Sooner or later, every visitor to Riyadh will find themselves beguiled by the sight of those beautiful red sands lying to the west and north-east of the city. ‘Old timers’ find that it doesn’t seem to matter how often they revisit them; they always captivate the imagination and every time is a pleasure renewed.
Climbing a sand dune is an experience that is very difficult to describe, and certainly one that is not to be missed. For a start, it’s hard work! You find your leg muscles straining to make ground as your feet slide back into the soft sand and when you reach the top there is the added pleasure of actually running down the steep face with the dune acting as a brake against the force of gravity.
One of the best places to enjoy the ‘dune experience’ is some 50kms down the Makkah road where the red sands meet the hard rock of the escarpment. Driving there is very easy; you can park on hard rock and be climbing up a high dune in next to no time.
And when it has rained, there is an added bonus. As water channels its way off the escarpment, it cascades down the rocks as a gushing waterfall into a natural lake, attracting wild life and a mass of green vegetation that weeks earlier would have been unthought of. The Sa’udis give this area the name ‘Mishash Karraragh’, which roughly translates as ‘the gurgling stream and the marsh’.
To reach Karraragh, drive down the Makkah Road, through the check point and on to junction 7. Here you turn back on yourself, heading back to Riyadh for a couple of kilometers until you see a garage on your right whose owner must have bought a job-lot of pink paint!
50 metres on (24o 26.95’ N, 46o 15.38’ E), you turn right onto a tarmac road which twists its way up to and through the dunes. (This road is sometimes closed off, in which case you 'cut the corner' from the garage onto the road 100m further on). You pass a small mosque around 5kms from the main road junction, and another two kilometres on, the dunes on your left fall away, making room for a large plateau of rubble.
Follow the tracks through this plateau area until you come to a very large area fenced off with camel fencing and then follow the fencing counter-clockwise until it makes a right-angled left turn.
Some 400 metres on from here you will see a track forking uphill to your right away from the camel fencing. Go up this very uneven track and at the top, make a sharp left turn, descending along the established track and following it round until you come to a flat area that has obviously been used by many for a makeshift car park.
From here it is a mere 50 metres to the dunes and to the waterfall rocks of Karrarah.
On your way back, having left the hard top rubble, look for a turning on your right about 2kms on.
Down here you can find another lake after it has rained, which makes a pleasant walk in the cooler months.
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