11-Dec-2009 -- This confluence point is about ninety minutes' drive from Jidda, a good Friday afternoon's entertainment.
Leaving Jidda on the Makka road, we took the non-Muslim southern route before heading south towards the confluence point. Google Earth images showed a tarmac road for the first few kilometres, fading out quickly to a well-marked track leading southwards. Since the satellite images were taken, however, the asphalt road has been extended to within almost 500 metres of the parking spot.
Having researched why the earlier visits were incomplete, we checked Google Earth to find the closet approach possible by car, which was at the foot of a little wādiy emerging from the hills above. The point itself is approximately 600 metres away from parking spot, and 178 metres of vertical climb over boulders, rocks, and scree.
Within two minutes of parking the cars, a Toyota pickup arrived full of local youths and a bare-footed village elder, checking out who the strangers were in their territory. A few smiles, “ḥabībīs” and handshakes ensured that the atmosphere remained friendly. They were clearly perplexed as to why four westerners would be in the desert, wanting to climb ‘their’ jabal. Our lack of Arabic meant that we had no way of communicating our goal for the day.
The four of us set up off up the jabal, easily at first but with increasing difficulty as the slope increased and the rocks and boulders got more tricky to negotiate. The brilliant, hot December sunshine made reading the GPS screen quite difficult, necessitating frequent stops to check our progress across the steep terrain. At last after several scrambles over the scree, we found the fabled zeros location (the zee-spot?), but didn't quite manage to capture it on camera before it frustratingly changed to 001.
The views to the North back across the valley were spectacular, with numerous Bedouin settlements visible up and down the valley. The view from the top would have been even better, but we noticed more locals arriving at our cars parked in the distance and we agreed it was probably better to return to our vehicles rather than proceed further up the hill.
As it is often the case, the way back down was trickier than the way up, as the loose stones kept slipping away from underneath us, making the descent slower. Geologists would love the variety of rocks and features to be seen in this area.
Returning to the cars and bidding our local companions a fond farewell, we headed back home via the sand dunes south of Makka, enjoying a picnic lunch and a thrash in our 4x4s up and down the dunes.