shanlung (shanlung) wrote,

Al Hair swamp and south of Riyadh // Graffitti Rock and little baby Bustards

The 2006 Soccer World Cup is now over with that last game of France v Italy on Sunday night.
The four weeks of soccer matches must have impacted on so many people, including yours truly here.

Obviously, I did not blog on to my wife's account as often as I should. Then again, her inputs on Sat had
been irregular and I did not have a toehold in her journal to let you know how life is like here in Riyadh.

Her journal is

I like now to write about 2 trips made over the last two weekends here in Saudi Arabia. If I write in comments
in my wife's journal, I be limited to 400 words and I think I needed more than that which is why it is written here.

The weekends here will be Friday, the equivalent of the rest of the world Sunday.

When I was back in Singapore about a month ago, I forgot to pack the little camera back into my back. With the
rush to get to airport, that camera was forgetten. So I now have no camera here in Riyadh with me.

3 weekends ago, I tried a new route that hugged the plateau that Riyadh is on. That was one of the most scenic route I
discovered, at a time when I had no camera.

Then a new colleague joined us. In fact when I was in Singapore, he was given use of the car assigned to me. We talked
and we found a mutual desire to travel about in countries we found ourselves to be in. He is JR, a Frenchman. He also
smoke even if it was a pipe. That was very important. I been out once with two others who do not smoke. In long drives,
or short drives, I smoke. Being told not to smoke by others in my own car was difficult. Once out with them was enough.

Not withstanding they liked the places that I brought them to, they wondered why I never asked them again to come out with me.

In the few months I was in Riyadh, I got to know of places outside and around Riyadh to the extent I amazed the locals with
my knowledge of places they did not even knew existed.

Driving with someone is a lot more pleasant than driving alone. JR very readily agreed to join me on my Friday drives. He also has
a nice camera that he took pride in. I like photos which I could not take as I did not have a camera. So an alliance with him
was wonderful. And he smoke and not likely to object to me smoking in the car.

I picked him up from Al Mutlac hotel. All new guys will stay here just as I did until we found our own lodgings. I had with me
two large container of fruitjuice packed solid with icecubes. In addition, I had two large bottle of water frozen solid in the
freezer and which will melt in course of the day to deliver nice cold water as well. When the temperature was 40+C in the shade,
I liked my water cold. That was meant for the two of us.

He had a small bottle of water. He told me thank you for the drinks I brought , and he said that as he was borned in Algeria,
he adapted to drinking less water. I had not difficulties with that at all. I rather be safe than sorry.

"Al Hair swamp and south of Riyadh"

That was on the 30th June 2006.

He seen the photos of T A (who smoked like a chimney) that I took to the swamps and other places and was amazed. So this trip started
with the drive to the swamp off Al Hair. Water was still flowing in the swamp. But the level was a lot less than before.



It did not surprised me too much. I presumed the farms were drawing more water for their irrigations and hence less water in the swamps.

Hard to believe those photos taken just 20 km or so South of Riyadh?
Then do not take my word. Take a drive down heading south on Al Batha road. Keep on going past that vege market and animals market.
You will be on route 509. You will be on Al Hair road. You will pass by a prison. Just keep going.
I cannot imagine you miss the swamp with reeds growing 3 meters high, with crystal clear water and lots of fishes and cat fishes. And the Filipino girls picnicking there. In bikinis. Opps- just pulling your legs. But you will enjoy that place even if there are no girls in bikinis picnicking there.

Riyadh & falcons
Photos of places around Riyadh and falcons.

Photos below from above folder


Hard to believe the rich fields of green alfalfa in photo below grown just South of Riyadh from fossil water??
How much fossil water can there be?



We then turned back to Al Hair. By continuing into and beyond Al Hair, the road turn down and down into a wadi. This wadi opened up to farms surrounded by walls. Those farms were modern, but the walls were made like a medieval fortress that the photos would show you.

(edited and added on 30 May 2015
You might consider after the swamp, to go on route 5399. That will bring you through a fascinating part of KSA. Very beautiful especially if the day is crystal clear. Part description below. Sadly the day was not so crystal clear on 15 May 2015.
I think you will want to stop the car when you reach 505. You be tempted to shoot with camera then.

