80 kilometers east of Riyadh, starts Ad-Dahna desert the home of impressive dunes. Mostly red in color since the sand contains Iron Oxides, and are about 30 - 100 meters high. The view is a unique display of sheer nature, especially when the sun is setting on it. And on the road there are thousands of caves and sinkholes that provide amazing opportunity to explore fossils and wild flora.
"The Rainy season" is what everyone awaits in the Arabian Peninsula. Generally, it starts between mid-October and mid-December - varying from country to another. You will spot flocks of migratory birds crossing the peninsula, busy farmers scrapping honey from Cedar trees, and the temperature is perfect during the day, cold during the night. And we have two main excursions during the season. The first is “ Hunting the rain” we roam various valleys and regions hunting down rain and photographing rain formations and floods in the desert. - Check more info here - The second, is our seasonal Kashta! Our main camps are between four meadows in Najd. Click for MORE INFO
A long winding road that ascends the Tuwaiq mountains for 969 m. It was paved in the first Islamic era, 1400 years ago. It is interesting to see the technique by which it was paved with wide terraces of stones, with short hedges to protect camel convoys from sliding down the mountain. Along the way there are shelters and rest cabins for convoys and channels to divert water during the rainy season. It has 5,000 archaeological structures, that seem like directions. They are built from slanting stones, ranging in length from 3 to 80 square meters, then ends with a small triangular head. In addition to a tower known as Alhambra Tower, and old villages.
Fossilized reefs are abundant in Durma’s mountainous trails, which are among the most beautiful routes in the Kingdom. Such as Abu Qad Trail, and the Seven Mounds - an ancient trail consisting of seven consecutive turns. There are many ponds surrounded by sand and mountains, especially in Al-Kharara and Al-Hajaj meadows. Natural sculptures are everywhere. The most important of which, is a high mountain, that separated from the Tawaiq mountain range, known as ِAl-Hamidh, and is also called Jabal al-Khansar. Khashm Abu Mazroua, is another mountainous escarpment. The view reveals the entire southern region of Al Bateen valley. It acquires the coolest temperatures in the region, during the summer. Darmaa also has historical enigmas that researchers are still trying to solve, such as the secret of the southern stones of Al-Mahaliyah meadow. A group of standing stones with average height of 120 cm, placed in the shape of a 200 meter arc. Its opening is towards the west, and in the middle are piles of stones. None of the researchers could give an explanation for its construction. A similar monument is found in Al-Jouf. There are also ancient carvings in the valley of Friesha. The city also has many palaces and villages from the First Islamic Period. In addition to the Abbasid market in the south.
This is one of two cave-diving sites in the KSA. It goes back thousands of years, when it was created by a meteor that left a hole, down to 390 meters deep. At the bottom of the cave, runs a water spring that all the year around. The water level in Ain Heet used to reach its edge, and the convoys sought the place for water supplies in the past. But the water level is low now due to a blockage in one of its channels. There are initiatives to revitalize it. You can be part of one. The water is clear, divided into three chambers, below each other. Old bedouins believe the water spring is connected to other springs in Al-Ahsa. There isn’t any similar sites in the region, except in Al-Taif, Abha and Asir. What is more interesting, is that some monkey clans started to appear around the sinkhole, which is strange to this region.
The GCC Railway, will run for a total of 2,177 km, connecting all the six Gulf states by 2021. The Saudi part is operating now between Riyadh with Qaseem and stops at Al-Majama’a. “The Collective” is how the name would be translated. It’s the meeting point of 15 valleys. The biggest of which is Al-Mashgar valley which hosts some of the most beautiful farms in the region. On the western side rise hills with beautiful Caverns like Alya and Abazeed, and peaks of the mount Tuwaiq. On one of the those peaks stands Al-Munekh Castle, the oldest monument here dating to the beginning of the fifteenth century. Down the hill is the old city with its protective walls and 6 ancient entries, the old souq and authentic Najdi houses. With such deep history, Al-Majma’a has the tomb site of one of the oldest tribes in the region; Banu Helal, whose epic is sung till now in many of the Arab countries in the gulf and North Africa.
