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Wadi Zi Ghazal, Al Shafa

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The 100-Million-Year-Old Mountain.


Very few things in life compare to the joy of experiencing nature fully. The list of natural places to visit in our country is quite long, and we are blessed with unparalleled, rich, natural destinations to explore.

When I learned from my fellow nature explorers that our next destination was the Wadi Zi Ghazal in Al Shafa, I was thrilled about the prospect of being in the highest elevation in Al Taif region – over 2,421 meters from sea level.

Wadi Zi Ghazal is about 180km away from Jeddah, a mere 2.5 hours by car on a scenic mountain road. Since Al Shafa is locally considered a summer resort destination, going in winter meant we’d face some extreme cold weather, especially as we’d planned to camp outdoors for two full days.wadi-ghazal_photo-by-mona-al-zubair5-copy

The gracious Granite Mountain, as it is called, is becoming a new destination for the local climbers community. It was recently launched as the newest designated rock-climbing location after the climbing trail and bolts was properly laid down by the climbing community with the guidance of international experts. This sets a totally new era for the valley and the mountain.

We were lucky to have a geologist with us who explained how the Granite Mountain came to being – fire stones such as granite form under the earth’s crust in a slow crystallization process of the earth’s magma. The slow movement of tectonic plates over the years creates the pressure upward and pushes the formed granite stones above the surface. This process took approximately no less than a 100 million years. And this is basically what we are looking at today, the awe-inspiring 100-million-year-old mountain residing over the valley.wadi-ghazal_photo-by-mona-al-zubair3-copy

A climbing expert and enthusiast told me that this is a preferable mountain to climb since it is made of granite – it is solid, with minimal danger of falling pieces, and has a vertical surface which is an ideal challenge for the climbers. Climbers have been coming to Al Shafa in a quest to ‘conquer’ the mountain.

The location surrounding the mountain is astoundingly beautiful, especially in winter, when vibrant greens are evident everywhere. It was wonderful to know that this beauty is just a couple of hours away from us!

My personal reason for camping outdoors is to connect with the universe with minimal light and sound pollution, providing me with the experience of nature coming to life. Our camping companions follow the “Leave no Trace” principles and strive to respect the ecosystem, keeping the place as we found it.wadi-ghazal_photo-by-mona-al-zubair2-copy

I prepare myself with a specific mindset before going to any camping trip and that is to allow myself to be amazed and surprised, and to anticipate meaningful encounters with people or the natural environment. The universe is indeed wiser than me, and I am here to learn and be grateful. Given this understanding, nature solidifies the life fact that everything is impermanent and thus we must be fully aware of the moment before us.

One of the things I experienced in the two days I spent at the valley is hiking up the maze of rocks and encountering an ancient tree majestically situated and surrounded by young array of various species of green plants. The contrast and interplay between the two created meaning for me and I felt that closing the year 2018 off, I was ready for whatever comes in my path while bearing in mind this delicate relationship present in nature and in our own lives. I also felt that I was transported into a garden as the birds were singing in the background and the wind made its presence known via the trees – a true gift that deepens our appreciation of the plentiful, available to those who seek it.

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