Saudi and Middle East map

We travelled all over Saudi Arabia from late 1979 to spring 1981 

(and the nearby countries, see the Middle East page and our 'Drive Home' in 1981).

In late March 1980 eighteen of us went on an expedition in a Land Cruiser and two Suburbans to look for the Nabatean tombs and the remains of the Hejaz Railway in the north-west of Saudi Arabia....

Qasr Al Bint dam
On Thursday the 27th we drove 454 km and camped beyond Buraydah, then the next day stopped for lunch 358 km further on at the Hanakiyah graffiti rocks in Jebel Uhayn. We continued for 272 km through two police checkpoints and round the Medina bypass and eventually after two failed attempts found the broken but impressive Qasr Al Bint dam near Khaybar, where we camped for the second night. Although about a third of it is missing the dam is 20 metres high and about 135 metres long and the legend is that it was built by the queen of Sheba.
Railway wagon at Al Ula
On the 29th we drove to Al Ula and obtained our permit from the Emir to visit Madain Salih. At the former Al Ula railway station we saw the only railway waggon that hadn't had all the wood stripped from it.
Madain Salih engine shed
We went to the Hijaz railway engine shed at Madain Salih.
Madain Salih engine shed
The engine shed at Madain Salih in March 1980. The shed and its locomotives have now (2012) been restored as a museum.
Madain Salih Nabatean tombs
The 1st-century Nabatean tombs at Madain Salih, which became Saudi Arabia's first World Heritage site in 2008. The Nabateans 'practiced' here before moving north to create the famous city at Petra.
Madain Salih Nabatean tombs
More Nabatean tombs. The one on the right still needs a bit of work!
Hejaz Railway Zumrud station  
On 30th March we followed the Hejaz Railway south past the station at Zumrud.
Well at Fort Qalat As Sawrah
Between Al Jadid, the next station, and Tuwayrah we found the well at the old Turkish Fort Qalat As Sawrah, with iron steps going a long way down to the stagnant water at the bottom.
Hejaz Railway Tuwayrah station  
And to the station at Tuwayrah where we had lunch.
Hejaz Railway train blown off track
Between Tuwayrah and Wayban we found the engine of the Turkish troop train that had been blown up by Major Herbert Garland, mentor to Lawrence of Arabia, with his first automatic mine in February 1917.
Hijaz Railway train at Hadiyah station
We found the skeleton of a complete train in a siding at Hadiyah station, about 35 km further on. By 2012 the train had been overturned, presumably someone wanted the rails and sleepers beneath it - see pictures at
Hejaz Railway Hadiyah station siding
The train in the siding at Hadiyah station. We drove two stations further on and camped for the night at Abu Na'am where we were bombarded by mosquitoes.
Hejaz Railway train at Al Buwayr
On the 31st we found another complete train at Al Buwayr station, five stops before the southern terminus of the line at Medina. This one was still standing on the rails in 2002, see
At this point we returned to a paved road and drove via Medina and Badr to Rabigh on the coast where we stopped for some rest and relaxation. On the 1st of April we drove the 150 km to Jeddah and camped on the beach there. We spent the next day shopping and sightseeing in Jeddah and on the 3rd drove 230 km to Taif where we looked round the souks before camping in the desert 90 km further on. On the 4th we returned the 825 km to Riyadh.

We visited Jeddah several times ......

Camp on the beach north of Jeddah
We camped on the beach north of Jeddah in December 1979 and went snorkelling on the reef, seeing all sorts of fish and collecting shells and corals.
Jeddah Old Town
We explored the buildings in the old town in April 1980.
Jeddah former British Legation
In April 1980 they were renovating the former British Legation building .....
Jeddah former British Legation
.... and by April 1981 it was finished.

In April 1981 we had a drive around the mountainous Azir region in the south-west....

Filling the car in Taif
In Mishal Street, Taif, filling up the car for the drive to Jeddah.
Loaded truck between Taif and Abha
A well-laden truck half-way between Taif and Abha.
Village between Khamis Mushayt and Najran
A village between Khamis Mushayt and Najran.
House in Najran
A house in Najran.
Huts near Ad Darb
Huts near Ad Darb, on the coastal plain between Abha and Jizan.
Donkey between Ad Darb and Jizan
Between Ad Darb and Jizan.
Caravan crossing Ad Darb Jizan road
A camel and donkey caravan crossing the Ad Darb to Jizan road.
Fishing nets at Jizan
Fishing nets at Jizan harbour on the Red Sea.

And we visited the Eastern Province several times......

Signpost on the road from Riyadh
Decision time on the road 300 km from Riyadh!
Gas burnoff Dammam Road
Gas burnoff on the Dammam Road, April 1980.
Fort Tarut on Tarut Island
Fort Tarut on Tarut Island near Qatif in January 1980.
Donkey cart in Tarut
In Tarut, February 1981.

Alleyways and Doorways in Qatif, April 1980 (below).
Alleyway in Qatif
Doorway in Qatif
Dhows in Jubail harbour
Dhows in Jubail harbour, February 1981.

To see our other travels, click here ...... globe