You better find something really interesting, late, or tiring to do when you’re in Riyadh on Thursday night, because unless you are planning to go to Friday prayers, there isn’t much else to engage into on the morning of the 6th day of the week (in the Middle East we start our week on a Sunday).
I had found myself an entertainment in flying back to Dubai for one day to do a job for the same Saudi company I was hanging out the previous days in Riyadh, and if you don’t call that commitment, I don’t know what is. So on Thursday night I was hoping that my flight will not be too delayed while the live updates on google were informing me that they can’t provide me with any reliable information about this flight… patience! Yasalam ❤
Friday morning in Riyadh was chilly, crisp and beautiful. Took a good walk around the premises of our hotel before checking out and ubering towards our pre-planned expedition meeting point, preparing to go a trip to no other place but the edge of the world, ladies and gentlemen.
The Uber driver this time was a polite and funny Saudi, who nevertheless failed to admit my existence and was answering me “sir” and talking to my husband even though he was talking to me. He proclaimed that if we manage to name the administrative capital of the state of California correctly, he would give this ride for free. It was a good question, and we didn’t have a good answer, but we learnt something new that day from a Saudi guy driving a Lincoln through the streets of Riyadh.
Arrived to the meeting point right on time, but then struggled to figure out which section of Starbucks were we supposed to go – the family or the bachelors… I think our companions also struggled to figure out in which section they could find us in, but after a while everything got sorted, we filled the mighty Nissan Patrol to the brim with wood, carpets, food, and what not and embarked on the unforgettable journey the four of us: the husband and I, my friend A. and his friend S., who encountered certain difficulties to speak in English as much as I did to speak in Arabic.
The road towards our destination point was unremarkable and even rather boring, but the skies were pretty and we were having a good time making fun of the music choices of our comrades – one had a selection of pop songs for 15 year old girls, the other one was listening to Arabic songs preferred by the religious sheikhs as it was explained to us. There is sadly just too much trash polluting everything around – in the city and outside as well.
S’s mother has lovingly provided a delightful dish for us for the road – chicken and rice with a generous portion of butter on it, which wasn’t the easiest dish to eat in the car while jumping on numerous speed bumps, but nevertheless very tasty. With the amounts of food that Saudi’s are usually trying to feed you on every occasion it is hard to stay hungry, but as a guest – be polite and at least try, even if you are not hungry, don’t break their hearts by saying no.
After about 40 minutes of flat-land landscapes, we have arrived at the check-in point where we wished a wonderful day in Arabic to an old gentleman sitting in a plastic chair, and got on a dirt one-way road which eventually turned into an off-road experience, driving on a surface that reminded me of a dried river water-bed. S asked us if we would like to go fast and reach there in 25 minutes, or slow and reach in 40, but before we even got a chance to answer anything, he already engaged into “no fucks given” mode of driving and we realized right there and then that it’s probably going to be 25 minutes, if not 20.
The drive was bumpy but joyful with the loud Arabic music and the name of Allah being repeated multiple times by A. sitting in the front seat.
Before you plan to go here, remember, you need to have a good SUV and a driver who knows how to deal with it. This road is not for faint-hearted and unexperienced drivers – we saw people getting stuck there in pick up trucks, so just be careful.
Finally, we have arrived to the Edge of the World, Jebel Fihrayn, a range of cliffs that have a view on the dried out rivers going down the endless valley with the sunset at the end of it.
What we also found there is the crazy amounts of tourists, perhaps up to a 100 people hiking up and down, posing at that very spot where all the influencers were posing earlier on this season… a bit too much, if you ask me. The place had plenty of unique views, but most of the people wanted to stand in one very particular spot… so we didn’t participate in this madness and went to take our pictures just a little bit more down from this crowd.
The view is breath-taking, and so vast – comparable to the insanely wide American landscapes that you can look at, but you’ll never be able to properly capture in a photo. It is a real diamond in a rough of a location, fantastic place to watch the sunset. Which we did… after we found a quieter spot for ourselves away from this madness.
With all the hiking done, and prayers said, and sun to have submerged below the horizon, it was time for us to move to the second part of our mission – find a place to make the barbecue. A place with no ants, no draft wind, no shrubs, right amount of gravel, with a nice large tree, not next to the road, not too far from the road, away from other people and some bushes for certain purposes… eventually we have found it.
If you have never been on such an outing with Arabs, you’d be amazed how quickly they can make a piece of empty land look like home – the carpets are unrolled, chairs set up, the pots of tea are steaming, the shisha is bubbling with hot coal landed on top, snacks are passed around, stories are told and the time goes by unnoticed.
We exchanged travel stories, weird food stories, university jokes, of course discussed the matter of Saudi wives, Saudi lives… general GCC problems, corona virus, A. and I shared a few Bahri stories, couldn’t help it (the Saudi company that I work with), S. cooked us everything, and didn’t let us do anything – this is how they always treat guests.
I enjoyed outdoors, enjoyed the stars and our tight circle around the fire in the growing-cold night. Some people say that Arabs are indifferent to the beauty of the nature, something that what we look at with round eyes and tons of astonishment, they regard as “yeah, the stars… aha, another piece of desert” but I believe they are super proud to bring us out there and share that with us.
It was one of the best days of my life. Thank you A., thank you S., thank you Saudi Arabia, I enjoyed every little moment of that day.
A night to remember
Passion for life
Stories to inspire
New friends to acquire
And never get tired
To go on adventures
If so your heart desires
Welcome to Saudi Arabia