We were about to start the Cricket match when Amit Zaveri ji said, “Today it is not windy and excellent weather for a trip to desert”. I was ready to say ‘OK’….well almost. After the match, the thought remained with me and I finally decided to skip the cricket matches and go exploring. Since then we are three trips down and going steady. We look forward to each weekend for going out, exploring the region. Around Riyadh, there are many locations worth visiting and they present a new look each time I go calling. The following details are about the first weekend we started this series.
It was month-end (January 31) and we (Amit Zaveri ji, me and Reyvika) started the trip around 0730 hrs. Now picture this: when you descend from Riyadh after the check point on Jeddah Road (Highway No. 40), you have three options – you may choose to go left towards Dirab region, which is very beautiful, or you may choose to go straight towards Jeddah, which is a long journey with many diversions, each one bringing a new region worth exploring, or you may turn right and go towards Dhurma region. It is the road after turning right, which gives best view of the Tuwaiq escarpment from below. In fact most the escarpment extends along this road which ultimately merges into highway no. 50.
But you might ask, “how about the view from above the escarpment?”
So, that was our interest. Inspired by my two previous visits, I thought it would be fun to view the region from above. Tuwaiq’s geological formations (branches jutting out of the main escarpment) provide a sort of a ramp, something similar to a paragliding ramp. You can stand around 100 m outside the escarpment into the plain and can enjoy the view of escarpment and the plains below. It is like the scene in the movie, ‘Titanic’, where the couple stands at the bow-tip of the ship on the deck. You actually get that feeling.
We drove to each such branch. The high hanging cliffs are safe places for nesting and we found Vultures circling the sky above the escarpment. In fact, we missed capturing one, whose majestic silhouetted perch on a rock cliff is the reason we want to go there again. It flew, perhaps due to noise of the vehicle. Each branch brings forth a new vista. Plains stretched far beyond Al Muzahmiyah look pretty much the same though.
The last branch we visited was the one I have been waiting for since two years. I never prioritized it. My loss, because it gives one of the best views of ‘Faisal Finger’, an erstwhile part of the escarpment but now an independent finger-like structure. It was a mesmerizing view. Height-wise, we were standing above ‘Faisal-finger’. When I visited it two years ago, it was from below (plains) and it looked huge. But from the escarpment, it is another story. Plus, we get the backdrop of plains and virtually no distraction, except on our sides, where many other escarpment branches flanked the one we were standing on. It is worth noting here that this entire branch of escarpment with a vantage point for ‘Faisal Finger’ is owned by Prince Mishal (Al Baha) and entry to it is prohibited. You will need permission from his office to enter it. Another way is to request the guard there. He let us in and our trip was saved. But it may not be the case always.
As we always try to do, we made our return journey from a different route and that also turned out to be quite a discovery.