Tag Archives: Adventure

The Old Ruins of Khuraybah

One boring day, I was sitting idle on my office chair, had less burden of work and no idea of what-to-do was existing. Then I began clicking my old Facebook albums and I found few albums of my past trips with my globetrotting buddies. And I realized that the year 2015 was empty of any attempt of exploration. Then my brain cells discovered a puffy cloud of thought that I should dig some interesting sites on Google Maps. Minutes later, I found a route between Rabigh and Yanbu, opposite to Mastourah which lead towards two ancient villages of Al-Abwa and Khuraybah. The pictures of ruin sites on the Google Maps looked very interesting. I marked the place and informed my fellow Pirates of the Arabian the new spot to dig the treasure of history.

Weeks passed by, and our commitments didn’t match to drive any weekend till 18/9. Our plan was to reach the destiny at the time of sunrise to avoid unbearable temperature. But somehow the plan didn’t work and left Jeddah by sunrise. The place is 257km away from Jeddah but if you drive between 120kph-140kph, you can easily reach within three hours. The chosen transport of legitimacy was Mazda 6 2014.

Route to al-Abwa & Khuraybaah

Our first stopping was at the Raheli station where we bought a can of Pringles, few Bison energy drinks, couple of Kit-Kat chunky, Max-Chili flavor of Lay’s, bottles of cold water, half kg of bananas and a packet of seeds.

Some plans hesitate our desires and get delay and that was the very same case with us when we left by sunrise at 6 am but the advantage of leaving late was that we had all benefits to get our eyeballs seduce to the nature’s beauty existing on our left and right. The sun rising on my right promised mountain eclipse with the light rays waking the land and our sleepy mission. I didn’t sleep that well because I generally am much used to of sleeping maximum 1 am but for this plan, I had to change my normal routine and off to bed at 11 pm and coming out of grave at nearly 3 am.

My friends, Athos and Porthos, have been in major contribution in all my/our expeditions that include Madain Saleh, Johfa Fort, Thee-Ain Village and Wahbah Crater. This Abwa-Khuraybah plan was our first expedition since Nov.2014. Yeah, commitments and responsibilities have delayed/postponed our plans to that amount of time. This was the first time that we three drove the same car in any trip. Most of the time, not more than two were driving in any trip. I always had issue of mobile battery charging as my Xperia Z is always spitting life faster than blood due to tremendous use of making high-quality videos and images. But this time, my buddy brought inverter.

The temperature was touching in mid-30s and was promising that the heat will folk us hard. We three always share common understanding of playing roadies musical tracks in our vehicle. Mostly these are trance and house music. So we basically have no musical disagreements while the destiny is breathing.

We never realize that the time passed so fast as the destiny was less than a dozen kilometers. Our first mission was to spot a site of religious significance; the grave of Bibi Aminah (R.A.), the mother of Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.). Aminah (R.A.) was Qurayshi by tribe from Banu Zahrah clan. When the prophet was 5 or 6, Aminah introduced him to Yathrib (Madinah) and his extended family. While traveling back towards Mecca (Makkah), she fell ill and died. And she was buried in the village of Al-Abwa God knows where this grave is? Hellooooo anyone!! I am in the middle of the road! On my left were some suspicious mountains which make me feel the probability of her grave and on my right was a small village where my fellow diggers were using the toilet.

It was pretty silent place and I saw few children playing until they stared at us and ran towards their guardian. Didn’t know if I scared them *feeling annoyed*, do my face carry a haunting image? Oh I also noticed a herd of sheep staring at us. They do respond and speak in God knows very very strange voice. I did ask one of the kind if it knew the grave but failed to understand its gesture.

Baa-Baa Interrogated…

We actually were too urban for the place and its inhabitants as the car approached towards us and began interrogating. He was a very rude man who had no intention to help us in locating the spot and told us to leave asap. We did leave and relied on the Google map.

We stopped to the opposite site of the mounts where we were predicting the possibility. We climbed one of the easiest low-altitude mountain and began sniffing around for 20 minutes. There was no help and we googled the site and found some images of her grave with the stones colored green and some had the stones covered with green cloth. With confusion arousing and rising temperature welcoming, we left the spot with disappointment. Fate was not with us to stand near the grave of prophet’s mother and I was scared of our plans meeting further failure when the village of al-Abwa was nothing but a wasteland with few dozens of people holding their heart and walking on the street. As it was Friday morning, so there was an understood silence with all the shops closed. There were many ruins and wild bushes installed to make the place look either interesting or distressful enough to expect a zombie by our next stopping.

