First signs of winter.

Living in the north of Saudi and 2000 feet above sea level we experience a few cold months usually from November through til March. This year, the temperature has stayed unseasonably high but now there is a definite chill in the air and signs of the approaching winter months are all around.

The leaves on the pomegranate tree have changed colour.

The leaves on the pomegranate tree have changed colour.


The mandarine oranges are ripening.

The mandarine oranges are ripening.


And in the downtown shops the traditional Arab coats, called Farwa, are on sale.
This year's range include some bright colours.

This year’s range include some bright colours.


I went with the intention of buying 1 to take home and ended up buying 2!
My bright Syrian farwa.

My bright Syrian farwa.


And the back view.image
And also from Syria a more conservative farwa.image
I doubt that I will ever wear them out and about in UK unless it’s to a fancy dress party but for summer evenings in the garden they will be great to keep any slight chills at bay:)
So how cold does it get in Tabuk? Today it was a minimum of 6 and a maximum of 19, but later in the week they’re forecasting 0 degrees! Time to put the sandals away for a few months I think!

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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.

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!

Gecko

I’m not much of a gardener but I do like to try to grow a few things in our patch of garden. It’s been very rewarding recently to go out and pick a few salad leaves, herbs and tomatoes to add to the salad for our dinner, and know exactly how they’ve been grown and enjoy the lovely, fresh taste. A small area of the veg patch had got past it’s best and after some procrastinating it was time to take action. My husband kindly cleared the old tomato plants and I dug over the area, adding some of my homemade compost. After rummaging through my bag of seeds I thought I’d try some beet root. As I said, I’m not much of a gardener so apologies to any knowledgable gardeners reading this who might baulk at the idea of planting beet root in July in Saudi! Ignorance is bliss, as they say, and I will happily leave the results in ‘the lap of the gods’ or as they say locally- Inshallah.
When I went to get some shop bought potting compost to sprinkle over the seeds I was surprised to be met with this sight-

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2 tiny gecko eggs:)
I don’t mind these small lizards at all. In fact I think they’re quite sweet and am happy to have them live around our doorway as I’m sure they do their best to keep the mosquito population down. My husband likes them too, but has told me a few tales of Saudis at work killing them because they’re dangerous. Intrigued, I looked it up and found that it’s all tied in with Mohammed’s teachings. In Islam, the house gecko is regarded as a pest and like other pests a carrier of disease. Which, I suppose, equates to how mice, cockroaches, ants etc. are regarded in my culture. Here is the link for the info I found-
http://en.islamtoday.net/quesshow-152-607.htm
Have I changed my opinion of geckos? Although,yes, I can understand that geckos are possibly germ- carriers, I still think they’re cute and don’t really think that they should be killed so senselessly- but then I haven’t been brought up in the Islamic faith.