Old clay houses in the Najdi style, stretching over six kilometers of Mount Tuwaiq, and surrounded by palm groves. On its borders is Wadi Al-Baten, with natural water springs that flows to the city, via two main streams. The people of the city and the visitors have the habit of planting wild shrubs of Cedar and fig trees along the streams. Would be nice if you join in too! It gained its name from the noise of the torrent, which pours intensely from the top of the surrounding mountains towards the city during the rainy season. The area is characterised by its soft sand dunes. Thus, it hosts sand skiing competitions, as well as mountain cycling tournaments up the peaks of Tuwaiq. Along with the natural sculptures like the famous Arana and Shash Rockies, there are an ancient castle, and a palace that were built two hundred years ago. Although Mada'in Saleh is associated with the Thamud tribe historically, the archaeologists found inscriptions near Umm al-Ashash and Mount Umm Shaddad, dating from 400 to 900 BC.
Dates' Festival in Buraydah
When walk through the duty free in any of the Gulf airports, the first thing you’ll recognise is the amount of dates and the various types of Arabic coffee displayed on the shelves. Dates and coffee are icons of the Arabian culture in the gulf. they add to the place its flavour and aroma, along with mastic incense, oud and musk. Al-Qassim is a large palm farm. A tour through the region will make you understand why dates had such significance to the Arabic culture. At the Buraidah Dates Festival, 30 different kinds of dates were sold, from eight million palm trees! It’s the largest date festival in the Gulf States. It starts in August every year and lasts for three months. In addition to dates there are also industries based on derivatives of palm trees.
Where there is water, there is life. Wells and fertile soil is abundant in Onaiza. Thus the city was known in the ancient world to all trade convoys who sought the city for for supplies of water and cereals. It is the second largest city in Al-Qassim, and could win the best weather award. Its archaeological sites are scattered among farms and meadows. Such as Al Ain Palace, Al Sanqar Citadel and Al Hamdan House in Wadi Al Wihn, which is a model of the old rural houses in Al-Qaseem. As well as, Al-Ghadha Heritage Village with its old market, Harem compartments and the mill. Onaiza also hosts Al-Awshazeyah, the largest lake in the KSA.
The convoys are one of the most famous icons of the Arab culture. And convoys need markets. Souq Al-Masukaf was one of the most important markets of the Najd region, till the 19th century. It is located in the center of Onaiza city, in Al-Qassim. Now, It is a complex for Bedouin heritage. Here is where you may find the best craftsmen with authentic craftsmanship, and where you can buy heritage collections with original details. Among the shops, there are public majlesses ”Qahawi“, where you can play old board games and watch live cultural performances, specially during the annual Masukaf Folk Festival, which supports craftsmen and empower small family investments among women.
Previously, this city was called Feyhan, The Fragrant, for the density of spring flowers in its valleys. It is the largest city, in terms of green area, in Al-Qassim region. Beauty and Culture are gathered in this city. It is an attraction to archeological missions and history enthusiasts due to the abundant monumental landmarks that have not been explored yet. The ancient heritage village has a history of 700 years. A mini-version of Al-Janadriyah Cultural Festival is held there annually. Old is gold, but current is rapid, and both are dustry. The vibrant destination does not lack a drive towards speed. It hosts one of the main annual desert rallies for drifters and cross desert racers.
The city attracted historians and World travelers through history. It was a main focal point for convoys coming from Syria and Yemen as well as from Al-Hejaz, Al-Ahsa and Iraq. Shaqra’ is also known as a center for breeding Arabian horses, before sending them to be sold in India. It was also considered a flourishing center for growing palm trees and its parallel industries. There are many archaeological sites in the city. Like the old wall which marks the borders of the old city. Then, the new wall, which was built about 100 years ago. As well as observation towers constructed on the surrounding mountains to protect the city. There are several dams that flood with water in the rainy season to form one of the most beautiful lakes in the area at Al-Akresheyah Meadow. Nearby is the village of Al-Qasab, which is famous for using traditional methods to extract salt from the ground. The House of al-Subai is a main icon of islamic architecture with its beautiful ornaments and carvings.
Ushaiger Heritage Village
This is small community is the oldest in Najd, with more than 1500 years of history. Bigger than a village yet smaller than a town, thus named in the local tongue Hajrat Ushaiger. It is named after Mount Ashqar, which borders the community from the North, in the form of an arch extending from east to west. The distinctive reddish color of the mountain casts shades on the houses that are built from mudbrick. Its architecture still retains all the cultural features of the region. Acacia trees are abundant in the area and over the mountain. The 350 meters mountain hosts old buildings and towers built of black stone. Close to hajrat Ushaiger is Al-Raghya nature reserve, which hosts more than 2,000 ancient trees.
