20-Oct-2005 -- We had travelled from Jidda and Riyāḍ and met at the al-Šuqrān turnoff on the new Qaṣīm - Madīna expressway. It was not our original plan to visit this confluence point as we had to be some distance away by sunset to have the traditional Ramaḍān breaking fast meal (Ifṭār) with a Saudi family. But it looked an easy point to get to, so we drove north from the turnoff for an hour to Ḥulayfa, and then cut across the sand plains in an easterly direction, only to find a new paved road going where we wanted. The paved road ended at the small village of Ma`arraš, and we had only gone half a km into the sand when a Saudi with an official emblem on his vehicle stopped us and asked what we were doing. It turned out he was the Amīr of Ma`arraš (similar to the mayor) and ordered us to come back to the 'Markaz' – his residence and official local centre.
It is the month of Ramaḍān when all Muslims must fast in the daylight hours, so we were pleasantly surprised by his generous hospitality in providing dates, fresh camel milk, and juice for us western travellers. He questioned us why we were in his area and fortunately Saleem can speak Arabic and could converse. After lengthy explanations and consultation with higher authorities, the amīr gave us permission to continue.
Accompanied by the amīr and his sons, we proceeded for 3 km and walked the last 50 metres across the soft sand of the wādiy bed to the confluence point, and took our customary photos.
It was the first confluence point for Lars, and the last one for our very good friend Fen whom we have travelled with many times in the desert - he is leaving the Kingdom soon. This is certainly one point that will be remembered.