The Death of a Bedouin Mountain Guide

الجمعة 18 كانون الأول 2009

Special Contribution by Tony Howard

Tony and Hammad

It is with great sadness that we heard today about the death of Hammad Hamdan, a Zalabia Bedouin from Wadi Rum, and son of Sheikh Hamdan who, in 1952, became the first Bedouin to guide Europeans up Jebel Rum. Hammad himself was also a Mountain Guide, initially for the Jordanian Army in which he was a paratrooper.

Together with the late Sheikh Atieq, he was one of the people to welcome us to Wadi Rum on our first visit in 1984 and to make us feel at home. Sitting by the fire with Hammad and listening to his colourful, amusing and exciting descriptions of the many Bedouin climbs in Wadi Rum was one of the reasons our first visit to the area to explore its climbing potential was so successful and, consequently, why Wadi Rum is so successful today as an adventure tourism destination.

Jordan and the international climbing fraternity owe him and others like him a debt of recognition. Hammad’s Route on Jebel Rum, like Sheikh Hamdan’s Route, is now world famous amongst climbers, the combination of the two making the classic traverse of the mountain, though where they climbed without equipment, today’s climbers need ropes and other specialist items, such is the skill and boldness of the Bedouin, alone on the mountain. ‘Hammad’s tree’, a dead tree wedged in a crack by Hammad to make it possible to climb a particularly difficult piece of rock, has now been thankfully grasped by many thousands of people following in his footsteps.

Our friendship with Hammad and his family has continued over the years since 1984. He epitomised all that is good about the Bedouin people, being warm-hearted, caring, generous and having a wonderful sense of humour. We are proud to have known him. His youngest son, Mohammed, is proudly carrying on his family’s tradition, and is the youngest of Rum’s new breed of Mountain Guides. We send our deepest sympathy to him and all Hammad’s family and friends.