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After 10 minutes drive, things became lively when we saw a small farm. In our surrounds, there were mostly private properties with land cruisers. Google Maps was confusing us in picking an exact route towards Khuraybah where I had my target for the purpose of this trip to view the old ruins what I viewed in my first attempt while sitting idle at office once. Those were improper roads going towards Khuraybah but it wasn’t that hard. Reaching such hard tracks with ease is comfortable if you have a SUV.

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Yesssss we made it!!! By some distance I stared an ancient mosque which was in google maps. There was some life back in our mission as we reached the spot. The place surely is not well-known to the common travelers as we found an ancient mosque and some 63 same-dimension ruins of most probably shops or houses. There is some sign of civilization far a distance but there is no sign-board to explain us what history lies here. Sun heat was getting worse as I began sweating and our mobiles warming. Making videos became a problem as we tried to cover most of the important figures of the site.

Spot Discovery…

I explored the interior and exterior side of the ancient mosque with no dome and minaret above the ceiling. The ceiling work is all wooden furnished which gave us some idea that the work is not that ancient as compared to the houses built on marble mountain in Thee-Ain village where the ceilings were made from juniper trees. The same juniper case was in Deira City of al-Ula, the old town consisting of 1032 houses.

Presentation…

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Presentation 2…

My fellow pirates decided to climb a nearby mountain to explore and have a complete look of the view on an altitude. Meanwhile, myself down near the mosque, I spotted a large rock with ancient islamic calligraphy with the words of Shahada. And that was the only rock I found. I tried to locate more familiar rocks but that was the masterpiece.

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Some historians or archaeologists should dig this place and come with some useful results. This place is inviting and explorers like we did feel the heat but found an amazement in checking such historic place. I have tried to research this place on the internet and some literature sources are indicating that sites of Rabigh, al-Abwa, Khuraybah and Johfah were once a pilgrim station for Syrians and Egyptians.

The mountain climbers descend down as we approached towards the vehicle to take rest. Minutes later, we left towards the ruins again. These are 63 ruins, each carrying almost same width as the height cannot be considered because some of these are incomplete. Each ruin is consisted of black stones. There was nothing in these ruins. Only few were covered with thorns and wild plants. None of the ruins had ceilings which creates further more doubts of its ever being houses or shops. How come the houses or shops never have ceilings? Out of 63 ruins, 23 were partitioned. Yeah we did count below the teasing sun. Our stay at Khuraybah was not more than 90 minutes but exploring with such amount of time at the temperature somewhere near 40s is still some craziness.

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We left the spot with some great experience and while we were taking u-turn towards Jeddah, we swiftly decided to check Masturah beach. Masturah sea is located exactly opposite road of the targeted site. We were hoping to witness heaven of sea-view in Masturah but happened contrary. It was unexpectedly a very dull and boring place with no life at sea. Not a single human existed on the beach and it was understood.

Masturah is not only a beach under the surface of Red Sea but carries historic significance. Islamic geographers and travelers in old times have mentioned few way stations and one of them existed long time ago in Masturah where water was abundant. It also was a small sea port in early Islamic period. Masturah today is differed with new and old areas divided by old road that leads between Makkah and Madinah. The old Masturah was a station as mentioned above, and there were huts and plenty of wells. Each well was 8 meters in depth and its wall 1 meter thick.

Anyhow we left the spot with no change in emotions. While returning back, I was driving and my fellows were extremely tired and taking a nap. It was a wonderful trip and folk yeahhh!! we did miss Friday prayer lol.

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One Morning At Wahbah Crater

Al-Wahba Crater

Walt Disney once said, “All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.” He was right… He is right… I guess he was the lover of his dreams who believe to shape his dreams into reality. He dropped high school to join the army but was rejected for being underage. Drove ambulance in France, after the armistice was signed in WWI. He was a cartoonist for a newspaper company but the big boss didn’t like his creative ideas. But he kept dreaming big which soon became reality. To date, no man has ever won more Academy Awards than this dreamer, 26.

Sparingly, I indulge myself in dropping from all social workouts, crop the tyranny of bumbling de facto and focus on the belle of my utopia. Sit on tip of the iceberg and profess heaven.

Suffering the boredom in the Kingdom of the driest land with no drop of rain on my naked head, I chose long-distance-traveling my habit like jumping like a rabbit. Tired of working trauma, I chose a path of glory like a mallory. With me joins two more adventure-bonafiders. Time to travel somewhere, make a plan, choose our destiny, and off we go.

