Some 2km south of Dhiban, the vast canyon of Wadi Mujib opens up spectacularly in front, over 500m deep and 4km broad at the top. Just over the lip of the gorge is a small rest stop and viewing platform. The dramatic canyon is an obvious natural focal point, and in biblical times, Arnon, as it was named, was the heartland of Moab, although with shifts in regional power it frequently marked a border between tribal jurisdictions; today, it divides the governorates of Madaba and Karak. The sheer scale of the place takes your breath away, with vultures, eagles and kestrels wheeling silently on rising thermals all around, and the valley floor to the right losing itself in the mistiness of the Dead Sea. The broad, flat plain of the wadi bed, now dammed, is noticeably hotter and creaks with frog calls.
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Mujib Biosphere Reserve
Mujib Biosphere Reserve
Much of the area between the King’s Highway and the Dead Sea shore as far north as Ma’in, and including the lower 18km of the Mujib River, forms the MUJIB BIOSPHERE RESERVE (w rscn.org.jo). This expanse of diverse terrain extends from the hills alongside the King’s Highway, at 900m above sea level, all the way down to the Dead Sea shore at 400m below sea level, and includes seven permanently flowing wadis within its 212 square kilometres. The biodiversity of this apparently barren area is startling: during ecological surveys of the reserve, four plant species never before recorded in Jordan were discovered, along with the rare Syrian wolf, Egyptian mongoose, Blanford’s fox, caracal, striped hyena, two species of viper, the venomous desert cobra, and large numbers of raptors. Nubian ibex roam the mountains on Mujib’s southern plateau. This is one of the most dramatic areas of natural beauty in Jordan – well worth the time and effort to experience.
Access to the reserve is generally from its lower entrance, by the Dead Sea road. The reserve’s only base at the King’s Highway end of the valley is a small office in FAQUA village, northwest of Qasr, but this is not geared up for enquiries. Everything must anyway be booked in advance through the RSCN’s Wild Jordan tourism unit in Amman.
Most of the reserve’s hiking trails begin from the Dead Sea side. An exception is the rugged Mujib trail (15km; 7hr; JD45/person, minimum five people), a difficult route that begins from Faqua and descends rapidly into the reserve proper, ending at the Raddas mountain ranger station. It’s also possible to follow a difficult full-day route from Faqua all the way to the Dead Sea (April–Oct only), following the Mujib River with deviations at obstacles and passing through wild and varied scenery. This links up with the Malaqi Trail at the confluence of the Wadi Hidan for the final stretch down through the stunning Mujib Siq. All routes require an RSCN guide.
There are similar routes outside the reserve, around Wadi Zarqa Ma’in and Mukawir – and more further south around Karak, including the beautiful Wadi ibn Hammad.