When you see publications about hiking or touring tours, you may think that this tour has always been there and people have walked it for centuries. The truth is that sometimes the the tour trail is a new one and there is a story behind its discovery and making the adaptations to enabling hikers to go on it.
Since hiking and trekking in Jordan was not so common before the peace agreement with Israel in 1994, it has been like a fresh table ready for discoveries. Three of the Israelis that dedicated a great amount of time to systematically survey the canyons and deserts of Jordan are Shuka Ravek and Avi Shmida that published a book in Hebrew, and Itay Haviv that published his book in English. These books became the bible for Israeli hikers that followed to discover the wonders of the kingdom.
The Canyon of Colors
On January 31st, I crossed into Jordan with a couple of girls (literally speaking) Keren and Naama, to explore one of the treks described in Itay’s book and to check if we can adapt it for groups. The name of the trek in the book is “Across Southern Edom” and it leads from Jabel Masuda to the ancient Humeima. We took a taxi from the border crossing to Jabel Masuda and prepared for the four-days trek that awaited us. As we arranged the gear in the backpacks, we saw a bedouin man in his 20s dressed as a city person walking down this asphalt road, coming from the Kings’ Highway. His name was Ahmed, and he was curious and asked what are we doing in the middle of nowhere. We said that we are trekking from here for the next four days. He said that he will join us! We told him that it’s not possible, since he doesn’t have any camping gear, warm clothes, let alone food and water, and it’s going to be freezing at night and we can’t offer him anything since when you backpack for four days you don’t have any extra luggage, but he said that he is a Bedouin and he will be ok. So he joined us. We left the road and hiked down into Wadi Mishaza. This wadi has a beautiful limestone gorge followed by a colorful sandstone gorge. We enjoyed the walk, and we shared our water and food with Ahmed. Unfortunately we didn’t make it to the planned campsite before dark, but when you backpack you always have your camping gear with you, so we found a nice spot for the night and started arranging the camp. The girls shared a tent, but I haven’t brought one since I didn’t expect rain. I knew this is going to be a cold night so I decided to make me a charcoal bed: You make a fire with Broombush branches, and after a while you cover them with thin flat stones from the riverbed. Upon that you spread your mat and you get a natural electric sheet, that keeps warm for 4-5 hours. What one needs to do, is gather enough firewood for another charcoal bed, so when you wake up cold at 4 AM you don’t have to gather the firewood for the rest of the night. I told Ahmed to do the same but he said he will just make himself a campfire and sleep next to it. I said that in that case he will need to wake up every time the fire is out, but he said it’s ok. I slept some 50 meters apart from the girls, so that my snores would not wake them up. Around 1:00 AM I woke up hearing some discussion between Ahmed and the girls. In the morning they told me that he woke them up frightened and said he heard someone. This made them worried, and asked him to check what is this stranger doing around here. He said that it’s not a someone, but a something: A hyena! The girls calmed him saying that even though in the Bedouin tradition a hyena is a kind of a monster, this hyena is only a hyena and it is ok. Of course, Ahmed did not sleep well that night, because of the fire and the hyena. In the morning, after we ascended the hill of Ras Atud for a beautiful panoramic view, Ahmed said goodbye to us and walked down towards his village Risha.
the Rock Pillar
After we descended from Ras Atud, we joined back into Wadi Mishaza and reached some water springs that created nice small pools between the magmatic rocks that form this part of the canyon. This place is the key to the feasibility of this trek made for groups. There is a long dirt road that crosses here, leading from the asphalt road to a Bedouin cemetery close by , and the big question is if this road is still negotiable. We filled our water cantenes and continued walking according to the description in the book towards Wadi Quseib an Wadi Siq. This night was not so cold, no need for a charcoal bed!
On the third day we reached the beautiful gorge of Wadi Raqiya. We had a hard time filling our water canteens from the very tiny stream but we managed. The highlight of this day was walking the colorful sand dunes south of the Wadi. When we were arranging our camp, a Toyota pickup truck appeared with Nawwaf, a Bedouin guide that takes tourists into the desert, and a Swiss lady. It was nice being with them and we had dinner together. On the last day, we realized that Naama has a sore knee and she will not be able to ascend to Humeima. So we decided to leave her with the heavy gear while Keren and me explore the magmatic gorge of Wadi Aheimir towards the Ficus sandstone gorge, and then we will retrace oursteps and walk towards the Arava valley. After we returned, we started walking, while I walked faster in order to try arranging transportation for keren so she doesn’t need to walk 14 km to the Arava road. The only transportation I found was some camels, and the Bedouin was happy to assist us. He took Naama on the camel and we went to his tent, where he called with his cellphone a friend that can take us with his pickup to the border. They offered us warm camel milk but we politely refused. Then they offered tea and we were happy to accept. While we were waiting, the young men in the tent asked me, pointing at Naama: “Is she your wife?” I said: “she is not my wife”. After another cup of tea they asked, this time pointing at Keren: “Is she your wife?” again, I said, “She is not my wife”. Then Keren said, pointing at Naama: “She is my wife” but I hushed her quickly because a Bedouin tent is not like Tel Aviv… Luckily the Bedouins did not catch the point, so until the car came they offered to marry both and we had great laughs together.
Three months passed, and I got a phone call from a guy named Gil, a keen nature photographer. He asked me to take him for five days in Jordan, and said he wants to include “The Canyon of Colors”, near the police base of Gharandal.
We both made some inquiries regarding this canyon, but none of the guides would agree to give us the location. One of the guides gave us a vague clue, so we called my friend Abu Ali who owns a pickup Isuzu to take us to the vicinity, so we can start looking for it. Unfortunately we couldn’t find it, but we discovered the beautiful lower part of Wadi Quseib and the spring of Ein Quseib, knowing a car can reach it easily.
In February 2012 Irena and Zvika went hiking in that area. They discovered the Canyon of Colors and were willing to share the information of the exact loction. Not only that, they discovered a magnificent huge rock pillar nearby.
Two months later, I hiked with Elliot, Amnon and Orly and visited those monuments of nature. They were really amazing! Only one thing was in between us and the initiating of this trail as an official tour: checking if a pickup truck can negotiate the road to Ein Mishaza. In November 2012, when I guided a trek in the Rajef Inselbergs, I asked Abu Ali to check with the local Bedouins of the Saadin tribe about the road, and they said it is possible to reach the cemetery with thetruck. Abu Ali took one of the Bedouins as a guide and succeeded to reach it! Right away I decided to initiate the trek as soon as possible.
So during December 13-16th, we had our pilot trek to that region. On day one we walked down Wadi Mishaza, day two we combined the original trail described by Itay Haviv until one point, where we headed to the rock pillar and Ein Quseib; On the 3rd we visited the Canyon of Colors, and returned to the original route towards Wadi siq. We camped at Wadi Raqia, from which we strolled on the colorful sand dunes towards the Arava Valley on the last day. The trek was a great success, we set another date for it in February 2013, and two of the participants were so enthusiastic so they intend joining this trek again!
A guided trek on this trail is going to take place on February 5-8th 2013. Details at this link: (It leads to the News section,after this date other relevant tours will appear there.)
Private tours on this trail or different trails within Israel, Jordan, Sinai or Turkey can be reserved at www.yoeloren.com
The Dunes of Raqiya