Stage 9: Umluj (املج) and the Black sand dunes


Another night in paradise for hot water and a proper bed, although the hotel is not up to a minimum standard. Very old and run down furniture, taps full of lime, carpet where your feet sink, hard as a stone bed and I will let you imagine the rest. There is hot water and that is essentially what we are looking for.

Black and blue

We depart from Al Wajh early morning, and we head South to Umluj, a small city two hours away along the Red Sea coast. The road along the coast is not very nice as you can only see the sea from afar with the exception of a few spots. We pass beside the entrance to the Red Sea Project, one of the stellar touristic destinations that Saudi Arabia is developing. It is an area full of islands and shallow waters that must be impressive for scuba diving and snorkeling in the vast coral reefs.


Umluj has a nice corniche overlooking the Red Sea. The different tones of blue of the sea, from the turquoise close to the beach to the deep marine farther away make the view very impressive. This coast is certainly worth visiting. We will come back here some day when these touristic developments are finished.

Volcanoes all over

We want to buy some meat for tonight and get away from the omnipresent chicken, so we ask a couple of Egyptian guys who are finishing their lunch for some recommendations. They point us to a butchery that is close by, but the guy only has camel to sell, no lamb nor beef. Disappointed, the two guys offer to take us to a place where we can buy some lamb. We follow them for around 5 kilometers, and they come with me to ask the butcher for the meat. We buy two kilos of lamb chops and some kebabs. It is going to be a great feast tonight.

Life struggle

After finishing our shopping we head East to Al Ais, where we will find the black sand dunes. It is another volcanic area, packed with craters of old extinct volcanos. We roam around this volcanic sand area that has big flat plain lava fields . The black sand is more a fine gravel than the sand you see in the desert. The area is stunning, surrounded by the craters of the volcanos and all these lava fields with very sharp rocks. I am worried they will cut through my tires and leave me stuck here for some time.

Lava fields

We have been in many “middle of nowhere”places in this trip, but none like this “middle of nowhere”. There is no mobile signal for more than 25 km. We set up the camp, we take pictures of the cloudy sky in the sunset and we cook our dinner, which is delicious and leaves us full. After dinner, Marina shows us the footage that she shot with her GoPro going up and down the wadi yesterday. There are some amazing clips that we will be able to see in rewind when she shares them at the end of the trip.

Now our exploration comes to an end, and we start the way back home from this remote area. We are 22 hours drive away that we will cover in two stages. We will stop in Riyadh tomorrow night and the next day from Riyadh to Dubai. Around 24 hours of driving to cross the Arabian peninsula diagonally from coast to coast.

Cloudy skies

This trip has taken us to many remarkable and marvelous places, so much so that we have to leave out many other stops out of the itinerary. We were supposed to go to Tabuk, the Gulf of Aqaba and Neom (although I am unsure it can be visited). This may seem unfortunate, but we have saved many hours of car and a lot of land to cover so we have an incentive to come back to this incredible land. We feel somewhat fortunate to have this desire to explore Saudi even more.

Bright volcano

Trip data

Total time: 8 hours 30 minutes; Moving time: 5 hours 34 minutes; Total distance: 374; Average moving speed: 67 km/h


  • Joe Jackson – Big World
  • Lynyrd Skynyrd – The Essential Lynyrd Skynyrd
  • Joan Manuel Serrat – Dedicado A Antonio Machado, Poeta
  • The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty – OST
  • Marcus Bonfanti – Shake The Wall
  • US3 – Hand On The Torch
  • Parcels – Day/Night
%d bloggers like this: