Whether you’re looking to run away from the mayhem of the city, or if you’re looking to embark on a new adventure, you don’t need to get to the top of Everest and you don’t have to travel to the other end of the world for an adventure that’ll add some spice to your life. The Middle East isn't particularly known for being a hotbed of adventure experiences, but it should be. Actually, the entire MENA region has plenty to offer in the adventure department, from stunning hikes to majestic mountaintops. Plus, you don't have to have a full resume of Everests and Elbruses conquered to try these MENA region mountain adventures.
SAINT CATHERINE, EGYPTvia St. Katherine
Mount St. Catherine is the mother of all mountains in Egypt, and anyone who’s ever wanted to climb has already done it or at least looked into it. Located in South Sinai, Saint Catherine is the highest mountain in Egypt with a height of 2,650 metres. Most of the time, this climb is done during the winter when the temperature is below zero degrees, and it’s one of the few places in Egypt where you can witness actual snow covering the mountain top. But the actual hike, the pathways, the heavy clothes, and the cold will all be worth it when you get to the top and enjoy the sunset with a backdrop of Sinai’s Red Sea mountains. That’s not the only mountain you can climb in the Sinai region – there’s also Mount Moses that's considered a holy site and far more than just a hiking experience.
MOUNT TOUBKAL, MOROCCOvia tripsavvy
Mount Toubkal is the highest peak in the Atlas Mountains, standing at a height of 4,167 metres. Its towering height and suitable climate make it a famous peak in the hiking community. The hike is enjoyable whether you choose to do it during the heat of the summer or during the winter when the peak is covered in a layer of snow; the hike is just as challenging and enjoyable in both cases. Being a hotspot for hikers, the mountain is littered with camps and places where you could spend the night. The hike to the top usually takes three days or more, depending on how many stops you’re planning to make and how well-trained you are. Surrounding Mount Toubkal is a group of other smaller mountains that are relatively easier to climb, in case you want to get into hiking one step at a time. Toubkal is not classified as a climb for pros, but it still needs a bit of training and studying for all the techniques, so you should go with a local guide or a travel company who’ll help you best with this route.
JABAL UMM AD DAMI, JORDANvia worlderingaround
Located in Wadi Rum, this is Jordan’s highest peak, standing at 1,845 meters. Although it’s the highest, it’s not as popular as Mount Rum since it’s located a bit further into Wadi Rum, far from most of the campsites where people usually stay. The view from the top is worth the trip and the hike, a panoramic view of Wadi Rum and the Saudi Arabian desert. If you’re lucky enough to climb it on a clear day with no fog, you’ll get to see the Red Sea and its mountains from the top -- an unforgettable mixture of yellow, blues, and reds. The hike takes somewhere between two to five hours, depending on your hiking skills and training, but it’s not a hard mountain to climb -- just some tricky parts with rocks and slopes. To get to the starting point, there’s a one-and-a-half-hour road from the beginning of Wadi Rum, and you’ll need a 4x4 that's easy to arrange with the Bedouins or with the camp you’re staying in.
MOUNT RUM, JORDANvia wikimedia
At only a hundred-metre difference, Mount Rum comes as the second-highest mountain in Jordan. Standing at 1,754 metres above sea level, this mountain is well-known in the area since it lies close to all the camps of Wadi Rum. Once you reach the top, you’ll get to see a panoramic view of Wadi Rum and the nearby villages. You should preferably do this mountain with a guide or as part of a group. It’s easy to arrange with the place you’re staying in or with any of the Bedouin groups who know this area like the back of their hands. Also, Wadi Rum Visitor Centre arranges a lot of tours in this area, and you’ll be able to find whatever you’re looking for.
JABAL JAIS, UNITED ARAB EMIRATESvia photographylife
Jabal Jais lies in the Emirate of Ras Al Khaimah, and it’s a part of the Al Hajaar mountain range divided between Oman and the UAE. Jais is the highest peak in the UAE, standing at a height of 1,934 metres above sea level. With the year-round scorching heat in this region, Jais is a getaway from the heat to heights with bearable weather. This is also a place where you could run away from all the malls, the skyscrapers, and the shopping of the UAE and into a place where you can enjoy the scenery and connect with nature – and you don’t have to worry about getting a sunstroke as well. During the summer months, the temperature on the top of the mountain is usually 10 degrees below that of the city, so it’s usually around 30 degrees Celsius.
The thing about this mountain is that you won’t need much – just you, your water bottle, your backpack, and you’re ready to get to the top. The mountain has six different hiking trails all prepared to receive hikers and climbers, ranging between 1 km to 6 km. Along the way, you’ll find signs guiding you and telling you your exact location, and you can also download the app – yes, this mountain has an app because it’s the UAE. The hike is not even the most fun part about this mountain; when you get to the top, you’ll find the world’s longest zip line certified by the Guinness World Records. You can find more details about this mountain and all the activities it offers through its website.
