18 Jan 2020

Prince Mountain - Sakaka

Prince Mountain is located near Zaabal Castle to the northeast side. At the foot of the mountain there is an old cemetery surrounded by low fence which is also bears the same name. The name of the mountain is explained as for its height and its steep gradient. Engraved on it are thirteen women wearing head coverings in addition to a small number of drawings of animals and some inscriptions. There are graphics of a picture of a camel and the image of a man on a camel, as well as a picture of two men of interlocking hands. Modern engravings have defaced some of the mountain but the original inscriptions and engravings can still be seen.
Prince Mountain

Prince Mountain

Prince Mountain


16 Jan 2020

Flock of Desert Finch – Dumat Al Jandal

The Desert Finch is mainly resident in Saudi Arabia. It is now regarded as a common breeding resident but was previously thought to be a scarce visitor to the northwest of Saudi Arabia until 1975. Since then the range has expanded dramatically due to increased agriculture abd several areas have been colonized, including Riyadh, Hail, al-Jawf and Tabuk. Despite its name it is not a truly desert species and prefers cultivated areas with trees and bushes, especially orchards, as well as gardens and plantations. It also occurs in the weedy edges of pivot-irrigated fields and dry scrub adjacent to farms. We saw a flock of about fifty birds, the first ones I have come across in Saudi Arabia, along a razor wire fence near a large pool in the desert. Birds were dropping down to drink for the pool and then flying back to the fence.
Desert Finch

Desert Finch

Desert Finch

Desert Finch

Desert Finch

Desert Finch

14 Jan 2020

Zaabal Castle - Sakaka

On top of a mountain, the highest point in the area, in the city of Sakaka in northwest Saudi Arabia sits Zaabal Castle. The castle is believed to have been built 200 years ago, but some structures are said to date back to the 1st-century Nabataean era dated from the first century BC to the first century AD. The fort consists of a reservoir and four cylindrical towers, five metres high, that are connected by a single wall and is built of stone and mud. The castle sits on top of a water well system that spans the entire city and has been a source of supply to the city’s inhabitants for centuries. It is situated on the top of a mountain has four towers in its irregular-formed corners due to the nature of the mountain peak area. It has a surrounding wall built of mud and stone decorated with mud engravings. The height of the wall is approximately two meters. There are two rooms inside the castle built of mud and stones and the roof covered palms trunks, Alothel and palm branches which are available throughout the region. One of these rooms is located in the center of the castle, was built over high rock base. The second chamber is located to the left when you walk through the entrance to the castle they will be faced by a water tank embedded in rock to a depth of approximately 80 cm and 1 metre length approximately. The tank was used for storing water in case of barricaded inside the fortress. The castle is accessed through semi- circuitous narrow staircase built from stone. 
Zaabal Castle

Zaabal Castle

Zaabal Castle

Zaabal Castle

Zaabal Castle

Zaabal Castle

Zaabal Castle

Zaabal Castle

Zaabal Castle

Zaabal Castle

12 Jan 2020

Steppe Eagle and Steppe Buzzard – Dumat Al Jandal

Whilst birding Dumat Al Jandal area in winter we came across an Steppe Eagle and a Steppe Buzzard sitting on a pivot irrigation structure. The birds both flew as we stopped the car, even though we were quite a distance from the birds, and then proceeded to have a bit of a scuffle in the air. The Steppe Eagle dwarfed the Steppe Buzzard but it was the Buzzard that was the aggressor. After several minutes, they split up and went their separate ways. Although we saw another Steppe Eagle on the trip this was the only Steppe Buzzard we saw. 
Eastern Imperial Eagle and Steppe Buzzard

Eastern Imperial Eagle and Steppe Buzzard

Eastern Imperial Eagle and Steppe Buzzard

Eastern Imperial Eagle and Steppe Buzzard

Eastern Imperial Eagle

10 Jan 2020

Rajajil Standing Stones - Sakaka

The site of Rajajil (The Men) is near Sakākā, a city in northwestern Saudi Arabia which is the capital of Al Jawf Province. It is located just to the north of the An Nafud desert. They are probably over 5,000 years old and consist of 54 groups of stones some of them three meters high. They go in parallel lines from east to west and the reason for them is still uncertain. The site is on high ground overlooking a large area of low level to its north, and the current site has an area of approximately 300 m × 500 m with an extension in the west, where there are a number of separate groups of stone on the main site. The site consists of a group of fifty four stone columns. The numbers of the columns in each group are differing from the other groups. Also columns are appearing compact straight lines, some columns rise to more than 3.5 m, while others did not exceed 50 cm in height due to the fall of the upper parts of some of these columns and the thickness of 75 cm per column. There are also writings on some of the columns. The site dates back to the copper age or the fourth millennium BC. These columns are believed to be primarily a religious site or second-class graves. Some believe that the stones were probably a meeting place for people in the area and possibly they were also a trade centre as many important trade roads crossed the Al -Jowf area as Sakākā is an oasis town on an ancient caravan route across the Arabian peninsula. The location of Al Rajajil site to some extent, looks like the site of "Stonehenge" which is located eight miles from Salisbury in England, a temple built from a combination of huge stones made in a circular motion, and is topped by a huge stone slabs. The location is fenced off and access is restricted. There is a visitor centre but it was not open when we were there from 7-9 am on Saturday morning. You can take photos of some of the stones close to the fence edge if you can reach over the fence itself as I did with the photos below.
Rajajil Standing Stones

Rajajil Standing Stones

Rajajil Standing Stones

Rajajil Standing Stones

Rajajil Standing Stones

Rajajil Standing Stones

Rajajil Standing Stones

Rajajil Standing Stones

Rajajil Standing Stones

Rajajil Standing Stones