One of the old villages of Najd, 40 km north west of Riyadh. The houses are estimated to be around three hundred years old. The mountain reefs around the village are dense with Acacia trees and creeks and pools of water left from the rainy season. When the dam at the back of the village is filled with water, it forms a large lake surrounded by trees, perfect for camping and picnics. In addition to the archaeological status of site of the village, Shoaib Salbukh is famous among natures observers for migratory birds and wild animals
Al-Washm Birds Nature Reserve
The nature in Saudi Arabia is fertile with animals and flora everywhere. Yet, you often feel that you wish to get even closer to the beings around you. Othithia is an old village 180 km northwest of Riyadh. It has a nature reserve with more than 700 birds. You can photograph them, interact with them, and feed them with your hands. Some of the birds are native of the Gulf region, and some were collected from other parts of the world, and many of them are rare. Thus, the reserve is equipped with special systems to imitate their native habitats, whether tropical or cold. After our visit, we can explore the historical monuments of Othithia and the surrounding desert. It is one of the cities that were inhabited by urban tribes for longer than 2000 years. The desert here is the meeting point of many mountainous reefs, which makes the nature diverse. On our offroading excursion, we will pass by Al-Halifa water spring surrounded by fig trees, olives, and palms. Al-Qatiriyah meadow, Baroudan Oasis and the guelta of Othithia, which is near the city of Marat, another very old town. After our little adventure in the wilderness, we can rest in the Stars’ Gorge at the top of the valley, which is characterised with an open well conditioned backyard.
Al-Faw; a village that was once a kingdom! Al-Faw has a history stretching for more than 2000 years. It was the capital of the first Kingdom of Kindah from 2 BC till 4 BC, and established big relations with Sheba and Persia, which reflected on the architectural design of the village. its wealth of temples and the advanced irrigation system. The tombs of one of its kings who lived in 2 AD, still has some of the merchandise that the city used to endeavor from the caravans on the route. The inscriptions found tells that the residents of this village used to call it the paradise. The village used to stretch over 1500 meters, at the end of Tuwaiq mountains, as it dives into the silky dunes of the Empty Quarter.
Jubbah Rock Art
Lady Anne Blunt travelled extensively throughout the Arabian countries with her husband poet Wilfrid Blunt. In 1879, they were on their way across the Nufud desert, when they stopped at Jubbah. In her autobiography Lady Anne commented “Jubbah is one of the most curious places in the world, and to my mind one of the most beautiful.” Jubbah is surrounded by Al-Nufud desert, yet it is fertile with green grazing land and history. And on its background is Al-Sinman mountain, with its amazing rock formations and ancient arts, which goes back to the Pottery Neolithic period 7000 to 9000 years ago, with paleo-environment and geology showing traces of human activity and imitations of the plants and animals that used to thrive in the area, extending into the Middle Paleolithic period. And not very far from Jubbah is jabal Qatar and Al-Ghoutah with its ancient Caves that preserve more archeological arts.
Hejazi architecture, ottoman design, and phoenician temples. Tarout is a mystery Island on the eastern side of Saudi Arabia. It is part of Al-Qateef region which is famous for its greeny mountains and rosey fields, and Tarout is nonetheless beautiful, with a unique mix of cultural heritage. It was occupied by the Persians, the Portuguese, and the Ottomans. Yet before any of them, it was a single spot where Phoenicians lived away from Levantine for 700 years and built their famous temples, in 5000 BC. On the site of one of the destroyed temples there is an ancient castle, built from same bricks that characterise the houses in Tarout. They are all made of sea sand, giving it special qualities to be warm in winter and cool in summer. The island reserved its natural and authentic atmosphere, with the small alleys, traditional cafes and handicraft shops.
