Cross country to the canyon.

Using a Bedouin desert track we travelled from the Sharma road to the Duba road. I have no idea how long it would take driving non-stop but with all our stops it took us all day. It’s been a year since we travelled this route and whether it was because the weather was a bit overcast but it was like seeing some of the scenery for the first time, so I ended up taking lots of photos. Our first stop was at a huge cavern where I have placed a Geocache. The last people to search for it had been unable to find it so I wanted to check if it was still there. As soon as I got there I saw the problem- a Bedouin had decided to store some sacks of feed in the same place! Luckily, I could just reach the Geocache and rescue it. It is now in another hidey hole, close by.

Coffee time.
From there we continued to an amazing rock art site. I believe these figures are representations of deities, but from which era I have no idea. I have found a lot of rock art in the area, but the workmanship of these is exquisite. I just wish I could find out more about them and the people who carved them.

3 deities or the 3 spacemen as we affectionately call them!
Next we stopped at a large rock pinnacle attached to a huge rock massive. The view from the ‘saddle’ between the two was beautiful.

We decided it was lunchtime so headed to another rock art site to have our picnic.


We were just packing up when we had a very strange experience. A vehicle with 2 young Saudis came driving up to us. However, they didn’t get out to chat etc. but the passenger started taking photos and or video of us on his phone! As we started to drive away they pursued us with the passenger still standing up out of his doorway, taking photos!

We now know how animals in safari situations feel!
‘Our friends’ headed off after a while and we continued our trip to the canyon, passing some amazing rock formations on the way.

We named this one balloon rock, as one of our group flies a hot air balloon and reckoned it looked just like one.

A striped tailed lizard.

Desert apples.
And finally to the canyon!

Another truly enjoyable trip which will be reminisced about when we leave Saudi in a few months.

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.

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.

We found another spectacular arch.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.
One of my passions is finding some rock art. I wasn’t disappointed with a couple of good sites.


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

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.

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

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.

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:)

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.

Rose finches were quite abundant in a few areas.

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.

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.

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.

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:)

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! 🙂

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!

Small fish creatures in the water.

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

Tired of posing it makes its escape.

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:)

A plague of locusts.

A regular event in my childhood was the Sunday mornings spent at church and Sunday School. So before coming to the Middle East my idea of this part of the world was based on the impressions I had made from reading the Bible. Stories such as Joseph and his coat of many colours and John the Baptist’s time in the ‘wilderness’ were brought back into mind this last weekend when I took a trip in the nearby desert.
The area of massive rock structures, sand dunes, sparse trees and after the recent winter rain bushes and desert flowers has a certain beauty and wildness about it. Initially, it seems there is very little wildlife about, but if you take the time to stop and listen and watch it becomes apparent that you are not as alone as you thought. I have been amazed at the different birds we have spotted on different trips but one bird always seems to be about- the raven- friend to John the Baptist, bringing him food when he was alone in the wilderness and there was nothing for him to eat.
On the way home I spotted 2 birds of prey and we pulled off the road to get a closer look. However, something else caught my husband’s eye- the ground was alive with small hopping things! We stopped and were amazed to find they were hundreds of baby locusts! They were only about 1-2 cm. long and I imagine they had only hatched out and would technically be called ‘hoppers’.

A few weeks ago we had travelled 150km further south and while exploring the desert there had driven through a couple of swarms of yellow locusts – I’d never seen yellow ones before!

Soon after that I read in the newspaper that Saudi Arabia was to experience plagues of locusts after the recent rains.

However, unlike the Egyptians in the story of Joseph, many local people are happy for there to be an abundance of locusts. That is because locusts are regarded as a delicacy and can be found for sale in the market.
So, thousands of years after the events in the bible are supposed to have happened I find my local surroundings could still provide a backdrop to them which appears virtually unchanged by the passing of time.


