The Journey to the Edge of the World

On the 18th of February, my family and I along with a couple of family friends went on an excursion to the Edge of the World.

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The red line roughly indicates the location of Tuwaiq escarpment in Saudi Arabia. (Source: http://wiki.eanswers.com/de/Saudi-Arabie)

The Edge of the World is basically part of the approximately 800km long Tuwaiq escarpment running north-south in the middle of the Najd region of Saudi Arabia. We Riyadhis recognize it very well because we have to pass through the structure whenever we travel by road to Makkah (Route 40, at the outskirts of Riyadh city), Madinah (Route 65, shortly before Al-Ghat) or anywhere west of the country. However, despite the fact that I have seen it too many times, this does not mean that I do not experience the same level of euphoria each time we dart through it: I’d squeal and take lots of photos of the scenery! Once, I made a silent promise to suck all the beauty only through my two eyes but I’m sure you can guess how well that turned out…

Anyways,

I found out about this place some time ago and have since asked my parents to go there numerous times—too many times that I was certain we’d leave this country without having the chance to visit the place! Hence, when the day finally came, I wasn’t too thrilled. (Perhaps, without me realizing, I was worried about how I was going carry out necessary “businesses” in a place far from home.)

But that completely changed as we got closer and closer to our destination.

During the journey, we passed several small towns that evoked old memories, some fruit and vegetable vendors selling a variety of produce including large pumpkins, date orchards that resembled palm tree plantations in Malaysia, an olive farm, and more.

Not long after passing an abandoned chicken factory, we made a right turn. But this time it was no ordinary right turn because the path we were on just moments ago only stretched forward—not left or right—and since it was all rocks and stones from there on, this meant switching our car into 4WD mode.

Without any opportunity to warm-up, our first obstacle, a flowing wadi, was just a stone’s throw away.

After successfully crossing the wadi, we continued our bumpy journey until we witnessed a caravan of camels appear on the horizon. We got out of our car and met the camels and the Sudanese shepherd who was responsible of keeping an eye on them as they roamed the desert from early morning until sunset. As we were interacting with him and some of his four-legged friends, the other camels slowly disappeared into the distance. Then, just like his camels, the man disappeared from our sight.

Less than 5 minutes after saying goodbye to the shepherd, we found ourselves parked opposite a lake. The reason: to answer the call of nature. Before turning off the engine, we positioned our car close to the other car in such a way that would barricade the strong chilly wind from blowing away the portable potty tent that was going to be set up.

As each one of us went in, the others explored the area called Sudus Dam.

Once again, we resumed our journey.

As we headed towards the gateway to oblivion, we roved through countless large rocks of different shapes and sizes, passed by a secluded house at the bottom of a cliff, crossed at least three dry wadis, witnessed a congress of eagles feeding on carcass, and drove past a field of glistening stones before hitting the brake. Of course, that only happened after I banged my head inside the car several times!

Since the track ahead was too extreme for our car, it had to be parked at a distance from our final destination and from thereon, we had to trek by foot for around 10 to 15 minutes. Although the wind was strong, the trek was really peaceful and I loved the sound that was produced as I stepped on the tiny stones beneath me.

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Throughout the short walk, we observed many rocks like these that were covered with fossilized barnacles on the ground around us, a clear evidence of this place’s past state as an ocean.

Later, I found myself standing at the Edge of the World. Down below, I saw the veiny trails of dry riverbeds spreading ahead, shrubs dotting the surface, and buttes jutting out of the ground. At one point, I spotted a bird gliding in the air beneath me and when I shouted, it replied back. It felt good to finally be able to stand on top of Tuwaiq escarpment after admiring it from afar all this while.

Before leaving the place, I had to do one more thing: the depth test. I picked up several stones lying around on the ground and threw them off the cliff one by one. After throwing a stone, there was a moment of silence before I heard a soft thud echoing back at me. Falling into the abyss is definitely going to be rough.

We left the place an hour or so after noon and on our way back, we stopped at a beautiful oasis to have lunch. There, we set up the portable toilet again, pitched a tent, cooked chickens, squids, and shrimps on the barbecue, feasted, played, and wandered around the place.

After an amazing day spent in the desert, we returned home covered in sand, our skin smelling like the sea.

The End.


If you want to see more pictures, visit my Instagram page: https://www.instagram.com/asyrafmutalib/

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