We’ve all witnessed mind-boggling visuals from around the world in the form of bioluminescent tides and flammable ice bubbles to fairly circles; there are so many amazing phenomena out there that continue to baffle us. It goes without saying that in a country as large as Saudi Arabia, the country has its own set of incredibly unique natural phenomena. Some of these phenomena are so amazing that they may seem impossible at first and you’ll probably have to witness them in order to believe in them.
1. Flowering of the Iris at Tuwair
Growing in the desert of Tuwair, 160 kms north of Riyadh, the existence of the Iris flower in such a harsh environment flusters onlookers. In spring, these flowers bloom and the entire field is filled in colors of different shades of purple. Their delicate flowers open at mid-day, revealing their beautiful colored petals and speckled cream center.
2. Wahba Crater – A Geologists’ Dream
Contrary to popular belief, the Wahba crater was not formed due to a meteorite impact but rather an eruption from below. The eruption was caused by volcanic activity and thus this crater that measures a massive 2 kilometers in diameter was formed. What makes the place even more special is that its white base that is filled with white sodium phosphate crystals, which glints in the moonlight.
3. Desert Roses in the Eastern Desert
Normally found in the sabkhas (salt flats) of the eastern desert, this phenomenon happens when shallow salt basins evaporate. In the process gypsum crystals form in a circular array of flat plates, giving the rock a shape similar to a rose blossom and thus the name ‘desert rose’. In the eastern desert most of these are buried under the sand.
4. Migratory Birds at Afsar Lake
Saudi Arabia is believed to host the migration of around 2 million birds every year. Birds in huge flocks migrate from wintering grounds in Africa to breeding grounds in Europe and Central Asia and vice versa making it one of the biggest flyways in the world. A large portion of them can be spotted at the Afsar Lake in Al Ahsa region. Its not surprising that thousands of these birds do stop at this lake while making their long journey, considering it is one of the biggest lakes in the entire Arabian Peninsula.
5. Wadi Rumah – A River in the Desert
One of Arabia’s longest river valleys, Wadi Rumah stretches to around 600 kilometers in length. The valley arises near Madinah and heads northeast, and sinks beneath the sand dunes in the Qassim region. It then reappears on the other side of the desert where it is known as Wadi Al Batin and continues northeast and forms the western boundary of Kuwait, before finally emptying in the Arabian Gulf. The valley is believed to fill only 3 times every 100 years; the last time this phenomenon happened was back in 2008.
6. Underwater World at Farasan Islands
The Red Sea has attracted divers from all around the world due to the amazing diversity that it has to offer. Despite soaring temperatures for majority of the year, Farasan Islands that sit just off the coast of peninsular Arabia, display the best of what the mesmerizing Red Sea has to offer. Beneath the warm waters that surround Farasan Islands are magnificent underwater landscapes, mountains of fish and corals that stretch for miles. No wonder it was celebrated diver Jacques Costeau’s favorite diving spot.
7. Jabal Qara – Ali Baba’s Mysterious Den
This auburn colored mountain contains a labyrinth of caves and caverns with little shafts on the top that let light pierce through, making the whole place look like the set of an Indiana Jones movie. Made from calcareous sandstone, marl, clay and sedimentary rocks, Jabal Qara sits at around 20 kms east of the city of Hofuf. The cave networks inside stretch for over a 1000 meters and close to the very end of it lies what locals call Ali Baba’s den – from the popular folktale Ali Baba and the 40 thieves.
8. Singing Sand Dunes of Rub Al Khali
According to a legend, the unseen whisper names to distract travelers and drag them into danger, singing through the sand dunes. From beneath footsteps and car wheels, a deep roaring tone comes from the sand, a sound similar to that of a low-flying airplane. The vibrations of grains of sand as they fall on top of each other are believed to be the cause this phenomenon.
9. Snow in the Northwestern Desert
The extremely rare phenomenon happens in the northwest region of the country, close to the modern day city of Tabuk. The phenomenon last occurred in the winter of 2013, when the outskirts of Tabuk were blanketed in snow – a region that receives less than 5 inches of rainfall every year.
10. Wadi Al Jinn – Valley of the Jinns
Situated at around 30 kms northwest of the city of Madinah, the Wadi Jinn is a mystifying valley where cars move uphill even when their engine is off! While some believe that the power of the ‘Jinns’ is evident in the valley, others point out that the phenomenon is nothing but an optical illusion.
11. Al Lith Hot Springs – Nature’s Jacuzzi
A little gem of an oasis lies around 260 kms south of Jeddah close to the village of Al Lith; what makes it stand out though is that it is home to the country’s very own natural Jacuzzi. The temperature in the spring is heated to the temperature of bath water. It is believed that the warm temperature of the water is the result of benign underground volcanic activity.
When one thinks of the Saudi Arabian countryside, pictures pop in mind of a harsh desert that is barren and desolate. Maybe that is why there are so many natural phenomena across the country that are rarely witnessed or are yet to be discovered.