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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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!

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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.

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

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A striped tailed lizard.

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Desert apples.
And finally to the canyon!

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

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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.

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.

In my garden

Even after living here for many years I’m never totally confident about when to successfully plant seeds and get results. This morning I tended my little herb/veg patch with the hope that in a few weeks I might have some fresh salad leaves to pick. This would be very welcome as apart from long lettuce, very occasionally iceberg lettuce and sometimes rocket there isn’t much choice in the salad leaf department to be had in the supermarket.
Whilst preparing my small patch for planting I dug up some insect larvae. I’m not exactly sure what they are- beetle things maybe? Any suggestions welcome:)

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When I went to get some potting compost I remembered the tiny gecko eggs I’d found there a few months ago. Here is what I found.

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🙂 they’d hatched. I was so pleased that I hadn’t caused them any harm last time. When I moved the canvas covering the potting compost bag this gecko ran out.

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Perhaps it was one of the hatchlings? It looked a bit big, but then I don’t know how quickly they grow.
My garlic chives are flowering at the moment and are proving to be very popular with the bees.

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As well as a beetle that I haven’t noticed before.

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Although it’s still 35 deg C here it’s lovely to find a shady spot and enjoy a little time noticing the wonderful nature that exists here.

iPhone gizmo.

My husband surprised me with this funny little gizmo called an Olloclip a few weeks ago.

20130902-224630.jpg it’s a 3 in 1 lens attachment to use on my iPhone, like this.

20130902-224817.jpg When turned one way it works as a fisheye lens; turned the other way a wide-angle and if you unscrew the lens piece it becomes a macro lens- very dinky! I hadn’t had much chance to play around until the last few days but so far I’m liking the results and extra possibilities it gives for taking photos using my phone. The only down side is that to fit it in I have to remove the cover I have on my phone and I just don’t seem to have the knack to do that easily! Anyway here are a few photos I took outside my house.

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20130902-230153.jpgjust realised I was having so much fun with the macro and fisheye that I took very few with the wide angle and it was getting dark so they weren’t very good and I deleted them! Oops!

Brussels sprouts in June!

What is it about brussel sprouts that they always seem to get such a reaction when mentioned? They definitely are a vegetable that you either love or hate. I fall into the love camp and have been that way since I can remember- in fact I am so weird that for along time they were my favourite vegetable!
Living in Saudi has meant that many winters and therefore Christmas meals have come and gone without a single brussel sprout to be seen in the supermarket. Occasionally there is talk of some being available in Riyadh and then if you are fortunate to know of someone visiting there you might be lucky enough to have some brought back for you.
Imagine our surprise when shopping on Thursday to see these in the veg section!

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We have no idea where they have come from as they are just labelled ‘imported’ and for a change as imported goods they aren’t horrendously priced- 8 sr. Which is about £1.30- not cheap I know but compared to paying £5 for a small tub of blueberries or £5 for a head of celery, not bad.
Were they worth it- definitely. I blanched them earlier. Counted out 5 each for my husband and I to have for dinner and froze the rest for another time. They were sooooo good:)
Okay so we live in a desert etc. so having to have lots of fruit and veg imported should be expected, but this is a little known fact. Flowers are grown in this this area using hydro culture and are exported to Amsterdam in the Netherlands to sell in the flower market there!!
As well as our imported brussel sprouts and blueberries we also bought this bunch of beautiful Saudi grown lilies!

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Something to ponder next time you’re buying flowers- they might have been grown on a farm in Saudi Arabia!

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.