There are affordable car rentals everywhere and we had our eye on a nice GMC Suburban but the agency screwed it up last minute. So we ended up having to take whatever was left so last minute: a crappy Land Cruiser. Sitting in the back seat of this so called vehicle reminded me of the times I road on the buses in the Ecuador mountains. Fun times!
Lucky for me I was assigned the back seat and got to experience the constant rocking, bouncing, grinding and swirling motions of the car full on. We left two hours late from schedule because we had to clean the car after the previous users. Apparently that's not included in the service here. That is Saudi customer service as its best for you!
It was Eid Al-Adha time and my husband got almost two whole weeks off work. We planned to have the following itinerary: Riyadh-Kharj-Layla-Wadi Al Dawasir-Khamis Mushayt-Abha-Jizan-Farasan...and back. But we ended up improvising and changed plans on the way, which makes road trips all the more fun!
Our journey was so long and I took literally over a thousand pictures so I decided to divide it into three posts.
All in all it was an amazing, surprising and enjoyable experience. The occasional setbacks and all the hours spent in the car were well worth it! Special mention goes to my husband the designated driver who always stayed up those long hours while the rest of us slept just to get us there on time :)
Births were not registered in Saudi back in the day so she did not now her age but estimated it to be near 90. She had 14 children that lived to adulthood and over 100 grandchildren. Imagine how many great great grandchildren that means!
The area around Kharj is dotted with green farmlands and date palm trees. My husband's family has a farm in the town of Hotah and we stopped by to take a look. It was like a small oasis! Huge palm trees, obese lemons and pomegranates. Nearby were some ruins of an old mud village.
In case you wondered, this is what an obese (raw) lemon looks like:
The road between Hotah and Wadi Al Dawasir was (according to the map) supposed to pass by a town called Layla. But we never found it! It remains a mystery. There was supposed to be some amazing caves near Layla, a town named after the tragic love story of Layla and Majnoon, the Arab equivalent to Romeo and Juliet.
Not much to see for about the next 500km. Read our near death experience from the trip here:http://www.blueabaya.blogspot.com/2011/12/lessons-learned-on-saudi-roads.html
Dude haven't you been to McDonald's before? Mafi gambaari.
Yet another example of customer "service" or should I say disservice in the Kingdom.
This was the only hotel that asked for proof during our whole trip.
Needless to say, we changed hotels. But not to this "I'm Hotel"! Duh we can see that you're a hotel!
Unfortunately it was considered off season because Saudis find it too cold beyond October to visit the mountainous areas of Saudi and many of the tourist destinations were closed. As we wandered around the national park my mother and I surprisingly encountered some odd and even hostile behavior from Saudi men and women. I found this strange because I had heard people of Abha are friendly and welcoming. They shouted at us insults in Arabic, thinking we were Americans. I hate it when some people think you don't understand when they say right next to you "hadi amriki". You don't have to be Einstein to figure that one out.
The three men in this picture were pretty rude and aggressive toward us. Still don't understand why. My husband was walking further away from us with the baby so he couldn't do anything. Later a group of young women followed us pointing and giggling. I guess we just look so amusing!
We found a perfect picnic spot! Or so we thought. Funny how Saudis are usually really private and don't like people intruding on their privacy. Our picnic spot had lots of traffic and many "invaders" walked and talked loudly in their mobiles right next to us. Some Saudi women took their sweet time and the one in this above pic was stumbling around in high heels, peeking from underneath her scarf which she had thrown over her whole face. It was so weird I could only watch in amazement.
Look at this mess! Clean up after yourselves people! Would you throw this garbage on your mother? No? Then why do you throw it on your motherland!?
Mom and the little bear watching the sunset.
What is this? A stranded cruise ship?
Nope. It's the Green Mountain. On top a restaurant and viewing platforms with magnificent views of the city.
On the green mountain we found what I would call the best souvenir shop in Saudi-Arabia! Loved these miniatures of the traditional houses of the region. They make pretty lanterns too. I bought similar ones from Sana'a a few years back.
When we were leaving Abha we managed to get lost a few times. Actually it was kind of my fault. I was acting as the navigator in the front seat and was reading the map. I opened the window in high speed and whooosh! The map was sucked out of the window before I could even say oops. That is what happens when you're born blonde people. But hey we accidentally found this village of traditional houses so it didn't really matter much. Or at least that's how I like to see it.
Our journey continued to Jizan. The road from Abha to Jizan is very scenic and we stopped many times to take in the scenery or to get some snacks. Here a man selling corn on the cob.
Like I mentioned before in this post pink houses are very popular in this region! This one's pretty lonely out there.
The baboons are a menace! They roam in large packs and jump around the roads all the time. Many had ended up as roadkill.