Arabian adventure: Rock art, rough terrain, and remarkable sites
Despite the hazards and difficult terrain, Mohammed A. Al Ghamdi traveled 2,800 kilometers over one week to take in remarkable vistas and lansdscapes in the Kingdom.
Each year, we plan a trip to navigate around the Kingdom — a new adventure to connect with history in unique locations. We carefully select our team, equipment and tools, routes, and refueling plans. Earlier this year, we planned for an extended trip of some 2,800 kilometers over seven days.
Our team consisted of myself, and a number of friends and family members, and our goal was to visit many amazing sites, and to discover new places we had never before been. We like to “chase history” — to know more about who was living in the Kingdom and how they were living. What tools did they use? What animals did they live alongside?
We began with a team brief to discuss the terrain and hazards we expected to encounter (we had with us a full set of first aid kits, as well as many years of experience), and took note of the potential for adverse weather conditions. Once we were prepared, we set off in a convoy of four 4×4 vehicles: three Toyota Land Cruisers, and one pickup truck.
Among our destinations was the UNESCO-listed site known as Ratah and Al Manjur, located in the Hail Region of western Saudi Arabia. The site requires a permit to enter — the local guard lives in a camp a few hundred meters away — and the process to gain access went smoothly. The rock art we saw was remarkable: figures of man, animals, palms, and impressions of feet, all inscribed skillfully, and some even life-sized, dating back around 10,000 years.
Nights under the stars
Our accommodation was simple. When it rained, we slept inside our tents. But when it was dry, we slept under the stars in just our sleeping bags. We cooked two meals for ourselves every day — each time it was a different menu, keeping things interesting.
Other sites on our journey included a 100-meter wall in Hafrat Leqet, located a further 230 km to the northwest, with many stunning engravings from the Thamudic period, showing ancient Arabic tribe language.
And then it was on to a historic mountain, known as Cotton, located between Hail and Qassim — which we learned was protected by a wild wolf. Not only did we see the wolf, but its howling kept us awake. It was like something out of a movie!
500 meters underground
On and on, to a huge cave about an hour’s drive away, known as Shaifan, which runs for about 500 meters underground. Inside the cave were remains of ancient human shelters and other engravings — including rock art depicting an historic Arab leader Abu Zayd al-Hilali.
It was an 18-hour drive home. One of our vehicles became stuck due to rough terrain, but we had the tools to rescue it. Our convoy also had a total of three flat tires, but again, we were able to deal with each situation, thanks to our comprehensive planning and preparation — and many years of experience.