Key information: Barrah Canyon
- This short but magnificent canyon rends the vast Barrah massif in two. It is a form of walking heaven.
- Outstanding desert mountain scenery: justly famous conbination of vast multi-coloured towers and cliffs looming over red sandy desert. Part of a protected area with a surprisingly rich array of animal and plants life.
- Walkopedia rating86
- Natural interest16
- Human interest6
- Negative points0
- Total rating86
- Length: Variable
- Level of Difficulty: Variable
The Barrah massif stands in grand command of the north-east of the Wadi Rum Protected Area, a vast sandstone edifice, some 6km by 4km and rising hundreds of metres above the sandy desert around it although I should perhaps say edifices, as it is riven by a spectacular canyon, as if torn apart, which for all I know it was.
The 1 - 2 hour Burrah Canyon is a form of walking heaven almost an easy stroll but for the heat at the wrong time of year (or day), in the grandest of scenery, with points of special interest along the way.
Just round from the entrance is a famous rock-climbing wall, with fixed rings and tidily stored ropes up a face so high that they become invisible even using binoculars which seems almost totally devoid, to my eye, of hand or foot holds.
The funnel of the southern desert entrance quickly narrows, and the walls close in, providing delightful shade for the first half of the walk.
There are Nabataean inscriptions at the entrance, and, further on, the remarkably intact blocks of a Nabataean dam at the base of a steep side canyon. It still holds water some 2,000 years on.
The canyon winds on through tremendous cliffs, with odd and thrilling formations and smaller canyons tumbling in from each side. The going is much better than we expected, gently downhill, mainly on firmish sand or gravel, with some grand dunes at the lower northern end, where there are also some spectacular, sheer walls, which have of course not gone unnoticed by the climbers.
The best is kept till last: as you approach the northern end, you see the canyon winding through a narrow throat, a low dune beneath it which, you realise late on, is the top of a long and exhilarating slope to the cliff-base beyond. Round this last promontory, you suddenly emerge into the wide silent, sandy expanse, looking across to distant formations shimmering in the heat. To the left is what looked from further away like a delicately sculpted scoop of cliff, but you now realise is the result of a relatively recent collapse. It has protected an elegant secret until the last minute, though: behind it is a delicate, sloping rock bridge. Gorgeous.
A perfectly placed overhang thank you, nature allows you to contemplate in comfort the timeless view and your admittedly minor achievements.
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