Jordan Trail is an adventure through history and culture
It takes about 40 days to walk entire route but many join trail at different points to walk for a day or a weekend.
The mysterious and narrow road from Wadi Rakiya to Humeima part of the Jordan Trail. (Tony Howard & Di Taylor)
2016/12/18 Issue: 86 Page: 24
The Arab Weekly
Amman - Through rocky mountains and valleys, forested hills and smooth pinkish sandy footpaths, the Jordan Trail takes trekkers 600km from Um Qais in the north to Aqaba and the Red Sea in the south on a journey through history and culture.
The trail passes through 52 villages and a diversity of natural environments and landscapes. It consists of eight sections, each representing a different part of Jordan. It takes about 40 days to walk the entire route but many join the trail at different points to walk for a day or a weekend.
The trail is the brainchild of outdoor adventure guidebook writers Tony Howard and Di Taylor, who saw an opportunity to build an adventure.
“The idea was developed in the 1990s, when Di was working on the first edition of our Jordan Walks & Treks book. By 2012 the concept of the trail became popular and encouraged by those passionate for hiking and discovering,” Howard said.
“From there we started to talk more about the trail in the media and things picked up fast with the support of Mark Khano and Amjad Shahrour of Experience Jordan, a specialised entity that offers hiking, biking and sightseeing tours, and Osama Cori of Explore Jordan, a tourism company,” Howard said. “We had a great three months checking and contributing to the rest of the trail from Ajloun Castle past the King Talal Dam and Fuheis and on across the wonderful Dead Sea canyons to Kerak and Ma’tan.”
The trail was approved by the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities and Jordan Tourism Board in April 2016. Subsequently, the Jordan Trail Association (JTA) was formed with support and funding from the US Agency for International Development (USAID).
“We are very excited that a simple idea which took years to develop is now officially on the (tourism) map,” Howard said.
“We are not promoting healthy recreation only but informing about the history of the kingdom, as the trail tells the story of the Nabataeans, Edomites, Romans, Christians and Muslims, the Bedouins, Chechens, Circassians and gypsies, with a focus on their culture, cuisine and traditions,” he said.
Mohammad Zayadeen and Mohammad Homran from the Beni Hamida tribe in Wadi Hasa above the Dead Sea were the first hikers to complete the journey, spending 40 days on the trail. They were joined by Minister of Tourism and Antiquities Lina Annab at one leg of the trail near Petra.
“We wanted to be the first Jordanians to hike (the entire) trail. Everybody talks about Jordanian hospitality, which we really got to experience on our hike with the many cups of tea we were offered,” Zayadeen said.
Homran said it was a challenging experience that changed their lives. “It made us realise the wealth and diversity of our country,” he said. “We invited everyone to join us along the way and see with their own eyes how beautiful it is.”
In addition to providing a unique adventure for trekkers and nature lovers, the trail has reinvigorated economic life in the villages it crosses.
“Our reason for building the trail is also to boost ecotourism and contribute to the economy of the 52 villages along the way. This is already beginning to work and attracting support from the JTA and USAID,” Howard said.
“Al Ayoun track, for instance, wasn’t even on the tourist map until five or six years ago. Now it has three local guides to cater for weekly treks and guesthouses are in regular use.”
He added: “The benefit is both economic (creating a need for guides, guest houses, drivers, etc.) and cultural. Exchange between local people and the visitors creates better understanding of each other’s societies and ways of life. The trail is also benefiting existing hotels and tourist campsites both along the route and in Amman, Wadi Musa and Aqaba, which walkers visit during, before or after their trek.”
The trail is becoming popular among both Jordanians and tourists, as it goes through natural and historic landmarks including Wadi Rum, Petra, Kerak, Wadi Zarqa and Aqaba.
“Long-distance trails are becoming extremely popular around the world. Most visitors will walk for a few days as part of a two-week holiday. They may return and walk the rest of the sections. Some will walk the whole route in one go but that’s five to six weeks, so it is not for everyone,” Howard said.
The concept of a trail crossing the Jordanian countryside is not a new one. For thousands of years, ancient paths and trade routes cut across the land that today includes Jordan. Many of the ancient peoples living in the region used these paths as trade and communications routes.
Today, the Jordan Trail is bringing people to Jordan’s countryside to experience its beautiful natural landscape and diverse communities.