‘Shifting Sands’ seeks to bring modern Western traditions of climbing into contact and conversation with the local Bedouin people who have been climbing in the region for hundreds of years; Mr Durran is the perfect person to engage in that conversation. In the film, he climbs with local Bedouin climbing guides to explore Wadi Rum’s climbing routes, both ancient and modern. This is a stunning and remarkable landscape, described by Mr Durran as: ‘One of the world’s great landscapes. Surreal wind sculpted towers, domes, mountains and whole massifs riven by complex systems of canyons and sub-canyons rise up to two thousand feet above broad desert valleys.’
Robert Durran has visited Wadi Rum many times over the past fifteen years and has become something of an authority on climbing there. He is also fascinated by Bedouin traditions and way of life, and has gone to great lengths to learn more about the ancient Bedouin routes, and also the culture of those desert-dwelling people. In 2016, he wrote an article about this ‘desert sandstone wonderland’, and since then, he says, has ‘regularly been contacted for information about the area and this led to me being approached to take part in the film.’
On 23 November, therefore, he travelled to Jordan along with film makers from Coldhouse Collective, a small film production company which specialises in filming climbing and other adventurous activities. The result is a film that captures the subtle beauty of the Jordanian desert and its people—the film should not be missed—even by those who have never rock climbed before.
‘I fell in love with the desert on my first visit,’ Mr Durran explains, ‘and have now returned to explore and climb in the area seven times. I have come to know some of the remarkable Bedouin people who still maintain the traditional culture of the area. On a previous visit, I had found some old, forgotten “Bedouin steps” leading up onto the only ridge I had not previously explored on the remote mountain of Jebel Suweibit (which I have visited on all my trips) and was planning to return at some point to see where they led to.
‘Last November I was lucky enough to be invited to make a short film in Wadi Rum, and this provided an ideal subject for the film – rediscovering an old hunting route with a local Bedouin who was brought up in and lives in the desert. I spent an extraordinary week with the Bedouin and the team from the production company Coldhouse Collective filming in the desert.’
The film that resulted from Mr Durran’s brief sabbatical from teaching must not be missed. You can watch ‘Shifting Sands’ here.