After the palace of Ibrahim, the Qaisariah souq and the Jawatha mosque, I feel it is time for a more natural sight. I have set my eyes on Qara Mountain to do so. Before going up the mountain, I first drive the circular road around it, to have views from below. The rock rises sharply from a flat landscape of date palm trees: a spectacular sight. After parking my car on the northeastern side, I walk back to the base of the mountain, and hike straight up the steep, pink-white-red slopes. A lot of rubbish lies around, mostly resting in the small cracks in the mountain slopes. The higher I get, the less trash. My goal is to reach the highest ridge, and eventually get their by squeezing myself through a very narrow gap between two boulders. The gap is full of plastic bottles and other waste. I wonder how long this will remain here, given that it hardly ever rains, and the only way to get rid of it would be a major cleanup operation. When I reach the ridge, I am close to some rounded formations, shaped by wind and rain erosion. The houses of the neighbourhood are below me, and I can see other rocks rising from the plains. But mostly, all around, I see vast plantations of date palms, stretching to the horizon. I have been driving through them during the day, but it is only now that I realize how enormous they are. In fact, this is supposed to be the biggest collection of date palms in the world, with roughly three million trees.
Walking the ridge is easy, and the views remain spectacular. Apart from the enormous oasis surrounding Jebel Qara, or Qara Mountain, I see rocky pillars sticking out and pointing up. Erosion everywhere. Some of the formations look fragile, and it is their fragility that makes them stand out. Now that I am walking on top of the rocky mountain, I can see how big it is: the rather flat top of the rock extends towards the south and the west. Two large antennas are standing tall, taking advantage of the high postion of the mountain to serve all those mobile phones around the oasis. Of course, the top of the mountain is not really flat: I have to climb up and down gullies in the surface. In one, I find mud, reminding me of the quite exceptional rain that fell just a day before. When I reach the western edge of the mountain, I see that there are more spectacular pillar formations here. I carefully walk the edge of the mountain, looking deep into the narrow canyons below. I end up hiking around them, sometimes hitting a rock where I cannot continue, so I backtrack and continue south along the edge.
When I finally descend, I walk along the western side of Qara Mountain, which gives me better views of the rock formations from below. The day has been cloudless, but now, the sun sometimes disappears behind grey-white castles slowly moving through the sky. When the sun comes through, though, its warm afternoon light deepens the earth colours of the rock formations. At one point, there is a row of rocky pillars, at others, boulders precariously rest on much smaller rocks. I often see parts of boulders lying scattered on the ground: they have given in to gravity, after probably thousands of years of being part of a formation themselves. This landscape clearly is changing and developing constantly. I walk towards the north now, with Qara Mountain on my right hand side. I come past several potteries: the mountain is famous for them. Unfortunately. I do not have more time here, so I continue walking. I make a small detour to Camel Rock: a small rock similar to Jebel Qara, but much smaller. And in the shape of the famous desert animal. After walking through the neighbourhood at the base of the mountain, I am back at my car. One last glance at that big rock, and I am on my way back to Dammam just before sunset.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Al Qara mountain (Saudi Arabia). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Al Qara mountain. Read more about this site.