Umm Al-Namel : Hidden Gem hike of the week

Umm El Namel
Umm Al-Namel is a perfect picnic spot, and the entire final stretch between the town of Kufr Rakeb and the dusty hilltop at Umm Al-Namel is lined with families enjoying the scenery. (Photos: Maggie Masse and Zane Wolfang/Jordan News)
In truth, Umm Al-Namel is not really a hidden gem. It is a beautiful and consequently popular picnic spot about an hour southwest of Irbid and about two hours drive from Amman through Jerash and the Barqash forest. اضافة اعلان

We went last Friday, when the weather was an unseasonably temperate 18°c, and when we arrived about an hour after the conclusion of Jummah prayer there were already plenty of families scattered across the hillsides and valley below, picnicking, barbecuing, and enjoying the day.

Umm Al-Namel is a perfect picnic spot, and the entire final stretch between the town of Kufr Rakeb and the dusty hilltop at Umm Al-Namel, which serves as a sort of avant-garde parking lot, is lined with families setting up their blankets, barbecues and hubble-bubbles in the forests and stony fields on both sides of the road.

We chose to park at the top of the hill and walk down into the valley, but some people park their cars at seemingly random spots on the hillside, and some people even drive the unpaved way down into the wadi. We watched a series of Priuses, which were definitely not designed for off-roading, precariously make their way down the dirt road, with more than one driver getting out of his car to survey the scene and decide if it was really worth the price of a new undercarriage to find a more secluded spot.

The bottom of the valley leads directly to a lovely hike. The Wadi Umm Al-Namel trail is very well marked, as it is part of the Ziglab to Beit Idis section of the Jordan Trail. The Jordan Trail website lists the entire 22 km segment as a “difficult” hike, but we walked for almost one hour before turning around and heading back to the picnic viewpoint, and the entire section we traversed was both beautiful and easy.

We saw quite a few hiking groups and families with children on the trail, most of them locals and most going in the opposite direction, which led me to believe that they had probably started at Beit Idis and were either doing a loop to Umm Al-Namel and back or were going straight through to Pella. We also saw at least one guy going the same way as us who had just started a through-hike of the entire Jordan Trail, which was pretty cool.

One of the nicest things about starting this hike at Umm Al-Namel is that it is very easily modified because it sits in the middle of the Jordan Trail segment – we arbitrarily turned around after an hour of walking, but we could easily have continued as far as Beit Idis, or we could have chosen to go in the opposite direction and explore some of the route to Pella.

We sat and had a very simple picnic before we walked, but some people around us had no intention of hiking and were just there to relax, barbecuing or even cooking a full tunjara of kabsa over a wood fire. While it definitely was not a secluded hike, the majority of the people seemed to stay and sit fairly close to the parking area, the trail was active, but did not feel crowded.

The leaves were just starting to come back on some of the trees, and there was a lovely and diverse array of wildflowers strewn across the landscape. I am no botanist, but after photo comparisons I think we identified bright red poppy anemones and yellow crown daisies, in addition to a small five-petal purple flower I could not identify, different types of white flowers, and some orange flowers which were starting to bud but had not yet opened.

Jordan is home to over 2,000 flowering plants, and I think in another month, the whole area will be in full and spectacular bloom. We also saw some goats, but I think this would be a particularly enjoyable hike for people who enjoy plants and flowers.

There are no trash facilities there, so you need to pack in and pack out; neither are there public restrooms, but the valley is really not too far from surrounding towns, so you should be able to stop and use a restroom on the way in and out if need be.

I recorded our walk on Wikiloc, and there is some information on the Jordan Trail site, but only using Beit Idis or Wadi Ziglab as a starting point, and not saying much about the smaller subsections along the way.

Umm Al-Namel is a great choice for a barbecue, a picnic, or a hike of adjustable length and difficulty, and it will only get more beautiful as Jordan’s landscape continues to come alive with the onset of spring.

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