Jabal Harun, Jordan (plus links to The High Place & Wadi Rum Docs)

1 09 2011

Apr 2002

The highest peak in the Petra area of Jordan is Jabal Harun (or Haroun), the summit of which has “Aaron’s Tomb” situated on it in a white building atop the summit crags. The mountain is steep sided and has a plateau running from south to north with an area of large crags on the north end and a breach running up the middle of the terraced area on the east side of the mountain. The north side is also terraced but much steeper – there is a way up those terraces too but much harder.

the furthest peak is Jabal Harun from the north
Jabal Harum in distance – from Ras Qarun

My friend John (a Scot frae Glasgae) and I were on a walking holiday I’d organised in Jordan after I’d been on a more commercial tour 6 months before (coach tour and trekking on Arab horses in the Wadi Rum desert with the charity ‘Brooke Hospital for Animals’) and seen all the delights the Petra area had to offer. I was insistent that one thing we must achieve is the area’s highest summit at 4780 feet. This doesn’t mean, however, that you have to climb 4780 feet up in the scorching sun as Petra is at a very high altitude anyway – around 3500 feet.

After camping in the foothills to the east of the Jabal, we set off around 10am on the short walk to the summit with our camp guide Ibrahim, one of the Arab locals from Wadi Musa (the town where Petra is situated). By camping I mean sleeping in sleeping bags under the stars… For this kind of walking holiday you don’t need walking boots – I just took plimsolls (or pumps as we call them in Yorkshire).

On the descent from the foothills where we’d camped, I was way out in front when I suddenly noticed that the sand in front of me was snake shaped… Lying on the ground, just where I was about to walk, and hissing at me, was a sandy-coloured snake – blended in perfectly. Looking at guidebook pictures since, I believe it was a horned adder. It was only a small snake, looked like a baby, and I could see I was upsetting it but had to show John before we left it in peace so called him over. Shortly afterwards, as we reached the bank of a wadi (dry river valley) we had to cross, we found the bones of a dead donkey. Nowadays, whenever I look at the picture I took from here I unfortunately always remember that (I’ve missed it off my photo of course).

The wadi of the dead donkey 😦
Foothills to south of Jabal Harun

Soon we were starting the ascent of Jabal Harun up a path which zig-zagged along terraces as it ascended towards the breach in the eastern defences. There was an easy climb up to the plateau (although of course the heat is quite tiring) and we were then passing the large and impossible looking crags on our right. You have to walk right to the far (west) side of the plateau and right round all the crags, nearly to the north side of the peak, before you finally enter another breach between crags where there is an unexpected and clambery route on to the large crag with the whitewashed building containing the tomb on top.

Tomb is on far left summit
Jabal Harun summits & monastery

Main summit and tomb building
Jabal Harun NE summit

There is a ‘caretaker’ at the tomb who will open the building and let you look inside. We obviously had a look inside but, as I don’t do flash photography, I haven’t any photos and am not much interested in antiquities anyway – just mountains (philistine!) We then sat on the summit rocks in the sun facing Petra. I was fortunate in sitting next to a large party of Germans who had an abundance of food, in particular my favourite outdoor food of hard-boiled eggs. I managed to cadge quite a few and scoff them 😉 They must have thought I was a vulture!

We then set off back down but I’d been looking across the plateau and really wanted to explore it. I especially wanted to get a closer view of a spectacular peak to the south-west which I called ‘The Horn’.

‘The Horn’ in the distance…
Jabal Harun summit plateau view

John’s Zoomed Photo of it

I had a quick discussion with John and he agreed it would be nice to traverse the plateau and find a way down the gentler southern side of the mountain and back round the terracing to our ascent route. We told Ibraham this… typically Arab, he went into a bit of a strop as it didn’t fit in with his plan to go back the shortest route – the way we came! He was insistent that it wasn’t possible to descend the southern edge of the plateau – I knew it was as I’d been studying it on the way up. Anyway I said, we could always walk back along the plateau to our original path if it truly wasn’t. The more I insisted, the madder Ibrahim got, but we continued to insist until he sulkily came with us, complaining all the way.

There were superb views along the plateau as we stuck to the craggy western escarpment overlooking Wadi Araba – thousands of feet below the Petra area and choc-a-bloc with mountains all the way!

Jabal Samra is the beautiful dark and pointy peak centre-shot
Jabal Samra from Jabal Harun

We soon reached the southern edge where there was no path but a perfectly okay descent to a flat area which set off round to the terraces on the east of the mountain. The sight of this made Ibrahim more sulky than ever and when we reached our original route he went into yet another strop. Typically Arab, about 2 minutes after this strop had ended, he was all smiles and telling me I must meet his wife and family!! Most of the Arabs I’ve encountered have very schizophrenic behaviour of this sort – they are furious one minute but, if you just ignore it, they calm down almost instantly and are really happy and friendly again! The Beduin however are much more balanced and are very easy to get along with and very obliging – they made great guides…

Halfway back to camp from the base of the mountain, I was starting to feel hot and thirsty when, completely in the middle of nowhere, there were the umbrellas of a drinks stand! Now neither John nor I drink ‘Pepsi’ but this is what they were selling and it suddenly seemed like the most appetising drink in the world. We sat in the shade and supped a few.

We were back at camp by about 3 in the afternoon where Ibrahim promptly collapsed and fell asleep. John and I looked at each other, looked at our watches, realised it was a long time till teatime and decided to go exploring. We had a great explore down the wadi of the dead donkey, going right down to the north of Jabal Harun before the (dry) falls started to get a bit more difficult and we decided to turn back.

Jabal Harun from Ed Deir (The Monastery) taken on another day

Sunset – Wadi Musa to Jabal Harum

Me and another friend 🙂

Link to ‘The High Place’ Walk and photos:

Petra, Jordan – The High Place

Link to Wadi Rum Camping Trip Account and photos:

Camping in Wadi Rum Desert, Jordan



5 responses

22 12 2015

Sunset camel rides, sunrise camel rides, daytime camel rideswe have it all.

Enjoy local cuisine after the ride in this desert beauty.


13 09 2011

Carol looks like some of the walking/climbing i get up to in the Oman..Very beautiful but also very hot & dangerous if you dont go prepared…plenty of water & a hat is in order!!! i dont think i would visit Jordan just yet either!! cheers.. Terry


14 09 2011

I always found a hat made my head much hotter. I’m wondering if Jordan, Libya etc. will ever be sensible for walking/trekking holidays in the future. I may have to start going to Oman instead if it’s similar terrain to get my desert trekking fix,


5 09 2011
David Seòras

great pics… think I remember this report from WH. One of the only reports I read from outwith the Scotland reports board.


10 09 2011

It was a truly spectacular place – both the Petra area and Wadi Rum… shame about the political situation in the Middle East now – I’m not sure it will ever be the same again for tourism 😦

I really miss the place,


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