Saudi Desert Trip.

Friday dawned with a perfect temperature for a desert trip. The area we are enjoying exploring is about 1 and a half hours drive away and although it’s a familiar route it’s always interesting to be on the lookout for birds of prey soaring over the desert or nearer to town see how various building projects have progressed since last time. Being the holy day in Saudi most people have the day off so there’s very little actually being done and until after the big prayer at noon not a lot of movement of people on the roads. This trip we turned off at a rocky outcrop which was covered with script. There were also a few petroglyphs and the writing looked Arabic but I haven’t had that confirmed by an Arabic speaker yet.

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From there we tried to navigate to a way point one of my husband’s associates at work had given him. It was supposed to be a really beautiful rockscape. However, we are not very good at staying focused and continually have to check out things on the way. Today we never actually got to the waypoint- we came very close, but the area was definitely worth another trip as the landscape was breathtaking.

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We found another spectacular arch.

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But for the first time in many trips we got a little stuck in soft sand:(

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I was still amazed at how green everything is in many places and found a spiky yellow seed pod that I’ve never noticed before.

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I can’t believe we were close to where we’ve been a few times before as everything looked so different and more impressive.
Of course I had to set up a couple of geocaches- one at the big arch and the other at the lovely spot we had lunch at.

20131022-123614.jpgWe are truly blessed to have this opportunity to experience such an amazing place.

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Return to the desert.

At last the weather has cooled down and we had no weekend commitments so it was time for a long overdue desert trip.
We headed to an area that we have explored quite a lot but its amazing how driving round a different rock or heading down a wadi the opposite way can result in some interesting finds or beautiful scenery.
As soon as we headed off the Tarmac road we noticed a bird of prey soaring above us. One of our friends has a powerful zoom lens so he took this shot.

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We later identified it as an imperial eagle.
Soon after we found a secluded shady spot for coffee where we were entertained with the calls and aerobatics of at least 3 sooty falcons. Again I have to thank my friend for this photo.
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One of my passions is finding some rock art. I wasn’t disappointed with a couple of good sites.

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And of course there’s the camels! We still can’t resist a photo stop when we see a herd.

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We were amazed to see how green some areas still were after the long hot summer. It certainly make you think that under the wadi there is still some moisture to be reached by the well adapted plants. We found this amazing plant growing up the rock face inthe spring and were interested to find that it was still as green now as then.

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And of course I found somewhere to set up a Geocache- in fact I hid 2!

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Roll on next weekend when we hope to get out again.

Desert Junkies!

It had been 4 weeks since we’d last been in the desert and the weather forecast didn’t sound too extreme- just a mere 36C! – so a desert trip was organised. We are hooked on exploring an area around the small village of Bajda, where the rockscapes are spectacular- so that is where we headed. Our first stop was to show one of the guys the interesting ‘alien’ rock art we’d found a few weeks ago.

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Sadly, some graffiti has been sprayed on top, which detracts somewhat from the 9 figures and other animals which decorate the rock face. It was interesting to see that where some people had been digging down in front that the art continued below what is now the surface. Obviously there has been a huge build up of sand, animal excrement and fodder over the hundreds of years since this rock face meant something special to the local people. The digging occurs because there is a belief that gold can be found and I suppose if the figures are indeed idols then I imagine some offerings would have been left but how much of it would have been gold I’m not sure.
As we lingered at this spot some camels approached and started to have dust baths in front of us- very entertaining:)

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I doesn’t matter how many times we see camels I can never resist taking a few pics.
Our exploration continued in and around the wonderful scenery and we were rewarded with the sight of quite a lot of small birds- rose finches, wheatears, Tristram’s grackles, and a few I have still to identify. The most exciting bird spot was an Egyptian vulture soaring above.

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Rose finches were quite abundant in a few areas.

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Tristram’s grackles seem to like this area.
Wadi areas criss cross this area and water obviously collects underground going by the large areas of plant life and the numerous herds of goats, sheep and camels that we often see. In an effort to collect some of the water we have so far found 4 man made reservoirs.

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This reservoir still had some water in it which had attracted a lot of birds and dragonflies.
The people who look after the animals are sometimes the local Bedouin but we have quite often met other nationalities- Somali or Sudanese who are employed to look after the herd.

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This open air camp is probably ‘home’ to a couple of animal herders who were out with their herd when we stopped by to take photos of a very nice stylised horse petroglyph we spotted.

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A very good day in the desert, indeed! I’ve had my ‘fix’ for a wee while and as we’re going back to UK on holiday soon we’ll miss a few weeks of the hottest weather:)

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My friend took this shot of the vulture with his mega-zoom lens.

Fish in the desert?

Yesterday, I went exploring in the desert with some friends. It was a bit hot but the area we went to had lots of high rocks so we were able to find some good shady spots for our coffee and lunch stops- very important! 🙂

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We hadn’t been to this exact area before so were pleased to find some new rock art panels, interesting rock formations and a purpose built water storage tank. Obviously, sited in an area that collected the runoff from the rocks, apart from a grid and a small access hole, it was completely covered in to prevent evaporation. We were delighted to see it was full of water. There was a hosepipe to remove water to fill a trough at the front- I should think to water animals and when we looked closely there were the expected mosquito larvae, some red thread worms and what we hadn’t expected some tiny fish!! Well that’s what they looked and swam like!

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Small fish creatures in the water.

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Quite a large lizard kept us entertained at lunchtime on the rocks nearby.

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Tired of posing it makes its escape.

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A wheatear feeding it chick with a tasty locust.
Talking of locusts- a few weeks ago there was talk of Saudi getting a plague of them – well on the drive back into town one area of road was covered in small yellow locusts hopping across the road. Many hadn’t made it and there were lots of yellow splodges on the road. Perhaps there won’t be quite the plague as they were predicting!
That’s the great thing about our trips in the desert- we just never know what we’ll see or find and no two trips are ever exactly the same:)

Oasis

18 years ago the compound I live in was built on the edge of town in what had been a farmer’s field. The area is blessed with underground water reservoirs so there are a lot of fields in the surrounding area.
Initially, the compound was a concrete, soul-less place but over the years trees have been planted, grassy areas, flower beds, bushes and hedges added. Most people spend a little time on their gardens and there are various garden-styles to be appreciated as you walk around.

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It has been interesting to observe how the bird-life has grown over the years. In the beginning there were some pigeons and sparrows resident on the compound. Now, there are lots of bulbuls, spur-winged plovers, hoopoes, bluethroats and palm doves regularly in the gardens.

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Hoopoe.

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Spur-winged plover.

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In Spring and Autumn migratory birds including bee-eaters, parakeets and various birds of prey can be seen flying around the area. So now, our compound has become a welcome haven for many varieties of birds, big and small.