It is always good to sleep on a proper bed with clean sheets and take a hot shower, especially when it is 6ºC outside. Tomorrow when we camp it will be a whole different story. No bed and no hot shower (actually, no shower at all). But we are on an adventure and that’s what it is all about.
We meet at 7:30 for an opiporous typical Saudi breakfast. Some shakshouka and coffee to kickstart the day. We head to Jubbah, a city just 130 km away. There is no easy driving in Saudi Arabia, specially in a hectic Sunday morning. The drivers here go crazy, changing lanes without blinkers, speeding well beyond the limit and pushing the car in front out of the lane. All your attention might just not be enough to survive to their mad driving.
Jubbah is home to an interesting archeological site with petroglyphs dating back to 10,000 years ago. It is a UNESCO world heritage site that opens just for us as there is no other visitors around. We will possibly be the only ones they have today. The rock art you can see here belong to three different ages: neolithic, chalcolithic and Iron Age; ranging from 10,000 years BC to 3,000 years BC. This site is right next to an oasis rich in water that used to be a frequent stop for caravans and now has palm tree farms scattered all over the area. This fact is crucial to understand the context of the engravings on the rock.
We stop in a private rural museum where they show us the traditional way of living in a Saudi farm. How they lived, the different rooms with the original menage and the most fascinating one, how they used the camels to bring water out of the well. As always, they offer us the mandatory dates, Arabic coffee, fruit and sweets. They are very proud of showing us their estate and how they have preserved this original way of living for so many years.
We head to do some shopping in a local supermarket that happens to be temporarily closed for the midday prayer. We wait a long while for the owner to come back from his religious endeavors, the perfect time for me to photograph the petrol station on the other side of the road, the couch outside and two men that are around the petrol station. Poker!
With our cars loaded with fresh supplies, we head to Hibran from where we enter into the desert. Easy driving on rocky track and some very soft sand. No dune bashing as I would do with the Sandmasters in Dubai. The crew on this trip is not fond of wreckless driving and it is better not to risk the car integrity in such a remote area. This is a rocky desert that resembles Wadi Rum in Jordan. Red sand and big rocks create a fascinating scenery. On the way to our camp site we stop to admire some of the rock formations and the fabulous scenery. We peek a camel caravan in the distance and we carefully approach the pack travelling with their shepherd. In this modern days the shepherd drives a Toyota Land Cruiser pick-up truck.
While we are setting up the camp, Mona, our guide’s assistant cooks kabsah dajaj, a succulent local dish made with rice and grilled chicken. It is served with a very thinly chopped salad with lettuce, tomato and cucumber very well seasoned with parsley and mint by Ali, our entertaining guide. We have a delightful dinner listening to the amusing stories that Ali likes to share of his adventures in the desert. Then he prepares Arabic coffee for us in the traditional way that we have been hearing all about throughout the whole trip: roast the coffee beans in the fire, grind them and finally infuse the boiling water. Then for the authentic Arabic touch, Ali grinds some cardamom and he mixes everything to get a delicious coffee that, combined with some dates dipped in tahini, makes for the perfect dessert to our dinner.
Total distance: 250 km; Total time: 8 hours; Moving time: 3 hours 15 minutes; Average moving speed: 77 km/h