It’s called Jabal Shamss, which translates to “Mountain of Sun” and what a fitting name it is. At an altitude of approximately 3.000 meters (10.000 feet) it’s majestically situated under an almost allways blue sky with the intense Arabian sun shining above it, casting it’s deep shadows into the depths below.
Jabal Shams is not really a mountain as you’d expect, it’s a mindboggling crevasse of immense proportions, therefore the name “Grand Canyon of the Middle-East” is way more fitting. Not only is the viewpoint [Google Earth] at the road through the Al Hajar Mountains range one of the nicest stops in the region: an actual hike through the Canyon is even better as the path is situated halfway up the cliff face of about a thousand meters.
In order avoid the worst shadows we leave early for our hours-long trekking, the sun will be nice above us for most of the trip so we’ll be able to enjoy the best of the views. And boy, are those views amazing! From the early start till the final bits it’s hard to keep your eyes on the small but pretty manageable path. At points it gets close to the edge and one viewpoint is just simply breathtaking when we can see a tiny village more than 600 meters below us. Even with my biggest telelens it’s hard to get it fully visible. Apparently the few kids that live in the dozen or so houses are picked up daily for school but it’s just hard to imagine living there.
Even harder is imagining living in the deserted village Sab Bani Khamis [Google Earth] that we come across after an hour or so. It was abandoned after a dam closed off their water supply that made it possible to live there. Just simply imagine a rocky ledge of no more than thirty meters wide with a deadly drop to the depths of the canyon. A couple of terrasses where they managed to grow crops and a few mud houses underneath a hanging ledge that towers above for hundreds of meters. Now that’s remote living!
After hiking through the tiny place and visiting a fantastic small mountain lake it’s time to hike out: not by going back but by taking the Via Ferrata [Google Earth]. Definitely not as simple as hiking to the village is this climb out while being secured to metal ropes which are placed so falling down is not an option anymore (while scrapes and bruises still are though!). The climb under the deep blue sky is exhilarating: not too easy but not too technical either. And what a great feel looking over your shoulder or between your legs: the massive stone canyon that goes on to the horizon. This is truly one of my favorite vies of the world.
Click here for the full photo-gallery on Flickr (27 images).