09-Apr-2008 -- During our long weekend of 9 April 2008, we decided to visit a cluster of four unvisited confluences, 31N 42E, 30N 41E, 29N 41E, and 29N 42E, which are located in northern Saudi Arabia. The weather is still pleasant enough at this time of the year to venture out into the wild.
The 31N 42E confluence on paper looks like a big challenge since it is situated in the proximity of the border with Iraq (less than 8 km away). Given the circumstances of the current events and probability of a high risk of being stopped by the border patrols, this one needed a lot more of resolve then anything else; however this did not deter us in pursuing the challenge.
The previous night, we had arrived in Ḥafr al-Bāṭin for an overnight stop, and tried to check into our favourite hotel, the Bodl, however, due to the stormy weather, the electricity to most of the town was knocked out (a first for a very long time) and the hotel could not check us in because of the electronic keys – they did not have any backup generators. Anyway we landed up staying in another comfortable hotel next door.
Early in the morning after a good Syrian breakfast, we headed towards `Ar`ar and at about 60 km before reaching `Ar`ar we turned northeast on a good blacktop road towards the village Umm al-Ḍiyān which was about 7 km away from the confluence point. When we were researching on this confluence, we figured out that this village must be inhabited either by the border patrol or the military (or both) hence we plotted a track by passing the village just in case there was a check point or something else!
So we left the comfort of a blacktop road just before approaching the village and found a couple of good tracks on the gravel plains heading towards the confluence point. We were quite tense as we drove these last few kilometres (felt like ages!) and all the time looking back nervously to see if any vehicles were following. The confluence point was reached without any problems. The confluence point itself is located in a barren gravel area. The views to the north, east, and west are monotonous.
After taking the required photos, we retraced back but as we approached the outskirts of the village of Umm al-Ḍiyān again, we boldly took a closer look. There were no vehicles or anyone around, and none of the buildings had any windows or ACs – this village was abandoned! The tension was lifted and we relaxed a little and decided to look around the village. It was a typical village, with the main attraction being the mosque. But we received a real shock when we approached the water tower, a man suddenly popped his head out over the wall, did we disturb a fugitive? We did not wait for the answer – we just bolted across the village on to the road for a quick exit.
We headed back towards `Ar`ar for a night stop before attempting our next confluence at 30N 41E.