Saturday, 9 February 2013

Al Elb Dam

Photo Credit:
Back in February 2012 there was an  article published on Saudi Aramco World about Wadi Hanifa's restoration and within the text was mention of Al Elb dam.  I have no idea why, out of the entire article, Al Elb got me all excited, but I decided that going to find Al Elb dam had to be on our list of 'Things to do in Riyadh'.

It wasn't until late on a Friday afternoon in June that we called Mr Noor and asked him if he knew the dams whereabouts as the only directions we had were "Al Elb dam in Wadi Hanifah 35 kilometers north of downtown Riyadh".   Noor began driving North and then, as we explained the article to him, he had an aha! moment.  He turned off the main highway, drove through an older part of town, wound through a few side streets and, soon, we were heading down into the wadi.  Rounding a corner the roadside landscape changed to wide, tree lined, stoned hedged footpaths, and there, spanning the wadi was Al Elb dam.

When Kiwi folk think of dams this is the sort of picture that usually springs to mind...
Waipouri River Dam.  Photo credit:
That's not quite what we found.
Often times I have to do an 'Oh, that's right, I live in Saudi' re-think about the things I come across here.  Why I expected to find a giant lake held back by the large concrete structure was, possibly, wishful thinking.

What we found was this...

It's more of a puddle really.  Not that we were disappointed.  Oh no.  It is obvious that a lot of work has been done here and, quite frankly, getting out of the closed confines of a Riyadh living space is always a pleasant experience.

It was about four in the afternoon but, being June, it was still warm so there weren't a lot of people around.   A few kids were riding bikes along the footpath, a number of people were strolling down to the waters edge or standing on the causeway taking in the view.  On the other side of the wadi are steps leading up to a ridge and, from there, you can sit and contemplate life in Saudi - or whatever it is you like to contemplate.

We decided to go for a stroll.  As water is always an attraction in Riyadh we also ended up down by the little pond that had formed behind the dam surprising a duck that went quacking and flapping further into its center.  It had been so long since we'd seen or heard a duck we had to laugh at how strange, yet bizarrely comforting it was to be in a desert dam, with a duck.

The wide path across the causeway provides ample room, and height, for looking back up the wadi.  Sunset was drawing more families out to the numerous picnic spots offered by the tree growth and boys were kicking footballs about.  Looking over the edge there appeared to be a watermark slightly higher up the structure so, at some point, there must be a bit of water held in here.  Just not this day.

Hubster carried our small chilly bin up to the ridge and, as the sun set, we sat overlooking Al Elb dam with Mr Noor, drinking green tea with mint and nibbling on Mahmoul and thinking how lovely the dusk was and whether this large dam will ever be full of water.

That was in June last year.
In January this year, to celebrate the New Year, we went back to El Alb.  Again it was late afternoon but this time, being winter, the temperature was much cooler and El Alb's reputation as a great family picnic spot had spread.  The place was jumping.

Loads of families filled the picnic bays and bar-b-q smoke filled the air.  Finding a spare car park close by wasn't easy.  In fact, we were about to give up and drive someplace else before Hubster spied a spot we could just squeeze into.

The little pond had disappeared which was surprising as there had recently been a bit of rain.  Not only had the number of people increased who were taking advantage of the facilities at Al Elb dam, but even the tress and shrubbery seemed to have grown.  Here's a few pics.

The pond has gone.

The steps were leading up to a beautiful blue sky.

Picnickers downstream
As the picnic bays were all full we decided to drive to a less populated spot just down the road from Al Elb to have our news years picnic.  It was nice to see that the Wadi Hanifah restoration project, started all those years ago, is providing places like Al Elb Dam and that they are being well utilized.

Here's my Kiwi In Saudi Map with Al Elb Dam marked.
Google co-ordinates are 24.774968,46.53019
Happy trails.

View Kiwi In Saudi: Tiki Tour in a larger map

Ka Kite,

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