Roughly translated as “struggle mountain” or “mountain of frustration,” Jabal al Qahar is a remote plateau in the Asir mountains of Saudi Arabia. It reaches some 2,000 meters above sea level, and until a new road was completed in recent years, this area was only accessible by a single, treacherous track.
The isolation combined with the fantastical landscape has led to many stories of djinn (A.K.A. genies) in the area. One such story explains the red handprints found on some of the canyon walls. It’s said that the local village was blessed with a she-camel that gave never-ending milk. One day a man took milk but neglected to cover the camel with its shaw to keep it warm. The next day when he returned the camel gave only blood from its utter and the man slapped his blood-covered hands on the walls in anguish.
The area has truly amazing natural features including rock arches, cliff dwellings, 300-meter shear cliffs, and loads of paths to explore by 4x4, mountain bike, or on foot
Know Before You Go
Anyone can make it here but it does require finesse. Drive to the village of Al Reeth and turn north. a nicely paved road takes you up the mountain. This road abruptly turns to gravel. Turn traction control off and continue up. On the steeper bits keep your speed up to get you to the top. Be careful of sharp rocks and recent rock falls on the roads. As always driving in the KSA is a full-contact sport. Watch out for blind overtaking around corners.
You can freely camp almost anywhere but bring lots of water (none is available), the sun is strong even in winter.