Mr. Disney’s dream met an end as toony, but we ended to dream a lil moony. There is a crater, a volcanic crater, in the Kingdom where I live. That view astonished us and we planned to go there. On the first attempt, we couldn’t drop down the surface as we couldn’t locate the spot where we were supposed to descend and the plan went like a toxic fabricator. But the very next chance we got, we didn’t miss it. Here go the three musketeers again…

Pack up your bags, fill the petrol, and set the navigation on your mobile to safely reach your destiny. Athos, Porthos, and Aramis, all live in Jeddah and the mark-point is 437 km away from us. And for your kind information, there is no d’Artagnan on the whole trip. The chosen transport of legitimacy is my Hyundai Veloster 2014.

The total distance towards the destination point is 437 km. We will reach within 5 hours at a limited speed of 120 kph. The route or plan is simple, we will drive (A) from Jeddah towards (B) Makkah which is 75.7 km away. While reaching Makkah, we will move (C) towards Al Huwaya which is 116 km. From Al Huwaya is a long straight road (D) towards a village known as Umm Aldoom which stretches 184 km. From Al Huwaya is a short road (E) 28.5 km towards Nimran which makes you reach the crater (F) with the remaining distance of 32.7 km.

Route to Al Wahba Crater

On our way to Makkah, I had a mini-shopping at one of the stops. To ease my brain to an extent, I bought a large can of Pringles (original), 6 cans of Bison energy drink, a couple of Galaxy Ripples, a packet of Klast chewing gum, and a few bottles of mineral water. Had dinner at the same stop with a local franchise named ‘Al-Furooj’ (not to mix with a U.A.E. fast food chain with a similar name) with 4 pieces of chicken, french fries, a large size of 2 loaves of bread, and dozens of garlic sauce. I am an extreme lover of garlic sauces and is a compulsory appetite with fast food franchises.

The Dinner is Served!!
The Dinner is Served!!
A combined love of appetite for garlic sauces for the eaters...
A combined love of appetite for garlic sauces for the eaters…

During the travel, we had many chilling moments like cracking jokes and singing. But the most hilarious of all was teasing the opposite side of cars by flashing the light over them, as a result, many drivers braked the car in fear of crossing the speed limit. Once a group of almost 10 cars was coming from the opposite end. We were ready to buzz up the consequence. When flashed, all of them fell astray and braked. We had gone fuckin’ crazy but our madness stayed for only 20 minutes.

There are so many curves on our way but the car normally runs faster than 150 kph when there is no speed limit sign. We crossed scores of towns and villages. While reaching Al Huwaya, I took the Airport road which you might assume is a notable road. This road makes way to Prince Sultan Military Hospital (on your right), Taif Airport (on your left), and a Sports Complex (on your left). This road will make any driver wild to drive faster as he wants. It is due to the fact that it is then direct access to reach places like Dammam and Riyadh and even Bahrain and you won’t see the few speed limit signs or cops.

After almost 150 km on this road, a bridge towards the next stop a village Umm Aldoom comes after crossing Radwan town as I turn left towards a dark path trusting on your car lights. As most of our journey at the night was dark because of the lack of street lights but that path was darker than the rest. On this path, I saw small pups running out of life in the middle of the road as unexpected travelers are about to unexpectedly squeeze the tiny creatures.

Before reaching Umm Aldoom, I turned left towards Nimran and from there, it is almost 35 km from the place of the volcanic crater which is called “Al Wahba Crater”. The musketeers left home at night and reached the spot before sunrise. A breeze blew due to the higher altitude. One of my friends taking a nap in the car and the other striving his best to take the best pictures from his DSLR.

Two Fridays in a row have I turned my intention to view the majestic site. While I reached the spot on the first attempt, I wasn’t able to view it because of car lights. But I noticed on my right some whiteness at the bottom and told my friends to turn off the lights. The rest was a beauty. At night, you will enjoy one of the most beautiful galaxies of stars above which is probably hard to find in any Saudi Arabian location. My friend made the most possible glimpse of happening above the sky. Watching those stars justifies David Bowie‘s take on stars in his 1972 song ‘Starman’ as if there really is someone who wants to break down and come and meet the earthlings. 

