Trip to the North: Ocampo Fam Travels KSA
Part 1- Al Ula Journey
We were due for annual vacation in Philippines but due to Covid restrictions, we decided to stay in Saudi Arabia and travel north/northwest of the kingdom instead.
We left Riyadh on Saturday, 6th March, at 6:30am. Our gps was set to Al Ula showing 1,070 kms on a 10.15hrs travel time.
The girls and I were mostly asleep half of the trip, waking up at pitstops along the way. My husband and our dear friend RDA shared driving. We had our quick lunch at a small park along Qassim Highway. It was a smooth road trip on a perfect sunny day.
As we approach the northern part of Al Madinah province, we were amazed by the gorgeous landscape of crazy beautiful rock formations in the high desert extending for miles upon miles in every direction and passing numerous small towns, most of which still retain a strong indigenous presence.
We reached Al Ula past 7pm and bought dinner from one of the local cafeterias. There were neither big or fancy restaurants in the area and it was rather dark and quiet. It kinda reminded me of my childhood in the province where we used to have dinner at 7pm and sleep early during night time.
The next day, we were up early for our full day itinerary. We have booked our tour tickets online beforehand through www.experiencealula.com.
We arrived at the Winter Park at 8:10am as we were asked to be at the bus 8:20am.
First Tour: Hegra Tour including Hejaz Railway Station and Mada’in Salih
Second Tour: Dadan and Jabal Al Ikmah Tour
Third Tour: Elephant Rock Tour
Free Admission/ Need prior booking
Note that a confirmed reservation is required to enter the Elephant Rock site. We were allowed to get in only at exactly 6pm as mentioned in our passes.
In between tours, we grabbed coffee and quick bites at the Winter Park. There’s a Dunkin Donut branch and Burger King among few other local food stalls.
We ended a long day with some local food from the city center.
For our third day in Al Ula, we didn't schedule any pre-booked tours. We opted to drive around and discover more about the town by ourselves.
We drove to the Maraya Concert Hall which is also known as Glass Building of Saudi but it was closed for renovation and we were not allowed in.
We went to a citrus farm and the owner let us pick some orange and lemon fruits by ourselves. There were at least 10 different varieties of citrus in the farm and we had a blast picking and eating and of course we took a bagful home too.
We strolled around the town admiring the unique, mesmerizing rock formations enclosing Al Ula. We drove up to one of the highest peaks along Al Madinah highway overlooking Al Ula town. With the echo from surrounding valleys, the girls enjoyed shouting their hearts out calling their KPoP idols and altogether doing countless BTS chants.
It was definitely surreal being so up close to the majestic rocks and actually touching, and climbing some.
On the fourth day, we got reservations for an early Al Ula Old Town Archeological Tour.
We paid 70 SAR for each ticket. We took the bus at the Winter Park at 8:20am. It was a 1.5hr tour.
Personally, I could say that the tour of the Al Ula Old Town was the highlight of our “experiencealula” journey. Not only because I have always been fascinated by history itself but exploring the mud houses in the old town made me appreciate the jewel that Al Ula is, and how it echoes with stories of the past, civilizations of old age, revolution and war, religion and beliefs, slavery and freedom, arts, primeval architecture and culture.
The numerous gates surrounding the previously existent village and the 40 meter fortress opened our eyes to the secrets of how this little town has adapted to changing times and developing perspective around it - of life itself and Arab traditions that circles around hospitality, family and also survival.
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..