Sunday, May 10, 2020

What Would You Imagine the Edge of the World to Look Like?

About 1.5 hours outside of the city of Riyadh, our Toyota Land Cruiser equipped with a push-button tire deflator turned off of a paved road to pass through an inconspicuously marked gate, and proceeded for another hour overland. Overland because there's no road - we just traveled over the land, literally. Without any trail markers, our driver (Hussein) and guide (Mr. Saleh) navigated rough terrain and sand dunes, around random trees seemingly out of place, over ditches, down steep declines, and through other hazards not meant for driving through. We stopped at the base of what seemed like a steep climb. This was the beginning of the hike.

We started at 6AM from Riyadh to arrive at our hike by 8:30AM to ensure we wouldn't be sapped by the power of daylight. For a under an hour, we climbed up what we eventually figured out was the backside of the cliff that dropped off into the canyon.

And the view was stunning...

Why is this called the Edge of the World? Some say that it's because the view answered the posed question, "What would you imagine the edge of the world to look like?"

The imagery, the reality is nothing short of amazing. It's something like a scene from a J.R.R. Tolkien or J.J. Abrams or George Lucas film. In fact, I remember thinking how this could be the next film site quite like how Gladiator was filmed out in Ait Benhaddou in the middle of the Morocco. If Saudi's doors stay open and film crews are willing to travel, the scenery will not disappoint.

The canyon is strewn with what looked like sand roads or walking paths are actually dried up river beds that emerged from the higher altitudes (where we were standing) and traced away from us, as far as the eye can see. The cliff walls on the one side forming the canyon beneath made you wonder what caused the drastic drop off. The strange rock formation out in the distance likely carved by wind and sand formed spire-like structures. The blue of the sky and the parching sun above contrasted by the brown of the earth can only make you think of how baked this land really is and how long it's been since water passed this way. I imagined the same scene above but in a lush green and blue many hundreds of years ago. Can you imagine that?

But what's left is just rock, sand, salt and the arrid weather. Is this a product of climate change? I doubt we'll ever know.

An excursion like this wouldn't have been possible without trustworthy guides and drivers. Think about what we were going through here. We didn't have the benefit of thousands of reviews or big travel companies or other reliable resources. We did this trip with more risk than usual, and the results did not disappoint. I'd be remiss if I didn't thank these guys for their hospitality and kindness.

Side story: As usual with any great experience, you should tip your guides and drivers. When I tried to tip Hussein, he declined it. Throughout our adventure, we talked a lot about our lives, sharing stories and anecdotes. His was particularly interesting as a Muslim Indian man having moved to Saudi Arabia at first for work but eventually for adventure. Hussein described to us the natural wonders and beautiful scenery that KSA has to offer but is still yet untapped. We began to understand his way of life, his M.O., and his faith with all the stories, insights, and experiences he shared. And by the end of the day, when he declined the tip and called it haram, or forbidden, it was the truest projection of himself and his beliefs.

Ajwaad Advenutures

Mr. Saleh


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