We start early with a good cup of coffee and we head to the Edge of the World. There is a lot of dust in the air, which is normal in Riyadh and surroundings. The sky is yellow, full of sand and dust that veil the sun. The north wind transports the sand from the Al Nafud desert in the north to Rub Al Khali (the biggest sand dune desert in the world ‘The empty quarter’ in English) through Ad Dahna and this makes the Riyadh region very dusty.
The Arabian peninsula was under the sea million of years ago and you can find many coral fossils and seashells in the middle of the desert.
We drive more than one hour from Riyadh to reach the big cliffs of Jebel Fihrayn with some easy but rough off-road track as we get there. The views are stunning even with the big cloud of dust that floats around us. The cliffs are more than one thousand kilometers long and the drop ranges from one hundred and three hundred meters.
After a short and frugal lunch, we head to Ushaiqer with a short stop in Shaqra to see the city walls and a short explanation of the life in the desert before the oil age. These small towns were caravan stations and places for the pilgrims coming from Levant on their way to Mecca. Ushaiqer is one of the oldest cities in the Nejd.
All the buildings are made of mud and wood and some of them are still untouched. A lot of restoration has been done by the locals and converted into touristic attractions. The walls are decorated with white geometric motifs at the top. The mosque is small and coquette with a beautiful minaret.
Fortunately, we escape the cloud of dust and the sky is blue and clear.
We finally drive to Buraydah were Abu Omar, a friend of our guide, invites us for dinner. Arabic hospitality at its best. I could practice some of my Arabic, thanking him for the amazing food. After dinner we go to the camping site.
It is freezing cold and windy. We will reach 5ºC during the night and, although we have brought our blankets, we will surely be cold.
Tomorrow the promising camel market and Ha’il. Let’s see how it goes.
Total distance: 542 km; Total time: 14 hours; Moving time: 7 hours 43 minutes; Average moving speed: 70 km/h.