Hiking the Melodic Eastern Desert; Waqf As Suwwan Ring
Some say, it’s the location of the biblical meteor that hit Earth 10.000 years ago, others argue that it’s a volcanic crater, and then there are those who reject both theories and say that Waqf As Suwwan is a fold came into being due to Earth compressions.
Whatever theory you choose to adapt, they are all extremely interesting and worth further investigation. I, however, left all controversy surrounding Waqf As Suwwan in Amman and hiked the Eastern desert purely out of love. I soon came to discover that not only does it have some of the most astonishing stone formations, but they also ring musical tones 🙂
Jabel Waqf As Suwwan is located in Ma’an Governorate, near the Saudi border. To get there, you need a private vehicle because there are no public transportation to the location. You also need an early start so you can get out of the desert before sunset.
After a 3 hours’ drive, my friends and I reached our starting point to watch the sunrise and what a beautiful scene that was, but it wasn’t for free. Something, you need to know about the desert; it never opens up to you or reveals its beauty if you can’t bear its pain. That morning, it was freezing cold. The dry, cold wind penetrated my insulated jacket, my layers, and went straight to my bones making my inner core shiver.
Three hills locally known as the “Thlethewat” were looming in the distance surrounded by vastness in every direction. We started the hike towards them; the sun was higher in the sky, the rays were getting stronger warming me up.
I looked at the ground, and it was covered with razor sharp flint stone. You better be coming with some seriously well made hiking boats or bring spares because torn boots mean you’re stuck in the desert with no way of taking a step forward or backward.
Every step we made, I could hear jingling. First I thought, someone was carrying change in their pocket, and then I suspected metal was falling from someone’s backpack but I doubted anyone was carrying any. I listened carefully and I could hear music coming from below. Each rock played a distinct note turning the desert into a one large nature-made lithophone. Who said the desert is silent, in Jordan, it’s melodic!
Then I spotted the concretions and I went WILD. Really WILD. Each rock had a distinct shape that triggered my imagination. Some appeared to me like old bombs, others looked like planet Uranus, some like turtle backs, so I started picking the ones I liked the most to add to my collection hell bent that those beauties were going back with me even if I had to crawl.
Even though it was February, I could have sworn that I was seeing lakes of water in the distance. The only thing that convinced me they were mirages is the fact that we never seemed to reach them. Now I understand how easily people can die in the desert.
20 km further in, we finally reached As Suwwan ring structure “crater”. Climbing to the top, I saw the vastness of the desert all around me, inside the ring, I saw sandstone hills.
Now that the desert has taken its toll, the hike back was harder but never without surprises. Wild life was coming out of their burrows and I saw snakes, and different kinds of lizards. Then there was a small patch of grass in the middle of nowhere that took everyone by surprise.
After 13 hours of walking with very few short rests, loaded with rocks in our pockets and backpacks, our hike came to an end. The full moon assisted us on the way back. It offered enough light to navigate our way in the desert. Personally, not seeing the razor sharp flint stones I was stepping on made my steps less painful; probably a psychological factor.
I am proud to say, Hiking Jordan team is the first to do this 40 km trek in the Eastern Desert.
To me, it was a new milestone as I have broken my previous record of 34 km in approx. 13 hours. My distance now is approximately 43 km due to the fact that I kept moving most of the time exploring new spots and taking pictures.
I will not sugar coat it, it took my body 2 days to get back to normal, my heart beat to slow down and for the crazy wild look to disappear from my eyes but I did it 🙂
The Eastern Badia Desert and its melodic stones inspired a famous Jordanian architect Ammar Khammash to create a chromatic keyboard using a tuning app. The huge xylophone was exhibited in Amman Design Week for the year 2016.
My friend rocking it in the below photo during a visit to the exhibit in Amman Design Week 🙂
For more photos from this adventure, click here
More about Khammash Desert Xylophone:
Writing and Photography
PS: This blog reflects my personal opinion and my personal take on many issues. Its not a scientific paper, the information used is based on internet searches and some scholarly articles. Its purpose is to entertain and everything mentioned is open for debate and correction. Photos & Content are copyrighted.