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Mystery of Madinah Magnetic Hill Explained

Updated on August 26, 2016
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As an engineer, Mazlan had the opportunity to travel & work abroad & had traveled to over 30 countries.

During 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 is 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.

Panoramic view of Wadi al Jinn, the Magnetic Hill in Madinah
Panoramic view of Wadi al Jinn, the Magnetic Hill in Madinah | Source
Rugged but beautiful mountains at Wadi al Jinn in Madinah Magnetic Hills
Rugged but beautiful mountains at Wadi al Jinn in Madinah Magnetic Hills | Source

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.

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.

show route and directions
A markerMadinah -
Medina Saudi Arabia
get directions

B markerJeddah -
Jeddah Saudi Arabia
get directions

Getting There

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.

The journey to Wadi al Jinn, Madinah's Magnetic Hill are full of date palm plantations, on both sides of the road.
The journey to Wadi al Jinn, Madinah's Magnetic Hill are full of date palm plantations, on both sides of the road. | Source

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.

Mountainous terrain and few trees make the horizon difficult to judge if the road is going up or downhill at Jabar Baido or Wadi al Jinn, the Magnet Mountain of Madinah
Mountainous terrain and few trees make the horizon difficult to judge if the road is going up or downhill at Jabar Baido or Wadi al Jinn, the Magnet Mountain of Madinah | Source

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."

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.

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.

Madinah Magnetic Hill site has beautiful mountains and some are stand alone while some are in contiguous terrain
Madinah Magnetic Hill site has beautiful mountains and some are stand alone while some are in contiguous terrain | Source

Your Take on Gravity Hills

Have these Mystery Spots and Gravity Hills fooled You before?

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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.

In his study, Sarfraz Khan confirmed that the Madinah Magnetic Hill is an optical illusion where a downhill slope seems to appear as an uphill slope.
In his study, Sarfraz Khan confirmed that the Madinah Magnetic Hill is an optical illusion where a downhill slope seems to appear as an uphill slope. | Source

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

© 2013 Mazlan

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    • greatstuff profile image
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      Mazlan 4 months ago from Malaysia

      Abdul Rasheed, you are right. Good to hear that you went to this 'Madinah Magnetic Hill' and thanks for sharing.

    • profile image

      Abdul Rasheed 4 months ago

      Very nice article. I have visited the place. As mentioned vehicle on return speed up with engine off. It is because of gravity. When you go to that place, your car need a lot of acceleration as you are going up. Passengers in the vehicle will be able to feel it from the sound of the vehicle. Obviously when you are coming back, it is down the hill and need no power. There is no Jinn effect or magnetic effect.

    • manumohanan83 profile image

      manumohanan83 5 months ago

      Its is not optical illusion , it's caused by earth curvature,

    • greatstuff profile image
      Author

      Mazlan 21 months ago from Malaysia

      Hi Aladdins Cave, it's part of the overall travel package inclusive of our airfare, hotels etc. Thanks for dropping by.

    • Aladdins Cave profile image

      Aladdins Cave 21 months ago from Melbourne, Australia

      Thank you for that interesting Hub page

      I hope they did not charge to much money for that tour :)

      Cheers from DOWNUNDER

    • greatstuff profile image
      Author

      Mazlan 2 years ago from Malaysia

      Hi Md Towhidul Islam, you are right. However, in areas where there's the illusion of the slope going uphill instead of downhill, it may be difficult to see it. I suppose you will have to go to a similar site nearest to you to 'feel' this 'magnetic hill' illusion.

    • profile image

      Md Towhidul Islam 2 years ago

      I am not used to the explanation here. Is it not possible to say whether I am standing on a slope or the direction of the slope whatever may be the landscape? I think I can say anywhere whether the land under my feet is slant or not. I have seen that some people do not have sense of north, south,east or west. I always had the sense and can not understand how some people can go without such sense.

    • greatstuff profile image
      Author

      Mazlan 2 years ago from Malaysia

      Lindsey Nobles, Do you know that in the USA there's a total of 40 gravity hill sites and that includes the Gravity Hills in Pennsylvania. Thanks for sharing and for dropping by.

    • Lindsey Nobles profile image

      Lindsey N 2 years ago from Western New York

      There is a hill like this in Pennsylvania. I believe it is named "Gravity Hill" It's an optical illusion, it appears you are going uphill when in fact you aren't. Great article. :)

    • Kalmiya profile image

      Kalmiya 3 years ago from North America

      This is so interesting! There is a similar 'zona magica' at Colima, Mexico where your car will go uphill backwards! Amazing and curious things found in our world.

    • profile image

      Ar mukul 3 years ago

      Nice

    • profile image

      sohail 3 years ago

      madaina is a very nice

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      Fascinating article and so well written. I love the optical illusion of this hill.

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 4 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      Very interesting! I remember having read about one of these magnetic hills earlier and also viewed a video that showed cans and bottles moving uphill including the puddle of water.

      Voted up.

    • greatstuff profile image
      Author

      Mazlan 4 years ago from Malaysia

      @vibesites . Thanks for the votes and the compliments. Everything about Saudi Arabia is an adventure from learning and knowing their cultures, foods, places of interests, religious sites, fishing & diving in the red sea etc. To me, the worst adventure or experience in Saudi Arabia is driving- it is a nightmare! Yeah, if you have a chance, give the country a peek; like their magnet hill! You, however need to have a business visa, as there is no tourist visa like in other countries.

    • vibesites profile image

      vibesites 4 years ago from United States

      Yeah, I've heard that petroleum is cheaper there than water, as it is an arid country. Beautiful scenery, thanks for the pictures you provided. I want to go there and experience some sort of adventure (thanks for the advice for us females). Voted up and useful, interesting, awesome. :)

    • greatstuff profile image
      Author

      Mazlan 4 years ago from Malaysia

      Hi Sarah

      Thanks for dropping by. Getting around Saudi Arabia is easy if you have a guide, otherwise it can be tough esp. if you female (in which case you MUST travel with a male, related to you) I was working there before so it was a lot easier for me as I understand the culture, the people and things that I can do and cannot to do. It is a beautiful country and despite the vast desert area the country has fantastic landscape and the food is good. Petrol, of course is CHEAP and driving big cars over long distance is not going to burn your wallet.

    • sarahshuihan profile image

      Sarah 4 years ago from USA

      Sounds like you had a great time in Saudi Arabia! Was is easy to travel around?

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