.

On the wall was an old photograph of his father, now deceased, pointing at the carvings and showing them in a much more pristine state. We reckon the earliest the photograph was likely to have been taken was mid 1960's. The photograph in fact turned out to be a postcard which he gave to one of us as a gift, as he said he had more. 

Then we sat down for some tea and chatted about his family and the history of the place. The hospitality was wonderful, and he refused all offers of money for showing us the carvings and around the museum. Such a great experience and so typical of the serendipitous occurrences that have happened time and time again over the nine years of this project.  

As we were leaving a local sheik came over and we showed him the photographs that had led us there. He was very interested and pointed out the areas on the photographs that we had confirmed.

Maybe we will go back to this place to try to understand the significance of these carvings and to look  in more detail at the contents of this tiny museum. Today was certainly another fascinating day in the journey that is the Great Arab Revolt Project. 


  1. What a fascinating collection of 'things' this guy has collected: I wonder if he always wears the army fatigues...
    The wear on the two carved faces is much more marked post 1960...
    Great selection of photos again: it is so interesting to look at them.

  2. Great pics and lots of great info Roger! Thank you!