07-Feb-2002 -- My third attempt at visiting the Star Dunes finally succeeded. In addition we managed to visit a degree confluence as well. See visit 26N 47E. The journey took us NW along the highway towards Burayda and then north into remoteness. Wheeling east, we finally struck the tarmac road which led south to Riyāḍ. The trip consisted of approximately 200 km of tarmac (outgoing), 120 km of sand, 230 km tarmac (incoming).
This trip started out from Riyāḍ at 10 am on Thursday (the first day of the weekend in this part of the world). The five trusty 4x4 vehicles assembled, equipped to spend the night out. We were also equipped with much more than mere camping luxuries, to ensure that nothing hindered our return from this fairly remote location.
We travelled for about 160 km until we left the narrow tarmac road and headed west for about four kilometres along crisscrossing tracks. The degree confluence was located in the middle of a large limestone plain with a small escarpment approximately 8–10 km to the North. The plain was populated with two nomadic Bedouin camps and a few goats and camels. As expected in the desert, the vegetation was very sparse and did not seem able to sustain the few animals that we saw. The actual site was in the middle of a few acres of low brushwood, which was agonizing as we feared for our tyres. We clicked the obligatory photographs while Jameel (the dog) performed the obligatory tyre-wetting ritual.
We then drove approximately 40 km to the end of the tarmac and the last fuel station. After filling up, we headed 40 km just west of North into the red sands of the Dahnā' Dunes where we needed to deflate our tyres in order to avoid bogging down in the soft sand. This set of dune lines connects the Nafūd desert in the North of Saudi Arabia, to the Rub` al-Khāliy desert in the South. At this point in the Dahnā' Dunes, the sand rises up into high peaks with ridges of sand spiralling outwards in all directions. These "Star Dunes" looked magnificent as the shadows of the late afternoon sun gave them surreal depth. Climbing one of these peaks at dusk proved even more magnificent. Approximately twenty star dunes protruded out of the sand down the dune lines, as far as the eye could see.
The cold night air was defeated by a well-timed campfire and well insulated sleeping bags. A morning climb to the top of the star dune proved equally stunning as the morning shadows highlighted the geography of the other star dunes. We only had time to visit another six star dunes, each having it’s own individual splendor. As time pressed on, we located the track between the main dune line and drove 80 km east to the safety of the tarmac road. The final 230 km of the homeward drive bade farewell to another excellent weekend in the sand.