By Munira Patel
A few weeks back, over the Saudi National weekend, we travelled back to Tabuk for the second time in the two years that we have been living in Saudi. We happen to do the same last year – not at all planned but a sheer coincidence. As my husband pointed out, we celebrated the patriotic weekend in a way that is deserving; exploring the beauty and wonder that Saudi Arabia has to offer. I don’t often chronicle my travels; however, I was compelled to write about our adventures to the Tabuk region on both occasions. We have simply fallen in love.
On each visit, we hired a car to be able to explore the different points of interest, and for me, it’s this true sense of exploring along Route 55 – that exhilarates me. I never tire of looking at the vastness of the area, spotting the – almost oddly placed – lush green crop circles amidst the sprawling desert, to the huge boulder like mountains that look as though they belong to an underwater world. This time we traversed slightly further up north towards the Gulf of Aqaba, passing by mountains that were streaked black and bronze which eventually turned into pure black ruggedness before it descended into the bronze-red landscape that you’d expect to see in the Middle East. It is raw beauty.
We made our annual pilgrimage to the small secluded beach known as Kiyal, just a few miles from Sharma. The beach was sadly a little messy for my liking, however, what the sea had to offer made up for a bit of random litter. There were amazing corals dotted everywhere. Literally, only yards from the shore a world of beautiful colours lay anonymously. Bursts of purple, red, yellow and blue with gorgeous fishes just weaving in and out either forlorn or in a shoal – it was like being in a fish tank.
This time around, we visited Bir Sa’idani – it’s believed this is the area where Moses drew water from a well after his escape from Egypt. It was a peaceful place, though only a small area, there was something just so pretty about it. Tucked away down a steep hill and hiding under the shade of some trees – there still remains a humble puddle of water supported by a drizzly little stream. The location sits just a mile or so from the amazing views of the Gulf of Aqaba and the mountains of Egypt beyond. It wasn’t difficult to take yourself back in time and visualize the story behind this quiet historic gem.
Over the two trips, we have the Hijaz railway, the UNESCO site of Madain Saleh, Sharma, Kiyal, Bir Sa’idani, the deserted town of Al Ula and Mugha’ir Shu’ayb ticked off the list. However, with a whole plethora of other undiscovered beauties, we are sure to return again – maybe for the next Saudi National weekend.