Petra & the Gulf of Aqaba
Hikers begin the Bedouin Trail at Petra, following it 140km south to connect with the Wadi Rum Trail in the red sands of Wadi Um Ashreen. The Wadi Rum Trail is followed clockwise for 100km to Wadi Abu Baytherana on its western section, where an exit is made onto a 50km route leading to Aqaba, where hikers make the onward sea passage to Nuweiba in the Sinai. The Bedouin Trail traverses some of the great geographical regions of the Middle East on its Jordanian side. Petra stands on the edge of a high tract of tablelands known as the Sharah Mountains, which form the eastern border of Wadi Araba: a gigantic lowland valley dividing Jordan from Palestine and Israel, in whose course the Dead Sea lies at the lowest point on earth. Wadi Araba is just one part of a much bigger rift in the earth's crust that extends both north to Lebanon, where it is forms the Beqaa Valley, and further south, where its deep course is drowned by the blue waters of the Gulf of Aqaba. The Bedouin Trail does not traverse the Sharah Mountains or lowlands of Wadi Araba; rather, it runs through a rugged tract of cliffs and badlands that divide both, known as 'El Haddab'. The traverse of El Haddab brings hikers into the northernmost fringes of the Hisma: a vast desert of majestic sandstone massifs and sweeping red dunes of which Wadi Rum represents just one small part, with most of it standing in modern-day Saudi Arabia. The Bedouin Trail remains within the Hisma the whole way through the deserts of Wadi Rum until hikers connect with the exit route for Aqaba, at which point they enter the Hejaz; one of the great, fabled mountain ranges of Arabia in which Islam's holy cities of Mecca and Medina stand and which represents the historic homeland for all but two of the 12 tribes who live today along the Bedouin Trail.
Petra: the northern trailhead
Petra in the northernmost trailhead of the Bedouin Trail, standing some 1200km away from its southernmost trailhead at Luxor in Egypt. The first section of the Bedouin Trail involves traversing a remote tract of badlands known as El Haddab between Petra and the Bedouin hamlet of Humeima in the south; a 90km route of extraordinary beauty that will take most hikers four full days to complete. It begins in Wadi Musa, the modern town adjoining Petra, with the first section leading down to Petra itself. Hikers begin by following a dramatic, shadowy chasm known as El Siq to Petra's famous Treasury, continuing on through the heart of the city - where the tombs of Nabataean kings and an ancient theatre can be seen - before ascending a flight of rock-hewn steps to Jebel Madbah or The High Place of Sacrifice. Old Nabataean pathways lead onwards through rugged sandstone highlands to the upper parts of Wadi Sabra, whose long course is followed south. Around 3km down Wadi Sabra an old Nabataean theatre is seen on the left. A short way after this a lush tract of greenery is passed, representing the border between two clans of the Howaytat: the Bidool to the north and Saiyidiyeen to the south. The Bedouin Trail continues with an easy scramble over the high peak of Jebel Ashhab, whose summit gazes west over the vast, sweeping lowlands of Wadi Araba. Hikers descend to Wadi Um Retem, where camp will usually made on the first night of the hike.
El Haddab: the traverse
Wadi Um Retem is where hikers begin the traverse of a region known as El Haddab. The Bedouin Trail continues down Wadi Um Retem before exiting to follow a long, winding path which rises gradually through rugged hills to a high pass known as Raqaba Angia. A small, winding wadi that soon becomes a narrow canyon is followed down this pass to the course of Wadi Um Shezza, above which a high peak stands called Jebel el Haram: The Pyramid Mountain. It is here the second night's camp is usually made. The route continues onwards through sandstone cliffs swirled with colourful reds, whites and golds, leading over a pass known as El Aladiya to Wadi Tarfa, whose course soon narrows into a short but spectacular canyon. Hikers continue south through an area of exceptional geological variety, moving between a succession of small wadis, basins and minor peaks to join the winding course of Wadi Gharandel. Wadi Gharandel is followed east with a colourful pass known as Raqaba Rakiya soon crossed to Wadi Rakiya, which leads down to the dripping springs of Ein el Sweer, where camp is usually made on the third night. Hikers continue east through the rugged course of Wadi el Badia the next day, crossing a high pass to the gorge of Wadi Haymir, where lush tracts of palms are found. Wadi Haymir is followed uphill, soon narrowing into a dramatic, shadowy canyon that leads to the Bedouin hamlet of Humeima, which stands in the northernmost fringes of the Hisma Desert.
