Sunny day with family @ Hidden Canyon
Im not sure when my thing for canyons actually started. But I have always been fascinated with canyons, either underwater or in the ground or high upland.
Last Friday, right after our usual biking routine at Wadi Hanifa, the #ocampers (lol i’ve just made that up to call Ocampo fam campers) headed a bit quite far down southern Riyadh to see the infamous hidden canyon.
It was almost lunch time when we reached the area. We decided to park on the right side facing South. There were few vehicles already in the area and while we were fixing our picnic mat and whatnots, two more cars came in with at least three western families with kids.
There was no water in the canyons as it has not rained since almost a few weeks, but the wind was a bit cold. Quite disappointing though because we have seen photos in the net of how beautiful the canyons are when there’s water on it.
What makes the Hidden Canyon special? Also known as Mawan Valley, the Hidden Canyon of Riyadh is considered to be one of the most important archaeological sites in Saudi Arabia.
Located near the city of Ad-Dilam, not very far from the center of Riyadh, it is also a site of stunning natural beauty which cannot be seen from a distance but only by standing at its head unlike many other canyons that we see on our way out of Riyadh.
The majestic view from the top of the hidden valley consists of two stone structures on both sides. The foundations of the wall were supported by high stone slabs while the wall itself is around 6 meters high or even more. The tower-like structures are conical in shape, with their centers open to the bottom, and they look like a cave without a roof.
I was contented from staying on top watching my kids go deep down the canyon all the way down to the center where the deepest part is. I could imagine how in many million years back, this very same colossal landscape was underwater and slowly forming its now magnificent shape.
We spent a few more hours relaxing in our newly found spot outside the city. We also had a share of freshly cooked chicken biryani from our Indian friends.
Taking one last look at the canyon before we leave the place, I somehow realized what makes a canyon special. Being such a vast, breathtaking spectacle as it is, a canyon is formed after many years of struggle from harsh environment and weather conditions - which I guess makes it a happy ending. Indeed, this not so “hidden” canyon with its stiff and stepped terraces, sandy bottom and scattering of smallholdings is worth the admiration.
I was browsing the net for some nice places to visit near Riyadh and I chanced upon Tumair or Tumayr where people say wild iris flowers bloom during spring time, for just a few hours between January to March.
6th Feb 2021 and off to Tumayr we went. We left at 10:20am with packed lunch, coffee and chips. It started raining midway so I didnt keep my hopes high. It was also my first time to drive north of Riyadh so I drove slowly. We reached Tumayr at 12:10pm.
From wikiloc, our landmark is a dam so when we found it, we parked nearby and walked around the area. The rain has stopped but it was still gloomy.
We found the iris plants scattered in between weeds, rocks and thorny desert plants. The onion-like leaves were a bit plentiful. The area was wadi-like (same like the Wadi Hanifa -Irqah part where we bike). The pale lavender bulbs looked like small cocoons. I wondered if we’ll be lucky to see them bloom today.
We decided to explore a bit more around Tumayr since it was our first time to visit. We took some photos around town and had a quick lunch. Shortly after 1pm we decided to go near the dam area again hoping to see if the iris bloomed. It felt like the sun was teasing us, showing itself for a minute and then hiding behind the clouds. I thought the iris would bloom if only the sun could be more generous.
Half past one, the field started to look lovelier. Finally the iris buds started opening to astonishing lavender and purple flowers. It was indeed a delight to see. It’s hard to imagine such beautiful flowers could grow out from mix sand and rocks amidst the harsh conditions of the desert. Some flowers opened up en masse while some remained closed until around 2pm.
The sun was still not shining through and thinking it might rain again, we decided to leave a few minutes past 2. There were still some unopened irises, reminding me of how some beautiful things in life take their time to happen, of how patience always pays of.
The pandemic since last year has hindered us to go out and travel as much as we wanted to. This short trip to Tumayr has been a breath of fresh air. Hoping to visit more places locally while we’re still here in Saudi Arabia, our second home.
What makes me happy?
People. Everyone around me who believes and inspires me.
Life itself is a happy experience. The world is a happy place.
I had my own share of struggles, life was not easy for us back then but my Dad taught me how to believe in myself, work hard , be kind and to be strong. He inspired me to go out of my comfort zone. He used to tell me that the possibilities in life are endless and so I believed him.
l Iost him quite a few years ago but he has left me with so much inspiration to follow my dreams - to visit places I have only dreamt of or have seen in the movies when I was little and to do things I thought were only for the privileged few.
Wherever I go, I always remember my Dad, wishing he could see me from afar and somehow be proud of me as I have always been so proud of him. Life is short and I promised him that I would make the most of mine.
Travelling makes me happy and in all other things, I choose happiness. We all should- always..