05-Nov-2004 -- It was a quiet Friday Ramaḍān morning in Jidda, and most people were sleeping as it was the main day not working, and all Muslims who are fasting during the day had been up very early eating the last meal before the dawn of sunrise. We headed north on the main expressway past the airport, past the police checkpoint at the junction with the ring road, and continued on for a short time on the main Madīna highway to the exit at Dhahbān. One driver of a truck had obviously gone to sleep on the expressway and rolled his truck - the police had their flashing lights on and the highway maintenance crew were busy picking up cartons of potatoes, which had spilled out on to the road.
We knew we could not get to the actual confluence point, as we could see by looking at the maps that it is in the sea. However, we thought it would be interesting to see how close we could get, as there didn't appear to be main roads around the area, there were many lagoons, and the whole area near the seashore appeared to be sabkha. For those not familiar with the term, sabkha is silt, clay and sand flats with saline incrustations that may appear firm but are not - very dangerous as it is a bit like quicksand - usually by the sea, but sometimes hundreds of km inland. Quite often there is only an inch of top crust that appears firm, but if you drive on it the weight of the car will break through and it will be a big challenge to get out.
The small village of Dhahbān is left off the expressway, and we drove through the town and followed the main road out of the village, which was heading west towards the sea. This was surprisingly a good divided road with concrete safety blocks in the middle because it was leading to a fancy private beach resort built 10 years ago, called Durrat al-`Arūs ("Pearl of the Bride"), which catered for the more well-to-do of Jidda. Nearing the resort, the ubiquitous concrete walls appeared in the distance claiming an area many times bigger than the resort. We turned off the pavement and drove north along the side of the wall on a firm sand track.
The track by the wall continued zigzagging north/northwest for 6.3 km following the edge of the sabkha. The further we went out, the worse the sabkha became alongside the track, and we stopped with 2 km to go and had a look to make sure it was safe to continue, as the salt water was creeping over the sabkha. If the wall had not been built, then we would not have had a safe track to follow out. The track stopped at the water's edge on a narrow sand bar with sabkha behind us.
The GPS showed 1.5 km to the confluence point, which as expected was in the middle of a big lagoon. It is unlikely that this Confluence point will be bagged by boat, as this area is patrolled by the Coast Guard who will quickly detain any boat leaving from the shore.
There was a sandy beach with small bushes growing in the sand with the blue waters in the background and clumps of green bushes growing on other sand bars. It appeared to be an ideal place for birds like flamingos but we did not see any. Certainly it was much more colourful than many of the sandy brown confluence points that we have visited in Saudi Arabia.