Huge, sweeping wadis, broken sandstone hills and towering mountains whose summits gaze into faraway deserts line Jordan's southernmost borders. Much of this region was part of Saudi Arabia until 1965, when it was given to Jordan as part of a new border agreement. Jordan extended its southern frontier by 18km - giving it a strategic stretch of coastline along the Gulf of Aqaba and the desert hamlet of Titin - with Saudi Arabia adding 7000 square-kilometres of Jordan's desert to its territory further east. The realigning of this frontier saw Bedouin communities who had once moved freely in this region having to cross an international border to move within their tribal territory. The Bedouin on the Saudi Arabian side of the border - most of whom belong to the Howaytat tribe - remain strongly tied to this part of Jordan, making regular return visits. Along with a new coastline, Jordan inherited Jebel Um Adami , whose status changed overnight from an obscure, minor summit of Saudi Arabia to the highest mountain in Jordan. Jebel Rum stands exactly 100m lower than the 1854m Jebel Um Adami and now counts as Jordan's second highest summit. Different accounts exist over the origins of Jebel Um Adami's name but a consensus exists that it is related to the Arabic word damm, meaning blood. Some say it means 'The Bloody Mountain', after drops of blood left on its crags by hunters carrying their prey. Others say it derives from the Bedouin word madmi; the fugitive of a blood dispute, who may have once made this mountain his hideout. Hikers will reach Jebel Um Adami mid way through the fifth day on the Wadi Rum Trail and if time allows it can be ascended, with a camp made in a basin below its summit to the west. Wadi Saabit is traversed on the sixth day.
Jebel Um Adami: the summit
Alongside Jebel Rum and Jebel Birda, Jebel Um Adami is one of three peaks on the Wadi Rum Trail and its 1854m summit is the easiest of all to reach. The ascent begins in low dunes at the mountain's eastern foot, with hikers scrambling up a succession of rocky ledges to a small basin. This is traversed to a low saddle at the bottom of Jebel Um Adami's north ridge, up which a rough path is followed to the summit. Standing just 2km north of the border with Saudi Arabia, Jebel Um Adami's summit is marked by a Jordanian flag and its ascent will take most hikers less than one and a half hours. Along with Saudi Arabia, the Gulf of Aqaba and the highlands of the Sinai are visible on a clear day.
Wadi Saabit: grand passage
From the end of Wadi Um Adami, the Wadi Rum Trail moves west into the vast, sweeping sands of Wadi Saabit. Rocky passageways are traversed through the broken sandstone massif of Um Loza before the trail veers north into a neighbouring massif known as Um Najila. These massifs both stand on the southerly margins of Wadi Saabit and hikers end the sixth day by crossing its main course towards a line of low hills known as Jebel el Thathaa in the north. About 20km off the Wadi Rum Trail to the west in Wadi Saabit is the small Bedouin hamlet of Titin; once in Saudi Arabia, now in Jordan, and frequently visited by Bedouin of the Howaytat tribe now based south of the border.
Jebel Um Adami: west ridge
The Wadi Rum Trail descends the rugged crest of Jebel Um Adami's west ridge. Getting down the ridge involves a rough scramble and is rewarded by views to the towering southern face of Jebel Um Adami, which become increasingly spectacular along the way. A short way after a narrow section is passed - where exposure can be avoided on the right - it runs down to a remote basin where camp can be made. Wadi Um Adami is descended from this basin to Wadi Saabit on the sixth day, with a short, exposed scrambling traverse involved on the way. To avoid this, hikers should descend from the summit via the north ridge ascent route, circling around the low northern flanks of Jebel Um Adami.
Other highlights & routes
Wadi Saabit can be crossed on alternative lines to that taken by the main circuit of the Wadi Rum Trail. One alternative route of special interest traverses Wadi Saabit to a cluster of outcrops near an area known as Hithayb el Reeh. Ancient rock art is etched widely in this region, with scenes depicting the early peoples of these deserts riding camels and horses on hunts or raids. Ibex are shown with long, recurved horns alongside animals now locally-extinct such as ostriches and lions. Arabic inscriptions from early eras of Islam record the passage of Muslim travellers. Whichever line was taken across Wadi Saabit on this day camp can be made in sheltered crags on its northern margins.