A remote tract of tablelands known as the Juloof extends to the east of Wadi Rum's sandstone heartlands. These tablelands represent the outermost fringes of the Nefud; one of the great deserts of the Middle East, whose sweeping sands reach deep into the interior of the Arabian Peninsula, covering more than 65,000 square kilometres. The Juloof represent a stark contrast to everything else on the Wadi Rum Trail, which is perhaps the greatest attraction of the region; the towering sandstone massifs, high dunes and shadowy canyons that dominate most other sections of the route are replaced by a realm of high plateaux with a more plain, austere and desolate kind of beauty. This is a region with the feel of a frontier; everything is quiet and still, the landscapes are wild, remote and little-trodden and the tracks of wolves, ibex and other desert wildlife - which have moved increasingly into this area to escape the modern tourism in Wadi Rum - are seen more commonly than those of people. Only a few Bedouin families live in the Juloof today, most of whom still maintain the traditional mobile pastoralist way of life, migrating between grazing pastures with their black tents and herds of goats, sheep and camels. The neighbouring tablelands of Jilf el Saiyeed and Jilf el Kaaka are usually both crossed on the fourth day on the trail, with hikers continuing through an area of low, hummocky hills known as Um Rujoom towards Jebel Um Adami on the fifth. Jordan's highest mountain, Jebel Um Adami's 1854m summit can be ascended on the fifth day if time allows, with a bivvy made in a remote basin in the wild, westerly parts of the mountain. Hikers who do not want to traverse the two tablelands can follow alternative routes from Jebel Birda to Jebel Um Adami.
Jilf el Saiyeed
Jilf el Kaaka
Covering an area of 120 square kilometres, Jilf el Saiyeed rises to the east of Jebel Birda and is the first and largest of the tablelands traversed by the Wadi Rum Trail. It is not a flat tabletop so much as a dessicated plateau, whose high parts have weathered into an intricate labyrinth of winding wadis, shallow basins and low hills. Its uplands bloom with verdant grasses and wildflowers after good rains and waterpools can remain hidden in its wadis for months. The trail follows an old camel route over Jilf el Saiyeed before descending its southern side to Wadi Um Seham. The path is old, broken and often not visible but it gives firm, solid walking, in contrast to sandy sections of previous days.
Jilf el Kaaka is smaller than the neighbouring Jilf el Saiyeed - covering just 20 square kilometres - but it rises nearly 200m higher and offers a different kind of walking. Crossing Jilf el Saiyeed involves navigating a complex landscape of wadis, basins and hills but Jilf el Kaaka's summit is a near-perfectly flat table top where moving is easy. Jilf el Kaaka's high parts are reached with a scramble up the long, rugged course of Wadi el Minbuttha, then traversed to the south. Prehistoric stone circles and tombs are seen on Jilf el Kaaka and spectacular views open up over surrounding deserts before the trail leads down to a tract of dunes in Wadi el Lasam, where the fourth night's camp can be made.
Other highlights & routes
Um Rujoom is an area of secluded basins, shrub-dotted wadis and low, hummocky hills between Jilf el Kaaka and Jebel Um Adami. This region was once traversed by long-distance travelling routes - with the large cairns that once marked the way for camel caravans still visible today - but it remains one of the quietest, most seldom-visited parts of the region now. After Um Rujoom the trail follows Wadi Siraada to the pass of El Siridaat where the vast, sweeping spaces of Wadi Saabit come into view. Ancient inscriptions dot the rocks here and an easy scramble leads down the pass before the trail continues to the foot of Jebel Um Adami, which might be ascended on the second half of the fifth day.
Two viewpoints offer fine panoramas over Wadi Saabit in this region. The best is Shrayf Saabit - at the end of Wadi Siraada - which gazes west along Wadi Saabit's full course. Mudarba el Buyoot - meaning the hitting place of the tents in Arabic - is a high band of crags from which the Bedouin once threw heavy tents down into Wadi Saabit to avoid carrying them around on longer routes. Mudarba el Buyoot can be reached on secondary trails from Jebel Birda and Wadi Seham and it is also possible to follow secondary routes alining with the old caravan trails of this region through Um Rujoom. Walking any of these routes allows the traverse of the two tablelands to be avoided if necessary.