QURNAT AS SAWDA, LEBANONvia annahar
Lebanon is known for its mountainous backdrop; depending on the time of year, peaks are either covered in white snow or greenery. Each peak offers a panoramic view of the cities below, but Qurnat As Sawda is different. This is the highest peak in the Levant region, not just Lebanon, standing at 3,093 metres above sea level. This mountain and the village below stand out. It doesn’t offer the natural sceneries that Lebanon offers everywhere else, which is the reason the temperature is never above 15 degrees Celsius even during the summer. No trees and nothing to keep the strong winds away. During the winter, the snow reaches up to 10 metres and it usually takes its sweet time to melt away, reaching the summer months. The closest village to this mountain is Bsharri where most tourists go to see the famous rice fields of Lebanon and Kadisha Valley. You could either reach this mountain by yourself or through arranged trips with travel companies.
JABAL SAWDA, SAUDI ARABIAvia elevation
Part of a mountain range called the Sarwat Mountains, Jabal Sawda is Saudi Arabia’s highest peak at 2,900 metres above sea level. The mountain range goes parallel to the Red Sea mountains, starting at Aqaba Bay and up to Jordan in the north and Yemen in the south. The name comes from the abundance of trees and greenery that cover the whole mountain, and the fact that it’s usually covered by fog due to its high peak up in the clouds; from far away, the mountain looks like a black silhouette. Hiking up this mountain is not that hard to do. There are a lot of tribes and groups who live there, and you’ll stumble upon lots of them to keep you busy on your way up. You’ll get to have a full authentic experience, mingle with the people who reside there, and get to know the history of the people whose lives are intertwined with this land. The mountain is well-equipped and ready to receive hikers all year round, and it receives so many adventurers and photographers throughout the year for some unforgettable adventures, mind-blowing nature shots from the top, and a side of Saudi Arabia that no one imagines.
Just beside the mountain is a park with the same name where you can park your car, choose a good spot, and camp the night away.
JABAL SHAMS, OMANvia bucketlistly
Although Oman usually goes under the radar, anyone who’s done their research, they’ll know that Oman is gifted with nature unlike anywhere else in the world. One of the places that goes straight onto anyone’s list in Oman is Jabal Shams, the highest peak in the country at over 3,000 metres above sea level. Being the highest point in the country, this is the first spot that sees the sun at sunrise and the last place that sees the sun before it sets – hence the name Jabal Shams, which translates to sun mountain.
This mountain has a rocky formation and is surrounded by valleys, trees, and palms all around and on the mountain itself. The weather is pretty good all year round, and it’s usually swamped with tourists and photographers looking for that panoramic shot of nature from the top. It’s also a family-friendly day trip from the city or for campers looking for a good camping spot and clear skies. It’s located 240 km away from the capital city of Muscat, and you could get there through an organized trip with a guide or a travel company, or you could simply rent a car and drive there. The hiking trail, called W4, will take around five or six hours till you get to the top, and there’s an app to help you find your way.
JABAL AKHDAR, OMANvia Matador Network
Oman's clearly pretty creative when it comes to naming their mountains; after Sun Mountain you now get Green Mountain because it's – yup, you guessed it – green. In 2011, the mountain and its surrounding area were dubbed a natural reserve to protect the plants and wildlife. Since then, the place has been well-preserved and ready to receive visitors with certain places where you can spend the night. Only two hours away from Muscat, this place is very accessible and you don’t have to seek out a travel agency to get you there. Once you reach the gates, you get a map of the whole reserve and it’ll show you the way up to the top of the mountain. Jabal Akhdar is not as high as Shams, but it comes close as the second highest peak in the country and it’s the part of the same mountain range, Al Hajaar mountains. You should keep in mind that August is the best time for year for this trip, when the weather is at its kindest and you can properly enjoy the whole reserve.
LALLA KHEDIDJA, ALGERIAvia reddit
Part of the Atlas Mountains that pass through Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco, Lalla Khedidja is the third–highest peak in Algeria with a height of 2,308 metres. Although it comes at number three in terms of height, anyone who visits is looking for more than just a hike. Coming with a whole package, a trip to Lalla Khedidja should be for the scenic ride, pretty views, and the actual hike up to the top. During the winter months, the mountaintop is covered in white snow with a winter charm, and during the summer, all the trees are blooming and the weather is kind. The road to the top is filled with small villages and people who live there, so you’ll find many rests along the way. You could easily reach this mountain by following its location on Google Maps or through arranged trips by tour guides and travel agencies.