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  • Writer's pictureVoita

On the Edge

I will never learn. Tourism is not a factory of dreams; certainly not of the fulfilled ones. Except for dreams we can dream on the couch without experiencing reality. The courage to pursue a dream seen in the factory is usually rewarded with disappointment and a sense of wasted time and burned money.

The alternative is hitchhiking, which, on the contrary, fulfills dreams we didn't even know we could dream.

slow morning

waiting for departure

Riyadh's Mekka

But in a new country, I feel shy and need to slowly get back on my feet. So, I nodded to a shared car with a few Indians working in KSA and a handful of Saudi girls who would fit into a latest K-pop video with wild clothing, hairstyles, and Muslim modesty safely stashed away with their parents.

village visit

no English to the guide

one of the girls fortunately translated

We set off in the middle of the afternoon, a time when most non-working people here wake up. A tribute to the steamy summer, when even at night one bathes in their own sweat upon their first venture out of an AC'd space. We head into the desert, to the Edge of the World.

car tripping

into the desert




Most tourism nowadays unfolds from the car window. Phones have given people the perfect excuse not to exert themselves or even get out; a photo suffices, the duty to be there having been fulfilled. When we do get out, it's as we drive right up to the ruins of a house by which we whisper, 'People lived here 50 years ago. Watch out, the roof is falling.' Everyone diligently takes pictures of the collapsed walls and moves on. My friend from India remarks that it looks just like his parents' house, in which his family still lives.

arrival to the Edge


Edge of the World



Then, along with a few dozen SUVs, we head into the desert. The landscape resembles Spain; barren, arid, with shrubs scattered between cubical houses. Once we leave the road, it would be so easy to get lost. We're in a National Park, having passed through a gate that closes at night, but there's no entrance fee.

fossils in the rock

my face

did you see my face

I Was There.

Look.

My Face.

Stop looking at the nature!

Cliffs and plateaus made of layers that were millennia ago an ocean surround us. Our guide enthusiastically collects fossilized trilobites and other fossils blindly stepped on by others. The rock layers beautifully reveal sedimentary history woven into the stone.

coffee on the Edge

day is done

in comes a cold night

huddled picnic

leaving the NP

The Edge of the World is a fracture several thousand feet long, where the landscape sharply drops 300 to 500 feet. The deeper part sits to the west of the fracture, and people come here to watch the sunset, drink tea, grill meat, and listen to music. It's windy as hell, and we may have hired a cheaper guide; our group has to do without a fire, just rice and chicken. Traditionally, a lot of spices are used in KSA, but in the desert we get but a pinch of salt. The Indians who don't eat chicken get boiled vegetables. They don't look very enthusiastic. But apart from the whining wind, it's a pleasant night, so we sit and talk.

all your dreams

Tonight.

Will Come True.

bring your wallet

... and don't think ...

The way back takes almost two hours again, but the driver drops us off near one of Riyadh's largest entertainment centers. So, at night, I stroll among stalls, giant LCD panels reminiscent of Tokyo, and stages for music and other performances. It feels like a small Expo, but instead of culture, visitors hoover up food and shop designer clothes. In the evening a DJ plays as if the stage was in a smoky club full of alcohol and drugs. Here everyone sits on benches and only children dance in the center. I have a bit of trouble getting into the performance, but everyone around me seems to be enjoying the evening.

It's the penultimate day of school holidays; on Sunday, everyone will be back behind bars. Supposedly.

light in the darkness

projection mapping

lightshow

The gates close at midnight, and thousands of people spill out of the shopping park. Public transport doesn't run here, and all taxis are highly contested. It takes me a good half hour, during which it starts to drizzle lightly, before one takes pity on me. And then over an hour back to the hostel. Isn't this lavish life beautiful?

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