Through the Hejaz to Aqaba
The Bedouin Trail follows the Wadi Rum Trail clockwise towards the east, running 100km around its circuit from Wadi Um Ashreen to Wadi Abu Baytherana on its western side. Wadi Abu Baytherana is the point at which the Wadi Rum Trail is departed, with the Bedouin Trail joining a 50km hiking route that leads down to the northerly suburbs of Aqaba. Wadi Rum is a highland desert elevated at around 1000m meaning this section of the route is mostly downhill. From Wadi Abu Baytherana hikers move out over wide, sweeping wadis to a low pass known as Naqb el Retewa, leaving the sweeping red deserts of the Hisma to enter the grey granite hills that represent the northernmost foothills of the Hejaz. Wadi Retewa is followed downwards before hikers move north over a pass near Jebel Abu el Hayaran to Wadi Yitim. This section of the route involves crossing a highway and passing a small, ramshackle Bedouin village to join the gently rising course of Wadi el Mizfa. A few kilometres up a low pass is crossed into the upper stretch of a narrow rocky gorge known as Wadi el Howayta, which leads down to Aqaba. Getting down Wadi el Howayta involves several short, steep scrambling steps. Some can be avoided on side routes but others must be downclimbed and it is sensible to carry a safety rope in case protection is required. Hikers emerge in Aqaba's northern suburb of El Shamaya. Taxis will not be found, so arrange a pickup with Bedouin organisers for the 15km trip into the town.
BEDOUIN OPERATORS: NORTH
The Bedouin Trail between Petra & Wadi Rum runs through the lands of different Howaytat & Anaza clans but hikers will only need to deal with one operator, who will call between each to organise the correct support. The operators below are based at the northern end of the route & can fix support all the way down to Wadi Rum. Some speak good English; others only Arabic, but they will still find ways to communicate, so be patient. Prices will vary between each one.
IBRAHIM MUSA & AYMAN BIDOOL - Bedouin clansmen of the Bidool, who grew up working in the ancient site of Petra & beyond, Ibrahim & Ayman helped develop the Bedouin Trail between Petra & Humeima & have over a decade of experience guiding & fixing support for extended hikes through this area. Contact on WhatsApp: +96277550 4216 (Ibrahim) +962776602061 (Ayman)
SALEM SALAMA - A Bedouin of the Saiyidiyeen clan, Salem led the scouting for the Bedouin Trail's route through El Haddab & has been guiding hikers for over a decade. He continues to live a mobile life in the mountains & knows this region exceptionally well. Only Arabic, but will always find ways to communicate in English when organising a trip. Contact on WhatsApp: +962779603969
MAHMOUD EL BIDOOL - Mahmoud hails from the Bidool & speaks excellent English. A well-established hiking guide in Jordan, with many years experience guiding groups throughout the country. He can be contacted on WhatsApp +962772448166
MAJED EL BIDOOL - Majed is a clansman of the Bidool who speaks excellent English & who has many years of experience working in both short trips around Petra & longer ones into deeper parts of the desert. He can be contacted on WhatsApp +962778376682
AHMED ABU TURKI - Hailing from the Muwassa clan, Ahmed lives in Humeima & is a well established operator with good connections through the route. Contact on WhatsApp +962772679270
Onwards to Wadi Rum
A Bedouin hamlet in the northernmost part of the Hisma Desert, Humeima is the best place to camp on the fourth night of the Bedouin Trail. Continuing onwards to Wadi Rum is a 50km route involving long stretches on sand that will take most hikers two long days. The route begins by moving east below a tract of high tablelands at the southern end of the Sharah Mountains, known as Ras el Naqab. A highway is crossed here but the route soon runs between rugged sandstone massifs, entering a more secluded tract of desert again. A peak known as Jebel Irga is reached after about 25km, giving a good spot to camp on the fifth night. The natural rock bridge of El Kharaza is passed soon after Jebel Irga, with hikers continuing south; this is a gradual downhill walk on which impressive views unfold to lower parts of the Hisma ahead, with the grand natural passageway of Wadi Rum seen clearly in the distance. A minor road near the Bedouin village of Deesa is crossed after passing a massif known as Abu Rishrasha, with the Bedouin Trail continuing into the northern stretch of Wadi Rum. From here it traverses the rocky passageway of El Makhras to Wadi Um Ashreen, where camp can be made on the sixth night. Hikers who want a shorter route can go straight to Wadi Um Ashreen, avoiding Wadi Rum. Hikers following the Wadi Rum Trail anti-clockwise to Aqaba can continue straight down Wadi Rum; going to Wadi Um Ashreen will only necessitate a crossing back to Wadi Rum later.
