Mystery of Madinah Magnetic Hill Explained
On my recent trip to Madinah, Saudi Arabia, the tour guide informed us that we would be taken to this mysterious spot where water can flow uphill. Even a vehicle put in neutral can travel uphill.
I had never seen these before and it sounded exciting. The basic laws of science and gravity that I know do not support these claims, so I looked forward to the trip.
I found out later, phenomena like this are not only unique to Madinah, Saudi Arabia, but in many places all over the world (see the listing below). They are also known by various names: Magnet Hill, Magnetic Hill, Magnet Mountain, Gravity Hill, Mysterious Spot and Mystery Hill.
Where It Is
The Magnet or Gravity Hill of Madinah is located at Wadi al Jinn (also known as Wadi-E-Baida, Wadi-e-Al-Baida or Jabal Baido), North West of Madinah and is about 37 miles (60 km) from the city center with coordinates 24°43'21"N 39°26'35"E.
The exact location, however, is not listed on Google Maps. The following map shows only the location of Madinah in relation to Jeddah, the second largest city in Saudi Arabia and the main gateway to the holy city of Makkah.
Note: Correct Spelling for Madinah
Many have misspelled Madinah as Medina or Madina. The correct name and spelling for this holy city is Madinah Al-Munawarrah or Madinah for short. For this article, I will be using Madinah.
The ride to Wadi al Jinn took us about 30 minutes. It was a beautiful ride in early February and the weather was a cool 68 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celsius). The initial leg of the journey was scenes of date palm plantations on both sides of the road. Later the scenery changed to rugged but beautiful mountains.
We passed through what used to be a big lake, now dry except for a tiny patch of water. It is a shame to see this happening as otherwise it could have been a perfect spot for a picnic. The guide told us that in the old days, the lake was the water supply source for the city.
This area is also a popular place for recreation for Saudi families. On weekends, it is packed with families from the neighboring area and from other towns. They bring tents, camping gear, and barbecue sets. On weekdays, it is quiet and empty. A big contrast!
The guide constantly reminded us that we would soon be experiencing the magnetic forces that will pull our bus uphill. Hence, I was a bit worried that these magnetic forces might create havoc to my electronic gear: my smartphone, watch, and camera. I was reassured that this would not happen. Strange answer, but I have to believe him as he too, had a smartphone.
Magnetic Hill Illusion
As we drove along one stretch of the road, the bus driver told us that we were now passing through "a magnetic field area" and he would stop the bus and put it in neutral. He will not be pressing the accelerator pedal, but will hold the steering wheel to control the bus movement.
Suddenly, as if by magic, the bus moved and started to gain speed, as it moved on. This was while moving up a hilly road and not downhill. The guide reminded us that the magnetic power of the surrounding mountain is pulling the bus uphill. The bus gained speed and it even reached as fast as 75 miles/hr (120 km/hr).
We believed him and were amazed when we saw puddle of water moving uphill. This reminded me of my favorite magician, David Copperfield and his creative and fantastic illusions.
The driver demonstrated this act on another stretch of road, on our way back to Madinah.
Unfortunately, I did not take photo of the speedometer nor took video of the ride as I was too engrossed in the occurrence and forgot to "document this experience."
The Illusion Explained
Despite being an engineer, I must confess that I was completely taken in by the tour guide's "magnetic forces" explanation. The numerous science fiction books and films that I have read and watched may have blurred my mind.
When I got home, I decided to Google for more information and lo and behold, my good friend Wikipedia came to the rescue!
It seems that the areas where these "magnetic forces" are strong are actually optical illusions. The topography of the surrounding area gave an impression that the slight downhill slope seems to be an uphill slope.
The illusion or rather confusion is caused by the surrounding landscape. The mountain, rock outcrop, or trees and embankments blend with the horizon and are positioned in a way to trick your mind and eye.
Hence, water that seems to be moving uphill is, in reality, moving downhill. Likewise, the bus that we were on was moving downhill and was gaining speed as it moved further down the hill! Silly me! I should have known better.
This was proven by several studies including the award-winning study by the Japanese scientist Kokichi Sugihara, from Meiji Institute for Advanced Study of Mathematical Sciences.
This explained why such "strong magnetic forces that can pull buses uphill" would not damage my electronic gear. There are no magnetic disturbances at all!
We can also dismiss the marketing catchphrase "gravity forces do not apply in this area" as the "no-gravity" should also work on anything in that area including us, if we happen to be standing there.
Magnetic Hill in Madinah Was Closed to Heavy Vechicles
A freak accident where a pedestrian was killed by a moving bus in Madinah's Magnetic Hill, prompted the authorities to ban all heavy vehicles including buses to enter the area. This happened when the driver was demonstrating the "powerful effect of the magnetic forces." It was only recently opened again to tour buses in 2010.
Do remember that it can be dangerous to stop or reverse your vehicle while in these "magnetic roads." Always have the engine running and do not switch off the engine as it will be easier to control your car when the engine is on.
Madinah Magnetic Hill Explained
The phenomenon of Madinah Magnetic Hill is also an optical illusion of what seems to be an uphill slope is actually a gentle downhill slope.
Sarfraz Khan proved this in his blog where he did a detail study of the distance and slope from Madinah to Al-Khulail Dam. In his study, he proved that the road inclined at a maximum 7% and gradually drops to 0.9% towards Madinah. See the illustration below showing the gradual change in gradient, taken from Sarfraz Khan’s blog.
You cannot see the slope as the total distance is about 8.7 miles (14 km) and on both sides of the road are mountain terrains. There is no horizon to give you a good reference to see the slope.
Your Take on Gravity Hills
Have these Mystery Spots and Gravity Hills fooled You before?
Listing of Magnetic Hills Around the World
As I had mentioned earlier, magnetic hills phenomena are in several places all over the world and not just in Madinah, Saudi Arabia.
If you Google "magnetic hill," you will find several websites including Wikipedia. Many of these websites are designed and written to a specific hill site.
For a full listing of the various magnetic or gravity hill sites around the world, visit Wikipedia for a comprehensive guide.
The listing shows 29 countries with these gravity hill sites. The USA alone has a grand total of 40 gravity hill sites spread over 23 states.
Canada came second with six sites and Australia, Ireland, and the UK tied for the third place with four sites each. Next is Italy with three sites and the rest of the countries with one site each.
Magnetic or Gravity Hill Explained
Questions & Answers
© 2013 Mazlan