About 10 years ago I read an article about geocaching and thought the idea of using a GPS to look for a hidden ‘tub of treasure’ sounded fun. Really enthusiastic I went on the website to see if there were any geocaches in my area of Saudi Arabia. Alas, not a one! And that was the end of my geocaching for a few years.
Going exploring in the desert has been a weekend interest of my husband and I for so long and it was on one of our expeditions a couple of years ago that I thought – ok there are no geocaches here but what’s stopping me from hiding some? Confidence for one thing as I’d never even seen a real life Geocache to get an idea of what to do. Luckily, by now the Internet was on hand to glean some information and ideas.
I set about collecting a few small items to put in the ice-cream tubs that I had decided would be a reasonable size of container for my ‘hides’. Pencils and notebooks were also searched out in the local stationary shops and I put together my first few boxes ready for our next desert trip.
I always try to find a place of particular interest so that the person finding the cache won’t just find the ‘treasure’ but actually experience something more.
After my 7th hide I was surprised one day to receive an email telling me that someone had found my geocaches! He had travelled up from Jeddah – a mere 11 hour drive!- for the weekend just to ‘bag’ them! Since then he has returned on 2 more occasions to search for my hides and always gives me good feedback on his experience – mainly positive but a few times critical of my inaccurate co-ordinates! Now, each Geocache I set up I take special care as I do not wish to disappoint my keen follower who travels so far just for my geocaches!

20130430-204456.jpgMy last Geocache- my 30th:)
Have I ever found one for myself? Yes I have found a grand total of 11- 3 in Jordan, 1 in Saudi Arabia and the rest in Scotland.
Interested? Check out

Sand dunes in the desert?

Before I came to Saudi I didn’t really give the country much thought, but then my husband to be went there to work and it had a lot more meaning for me. All this was before google and the Internet so in my mind’s eye my image of Saudi was very much the terrain of ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ ie. a succession of sand dunes.

20130426-215834.jpgThis was what I thought Saudi Arabia was like!
I first came to Saudi in 1986 and it wasn’t until I travelled nearly an hour outside the town before I saw my first sand dune.
Now I have travelled around in the desert quite a lot and I never fail to be amazed by the diversity of the landscape and probably more accurately – the desertscape! Yesterday I spent the day exploring an area I have been to a few times before and was still stunned by the sheer beauty of what some might imagine is a barren, dry country.

20130426-221020.jpg stunning rock sculptures!


20130426-221428.jpg evidence of those who lived here before

20130426-221655.jpggreen places in the wadis.

20130426-221826.jpgand like all countries less breath taking scenery.
Yes, it didn’t take me long to discover that Saudi Arabia is certainly not one big sand dune!



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.

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.


Spur-winged plover.

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.

Desert camping Day 2

I love a long lie-in usually, but there’s something about camping in the desert that makes me wake up early and be ready for a new day of adventure. However, I was still last to get up and about!
It was a perfect morning and lovely to sit on a rock and enjoy a cup of tea and a piece of toast- slightly charred from holding it too close to the gas stove!
After packing up and making sure we left everything as we had first found it we set off to explore further.

Further down a wadi we came to an area of cultivation. The lush dark green contrasted starkly with the sandy desert and the brown rocks.

On top of a hillside we noticed some man-made walls so climbed up to take a closer look. The walls were nicely built and the dome shaped mounds in the centre of two of the enclosures were reminiscent of tumuli graves. Frustratingly, it’s very hard to find out much about the ancient remains that are to be found in the desert.
We headed out of this amazing area and drove down towards Al Ula to fill up with petrol, before beginning the journey back up to Tabuk.

We stopped for coffee at the Easter Island rocky outcrop where we have stopped a few times on trips up and down the old railway route. I had set up a Geocache here a couple of years ago so checked it was still there and in good condition. It was, but had only been visited by one person -Tulak who is a very keen geocacher from Jeddah who seems to keep a vidual on new geocaches and drives up as soon as there are a couple of new geocaches to bag!
We spent a pleasant half hour taking photographs and soaking up some sunshine before resuming the journey.
With time to spare we stopped at Muazzam station on the old Hejaz Railway and the fort close by- really interesting:) -and for the first time ever the water reservoir was completely full!



Continuing home after a great weekend spent in an area of outstanding natural beauty there is much to reflect on and give thanks to have had the opportunity to see a part of Saudi Arabia virtually unknown to most ex-pats.
However much I enjoy these weekends there is nothing more welcome at the end of it all than a lovely long soak in a bath- perhaps I’ll never quite be the explorer Gertrude Bell or Freya Stark were!!