28-Nov-2003 -- We were on a 4 day `Īd trip to the Ḥā'il area of the Kingdom which is approximately 6 hours drive north of Riyāḍ. The previous day we had visited confluence point 26N 42E and then headed northeast to the very old town of Sumayrā'.
Back on paved roads and heading north, we saw on the map that SE of al-Ṣafrā' there were many volcanic mountains. It didn't take us long to reach the old black lava flows (ḥarrat) and after exploring, we set an early camp in a nice wādiy bed with tall trees. With the volcanic peaks as background, this provided a very scenic location for our American Thanksgiving dinner in honor of our friend Fen.
On the Friday morning we continued across sandy plains and visited two major craters. The first we were able to drive in as the wall on one side had been blown out and a local Bedouin was grazing his goats. The second crater was marked on the map as quite big and circular, and it caught us by surprise. It is very deep and wide with nearly vertical walls. Without plotting the waypoint from a map, we would have driven right past as there were no distinguishing aspects to point to such a large crater from all the other surrounding volcanic activity, and there were no well used tracks leading to the edge.
On to Ṭāba, and then a fantastic scenic road leading west through a narrow gorge between red granite jabals. Absolutely beautiful with the sun shining and green tress on the wādiy beds. The confluence point was 5 km away from the road, but the big question was – is it this side of the jabal, or maybe we might have to have a tough scramble up the ragged rocks. Even less than a km away we were not sure. We bumped across the sandy plains with small runoff channels making it slow progress and yes - we reached the confluence point just before the jabals began. This was a very spectacular confluence point with good views in all directions.
However, after taking the pictures we had to move quickly as there were huge thunderclouds blowing in and there was heavy rain not so far way. It is not funn and can actually be very dangerous to be caught near the big jabal ranges with flash floods. In fact, it poured as we were back on the paved road and as we continued north to Ḥā'il the thunderstorms had already flooded the plains and Ḥā'il itself was seriousky flooding. The rain and clouds persisted for the next few days which was welcome to the local Bedouins as it will bring back life to the desert plains, and provide much needed pasture for their goats and camels.