12-Feb-2003 -- In the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, instead of a scattering of 1-2 day public holidays through the year there are two 5-7 day breaks, for the celebrations at the end of Ramaḍān and at the climax of the Ḥajj. Residents thus have the opportunity to make a long trip, either inside or outside the country. Our group of eight chose to visit the western edge of the Empty Quarter, with four of us extending the trip to 10 days with a similarly off-tarmac (although not as sandy) visit to the centre of the country. The 10 day round trip was 1,300 km off road, plus another 1,700 km on tarmac positioning the vehicles. We visited 8 Confluences, four in a square on the western side of the Empty Quarter (20N 46E, 20N 47E, 19N 47E, and 19N 46E), one in the adjacent "triangle" defined by the surrounding tarmac roads (18N 45E), and three in the central plateau region (21N 44E, 22N 43E, and 23N 43E).
Four of us, in two vehicles, tackled the fifth Confluence in an area known locally as "the triangle" because of the surrounding roads. After coming out of the Empty Quarter area we had been travelling in (see 19N 46E), we refuelled (at the second petrol station we knew, the first being dry). These were the high days of `Īd al-Aḍḥā, with other local motorists being in high spirits, the children clamouring to have their pictures taken in their new clothes.
As well as fuel we replenished our water and had a punctured tyre repaired. With the advantage of hindsight, we could have chosen a slightly easier route to the South than the one we took, and have avoided crossing some sand to the gravel plain in which the Confluence lay. However, having reluctantly deflated our tyres once more, the crossing was easy.
We then made our way south to the luxury of a night's stay in a hotel in Najrān. The main track took us through varied scenery of gravel, sand, spectacularly dusty alluvial plain, and volcanic hills, to a conveniently placed garage on the outskirts of the city.
At the hotel we enjoyed an `Īd banquet, very unusually accompanied by a band, with even more unusually female (child) vocalists, and then lingered for rounds of mint tea on the warm terrace by the pool.
Continued at 21N 44E.