Wadi Shuaib Hike “Valley of Jethro”
I find the Middle East extremely peculiar! Diverse geography, diverse weathers, diverse civilizations, multitude of stories from nations that passed leaving behind ruins attesting that every footstep we make was once taken by many. If we are ever short in archaeological ruins, we have a set of Holy Scriptures with a plethora of mind-boggling stories to fill in the missing space.
To hikers like me who carry an equal love for nature and culture, this region is a joy for the mind and the senses alike. To those who wish to extract and learn lessons from the fates of others, this region offers many! As a connecting point between Amman and Jerusalem, Wadi Shuaib is among the most significant in this region. The valley is located in Jordan, Balqa Directorate, 3km away from AlSalt city, the old capital of Transjordan. You can’t miss it if you’re on your way to the Jordan Valley or the Dead Sea.
With 666 springs, a stream flows through it all the way to the Jordan River, perfect warm weather during winter times, thriving agriculture hence the lush greenery, amazing scenery overlooking the entire Jordan Valley, a major site during Jordan’s Neolithic period, naturally the valley is a destination to many.
Pilgrimage is also common here; Wadi Shuaib is named after prophet Shuaib/Jethro/Yitro known to Muslims as a Pious Prophet, to Jews & Christians as Moses’ Father –in- Law and a Priest, and to the Druz as a Spiritual Leader. It is said that he was sent to the Midianites who lived in parts of this region, a people of folly who rejected God, insisted on their deceitful ways, earning Gods wrath and consequent punishment.
The scriptures narrate different types of punishment that befell the Midianites that I find worth mentioning here. Moses and Gideon punished them twice for plotting against and persecuting the Israelites. But if Gods punishment was carried out in the hands of these two according to the Jewish narrative, he completely changed his methods in Muslim religious narrative in this particular event.
His punishment was surprisingly naturalistic. If considered in a scientific frame, one can easily see that the Midianites have fallen victims for sudden climate change and extreme weather! According to Muslim scripture, God’s first choice of punishments was excessive heat which doesn’t surprise me at all since I personally felt the effect of heat waves on this region.
Seeking shelter in a cloudy, shaded area, God sent scorching thunder that hit and burnt the Midianites. Escaping the thunder, they sought refuge in their homes, but God shock the earth beneath them. Those who managed to survive so far experienced an unorthodox kind of death still unfamiliar even in today’s modern warfare and technological advancement. God resorted to sound “Sayha” or what we now think is ultrasonic or infrasonic waves. Exposure to such waves causes little damage to infrastructure but great damage to the human body. It induces cortisol; an important hormone that prepares the body to deal with stress by raising both blood and sugar levels. If the body is in a state of sleep, tampering with this hormone causes major organ failure and subsequent death!
Clearly, a war of extermination conducted by no other means than Mother Nature! Shuaib returned the next day, and found them all dead in their sleep. The Midianites perished as if they never were, prophet Shuaib died after a while and I think few lessons were learned from their fate whether on a moral or climate level. As we continue to dissect with our borders and visas what was once an extended piece of land, a need emerges to satisfy the need of all religious pilgrims. So, two mausoleums were built on both sides of the Jordan River; one in the Shuaib valley and another in the Lower Galilee in Israel. Soon enough, we might need a third one if a Palestinian state is established, a situation reminiscent of the three baptismal sites we already have!
From the mausoleum in the Jordanian side, and with these notions in mind, my hike began. Along with the group of hikers, we went off road to trace the flow of the stream all the way to the Shuaib Dam. Passing through many private properties, farmers offered us all kinds of oranges, grapefruits, clementines and direction. The Jordanian people have an unmatched sense of generosity & hospitality. I can tell you something for sure; you will never go hungry, thirsty, or without a shelter in Jordan.
We crossed the stream a few times after making our way through dense bamboos, the water was refreshingly cold. Don’t assume, though, that this water is for human consumption. It’s not, and I only found one sign along the way indicating that the water is not for human consumption. That water is mostly sewage flowing from AlSalt city to the Dam. Many people, however, swim, drink, or wash their faces or picnic silverware in it putting themselves at risk of E-coli infections 😦
After a while, the greenery diminished, and we started passing between Bedouin settlements scattered along the way. Each kept a barn with cows, chickens, goats, and many dogs on the guard; a clear transformation from a Bedouin life style to possible future villages.
Shortly after, the reflection of the dams’ waters came into view, shallow as they may be but thankfully available. We picked up speed because we had every intention of watching the sunset and we did. We started fire, cooked our food, watched the sun rays and birds play on the surface of the water.
I dried my cold damp feet and rested thinking to myself “Where there is water, there is life”
I pray we never know drought in this region, that we wisen up, and work hard to protect our limited water resources from pollution and over consumption. I pray we never meet the fate of the Midianites, that we learn lesson from those that once lived here and perished. I hope that sooner than later, we minimize our footprint on this earth and control climate change. I pray that we find ways to coexist rather than build fences and walls.
Wishing you all Happy Holidays & a Happy New Year.
For a photo album from this hike, click here