An Eternal Beauty captured from my friend's DSLR
An Eternal Beauty captured from my friend’s DSLR

There’s a starman waiting in the sky
He’d like to come and meet us
But he thinks he’d blow our minds
There’s a starman waiting in the sky
Hes told us not to blow it
Cause he knows it’s all worthwhile
He told me:
Let the children lose it
Let the children use it
Let all the children boogie

The sunrise charms the place as we waited for a time of visibility of the route to descend. We found the route and prepared for descending.

Al Wahba Crater according to a Wikipedia source is 250 m (820 ft) deep and 2 km (1.2 mi) in diameter. It is so deep that if you throw a stone from the top, you will listen to its end in six seconds. The bottom of the crater is covered with white sodium phosphate crystals. It is under the protection of the National Commission for Wildlife Conservation and Development (NCWCD), which is responsible for developing and implementing plans to preserve wildlife in Saudi Arabia. This crater is almost similar to Barringer Crater located in the Arizona desert of the United States. 

There has been much speculation about the origin of this crater. Many believed a meteorite hit the place. According to Wikipedia, many geologists agree that Al Wahba Crater is a Maar Crater that is caused by a phreatomagmatic eruption, which is an explosion caused by groundwater coming into contact with hot lava or magma. As far as size is concerned, maar measures 200 to 26,000 ft across and from 30 to 660 ft deep. The other notable characteristic of Maar is that they form natural lakes.

David J. Grainger, the Senior Geological Editor with the Saudi Arabian Directorate General of Mineral Resources, stated about this crater in the journal ‘Geology Today’ issued back in January 1996 that “A Quaternary phreatic event drilled out a crater 2 km in diameter through Proterozoic basement rocks and Quaternary lava flows. The crater is rimmed with a tuff ring of debris from the explosion, around which were diverted Holocene basaltic lavas.”

Descending way down to the crater was expensive thinking for me as I never had tasted such an experience. Descending and climbing a mountain or a crater for me is no less than landing on a moon or reaching the peak of Mount Everest. It took me hardly 25 minutes going down. There is only one route to descend which I praise the work done on it. From the beginning to the end, the route is easy and conveyed, and don’t need a guide to whom we follow. In fact, the henge of stones welcomes you to step on them to move straight where destiny meets its end. For a couple of minutes, we stopped and took snapshots and made videos of the beautiful crater. Not to our surprise, there is no mobile signal over there.

My ears got close-open the whole way down as air resistance reduce. While gazing down; large stones, thorns, and bushes look microscopic as only the saltville is everlasting eye-catchy. Once, my friend and I lose the plot and took the wrong route as we contested to go down against large rocks. We succeeded in the contest.

But later on, a couple of steps later, we realized that the forgotten route was only a couple of steps behind the route of coming down from stone. It was a hilarious moment.

I land down with a scream heard only by my fellow musketeers (we three friends were the only humans existing there) with a bottle of mineral water almost finished with the assignment of climbing back remaining.

Land down, rock on, and musketeers-come-geologists explored the land which is covered with white sodium phosphate crystals. Numerous wild plants, thorns, and bushes breezing and hushing. The normality of a straight walk is suspended beneath the field as you are about to walk and examine the face of the land. I’m not a student of petrology or geology so I am not able to give a genuine explanation of the surface. 1/3rd layer looks like a whipping cream frosting over a cake or Mövenpick chocolate chips ice cream. Many layers have scoopy curves and you have to be very careful of walking over there more than a pedestrian. 

I walk the maze of moments
But everywhere I turn to
Begins a new beginning
But never finds a finish
I walk to the horizon
And there I find another
It all seems so surprising
And then I find that I know

This world simply fits with Enya‘s “Anywhere Is” as it is pretty strange when you really walk the maze of moments. I am lost in this saltville, my shoes are hitting hard with different layers and rocks altogether as if shoes began screaming and scolding me, “Where the fuck have you landed today?” When I touched the layer of skin, it is like papadam, simply touch it and crack it.

There are many many lava stones and quizzy paths of dead branches and bushes. Few bloggers and visitors claimed they saw a snake in the field but we couldn’t. Although we did see tiny lizards and I’m sure they may be excited to see our presence in this silent theater.

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With a kilometer walk of the diameter, a shadow of comfort was naturally installed with a pale of lively grass as we intended to take a rest on one of the corners. The intensity of the heat was growing as time had reached 8 in the morning. While sitting a couple of minutes on a rocky surface, our ASSets had droned army of red ants as we changed the sitting place in fear of the army’s revenge keeping in mind that the unity in ant’s army is more peculiar to unity in Mousquetaires de la garde.

