Tabuk - Saudi Arabia

Hisma Mountains

The deep red and otherworldly Hisma Mountains in Tabuk province are among the most spectacular landscapes in Saudi Arabia and will exceed your wildest expectations. Archaeologists discovered Arabic inscriptions over 2,600 years old in the rock walls. Tabuk breathes history. 

Wadi Al Disah

Wadi Al Disah is a paradise for adventurers and nature lovers. With a little imagination, you can imagine yourself with one foot in the American Grand Canyon and the other in Monument Valley. In between grows a green carpet of meter-high date palms and reeds.

The deep red Hisma Mountains in Tabuk province are among the most spectacular landscapes in Saudi Arabia. Yet very little can be found about it on the Internet. Even Google Maps must owe you the exact location. To get a better idea of the scale and beauty of Tabuk and its surroundings, it is advisable to open a satellite map. Starting in the city of Tabuk, follow Highway 15 north and then Highway 394 west with your eyes until you arrive at a bright red strip.

Its fiery red color is the result of a unique composition of minerals with which both the soil and rocks are blessed. The jagged, blackened Hisma Mountains in Tabuk province will exceed your wildest expectations. The silence is deafening, the landscape otherworldly.

In the rock walls, archaeologists discovered Arabic inscriptions left by the Thamud and other ancient peoples some 2,600 years ago. Traversed by an important trade route, the Hisma Mountains were known even then for their unusual rock formations that were thought to resemble out-sized boats. Packed and laden, and in long caravans, the traders moved with their camels through narrow gorges.

Forewarned is forearmed

Al Mafraq, the gateway to the Hisma Mountains, does not yet offer accommodation options. So book a hotel in Tabuk or along Highway 15 and get up early to visit it. For a real adventure, arrange camping gear and a (rooftop) tent. A guide and driver are not a luxury in these remote parts. The area comes alive as soon as the sun rises, like a bird spreading its colorful wings.

If possible, plan your visit to the mountains in winter. Although the night temperature then hovers around freezing, during the day it doesn't get warmer than 25°C. A big difference from the 45°C you may encounter in summer.

Water sources and fertile soil in the Tabuk region

Just how diverse the desert landscape of the Tabuk region is can be seen in the southern Wadi Al Disah, which merges into the larger Mohammad bin Salman Nature Reserve. With a little imagination, you can imagine yourself here with one foot in the American Grand Canyon and the other in the also American Monument Valley. But there is one obvious difference: between the rocks in the Tabuk region grows a green carpet of meter-high date palms and reed beds.

Below the surface of the earth, Wadi Al Disah is bursting with water sources. The fertile and water-bearing properties of the area are also the Nabataeans did not fail to notice either. For centuries, they used Wadi Al Disah as a stopping place during their trade missions to the south. As a thank you, they left writings in the rock walls. If you look carefully, or let a guide show you the way, you can get a closer look at the letters in Kufi, an early Arabic alphabet developed by the Nabataeans in Iraq.

Wadi Al Disah is an adventurer's paradise. There are hardly any amenities and the nearest hotel is over two hours away. For an alone-on-the-world feel, come nice and early and avoid weekends, when local "tourists" enjoy an extended picnic in the area and cruise through nature in their all-terrain vehicles or on their quad bikes. The sunrise is also well worth seeing. The Tabuk region is considered one of the most beautiful natural highlights in Saudi Arabia.

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