Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Rawdhat Khuraim- An Oasis In The Desert

The beautiful gardens of Rawdhat Khuraim can be found about 100 km outside Riyadh in the middle of the desert. An abundance of trees, bushes, birds and flowers welcome the visitor.

Rawdhat Khuraim is like a green oasis suddenly appearing from the desert. The area is so large that driving around it would take many hours. The best thing about this area is motor vehicles are not allowed inside. No quad bikes and suv's madly racing around! Just peaceful silence interrupted by only the chorus of the birds and sound of the leaves rustling from the wind.
Rawdhat Khureim is fenced all the way around and accessible by foot only. You must drive next to the fence and when you find a spot you like park your car and then proceed on foot. The further away you walk from the fence into the garden, the greener and quieter the area gets. Saudis usually stay close to the fence and don't walk further inside the garden.
The area inside is clean and free of trash, which is unfortunately a rarity for picnic places in Saudi. It's a lovely place to go walking, bird watching or just for a picnic and women can take their abayas off. On a weekday you can have the entire place to yourself.

The best time to visit the Rawhdat is during the cooler winter months and spring when the garden is in full bloom. The vegetation is green year round and many interesting plants can be found there. Migratory birds stop here and it's a bird watchers paradise.

After rains in the winter and spring months small "lakes" and streams form in the Rawdhat. This is when lots of Riyadhiens will come to the area for picnicking on weekends. If it gets crowded it's best to drive up North around the gardens, a trail runs next to the fence all the way around the area. A 4x4 vehicle is needed when driving on this trail!
Overnight camping is not allowed here and visitors should leave the park before 10 p.m when the rangers start roaming the area. Caution should be practiced when making open fires and visitors are expected to keep the place clean. Don't leave any trash behind and try to pick up anything you see. There are large trash cans outside the area.

Directions: From Riyadh take the Dammam highway (route 40E) toward Rumah. After about 40 km turn left to Rumah. Then drive another 55km and you will see signs for Rawdhat Khuraim on the right, just follow the signs and the gardens are easy to spot from the highway.
Turn towards Rawdhat Khuraim and by following this road you can the enter the park from anywhere you like, left or right hand side of the road. If you continue straight on this road you will reach the King's farm which is off limits to public and closed off with a large gate. To the left of this road the red sand dunes can be seen behind the garden.
For the most quiet places drive off to the right from the road, around to the back of the area beside the fence until you see a nice spot. The area is so huge you can drive for half an hour along the fence and still not see an end to the park. Alternatively you can go left from the road next to the red sand dunes but this place usually is more crowded because it's easier to reach. You can drive here with a normal car but if you wish to venture further you will need a 4x4.
 Warnings and tips: 
-Watch out for the thorny bushes especially at night. Don't wear flip-flops or crocs the thorns might puncture the shoes (believe me it hurts)

-It's best to leave the area before dark if your car is far away from you, carrying all the stuff back to the car in the dark is a nightmare (been there done that, see above)

-Don't take a strollers here that have air filled tyres, the thorns will puncture the wheels. Strollers with very small wheels might be hard to maneuver in the terrain. (pushing a stroller with flat tyres in the desert makes for a good work-out though)

-If you make a fire, use one of the fire trays that you can buy at all of the gas stations on the way to the desert. They are much safer. It's not allowed to use the garden trees for firewood so bring your own, it can be purchased on the road to the garden. (remember to bring a lighter so you don't have to rub sticks together  until your hands get blisters in them and then walk around the rawdhat looking for someone to borrow a lighter from and then get lost in the process and end up scaring your wife into thinking you got eaten up by some desert lizzards)

-Make sure you know where your car is parked. If you walk around and don't pay attention to your surroundings you WILL get lost. (not fun especially in the dark and carrying a baby, see part one)

-If you have children with you make sure they are wearing proper shoes like sneakers and long sleeve trousers. Don't let them out of your site they might easily get lost. (no need to call child protection services, we did not loose our kids there)

-Don't leave food lying on the ground, ants will soon take over your picnic. Instead, hang the foods packed in plastic bags on tree branches or keep them in the cooler. (ants especially enjoy climbing into opened cans of 7 Up in the dark)

-Don't play loud music here. It annoys the heck out of people who drove 100 km to enjoy the song of BIRDS not your crap. (includes watching loud Youtube videos from your iPhone)

-If you sit under a big acacia tree, check first if it has birds nests in it. You don't want bird poo-sauce on your sandwich (or any other food for that matter, trust me on this)

-Before you leave, try to check the weather forecast for sandstorm warnings. Check this post to find out what happened to us once: http://blueabaya.blogspot.com/2012/03/stuff-that-annoys-me.html

-Pick up all the trash you can carry out, do a good deed and you will feel good, promise!


Anonymous said...


I really enjoyed your advise and look forward to visiting this place in the near future, insha Allaah.


Layla said...

Thanks, i hope that others can learn from our mistakes :D

Jerry Mc Kenna said...

Lovely photos!

desert camping said...

I been in Saudi Arabia in 2003, desert camping it was my best camping ever, i really enjoyed same as my kids, unfortunately we didn't discover that till the last month before we go beck home.