Within the sea, under the earth, between its sand dunes and the engraved red mountains, Al-Khuraybah is ready to amaze you, in every way. It has one of the biggest and deepest lagoons along the northeast red sea coast, with vivid coral reeves and marine life. And as deep as its sea so is its terrestrial records, which extends from prehistoric fossils to biblical kingdoms and transnational civilizations. Recently they discovered the first confirmed dinosaur fossils ever found in Saudi Arabia, A plant-eating titanosaur and a sharp-toothed theropod dating to 72 million years ago. The same kind found in Jordan, Oman, and Lebanon. And about three kilometers away, the rocks record more historical connections with the Levantine kingdoms. With the Nabatean Monuments dating back to the Minean , Dedanite and Lihyanite Kingdoms, the ancient rock art carved on Jabal al-Akma , and the lion tombs and Mahalab Al Naqa, a cistern carved in a large rock, that the locals believe is connected with the story of Prophet Saleh – peace be upon him, as well as the Rock Mosque where the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, prayed when he passed through the town to Wadi Al Qura.
The Mystery of Thadj
The vast silky dunes of the Arabian Peninsula is hiding mountains of history. Jerha is the Arabian El-Dorado; one of the lost kingdoms of Arabia. The city of gold was destroyed and its 300,000 inhabitants were all massacred by the Qarmatians at the end of the ninth century. Greek Historian Strabo once described the inhabitants as "Chaldean exiles from Babylon ", and another as Arabs who by trade became the richest in the region". Other historians agree that the inhabitants of Al-Jahra’ were indeed Arab, with backing letters they communicated with ancient Greece signed by Arabic names. Although the location of the city is not known, it is believed to have extended over 3 kilometers of land, between present-day Hofuf and Jubail, where is our little village of Thadj! In Thadj an area of the same distance is all covered with pottery and broken monuments that keep rising from the sand with every rainfall. And recently, a tomb of a 9-year-old princess was discovered, intact, with her golden mask and 17 kilograms of golden ornaments. Together We will go on the trail fo the old kingdom of Jehra, and if she was the last Princess of the Arabian golden city of Thadj.
Al-Maksar Cave & Wadi Al-Fure'
150 from Al-Madina is this unique cave, a living historical record. Al-Maksar cave is in Al-Fure’ valley, which is situated on the tail of one of the biggest volcanic expansions in the region, Harrat Rahat! The volcanic sediment provided a rich environment that preserved the history of one of the most ancient inhabited communities and its ecological development. Old Arab historians report, that it was the inhabitants of Wadi Al’Fure’ who first supplied prophet Abraham’s family with dates when they settled in Makkah. The fertile land around it encouraged civilizations to prosper despite the volcanic instability back then. They planted fruits and grains besides thousands of naturally grown palm trees. The main water supply came from more than 50 natural springs. However, over the years and the increasing dependence on industrial infrastructure, only three of those water springs survived. The most famous of which is the strait or Al-Madiq, as it passes through narrow rock formations to water over 20000 palm trees. Over the area of 70 kilometers, we will explore rocky hills, untripped caves, natural beauty, and listen to every word history cared to preserve against all odds.
Jabal Hamra' Joudah
Hamra’ Joudah is in a low land east of Al-Summan, called the Valley of Water, due to the abundance of springs and wells, from its furthest northern border at the village of Al-Kahfa, down to its southern border, Hamra’ Joudah. Rainwater remains in the stables of this valley longer than other areas, thus its known for its difficult terrain. As soon as you leave Al-Riyadh Al-Dammam highway, the ground changes rapidly from silky sand dunes to tricky fragile clay that is hard to maneuver.
But the difficulty of access to places may preserve its privacy and beauty. The area is characterized by its natural rock formations such as the famous red finger, as well as caves that have not been seen by many, most notable of which is the cave of Metale’, with its narrow entrance well hidden between the rocks. The place is a Bedouin epic! its terrain reflects every aspect of the Bedouin relationship with the desert, and its corners are abundant with history. 121 km from Hamra’ Joudah, is the valley of Ajman. Ancient Arabs used to call it Al-Sitar or the curtain, as it stands as a barrier between Al-Nufud of Dahna and the coast of the Arabian Gulf. This place witnessed “The Day of Sitar.” The ballad famously narrated by the Bedouins about the war that tore between the ancient tribes of Tamim and Bakr bin Wael . More than a hundred villages here, descend from Emru’ul-Qays Bin Tamim.
Between the reefs of this valley, we will visit the ancient corridors of the Al-Ahsa caravans: Al-Kanhari, Al-Ar'ari, and Al-Joudi. Poets and Nomads have crossed from those roads and left their stories drawn on the rocks and related in poems carved on them. Those same rocks, preserve an even older history. Coral fossils, mollusks, crocodiles, turtles, rhinoceros, and monkeys from the time when this valley was a coastal environment covered with fresh lakes and palm trees.