You proceed on 505 towards Al Mogbel palaces and onto route 40. Heading to direction of Mecca and passing Jileh, about 140 km West of Riyadh.)


The wadi then continued to open into a broad valley with mesas in the horizon showing stratifications of layers and layers of rocks. How old those layers were I wondered. I recalled reading some notes that the layer at the top contained ammonite fossils. And therefore the layers lower down were even more ancient. But at 45+C , we were not tempted to try to find our very own T Rex skeleton.

We slowly drove westwards with the plateau of Riyadh on on right. On the wires we saw birds that I thought were the wood pigeons. I stopped the car and he got ready with his camera. Then I rushed out of the car to shout and wave my arms and he got his shot of pigeons in flight :-)

The road followed the plateau and curved North which joined the main road from Mecca to Riyadh. This was a major highway that cut into the Riyadh plateau to head up into Riyadh. Whether you drive westwards from Riyadh or eastwards to Riyadh, the drive is stunning and awesome. Look at those photos.

There was this huge beautiful cable-stayed bridge. I was fascinated with that before. But with JR fascinated and wanting to take photos, I was more than happy to obliged. We pulled off the highway and down to the valley to take shots of that bridge from a few angles. Then we went up the valley and stopped halfway to take more photos. One of the photo was a car dump below. Perhaps the saying that the locals here will dump their car if the ashtray was full might not be that farfetched!

With the water I drank, I left him to his photography so take a pee by the roadside. My relief was short lived. A police car pulled up making me feel quilty enough to quickly zipped up. I thought they stopped for me. Since they could not speak English and we could not speak Arabic, it took some time before I realised I was not the quilty one. My friend JR was taking photos of a bridge which was forbidden. We took out our passports and it was a good ten minutes before they drove off finally convinced we were not thinking of blowning up the bridge.

"photo taken when police stopped us"


We ended off by driving over this very bridge before turning around to drive over it again and back into Riyadh.


West of Riyadh - Ancient rock carvings

7th July 2006

A couple of months ago, I tried to get to this place 150 km West of Riyadh for the ancient rock carvings. I drove alone that time. After that long drive, there was this track about 5 km long that would lead me to the rocks. But sand covered part of the track and as I was alone, I thought I should not risk it and turned back. Very difficult to do after driving such a distance, but I had to be cautious.

This time, I had a partner in JR and this was the place we decided to go to.

Even though the previous week much of the water was not drunk, I thought I would bring the same along with us this time.

Last week, I was listening to my Creative Zen MP3 player loaded with a mix of Chinese CDs of Theresa Teng (Teng LiJing in chinese) and PinkFloyds, Beatles, Elvis. So I thought perhaps I introduced JR to chinese songs and MP3 as he never tried that before. For that matter, I was a very recent convert to MP3 music.

To my surprise and delight, he love the chinese songs. He even love the Taiwanese songs. So he had the earphones to CDs after CDs of chinese songs that he confessed he understood not a word but he love. To the extent the next day, I copied all those Chinese CDs to his laptop and sold him an old headphone for him to listen to.

We drove on out of Riyadh and down that long incline from the plateau. The desert was largely flat which rolled on and on and on. You need to be a true romantic with good sense of imagination to find pleasure in the drive. So I squeezed my imagination for all its worth. JR was quiet with a glazed look on his face as he enjoyed Chinese music he heard the first time in his life while periodically smoking his pipe.

I have been here before so I knew where I was without any maps to guide me.

You just keep driving West towards Mecca passing desert and some farms sporadically appearing watered by fossil water.

You then pass a town call Jelh. About 5 km after, the flat desert being passed through will drop further down via an escapement to a lowel level.

(edited on 15 May 2015 after a visit on that day to this Graffitti rock)
We had to go 15 km after Jelh (Jilah/Jelah). You then pass the exit to Musayquirah. Ignore this exit and drive on about 400-500 meters. My earlier recollection of 5 km was wrong and we so nearly turned back when 10 km after Jelh, I still could not find that dirt track. A lot more houses were built since the ten years I was there and I got disoriented. My earlier account of 5 km after was a wrong estimate at that time 10 years ago and that did not help.
GPS coordinates of that rock. N24 18' 58.23", E45° 38' 25.84"

When you see a collection of houses a hundred meters after that escapment, you turn right off the rock into the houses. The dirt track then extended on edged by pylons carrying power lines to a distant village 5 km away. You see easily the escapement and a rocky outcrop. That rocky outcrop was where the ancient carvings were.

