Home to expat life in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

Weekend trips away from Jeddah include:

Marble Village (Baha) A little further afield, but still reachable over the weekend, the Marble Village alone is well worth a trip. Baha, like Taif, is in the mountains and so also enjoys a far more favourable temperature. It also has a steep escarpment road, running into and out of tunnels on the way up and down. Our trip was to the Marble Village, rather than to Baha itself. Drive to Taif and on to Baha. You reach the Marble Village first; it is at the bottom of the escarpment, Baha is at the top.

Wabah Crater The crater was supposedly formed by one of the last big meteorites hitting earth. No idea of the size, but it's big, and well worth a visit. It took us two attempts to reach the crater. The first attempt we were let down by too many flat tyres, but Brian got us there the second time, complete with a sandstorm. Barren rock and desert all around, but a number of oases supporting green spongy grass and palm trees make a welcome change of scenery as we start the climb down from the top of the rim. There is a thin layer of salt crust on top, hiding several inches of mud below. You're all right if you keep on walking, but go too slowly or stop and you'll sink up to the ankles at least. Verdict? Well worth it! The crater is reached via the Riyadh motorway after going through Taif.

Madain Saleh Petra is world famous for its Nabatean tombs, helped along by a generation having watched Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. But there is another Nabatean city in the Arabian Gulf, Madain Saleh, where the Nabateans headed after building Petra. The tombs are believed to have been carved between 100 BC and 100 AD. Although in better condition than those in Petra, they are better preserved, and have the benefits of the Hejaz Railway on the doorstep. True Lawrence of Arabia country. Madain Saleh is just off the main road to the right on the way to Al Ula from Medina. Look fro a sign saying "Antiquities". 

Hejaz Railway The Hejaz Railway was built by Sultan Abdul Hamid II of the Ottoman Empire, running from Damascus to Medina. It began operation in 1908, but only lasted until 1917, brought down by the collapse of the Ottoman Empire who sided with the Germans in World War I. The station has been restored, and houses some of the remains of engines and trucks used in the short period the railway was running. A rebuilt Turkish fort stands very close to the station. Follow directions to Madain Saleh; the remains of the track and the odd engine can be seen on the way, with the main station is on the edge of Madain Saleh.

Abha and Khamis Mushayt Abha is the capital of the Asir region, with Khamis Mushayt ("Thursday Market") situated 30kms to its east. The architecture of the area is the main reason for visiting, with an amazing mixture of old and new. In the towns and villages of the area people still live in mud houses but note the electrical wiring and television aerials in the photos. Fly and get a rental car, allowing access to the beauty of Khamis Mushayt and Najran in the heart of the Asir Region. Rolling sands in the desert lead on into the Empty Quarter.

Najran About 170kms east of Khamis Mushayt, Najran, a trading town in the centre of Bedouin country and complete with its mud fort, makes a trip to this part of the kingdom worthwhile. Supposedly inhabited for over 4000 years, it grew up on the frankincense route, and its souk (market) remains one of the best places to buy silver Bedouin jewellery. Allegedly the inner courtyard of the Najran Fort dates from pre-Islamic times, but the present fort was started as recently as 1942 to be a royal residence. Not only is it free to get in, but you don't need a permit! Follow highway 15 east from Khamis.

Empty Quarter Not much out here, hence the name! Highway 15 continues east from Najran into the middle of the Empty Quarter on a 330kms journey to Sharourah. Nothing to visit in Sharourah, but the journey from Najran includes canyons of sand dunes either side of the road. And you'll see plenty of Bedouin leading the same style of life as they have led for centuries. Continue following highway 15 east from Khamis, once you reach Sharourah, turn around and head back to Najran.

Wadi Turbah The wadi lived up to its name. Bigger trees that I'd seen anywhere else in the kingdom, as well as a large expanse of water, surrounded and camels, goats, sheep and cattle. And confirmation of how much the locals hate dogs, with us finding a dead one strung up from a tree.