Al Bahah – Day I

Dhi Ayn Ruins

78 Kms from the Al Muzaylif exit are the Dhi Ayn or Dhi Ain ruins. I did read a bit about it earlier and found out it was a UNESCO Heritage site. The entrance is managed by a sleepy fellow (probably because he didn’t expect us crazies to come there on a Friday morning). We reached the entrance and waited for a while for the guard to open the gates. However, there was no response and the small cabin was closed completely. So we thought it was closed for public at that time. But before turning back, we decided to take a last shot. So T got out of the car and knocked at the cabin’s door. Finally, that evoked some response from the guard there and we could finally enter the village.

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Thankfully, the authorities have kept an entrance fee of SR 10/per person which ensures that only well-meaning public enters the site. It is being developed beautifully with parks, children’s play areas and canteens at the bottom.

Imagine how it must have looked 400 years ago without any modern transportation facilities. The little part of village right on top was not accessible as it was being renovated.

It was AMAZING! Nestled between mountains, the ruins were actually remains of a 400-year-old village. It was built entirely of stone with wooden doors and windows and mud roofs (I am not big on identifying different materials, but it did look like mud). Some houses were standalone, some were multi storeyed, and some had a veranda outside. A few were without windows, and one was so small, I wondered what kind of a person was made to live there. When we saw all that, we could actually picture people living there, the door and windows intact. The inside of the houses were mostly shut off as the doors had been sealed to avoid misuse of the historical site. However, in one house, we found a door open, and I, being the curious cat that I am, entered it. It was a bit unnerving. I entered a place where people used to live and breathe 400 years ago. Although it was pitch dark inside and I couldn’t see anything, for a moment I felt like a part of something bigger. Like the past has come alive around me (Not in the literal sense please!).

Parts of it were still under renovation when we went there. So we could not access the topmost part of the ruins as it was closed for public.

Look at the perfectly built buildings and staircases. You can even see the little entrance far below on the road.

It is also known as the ‘Marble Village’ because it is built on a Marble Hill. There is a stream that goes by below the hill which has resulted in lush green vegetation at the foothills, especially date palms and banana trees. There is a graveyard on the opposite hill which probably belonged to the ancient tribe that lived there then, as we could not see any other place to bury the villagers (that is, when the village was thriving back then).

After spending an hour there, we proceeded to the city.

I couldn’t see what I was clicking the Camera at, as the glare of the sun was extreme.

The road towards Al Baha is an extremely steep climb with breath-taking views and the road itself is strewn with numerous tunnels. It took us around 45 minutes to cross three mountains and climb up at a very normal speed. The temperature fell quickly as we were making the climb, to 16 degrees once we were up there. We entered the city at almost 11:30 AM. It seemed quite deserted since it was a Friday afternoon. After checking into our hotel and freshening up a bit at the hotel, we rushed to a nearby mosque and finished our prayers. After that, we hogged down some cake that I usually make on our road trips, decided to skip lunch and go to Raghadan Forest Park. It was very close to our hotel and perfect for us since we were both quite tired after the long drive.

Raghadan Forest Park

It is a HUGE park starting from where were standing to where you can see the little gazebos in the picture and beyond!

After driving up a mountain behind our hotel for a little bit, we saw the entrance to the forest park. The entrance is free but it is only for families. So don’t bother if you are a group of guys, LOL! The place is beautiful. Situated so high up in the mountains, the park was lush green with family picnic areas, full of tents and gazebos, benches at strategic viewpoints and lots of parking space available. We could also see a lot of monkeys, cats and dogs in the park. And also, there was a good number of cleaning staff for maintaining the park. We could only marvel at the efforts being made to keep the park clean and green.

Oh would you just look at that!

The weather was superb! Just like I wanted. And oh my god the mountains! And the view! And the wind! If you stand too close to the cliff (there was a railing as you can see in the picture), it felt as if it would blow you off. Nevertheless, we sat on a bench overlooking the cliff. It was beauty like you would never expect in Saudi Arabia. We sat there for about an hour, teeth chattering in the howling wind, until at last weariness got the better of us.

Food is a very important factor for both of us. But we were not in the mood to eat something from the usual food chains. Instead, we found a great place for Saudi food. We had some Chicken Madghoot and Kunafah, probably the best food I ever had, and ended our day there .

Find out about the Saturday Market in Baljurashi and the Al Janabeen Dam here.

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