Saudi Aramco - Abqaiq
Notice how lush and green everything is here. This is the Abqaiq Saudi Aramco location.
Today eight of us headed two hours south of Dhahran to a town called Hofuf. It's about an hour south of Abqaiq, which is another Saudi Aramco facility. We rented two large Suburbans and two drivers for the day. It was an amazing experience and yet another "I'm not in Kansas" moment for me.
Hofuf used to be the capital of the Eastern Province (the area along the Persian Gulf) until 1953. At that point it was moved up to Dammam, which is a city I’ve visited on previous trips. The area is more broadly known as Al Hasa (that’s the region) and it is an oasis. That’s why you will see lots of palm trees in the photos. These palms are the kind that produce dates (the kind you eat, not the match.com type). Of course, I expected to see camels and desert travelers around a pool of water, but that’s not how an oasis works. It’s more underground water that can be tapped for irrigation.
The first stop was the camel, goat, and sheep market (what a bonus: I had heard there were only camels and goats!). For once, WE
were the objects of attention. It’s safe
Flowers at Abquiq
to say that not many Westerners visit the market. Due to a couple of accidents on the highway, we were too late to watch the auctions, but we weren’t too late to see the camels, et. al. The sheep farmers were especially proud of their sheep and they wanted me to photograph each sheep individually. There were white sheep, black sheep, white and black sheep, brown sheep, and more varieties of sheep than I knew existed. And then there were different sections for the Saudi sheep vs. imported sheep. The sheep herders also insisted I need photos of them too (they insisted on it), but it was quite a nice change from having to take quick photos of Saudis.
However, I have to admit my favorite were the camels. I mean, come on, this is Saudi Arabia and it’s in the middle of the desert. We have sheep and goats in the mid-west of the US, but not so many camels (the Como Zoo does not count). What a great experience. I have some photos that will give you the flavor of what it was like.
We started at the fort in Hofuf. This fort is an Ottoman
Abqaiq to Hofuf
This is what the REAL Saudi looks like. Lots of tn sand and a few camels.
Turkish fort. The walls date from the 17th century. There is a mosque inside the walls, the Quba Mosque, which was built in 1571. (This updated date information is from a blog reader, Hans who lives in Switzerland.) We walked around the perimeter which is about a block in circumference. There was only one entrance and it was closed. This wasn’t a friendly fort! And there was no fence to climb under like we did back in Qatif. It’s as if the fort was trying to keep people out of it. Go figure. However there was a very small hole in the old wooden door and I was able to get a photo through the peep hole.
There were a few interesting shops that we stopped at that sold old Bedouin objects and more coffee pots that you can count. We tried to go to the old souk (market), but couldn’t really find anything else but the gold and jewelry shops. It was a bit disappointing, but we moved on to the next thing on the agenda which was lunch.
If you’ve traveled in Saudi Arabia, you’ll know that lunch time comes right at the time of one
of the prayer times. And when it’s prayer time, all of the restaurants and shops close. The timing is always bad. So we went to the Intercontinental Hotel because hotel restaurants usually stay open at prayer time. Not so much. They were closed too.
Oh well. Fortunately we had coolers of snacks, water, and sandwiches. The non-Americans were not too fond of the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, but for once, my many decades of American eating served me well. I thought they were great, even if they were made with orange marmalade.
We continued on to the Qara Mountains (also spelled Gara Mountains), which are these great rock formations that contain caves you can walk in. These limestone rock formations make it look more like the moon than Saudi Arabia. A photo is worth a thousand words. Since I took nearly 200 photos, I guess those would be worth a million words. I hope you enjoy. What a great day! Be sure to scroll down this page for LOTS of great photos. Hint: Double click a photo and go to slide show mode.
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