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Mars on Earth

I’m a Matt Damon fan. I’ve seen most of his films and can’t pass up any of his Jason Bourne roles if I run across them at night. Most of you are probably familiar with Matt Damon.

I’m also a Wadi Rum fan. I count it as one of the places on Earth to which I most want to return. Most of you may not be nearly as familiar with Wadi Rum.

I saw a trailer for the current film “The Martian” and noticed the location backdrop immediately. On a hunch, I emailed a couple of friends with the Jordan Tourism Board and asked if, by chance, this film had been shot in Wadi Rum.

Christine Moore, who invited me to come to Jordan a year ago, responded almost immediately that it had. The scenes of Damon overcoming all odds to remain alive on Mars were shot on location in Wadi Rum.

I wouldn’t call Wadi Rum otherworldly because it isn’t. It’s a real place on this planet, a place Bedouins have traversed for centuries. But it is magnificently different from the places we see every day. Wadi Rum is mystical. Stark, serrated peaks thrust upward from deep red desert sands. It is one of the most beautifully desolate places I’ve ever been.

I recommend the film. Without giving away the ending, I will say that, ultimately, it is uplifting. Damon is great, as usual, as an astronaut left behind after a storm. But also, scene after scene takes place in this stark world that is Wadi Rum. Wadi Rum becomes Mars. Damon’s rover rumbles for miles along desert sands that stretch between seemingly endless mountains in scenes that are mesmerizing.

Ironically, Wadi Rum is one of the world’s most acclaimed places for stargazing. The universe opens up there at night. It would have been easy for Damon to stare into that sky at night and imagine he was millions of miles from home.

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Mac Lacy

Mac Lacy is president and publisher of The Group Travel Leader Inc. Mac has been traveling and writing professionally ever since a two-month backpacking trip through Europe upon his graduation with a journalism degree from the University of Evansville in 1978.