01-Dec-2002 -- Some lucky employees in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia are given a compulsory break at the end of the holy month of Ramaḍān. I was one of them, but was unable to find any others that had stayed in the Kingdom and who were interested in a long trek through the desert. Therefore, I decided to visit the south-west region of Saudi Arabia on conventional tarmac roads rather than across the desert. So, my son, Sean, and I embarked on a six-day journey of nearly three thousand kilometres which was routed to visit the region’s sights as well as take us past as many confluence points as possible (see also 20N 45E, 19N 45E, 18N 44E, 19N 43E, 21N 43E, 22N 42E, 24N 43E).
Having visited the 18N 44E confluence, we happened upon the tarmac road from Wādiy Ḥubūnā to the main road. This was a lot easier than the desert track route that we took to the Confluence. We drove on to Najrān and decided on the luxury of staying at a hotel for the night. We dined and then went off in search of the dagger sūq (market). We found this small, but traditional sūq and spent a great evening watching the dagger blades being fashioned and the leather scabbards being sewn. We only saw local Saudi customers at the sūq, so were happy to classify our own purchases as truly authentic.
The following morning we did some local sight-seeing which included the Najrān dam (empty, of course), the old palace, and the hill-top fort. Unfortunately the museum was not open during the morning due to the abnormal Ramaḍān hours. During our explorations we were intrigued with the local architecture where the house walls are slightly inclined towards each other. We saw many of these houses on the two hundred kilometre drive from Najrān towards Khamīs Mušayṭ.
We camped a few kilometres off the road that night and enjoyed the chill of the rarefied mountain air. The next morning we started out in the hope that we would find the 18N 43E confluence. However, in truth, I was very pessimistic because the map showed that the confluence was just off the edge of a massive cliff. We left the main road heading south and when we arrived at the small village of al-Sawat, we started our search for a route. We attempted several small tracks that took us in the general direction but could get no closer than 1.89 kilometres. Furthermore, these tracks all ended close to the edge of a cliff. My fears were realised, and we subsequently threw in the towel on our first failed attempt at a confluence visit.
Continued at 19N 43E.