22-Jul-2005 -- It was a normal summer's day in Jidda - very hot and very humid. We decided to go for a drive south down the new direct road to al-Līth for an hour and a half and have a swim near Šu`ayba. The water at the edge was as hot as bath water but further out it was quite refreshing and we stayed in until the hands were well wrinkled. After cooling off and having lunch we decided to explore further up the coast, as it was too hot to sit around.
This northern Šu`ayba area has two big lagoons with bright blue water and a few mangrove plants on the side. The afternoon was full of surprises as we left the paved roads and came across 3 wrecked ships, which appear to have been deliberately run aground on the nearby reef many years ago. The first one was the rusted al-Fahad, which was listing badly. Further north of the second lagoon there were 2 more shipwrecks – the al-Basmala and the Saudi Golden Arrow plus an abandoned tug and a fishing boat.
We continued north crossing the sabkha keeping right on the main tracks - sabkha is silt, clay and sand flats with saline incrustations that may appear firm but are not - very dangerous. The main tracks were close to the water's edge of a big shallow bay, and there were no other vehicles in this area so we certainly didn't want to get stuck. Further north, the tracks ran alongside new concrete walls, which had been built for approximately 10 km, claiming a big area for future development on the coast.
Soon afterwards we came to the end of the paved road of the southern Corniche, which stretches 90 km south of the Jidda industrial area. This coastline road was built many years ago and is littered with rusted light poles that never got erected and strewn with garbage. The coastline is unattractive as the sea is very shallow making swimming impossible as the reef is very far out at this point, there are few sandy places for picnics, and no commercial or residential development has yet taken place.
We decided to stop at exactly 21° North - nearly the nearest position on land to the actual confluence point, the road goes slightly north-westwards so one could get slightly closer, but who really cares with such a distance. Our GPS arrow pointed to the confluence point 28.7 km directly out to the Red Sea. 1 km south was a small bay, which was used by a few fishermen to leave their boats and a Coast Guard station watching for any unauthorized movement of boats. As western expatriates are not allowed to own or rent boats, this means being at this point on land is as close as we can get to the confluence point. Sweat ran down our faces as we took a few photos. The light wind had died and the hot, hazy, muggy conditions were certainly not pleasant, and our digital camera also didn't like it, having problems adjusting to the lighting conditions. After taking our photos, we continued north along the Corniche for an hour and back to Jidda.