This is Umm al-Biyara; Petra’s highest mountain (1178m).
We had the brilliant idea to spend the day hiking to the top. Well, it turned out to be easier said than done!
First hurdle, “Where’s the start of the trail?”
A huge problem in Petra is that everything blends into one dimension. In the above photo, I am walking on a road, but from where my husband took the picture from, the road is not visible. You wouldn’t even know it was there.
We wandered so far off course looking for the start of the trail, that we met a young Bedouin girl and her father…near their home! They kindly took us to the beginning of the hike for which we were most grateful.
In the bottom centre of this photo, I am standing on the trail; again it is not visible unless you are literary on top of it!
The hike up is a combination of steps cut into the rock, and some man made brick steps. This is my husband giving me a wave 🙂
This hike is hard yakka. It is steep and the majority of it is in the blazing sun.
It is also treacherous in parts; one slip here and I would have certainly fallen to my death. No kidding; there are many narrow sections that fall away to sheer drops below.
After about half way up, whilst taking a spell in a shady area, we soon realised an error in judgement; we didn’t bring enough water with us. We assumed, like in other areas of Petra, that there would be Bedouins selling bottled water. Fact: there are no Bedouins at all on Umm al-Biyara.
We made the decision to slow down our pace and to sip our remaining water at less frequent intervals.
This was definitely a tough hike, but when we eventually reached the top, we were rewarded with the best ever 360 degree views of Petra! Behind me in the distance are the Royal Tombs.
My husband with the township of Wadi Musa in the background.
On the top of the mountain there are ruins of an ancient Edomite village; dating from around 6 century BC. The foundations and the lower levels of the rooms are clearly visible, as are the water collecting cisterns.
Whilst archaeologists have carried out excavations and removed many artifacts, I still found some interesting pottery shards. As a respectful tourist, I only admired them and then left them onsite.
We spent an hour or so taking in the views and reminiscing about our past three days at Petra.
Our real fun began when it was time to head back down. In our excitement of reaching the top, we didn’t take any notice of where we had come up. In a nutshell, we were lost on top! Umm al-Biyara’s surface terrain looks pretty much the same which ever way you look; rocky and quite barren with sheer cliff faces all around.
After half an hour of fruitless searching, we posed the question, “Who knows we’re up here?”
We had told the lady at our B&B where we going, so if we didn’t turn up after dark, surely she would send out a search party…
There was a mini panic going on! We seriously could not find how to get down!
I then came up with the idea that we would start at a specific location, and slowly work our way around until we found the ‘secluded’ path. Every section looked basically the same as we peered over the edge; urgh! 😦
We soldiered on for another half an hour, and then my husband spotted an unusual looking tree down below. We had commented on this tree on the way up, so we had finally found something that looked familiar! It only took another fifteen minutes or so to work out where the path was in relation to the tree. A huge sigh of relief; thank goodness!
We journeyed down with a definite spring in our step and headed for the nearest Bedouin tent for some much needed water.
On our way back to the main thoroughfare, we stopped for this photo. If you are going to hike up Um al-Biyara, you will find the start of the hiking trail where my husband is pointing.
This is a strenuous hike and you will need to carry a good supply of water. On the day that we hiked up, apart from a few goats, we were the only people on the mountain. My advice would be to tell someone you are going up so that in the event that you run into difficulty, help will eventually come.
A selfie from the top.
We took it during our ‘lost’ period and nervously laughed at the time, “This could be the last photo we ever take before we perish!”