Going back to where you come from is the devil wears prada. And the song tickling my musical mind is James Blunt‘s High. Your return to climb from here is like a filmmaker anxiously waiting for a weekend box-office report for collections. I am not crushing my feet, in fact, my feet are crushing me towards the same all odd layers. In normal cases, hikers first climb, then come down. But my case was contrary to the fact of being my first hiking experience with the harsh truth of carrying a stocky weight beyond normality. 

While stepping down, I roughly had drunk 3/4th of the bottle of mineral water and by mistake in preparation, this was the only bottle in quantity I carried for both scenarios. Now it is all up to my supernatural instinct to climb the I-M-POSSIBLE mark where my car is waiting for us to go back. One of our friends reached the destiny first, so the other musketeers are in different awe. One caught asthma and the other overweight hiking debutant met extreme backache and that’s me.

As climbing demands more muscles workout, my pain had no stopping as even my ribs began squeezing. Till climbing the 50 m mark, both geologists have stone-rested like a dozen times. Sunshine is disturbing while its heat is perturbing. Exhaustion has no limits as we have begun breathing heavily. While stepping a few stones more, looking up the trail is like looking at a hawk staring at you. Like I stated before that, descending took us 25 minutes but back-bite epic climbing clocked almost 90 minutes to reach the point. I had climbed almost 200 m with my friend where I began stumbling and becoming hopeless of ever reaching the mark. The back pain knew no bounds and suddenly found a long-lasting shadow. I dropped myself over there, unable to verbally communicate with my asthmatic fellow. Lying towards and beneath steepy wall and over hundreds of pebbles. That resting site was more than a bed of roses for me as I took a nap for approximately 20 minutes. I wonder how Aaron Ralston survived but in those exhausting moments, the movie “127 Hours” is what precisely reminded me.

Woke up with a pin drop silence but breezy sounds and hopeless desire. I began invoking God for safety, strength, and courage. Feeling extremely thirsty with the last drop of hot water remaining in the bottle. I finally drank it and stood up. When I backed my fellow and myself for the run, our mileage crossing friend came to us like an angel with a shopping bag of mineral water bottles, orange juices, and Bison energy drinks. To my good luck, I passed the car key to him before climbing. This time I sat with comfort drinking all possible drinks and enjoying the sudden breeze confirming the approval of my invocations. Now I muster up my courage and within 15 minutes, we have reached the point. Despite my physical exhaustion from climbing, I was fit for driving back with a Bison drink enough for cheering me like Stone Cold Steve Austin‘s “Hell Yeah”. 

Towards all your long-distance traveling, one thing which will impress you is that you will prominently find a petrol station and masjid at almost every stop in 10-20 minutes that will ease every Muslim traveler to offer prayers at a time and every driver to fill up the fuel before an FML moment. On such a destiny, you will find many small towns with a couple of masjids and many small muddy and concrete houses. I saw a caravan of camels intersecting our way, one of them actually stopped in front of the car reminding me of Robin William‘s “Jumanji” scene. 

To sum up my experience by forwarding the readers some interesting ideas, you must note the to-do-list for further enjoyment:

a. Better you leave for this Crater Trip at night to reach there before sunrise and enjoy a cool breeze. Prefer hiking at dawn. 

b. Going in a group of 10??? If you are willing to reach there at midnight, then better take a bedouin tent with a couple of thick mattresses.

c. Make a BBQ and cook lamb or chicken (roasting marshmallow is plus)

d. Campfire, Playing Guitar and Singing

e. Compulsorily have a backpack for hiking the crater and do prepare a checklist.

My Wahba-Crater Hiking Checklist:

  1. extra water (min 3 large bottles)
  2. pack of snacks
  3. first-aid kit
  4. pocket-knife
  5. extra pair of hiking shoes
  6. whistle
  7. bandana or hat (for sun protection)
  8. pair of gloves
  9. binoculars
  10. insect repellant
  11. toilet papers (plastic)
  12. plastic bags (garbage)
  13. duct tape
  14. 2 sets of hiking ropes
  15. small microfiber towel

In the end, I am thankful to my fellow musketeers who made the trip delightful, unforgettable, and worth of adventure. I am hopeful of my new hobby of adventure will touch new heights in my life. To rise high, you should dream high.

Oscar Wilde once quoted, “A dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.”

The Three Musketeers - Myself (left), Alpha (center) and Taha (right)
The Three Musketeers – Myself (left), Alpha (center) and Taha (right)