Would you like to meet the Arabs from 2017 years ago? Souq Ukath in Al-Ta'if is the place. It is the most famous of three main markets in Arabia, that started between 5 BC and 2 AD. The other two, are Thilmajaz in mount Arafat and Magana whose locations is not confirmed. Ukath, operated for two weeks each year during the lunar month of Dhu al-Qi'dah . During this period it served more than just a market. Here, Arabs would meet to formalize tribal rules, settle disputes, pass judgments, make agreements, announce treaties and truces, hold sports races, and celebrate religious gatherings. Ukath was the competing arena where the mightiest poets of Arabia battled with eloquence and wit. They would go into freestyle improvisations or relate long poems that they tailored for the whole year passed. The winner poem would be honored by being displayed on the holy walls of Al-Kaaba in Makkah . Today the reenactment of those days takes place in the same very spot within the same very settings. The habit started in 2001 as a social initiative in Al-Taif to restore history and provide the new generations with an interesting environment to learn about their heritage and live it, away from textbooks and drama. The initiative became more than just a mock scene from the far history. In the current version of Ukath, you may find young Saudi doctors volunteering to provide care to visitors, young scientists showing their inventions, Young craftsmen competing with their new designs and young poets perfecting their Arabic tongue. Join Turgeyah on a journey through time.
It is amazing how small places that seem arid, can contain so much history, and connect so many cultures. Almost halfway between Al-Ula and Tabuk, stands the ruins of a fortified castle and a nearby railway station. AlMu’atham castle was built by the Ottomans in the 1600s. After 10 years of establishment, the place was deserted and never used again till 200 years later, when Prince AbdulQader of Algeria was spending time here before he reached his exile in Syria. As for the name, it is referring to King Al-Mu’atham Al-Ayubi the cousin of Salahuddin , who built a big pond there 400 years prior to the castle, with the purpose of providing water to travelers and pilgrims on their way to Makkah. Join Turgeyah to explore more about a castle that surpassed time, place, and their mysteries.
Al-Ta'if Roses Festival
The Clouds’ Lover, Makkah’s Eden, names for one place that rises 2500 meters above sea level. It is Al-Taif with its 900 fields of roses. Between the heights of Hada and Shafa, are valleys and green mountains that host more than 50 kinds of different roses and fruit orchards. Each year they produce more than 250 million roses, that gain the KSA 70 million riyals in revenue. The quality of those roses and their premium organic status is valued enough to make them worthy of washing Al-Kaabah before the pilgrimage season, and they are used in their pure form to cure different dermatological and gastrointestinal diseases. The 15th of March every year, marks the start of the rose collection and with it begins a big festival that parades its way through every street and every house. Between natural ponds and spacious green fields, the festival shows off with a live natural rose carpet that stretches over a kilometer and hosts a collection of rare plants and herbs. The festive atmosphere cannot be complete without the original folklore of the region. The children are dressed in traditional clothes and men compete in traditional dance, poetry, horse races, and falconry.
Right on this land occurred one of the most famous love epics in Arabian history. A real-life story of bravery, love, and devotion, that set new standards of valuing men according to their personal qualities rather than color. It is the story of Antarah ibn Shaddad . It is the story that inspired Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov with his Symphony No. 2. Uyun Al-Jiwa is located in Al-Qassim Region. The name literally translates to The Ponds of the wide valley. Many historic prehistoric societies as well, have settled here. Beside the ruins of Banu Abs whom Antra belonged to and Banu Hilal who are the heroes of yet another Arabian epic, Al Jiwa has many Thamudic patterns scattered between its rocks, as well as historic mud towers and farms.
Al-Rass is the largest city in Qaseem by population, and for good reasons. It is blessed with moderate weather, abundance water wells, and fertile land. Al-Rass in Arabic actually means the old water source. As for geography, it is central, routes radiate from it to almost everywhere. Such qualities are not attractive to settlers only but also to Invaders. The kind of history you will find in Al-Rass is that of combat and contention. That’s where the city gets its second nickname, Al-Hazm, or The Stern. Al-Rass is on the margins of Wadi Al-Rummah, one of the Arabian Peninsula's longest river valleys. With its diverse topography, it makes for a great off-roading experience.