Thursday, May 20, 2010

The beautiful desert!

                                          The Edge of the World

The desert, its just rocks and sand right? How can that be beautiful? Well there are many opinions and beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but to me the desert is just a magical, peaceful place to be.

The scenery can be so different from place to place. From escarpments like "the Edge of the World" outside Riyadh, seemingly never-ending sand dunes in differnet colors, green Wadis like mirages to savannah-like areas with free roaming camels and acacia trees..
The best thing about going to the desert is the absolute silence. No cars, humans, birds, animals making sounds. Only you, your thoughts and the nature, and the presence of God is somehow more apprehensible. The beauty of it just so overwhelming!
Easily accesible, just about 20 min drive from Riyadh are the Red sands, a beautiful area of red sand dunes surrounded by majestic mountains. This is a popular place to rent quadbikes to explore the area.You can rent them for an hour at a time, and women can drive without abaya no problems. Just be careful of sudden holes, I've fallen couple times off the bike!Or maybe I was going too fast :) Theres nice areas around there to have picnick and enjoy the sunset.

I love to go camping out in the desert, the nights are beautiful, if the moon is full, the scenery becomes somehow otherworldly, you might feel you are on a different planet :). And the silence of the night is so intense. You can watch the live show in the sky, just lay down and look up to the stars, it seems its possible to touch them!
The best time to go for overnight camping is in the cooler months like February and March, although that is also sandstorm season. October and November are good too. In the coldest months the temperature can drop below zero in the night, and in the hottest months it wont go below 40 even at night!In the colder months you'll need at least a sleepingbag and some extra layers of clothing.

Another interesting activity I enjoy is fossil-hunting. Saudi-Arabia used to be a part of the bottom of the ocean over 50 million years ago! Finding a seashell thats 100 million years old is just amazing! There is an area around Khurais where you can find sharks teeth, 50 million years old. There is for example tiger sharks teeth, which are quite similar to the ones that roam the seas today. What happened to the evolution theory there?
Seashell fossil

A Desert Rose is made of gypsum crystals in connection with sand that crystallizes in a unique rosette growth pattern. They look just like roses! The crystals are formed when high tides bring seawater into the desert and the water becomes cut-off from the sea and evaporates, eventually causing salt deposition and crystal formation. To find Desert Roses you have to dig about half meter deep.

Real desert flowers found in Thumair

The desert has surprisingly lush vegetation, especially on a rainy year you will find many flowers and green areas. Some places like red Sands actually form lakes in the rainy season.
Another favorite activity of mine is horseback riding in the desert. This photo is from Dirab where they have a extensive area you can explore on horseback. And of course what would the desert be without camels!


Soile said...

I love the desert too and I was amazed by the edge of the world :-)

IA said...

hi laylah,

where can i find directions to the edge of the world and this place in your picture with mountains and a river flowing below. Please advise.



Layla said...

Hi Imran!

The other picture is from camel trail outside Riyadh, that is a Wadi down there. I will email you the maps.
You could also go to Jarir bookstore and get the book "Desert treks from Riyadh" both these places are listed on it!
I will email you the maps.

Anonymous said...

Salaams Laylah..

Excellent blog u have here.. I have just started reading a few articles.. Long list of topics still left...

Can u also email me the maps to the treks u mentioned above..

Shukran :)

Layla said...

Check the desert treks tab you will find the directions to edge of the world there!

Layla said...

you don't say! Did you notice the copyright notice and NO I will not remove my watermarks on the contrary that reminds me I have to get back to watermarking them, too bad there are thieves around the internet and I don't have the time to do them all!