Bedouin tribes: how to fix
The Bedouin Trail between Petra and Wadi Rum stays mostly in the territory of a Bedouin tribe called the Howaytat. Within the Howaytat, several separate clans usually collaborate in guiding hikers through their own territories. The first section of the route between Petra and Wadi Sabra stands within the lands of a Howaytat clan known as the Bidool, most of whom live in a small village outside Wadi Musa known as Um Sayhoun. Between here and Humeima is mostly the territory of a clan known as the Saiyidiyeen, with a clan called the Muwassa holding the lands south of Humeima. The deserts between Abu Rishrasha and Wadi Um Ashreen are mostly the lands of the Zuwayda clan of the Anaza tribe. After this, the Bedouin Trail remains in the lands of the Zalabia clan of the Anaza. Hikers will only need to contact one operator to fix this section of the Bedouin Trail, who will arrange guides and support from the correct clans for each section. Many English speaking operators can be found within the Bedouin community of the Bidool near Petra. Others can be found in the Saiyidiyeen, but most only speak Arabic. Bedouin of the Zuwayda can be used to fix this section too. The Wadi Rum Trail section of the Bedouin Trail must be fixed by Bedouin operators from tribes in Wadi Rum Village today. Operators in Wadi Rum will fix support for the exit route to Aqaba and can also coordinate with tribes in the north to fix the route south from Petra to Wadi Rum.
BEDOUIN OPERATORS: SOUTH
Another option for the Bedouin Trail between Petra & Wadi Rum is to organise support through Bedouin operators at the southern end of the route, around Wadi Rum. They will call to Bedouin in the north, collaborating to ensure support is organised from the correct clans. Bedouin operators from Wadi Rum Village must be used when fixing the Bedouin Trail section of the Wadi Rum Trail & they are also the best option for organising support on the Aqaba exit route.
SABBAH EID - One of the founders of the Wadi Rum Trail & the Bedouin Trail, Sabbah is a Bedouin of the Zalabia from Wadi Rum who has worked as a climbing & hiking guide for the last 30 years. He has excellent tribal links & can work with tribes near Petra to fix support for this part of the Bedouin Trail, the exit route to Aqaba & the Wadi Rum Trail. Contact on WhatsApp: +962777891243
AWDA KRAYYIM - Awda is the Sheikh of Wadi Rum's Bedouin community & a founder of the Wadi Rum Trail. He comes from the Anaza's Zalabia clan & can work with tribes across the region to fix any part of the Bedouin Trail. WhatsApp: +962772273286
KHALED SALEM - Khaled Salem is a Bedouin of the Zalabia from Wadi Rum who has grown into one of the region's leading operators within the last decade. He can organise the route from Petra but his chief focus is on Wadi Rum, where he can fix support for the Wadi Rum Trail & exit route to Aqaba. WhatsApp: +962790706307
SALAH MUSA - A Bedouin of the Howaytat from Wadi Rum, Salah has strong links with other Howaytat clans in the north. He can organise support for the Bedouin Trail between Petra & Wadi Rum, along with its section on the Wadi Rum Trail & its exit route to Aqaba. Contact on WhatsApp: +962795445966
AHMED AWAD - Hailing from the Zalabia clan of the Anaza in Wadi Rum, Ahmed can fix all sections of the Bedouin Trail between Petra & Aqaba. Contact on WhatsApp: +962776044031