05-Apr-2004 -- We were on a 9-day trip to the northern area of the Kingdom. We had already visited four other confluence points. We had travelled in the morning from our great camping spot by Jabal Bird near 27N 39E, to the main north road leading to Taymā' and Tabūk.
After an hour, we reached the ancient town of Taymā' which rose to great prominence as a caravan city and religious centre. It is an old oasis in a well-watered depression surrounded by arid waste in all directions. It contains a variety of archaeological sites dating from prehistoric to the Islamic period. We stopped coming into the city to take photos of the city wall built in the 6th century BC with stones, mud and clay which was up to 10 metres high, 1-2 metres wide and over 10 km long – still in good shape after 2,500 years or so.
There is an excellent museum explaining the history of the area and when it closed at noon, the Saudi assistant then kindly led us up the backstreets to see the old well of Bi'r Haddaj which is one of the most famous wells in the Arabian Peninsula. Nearby is the impressive Amir's fort, which was originally built 300 years ago of stones and mud as a fort, mosque and palace but has been at different times expanded and restored. It was used by government departments until 30 years ago and has some great wooden doors.
We had lunch takeaways from the local Indian restaurants in the local park surrounded by a colourful display of wild flowers and in the shade of Aussie gum trees. Then we refuelled and restocked and left Taymā' continuing north across the barren landscape. When we left the main road to head for the confluence point, we were in the middle of a runway, which is quite unusual as it is the middle of nowhere. The road has painted lines all over the place and is widened to act as an emergency landing strip.
It was only 6.5 km to go in a straight line to the confluence point, but it took a while as we had to circle around big rocky hills to get there. By following the sandy tracks behind the rock jabal we got nearer, but we kept looking at the direct distance to go on the GPS of under 2 km as it was not changing much as we circled around. After a few false attempts, we finally found some faint tracks that led us up to the top of the rocky basalt plateau and slowly we got nearer the point. We had to stop driving with 650 metres to go as it was getting too rough.
It was a pleasant walk over the barren rock with a few small sandy gulleys in between. The confluence point lay in a wider sandy depression with a single gourd plant growing a few metres south where a little water had drained. However, we were a little surprised to see one bedu car track indicating that if we had gone further around the bottom of the plateau we may have been able to drive in. As usual, we marked our success by making a cross from the nearby rocks. We took our various photos including the north view from the ridge above the point with bigger jabals in the distance.
We retraced our way to the main road but made better time as we knew the best route. As we approached the main road, we saw a parked police car in the distance. The police slowly drove up to us probably wondering what we had been doing off road in such a deserted area. But a friendly wave from us satisfied their curiosity and we were on our way north to al-Qalība on the Tabūk road.
Continued at 29N 38E.