Climbing in Wadi Rum
Climbing el Habla - a non-serious page
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"Friends", "camelots" and "nuts
"I could buy two good camels for what all this cost" said Attayak Aouda wistfully

One afternoon, the "management team" at Wadi Rum Mountain Guides decided to do a bit of "reconnoitering" in Wadi Rum. Attayak Aouda had noticed a "nice rock" a few days before, and claimed that it had several possible routes to climb, and that it would make a great exercise for novice climbers. Accordingly we drove out to see - it's just a few miles from Rum.

Attayak Ali started to sort out the various hardware that is used by climbers, and while he dealt with the equipment in the car, Attayak Aouda launched himself at the rock, carrying the rope and slings for fixing a belay. Unaware of anything amiss, I watched with interest. When Attayak Ali turned round, he exploded with rage - apparently his friend should never have climbed this route "free". Unfazed, "Dindin" admitted he had been stupid, but added "So is the rock, it's completely rotten, see?" He gave a kick to a small pinnacle which jumped into the air before falling to the ground below, well away from us, but we moved back reflexively anyway. The rock was promptly named "el Habla" ("the stupid one"). It must be about 15m high.

It was obviously unsuitable for novices, but since they were there, they decided to climb it anyway, and in fact spent the afternoon climbing by different routes and jumping off the top. They claimed that they were "practising abseiling" - personally I think that they were just having fun!

Attayak Ali Attayak Aouda
It helps to be tall When you aren't you take another route
And when you get to the top... just come down again and start over

All this activity attracted some attention (we were on a ridge just off Ghor al Ajram) and soon friends started arriving. They lit a fire and made tea, and it looked as if a party was in preparation. Abu Khaled came along and invited everybody to his family tent nearby, and since it was starting to get dark we all accepted.

"You can meet my wife and have a talk with her" he offered me. He has been proposing marriage to me for the last couple of years, and here was my chance to "get on terms" with his first wife, who is absolutely charming. We did a bit of giggling together, which drew slightly uneasy glances from her husband - good!

But Attayak Ali and I were expected home to supper and we couldn't stay long. The party was warming up nicely when we left.

The evening wasn't finished, however. A couple of hours later Attayak had a phone call from Dindin - aren't mobile phones useful? Apparently after supper in the tent, he had gone after a lost camel (Attayak made a rude remark) and had run out of petrol (gasoline, essence, benzene, whatever). He had called Abu Khaled who had gone to "rescue" him and who had run out of fuel in his turn. Would Attayak please bring a couple of jerrycans of the necessary out to the two stranded drivers?

Attayak looked half amused and half exasperated. Apparently the exasperation won out, and he said "OK, OK but **** both of you!" From where I was, I could hear the shout of laughter the other end.


Another time, Attayak Aouda decided that it would be a good idea to do a "top rope" exercise. Attayak Ali was busy, so he went with another climber - let's call him "Mohammed".

The idea apparently is to fix the rope above one, and climb up to it. Then (yes, you've guessed it) one abseils down again.

This time we were somewhere behind Jebel Khazali. Dindin climbed very quickly up a side route just off the photo to the left, and fixed the belay at the end of the smooth bit.

This route is far more serious than "el Habla" but he still went at it with panache. Posing for a photo, he remarked "I can do it backwards if you like?" "NO thank you" I returned. It looked bad enough as it was. Mohammed, said to be a good moderate climber, appeared distinctly unhappy as he watched.

Coming back down again to firm ground, Dindin was pleased with himself. "That last bit's really nasty" he said happily, "at least 6C". I am starting to understand the vocabulary and grade 6C (on the French scale - see below) is indeed very nasty. He had taken several minutes to negotiate it.

Mohammed sighed and started up. After some 5 minutes, he was about 2 meters off the ground, Dindin making encouraging noises. "It's no good" he said finally. "I'll never get to the top anyway, I might as well stop wasting time".

After urging him on a bit, Dindin let him down and attacked again himself. He hopped up the first two meters in about 30 seconds, and went smoothly up the rest. The "nasty bit" slowed him down, but not as much as the first time.

I found this very salutary. I am so used to Dindin being able to do just about anything, that this proof that what he was doing was, in fact, quite difficult rather impressed me. I must be more polite to him in future.

For those interested, I give the comparison table rating of climbing difficulties. The practice in Wadi Rum is to use the French scale, probably because the first serious climbers here included many French speakers. (I have quite shamelessly copied this table from Tony Howard's book "Treks and climbs in Wadi Rum" - thanks, Tony!)

  French UIAA British
F = Facile 1 I 1
  2 II 2
PD = Peu Difficile 3 III 3
AS = Assez difficile 4 IV 4a
D = Difficile 5- V- 4a
  5 V- & V 4b & 4c
TD = Très Difficile 5+ VI- 5a
  6a & 6a+ VI & VI+ 5b
  6b & 6b+ VII- & VII 5c
ED = Extrême 6c & 6c+ VII & VII+ 6a
  7a & 7a+ VIII 6a & 6b
ABO = Abominable 7b & 7b+ VIII+ 6b
  7c & 7c+ IX & IX+ 7a
  8a & 8a+ IX+ & X 7a
Sans rang 8b & 8b+ X 7a
  8c X+ 7b

previous (Wadi Rum climbing information- top of page

Out of doors in Jordan - home

Links to Wadi Rum references and information in this site :

Introduction - Sleeping in Wadi Rum - Getting there and away again - What to see there - prices and tours (including horses and camels) - some longer trips in 4x4 - Reliable contacts and guides - "ripping off" - Nature Reserve - Trekking, hiking and climbing : short notes- - Trekking in Jordan - Riding around Wadi Rum - Camels and camel trekking - Tours of Wadi Rum - Wadi Rum climbing information - Climbing "El Habla"

Tourist Map of Wadi Rum - Satellite map of Wadi Rum - RSCN Map of Wadi Rum - Out of doors in Jordan : detailed maps of Wadi Rum

There are also several pages of photos of Wadi Rum in the Photo Gallery and a number of stories about the Bedouin who live there in the section "Meet the people of Jordan"

November 2002

©Ruth Caswell 2002