| GENERAL INFO (Jump to Diary)
Saudi Arabia, officially the Kingdom of Saudi
Arabia; المملكة العربية السعودية, is a country in Western Asia. It covers the bulk of the Arabian
80%, with a land area of about 2,150,000 km2. There is
evidence of human habitation in the Arabian Peninsula, dating back to about
125,000 or even 350,000
years. The present day Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was founded in 1932 by
King Abdulaziz, who united Hejaz, Najd, parts of Eastern Arabia (Al-Ahsa)
and South Arabia ('Asir). The population is estimated to be 27 millions,
made up by 90% Arab and 10% Afro-Arabs, all being Muslims.
The geography of Saudi Arabia is diverse, dominated by the Arabian Desert,
semi-desert, scrubland, steppes, several mountain ranges, volcanic lava
fields and highlands. The 647,500 km2 Rub' al Khali; "Empty
Quarter" in the south-eastern part of the country, is the world's largest
contiguous sand desert - strangely enough green on the map, but it is
The southwest province of Asir is mountainous, and contains the 3,133 meter
high Mount Sawda, which is the highest point in the country.
The climate is desert, except for the south-western regions such as Asir, with very high day-time temperatures during the summer and a
sharp temperature drop at night.
Arabia is home to five terrestrial eco-regions: Arabian Peninsula;
coastal fog desert, South-western Arabian foothills; savannah, South-western
Arabian; mountain woodlands, Arabian Desert and Red Sea Nubo-Sindian; tropical
desert and semi-desert.
The wildlife includes the Arabian leopard, wolf, striped hyena, mongoose,
baboon, hare, sand cat, and jerboa. Animals such as gazelles, oryx, leopards
and cheetahs were relatively numerous until the 19th century, when extensive
hunting reduced these animals almost to extinction, and others, like the
lions have gone extinct. Birds include falcons,
eagles, hawks, vultures, sand grouse, and bulbuls. There are several species
of snakes, many of which are venomous.
The plants counts almost 3,500 species recorded in the country,
with nearly 1,000 species known from the south-western region of Asir with
its higher rainfall. I have set several days off to explore them. To me, the
caudiciforms are the most interesting,
obesum, Adenia venenata, Atriplex halimus, Ceropegia bulbosa, Cissus
rotundifolia, Citrullus colocynthis, Coccinia grandis, Commiphora
gileadensis, C. incisa, C. kataf, C. kua, Conium
maculatum, Corallocarpus epigaeus, Dipcadi serotinum, Dorstenia foetida,
Dracaena serrulata, Eulophia speciosa, E. cuneata, E. longetuberculosa, Ficus glumosa,
F. vasta, Ipomoea obscura, Jatropha
pelargoniifolia, Kedrostis foetidissima, K. gijef, Momordica
balsamina, Moraea sisyrinchium, Moringa peregrina, Pancratium sickenbergeri,
Scadoxus multiflorus, Talinum cuneifolium, Typhonium venosum, Umbilicus
rupestris and Zehneria scabra.
I am not going to look for any of these specific, bit I hope to stumble over
some, while exploring the wild.
I deliberately missed this year's Dakar Rally, just as I get out before the
Ramadan begins. No reason to compete on hotels and alike. That said,
participating in the Dakar in Argentina was one of the most exiting things
I've ever done!
16/2 2023. I've been stock in Denmark for more than a year, for the
first time since 1973! It is about time to catch a train for the
airport and start an adventure!
I choose a night in Budapest, saving €300, instead of hitting Riyadh at 1;30 in the night,
despite I saved four hours.
I got an E-visa from home, and I can soon find
my car at arrival hall, in the late afternoon.
I have a long drive op north-west to get to the Red Sea coastal area, but
just lean back, and enjoy the temperature; 16C, the drive and the sun - as long as it last. I do stop to stock
some food in a 24/7 mall in Al Majma’ah. The sun is touching the horizon,
when I enters, it is pitch dark, when I get back out.
Then follow yet another long stint, this time in the dark on a
camel-infested highway. It seems to be fairly flat, but with a few hills and
a few lights from remote towns. The Highway #65 is six-lined,
smooth and the speed limit is 140 Km/h. I only get flashed by an automatic
camera once today...
The pre-programmed GPS is priceless, as the few road-sighs
I see, are in Arabic. After 350 kilometres and five hours, I reach my hotel
in Buraidah. And it is actually just a pit-stop on the way to the Red Sea;
tomorrows stint is 800 kilometres.
hotels are not exactly cheap in Saudi Arabia: I can find some at $15.000
for a night! I settle for less, and can't complain at all. This two-room
apartment is real nice, but a bit wasted for only seven hours of sleep. Cold
supper, photos, diaries and a fast shower, then I try to grab some much needed
18. I wake-up fresh and ready - at
midnight. Might as well get a few more hours of sleep, considering I missed
last night. Second start, and I make a stop at the first gas station, as it
is a hungry beast, I got for a car. I do consider driving a bit slower,
despite the stint of the day is 800 kilometres. Then again; the petrol is
only €0,59, and diesel €0,19.
The first planned site is found after 370
kilometres of trans-desert driving. However, I have to stop within the huge King Salman bin Abdulaziz
Royal Natural Reserve, which have some amassing rock formations. They bring me right into the world of Wile E. Coyote &
The Roadrunner. As
expected, the rain six weeks ago have created some real nice flowers on the
I reach the amassing Jubbah Rock
Carvings. It are petroglyphs, dating back to 5500BC. They are found
within the Royal Natural Reserve, and fenced in. I find the official hole in
the fence, and walk along the smooth paths.
While the ancient graffiti is not that entreating, the rocks sure are. Well,
I easily recognise men and many species of animals like camels, lion, man,
oryx, gazelle and sheep.
As every time I get close to some local men,
they are eager to praise my moustache. A few want selfies, and it is a great
ice-breaker. Everyone is so polite and friendly, and love to chat - some
even in English.
the other side of Jubbah, I find the red sand
dunes, which I have to see, when I'm here. They are found within the Al
Nafud Desert, but not as impressive, as I have thought.
Back through Jubbah, as the GPS don't know any shortcuts, avoiding Hail. I
actually drive all the way around the back-side of the huge city. Then I have to gas the car once
and while I'm at it: Top-up the spare wheel.
Then I pass through the beautiful Salma
Mountains, with more Wile E. Coyote
rocks. After Hail, the landscape
flattens, and is mainly made-up by flat gravel desert. The Bedouins are here
with their tents - or huge campers, along with numerous camels.
After a total of
920 kilometres, I reach the
hotel in Al Ula, and I am now close to the Red Sea - if you are willing to
call "150 kilometres as the falcon fly" close? I'm going to explore this
area for the next two days, and slow down a bit. Noodle cups, as here are
only a electric kettle. Added some beans, it is supper.
And then the tour continues in Diary 2.