National Geographic : 1964 Dec
with a soft radiance, and its dark bays and indentations were as clearly demarcated as a coast on a nautical chart. First-magnitude stars glowed like lamps, and the constellations were brilliantly outlined. Small wonder that the Arab wanderer of the desert should be come adept at finding his way by the stars. During the Dark Ages, it was the Arabs who kept alight the lamp of knowledge light ed by the Greeks. Of the 57 stars chosen by international agreement for navigation pur poses, 38 have names of Arab origin, and some of the commonest words used by navi gators come from the Arabic: azimuth, zenith, nadir, alidade, almanac. New Road Links Amman to the Sea If the camel or Land-Rover rider were to strike southwest from Batn al Ghul toward Aqaba, he would pass through one of the most spectacular regions of Jordan: Wadi Ramm. I went there another way, by the new Desert Road that links Amman with the Gulf of Aqaba. This excellent highway runs straight and level for miles, taking the traveler to 804 Ma'an in two and a half hours. The journey from Amman to the sea is a fast and comfort able four and a half hours. The new road traverses a high tableland; then, 20 miles past Ma'an, at Ras an Naqb, it plunges more than 1,000 feet down an abrupt escarpment to the floor of a broad valley. In early-morning light the sunken plain, with the looped road straightening and fling ing across it like the switch of a lion's tail, is pure enchantment. The red rays of the early sun, striking back from the yellow valley through the blue haze of distance, suffuse the plain and the rounded hills in the near fore ground with a plum-colored light. From Al Quwayrah, a seat of the Desert Police down on the plain, a trail leads across the desert to Ramm. About halfway on the hour-long ride to Ramm we traversed an immense mud flat, smooth as slate, and our Land-Rover leaped forward, riding so levelly at 65 miles an hour that we seemed almost to be standing still. At the far end, the ocherous hills slowly deepened in color until we rounded a shoulder and burst on the awesome grandeur of Ramm (pages 800-801). KODACHROMES(C) NATIONALGEOGRAPHIC StOCliY Son of a famous desert warrior, Sheik Mo hammed abu Tayi (left) holds the gold-mounted sword carried by his father, Auda abu Tayi, who fought beside Lawrence of Arabia.