Bicycle touring Saudi Arabia: Aseer’s schist villages?

The scenery between Jeddah and Qunfudhah was pretty uninspiring, and overall I was disappointed with the snorkeling as well.  I had a nice rest in Qunfudhah with Sultan and his friends, but I wasn’t super optimistic when I left.  Who knew that I was heading into the best riding of the trip?

Maybe I should have known because I was crossing into Aseer where the famous (?) “Flower Men of Saudi Arabia” live.

One of the flower men of Aseer? by bryandkeith on flickr

First I had to ride inland a bit on the main highway to get around yet another desalinization plant.  Then I found some fun roads to take me back to the coast for the last time.

IMG_20200202_085018 by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20200202_092811 by bryandkeith on flickr

Imagine!  Trees, grazing, even irrigated agriculture:

This seems like pretty marginal agriculture. by bryandkeith on flickr

My final Red Sea beach was Al Jumaiaat where the border patrol went over the top and delivered me a camel meat kabsa lunch and a few oranges.  This civilian:

This man gave me juice, water, and fruit. by bryandkeith on flickr

stopped by later with juice and water.  As I’ve said before, people were very generous.

I found the best camping of the trip that night and started heading into the mountains the next morning.

IMG_20200202_173842 by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20200203_072814 by bryandkeith on flickr

First, however, I had to spend a few hours pushing through the sandiest road of the trip.  If you thought the above irrigated agriculture was, well, a difficult place to plant corn, check this out:

This looks like really marginal agriculture. by bryandkeith on flickr

It appears that someone planted corn in the sand there and put a fence around it.  Good luck.

IMG_20200203_095502 by bryandkeith on flickr

As I climbed higher, there really was more water.

IMG_20200203_155326 by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20200203_171426 by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20200206_085854 by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20200206_085802 by bryandkeith on flickr

For me, however, the most exciting thing was seeing Aseer’s traditional stone construction, what I’ve decided to call schist architecture because it reminded me so much of what Ferda and I saw in Beira last year.

IMG_20200206_104518 by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20200206_110447 by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20200206_143607 by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20200206_143946 by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20200206_154548 by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20200206_154631 by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20200207_070614 by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20200207_082814 by bryandkeith on flickr

Unfortunately I don’t actually know the names of any of those villages.  Those photos were taken on an ~80km stretch of road on either side of the pass (~1020m) between Muhayil and Al Batilah.

My next pass was a 1500m climb (from 400m to 1900m) via Al Batilah and Al Shabain taking me to this campsite:

The second of the four passes I crossed to get from Qunfudhah (via Muhayil) to Abha.  This is ~1900m above Al Shabain. by bryandkeith on flickr

I was getting into the rugged Aseer Mountains at this point.

IMG_20200208_085300 by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20200208_120503 by bryandkeith on flickr

The village of Hesua was surrounded by steep mountains at the base of my next pass, only (!) a 650m climb.  A Bangladeshi man made me breakfast, and friendly Sattan from Sudan welcomed me to this picturesque schist village.

Sattan from Sudan by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20200208_101931 by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20200208_104052 by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20200208_105707 by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20200208_105050 by bryandkeith on flickr

I had an insanely steep and loose descent into the next valley, followed by (yikes!) a steep 1400m climb through the Raidah Sanctuary up to 2800m, my last pass before reaching the provincial capital of Abha.

The third (~2120m) of the four passes I crossed to get from Qunfudhah (via Muhayil) to Abha.  The road down this ridge was extremely steep and quite loose. by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20200208_151218 by bryandkeith on flickr

The highest (at 2770m) and last pass to get to Abha by bryandkeith on flickr

I obviously loved seeing the traditional architecture, but the highlight of this stretch was spending time with Hassan (aka Frank Zappa; because of the resemblance) during the two days I stayed at his house in Sumeri.

I really enjoyed my time hanging out and talking with Hassan.  He speaks English well, and he has great energy. by bryandkeith on flickr

Hassan speaks good English, loves to laugh and smile, and has wonderful contagious energy.

His brother-in-law, Hasan Ali, took me to (guess what?) a schist watchtower one morning!

IMG_20200205_090103 by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20200205_083801 by bryandkeith on flickr

Hasan Ali by bryandkeith on flickr

In case you’re wondering how I’ve been all around Rijal Almaa without mentioning it, well, I’m saving it for the next post.  Stay tuned…

IMG_20200207_081936 by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20200203_151437 by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20200206_171217 by bryandkeith on flickr

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2 Responses to Bicycle touring Saudi Arabia: Aseer’s schist villages?

  1. Mike P. says:

    Very nice!

  2. Mom says:

    ….another great job, Bryan! Now we’re eagerly awaiting your next post!!!
    Hope Megan got to see your great photos of this fascinating architecture. If not now, she will eventually, I’m sure–once she has a few minutes with her head above water.

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