Friday, March 13, 2009

Desert Tour

Okay, I think I've finally figured out how to upload more pictures... but it takes forever!

So, here is the red carpet from Wednesday night. And the guy in the thobe is Mohamed who Brian, Andrea, and Derald met during the university tour earlier in the day.

Thursday morning... wake up call at 4am to leave at 4:30. Cory was amazingly awake and cheerful for most of the day! Here's the lovely bathroom/mosque along the way where we left Paul's car.

We were trying for sunrise in the desert, but it was so hazy from the shamal and all the dust in the air that we couldn't even see the sun until it was well up in the sky.

Paul was our tour guide and we drove out to Scribner's Canyon where everyone camped growing up. We hadn't quite gotten Cory's car seat hooked in properly (we're borrowing one) and he and I were in the way back so we got quite the bouncing across the sand hills. He started saying "scared, scared, git out!" but it wasn't too long.

We climbed up on top of the jebbls, which are kind of a sandstone that's been eroded by the wind. This is Paul looking out across the desert.

Brian and Joel throwing rocks and trying to hit the rounded top of one of the jebbls.

The view looking down on the Suburban with Andrea and Cory walking back. The sun is just off the top right of this picture and I think it's about 6am at this point!

Next we're driving further south and trying to find the camel market just outside of Hofuf. Apparently it's moved in the last few years so we had to stop and ask for directions! But then we saw a mama and baby camel just along side the road. We stopped to take pictures and it's owner came out and milked it for us. That's the worth of a camel, the quality of it's milk, or something like that!

All I know is the camel was making a LOT of noise - they sound just a bit like a drawn out donkey bray, but only one tone instead of 2. As we were leaving they started walking and I got this cool picture!

We finally made it to the camel market and we really were leary of taking pictures. Pictures are not common here and you may NOT take someone's picture randomly without asking their permission. I don't know that there were any "police" here at the camel market, but especially in a town you could get your camera taken away.

I saw a guy that had a camel with a saddle on it so Paul asked the guy what the price would be for a ride. First it was 15SR (about $4), but after he found out it was me with Cory and we wanted to take pictures the price went up to 20SR (plus 5 for a tip). And our ride turned out to be me getting on, Brian handing Cory to me, and the guy only letting the camel walk (3 steps) when Cory was asking for it to "walk around". Apparently they were really freaked out about a "baby" being on the camel.

But it was an experience! Let me tell you, if you ever get a chance to ride a camel you better hold on when they get up or down! See the above picture and how the camel has 2 knee joints in it's back leg? Well, they bend one, then bend the front leg, then bend the second joint on the back leg. So you get lurched back and forth and back again when getting up or down!

You can also sort of see my abaya in this picture. It's a good thing I didn't wear my capri pants since I wouldn't have been allowed on the camel due to needing to hike the abaya up to my knees to get on. It would have been a major taboo to show my legs, especially as the camel market is strictly male.

There were literally thousands of camels at this market so we drove around and looked at them all, taking pictures from the car surreptitiously! We even saw a guy "assisting" a camel mating! I did NOT take a picture.

After visiting with the camels we drove into Hofuf. There used to be a really nice Souq here, but it burned down just a couple years ago. The King has given money to rebuild it, but it's not open yet. I'm bummed because I don't really think we'll get to go to a souq while being here now. We saw some really funny signs (many are in English and Arabic) like "Hatem Fast Food".

Hofuf is kind of the "date capital" of KSA. It's an oasis, but the water table has dropped significantly in the last decade or so and many of the orchards or farms are being squeezed out by the city's growth. Kind of like where we live with the apple/pear orchards. Date palms have longer palm fronds with skinnier leaves on them.

After the driving tour we dropped Paul off at his car (he had meetings) and headed back north to Abqaiq (Ab-keg) where Brian and Allison grew up. We saw the houses they grew up in, one of them has no one in it and has broken windows and such. Kind of sad. This community doesn't have nearly as many people living in it now so some neighborhoods are vacant. We also got to walk around in their old school although many things have been changed.

We ate lunch here in the old snack shop and were pretty much done with our tour! On the way home I managed to take a picture of the desert. The horizon is so flat it just goes on forever.

This is the extent of desert we'll see while we are here. I was imagining dunes of just sand for miles and that does exist here, but apparently it's many hours from here and we won't get to go see it. Very sad!

Oh, and the roads are crazy! In a constant state of construction it seems and with random speed bumps along the way. And the drivers will pass you on the shoulder if you're in their way. You have to drive very aggressively, but I was surprised we only saw 2 accidents and not bad ones all day.

Now it's Friday (their Sunday) so we went to church this morning, which they call "fellowship" since any religion other than Islam is pretty much frowned upon. But the ex-pats are allowed some freedoms while in camp.

I think it's about time for me to go have a nap before our desert dinner tonight - except that it's within in the boundaries of the camp so we'll see how authentic it is!

PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek


  1. WOW!! what wonderful pics those are!! i love the one of you guys on the camel!! That looks like so much fun!!!

  2. That sounds like an amazing trip! Personally I'm all for the desert, but then I live in NM and love the climate here. :) Great shots of the camels. I'm so glad you wore the right clothing too and were able to ride one! And to think, we've only got horses. I think riding a came would be a neat experience.

  3. what a amazing adventure you. I love the pictures

    thankyou so much for sharing your holiday pictures

  4. Oh my gosh! The canyon! And the camels! Wow!

  5. Anonymous9:23 AM

    Hey Daughter, we love seeing the pictures and reading about your adventures. For an " I don't do mornings" person, seems like you are doing O.K. :)

  6. Awesome photos! I feel like I've traveled abroad without having to leave my computer chair.

  7. What an amazing trip. Wonderful photos!
    I rode a camel once in Rawhide, AZ -- it's tourist old west town. It was very expensive and I did get a few more steps than you did. Was definately an experience I'll not forget.

  8. Anonymous10:38 PM

    Glad to hear about your adventure! There had been sandstorms here in Dubai on some days last week so I can imagine how it must be in Saudi.

    I echo the camel ride - gotta brace up, really really well and try not to scream! :-)

  9. That's really cool you got to ride a camel! :)


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