This trip, the wind blew off the sand and the track was more visible. We drove down slowly towards that rocky outcrop. I then parked the car a hundred meters away and we walked to the rocks.

Other visitors had been there and left a more modern graffitti on the rocks.

The rocks were in a very sparse desert. And yet there was life. A movement high on the rock alerted us and we saw a falcon. That was the first wild falcon I came across here. In a short while, that falcon flew off before JR could get his camera out.

We climbed up the knoll and we came to the first ancient carvings. I felt humbled at that reaching out from an ancient past towards us now. Perhaps in those days it was not an empty desert. And the carvings made to bond those people to greater mysteries.


We came down to walk around the knoll.
Then we saw another rock higher up with more carvings.





The first set of carvings were abstract. This set of carvings showed the creatures, the birdies and beasties.

We were beyond words and looked and looked at the carvings.

Later we came down to walk around. Then another movement up in the rocks drew our attention. I first thought it was a cat or dog. To my delight, that was a little desert fox when my mind finally decided it was not a cat or dog. It had the most uncanny resemblance to the carving of a fox on that rock. That carving might even be the great great many times great grandfather of the fox. And for all I know, that carver might be an ancient ancestor of mine as they migrated out of Africa, crossing Saudi Arabia and into the Asian continent and on into China. There was not the time to photo that fox.

We felt that to be such a good trip as we went back to the car to drive slowly out to the main road.

All was well and I was glad the car did not get stuck. Then when we were just a hundred meter from the main highway, the car came to a halt with the tire spinning in the sand.

JR is lighter than me so he got behind the steering wheel as I tried to push the car out of the sand. It was 45+C and the sand burning hot. We could not free the car. I was glad I brought all the water. I then walked to a nearby petrol station to seek help.

An Indian guest worker at the tire shop came back with me carrying a shovel.

I wondered what could he do with that shovel as I was dissappointed I could not hire a tow truck to get us out.

He released the tire pressure, took the jack and jacked the tire out of the hole and filled that with sand again. Did the same to the other side. Kind of embarrassing that me and JR are amonge the top engineering brains in the world capable of managing and controlling construction of high speed train systems and could not get the car out of the sand. A simple indian with a shovel was needed to show us how that was done.

I had not agreed the price with that Indian. But I was very pleased with him and very charitable. I shook his hand with a hundred SR in my palm. The smile and delight on his face showed me he was suitably surprised. That made me very happy too. If we had not the luck to be near help, we could be very much troubled. That I had ample water for the two of us helped a lot too.

On the drive back, we saw this farm with this town a bit beyond. I turned off the freeway to reach that town. Then when we could not find it, we realised what we thought to be a town was a palace within that huge farm.


It was an interesting drive. As we saw a mother bird leading a flock of little chicks. That was such amazing similarity with the rock carvings we saw earlier. We stopped the car but too late to catch more than a fleeting photo as the chicks scrambled up the slope. I think those were the little baby Bustards. Their mom disappeared over the top already.


山 龍
Mountain Dragon


Note: Normal weight range of shama is 28 - 32 grams
from the information below .

If what I wrote help you and you like to help, give a thought
for the wildlife sharing our planet.

Do write that cheque to Gerald Durrell wildlife trust

or to WWF or other conservation bodies of your choice

MM - mixed mash , from YSM 60%, Claus (food for insectivore birds)
20% and Sinlin 20% (local commercial food for shama)

YSM - Read "making of Yingshiong mash"

suri - Read "Conditioning clicker day 3 - and some tips on suris"

milli - read "Found the perfect treat and Yingshiong first "step up""

Yingshiong songs are in

She made more toys and took photos of those new toys for YS and the way YS was playing with them.

You can see that in folders

Yingshiong beady toys

The descriptions and captions of those photos will be lost if you use the slideshow, so it may be better if you see those photos one at a time.

If you liked the photos of Tinkerbell and Taiwan, most of those photos were taken by Joy with my camera.

For even more photos ot Tinkerbell and Taiwan, you should check out Joy's other folders in

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