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Bureidah - Qasim Camel Market - Ha'il

Camels, Al 'Arif Fort, and Ha'il old souk


View Saudi Arabia 2022 on Grete Howard's travel map.

Disclaimer: I accidentally deleted all the photos from this day from my camera, so what you see here are a few that I managed to salvage from my phone.

Ali, our guide who came down from Riyadh with us, spent the night with his brother, who lives here in Bureidah. He and Bacha, our driver, pick us up at 06:30 for the short journey to the camel market.

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We're not the only ones going to the market

Qassim Camel Market
Worried about my ability to walk, Bacha drives us around some of the various pens holding sheep. I never knew there were so many different varieties!

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Ardi goats

I have always found it difficult to differentiate between sheep and goats in some parts of the world, and here is no different.

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This is a sheep

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Goats on the left, sheep on the right, two friendly traders in the middle

We continue to the area selling camels.

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The large open area is full of hobbled camels, and the noise is deafening.


The odd loose camel tries to run away, but none get very far before they are captured.


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Prospective buyers mingle with their intended purchases, checking them out. There are three categories of camels, some of which are sold for breeding, judged by their looks, or destined for the cooking pot. Ali tells me that most of the camels in this area will become dinner at some point.

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Discussions then take place over a cup of Saudi Coffee, and a price is agreed upon. We too are given coffee and dates by the friendly traders.

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Once the business deal has been settled, the camel is secured with a rope and hoisted up into a waiting truck by a crane to be delivered to its new owner.

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I love the photobombing camel

Best Western Hotel, Bureidah
We return to the hotel for a shower and breakfast, dropping Ali off at the railway station on the way for his return trip to Riyadh. Before we check out, we go to the coffee shop to pay for the cakes we took last night (with permission). The girl behind the counter doesn't seem to understand English, so the receptionist translates for us. Before the assistant has had a chance to work out how much we owe, the hotel manager has stepped in, shaking his head: “It is on the house. You are our guests, it is the least we can do. We are so happy you are here”.

Somehow I cannot imagine that happening in a Best Western in the UK or most other places.

After freshening up and having something to eat, we continue our journey through the KSA, to Ha'il. I sleep all the way in the car.

Desert Rose Hotel
We arrive at the hotel around midday, and I am concerned that it will be too early to check-in. We go through the usual scenario:

“Do you have a reservation?”

“Who is paying for the room, you or the company?”

Once this confusion is all sorted, we are asked to show our visa, and are told the room is ready.

The bed is huge, but interestingly, the bathroom lacks toilet paper and anywhere to dispense it from. Thankfully every room seems to have plenty of facial tissues over here, and we always bring our own, so it is not a problem.

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As with many places in the world, traditionally Arabs do not use toilet paper, instead, they clean up using the hose next to the toilet, rather like a bidet.

Shougaf Grill
As suggested by the local guide (who we've not yet met), we go for lunch at this fast-food restaurant. We take a seat, Bacha joins us, and we sit and chat for a while. Confused as to why no-one has come to take our order by now, or at least give us a menu, we send Bacha up to the counter to find out. He comes back telling us that the menu is via QR code stickers on the table. I didn't even see those, and anyway, I am not prepared to use expensive mobile data on a lunch menu, so Bacha goes off again and comes back with a tablet with pretty pictures (albeit with a cracked screen).

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I order Arayes chicken and tabbouleh, which is way too much food. I expected the tabbouleh to come as a side salad, but it is a meal on its own. David chooses chicken tawock, which comes with some unusual puffed bread rolls.

A'Arif Fort
After lunch, we meet up with Abdulmajid, the local guide, at the fort. Dating from the 17th century, the fort is the oldest historical building in the town.

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Initially built for defense purposes, the fort was then used to signal the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan to the citizens of Ha'il.

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Following restoration, it has been opened to tourists as a museum.

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From its lofty position atop a hill overlooking Ha'il, the fort offers a view of the town below.

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Qashlah Palace
Once back down again, Bacha, Abdulmajid, and the museum curator take time out to pray, before we continue to Al Qashlah Palace, built as an artillery and weapons depot in 1941. The purpose of building it was to make it the central location for the army troops arriving there. Later it was used as a prison before being re-purposed as a historical building by the government and declared a heritage landmark in 1995.

Hidden behind huge hoardings and covered in scaffolding, the palace is currently undergoing restoration and is closed to tourists. This is becoming very familiar. Abdulmajid partially opens the gate to let us see the entrance, but we are not permitted to enter. He claims it is the largest mud-brick building in the world at 20,250 m², but I can find no confirmation of that online.

The Old Souq
While described as “old”, the market is surprisingly modern in my opinion, and I am sorry to say, not that exciting.

We are shown some very traditional cookies, called maamoul, which are made from a thousand-year-old recipe. They are delicious, and we buy a small bag of them just in case this hotel doesn't serve food.

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Butter mixed with date syrup is stored in animal skins – the smallest is that of a lizard, and the largest is from a camel. It tastes surprisingly good.

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The stalls in the inside part of the market are mostly clothes, shoes, handbags, and handicrafts. We are given some more complimentary Arabic coffee, which is mixed with cardamom and served in small cups. The cardamom flavour is a little too strong for me, which is surprising, as I frequently use the spice in my cooking, including my morning porridge.

We get to try the best dates of this season, which I must admit are absolutely amazing. I am not really a fan of dates, but these are delicious – the best I've ever tasted!

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We leave Abdulmajid chatting with a friend inside the covered market, and wander back out again. continuing to the open-air stalls, which are mostly fruit and vegetables.

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I try not to get people in my images, just in case they don't want to be photographed (taking pictures of people without their permission carries a hefty fine in the KSA), so I am a little concerned when one of the stallholders gets up, quickly followed by another. He grabs a punnet of grapes, and his colleague takes a couple of bunches from his stall and places on them on top. He runs towards my open window and hands the large punnet of fruit over. “Welcome to Saudi. We are so happy you're here”. Wow!

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Desert Rose, Ha'il
On return to the hotel at the end of the tour, we struggle to get into the room, as the card key is not working. It was temperamental earlier too, but finally worked after numerous attempts. This time it is most definitely on strike. A nearby cleaner uses his key to let us in, and kindly goes down to reception to get the key re-programmed for us. We have met such kindness from everyone we have encountered so far on this trip.

I was right to suspect that the hotel does not have a restaurant. There is a juice bar next door, however, so we have a dinner consisting of shortbread cookies with fresh raspberry and mango juice. Plus grapes, of course.

At 21:30 we receive a phone call from reception asking us what time we would like breakfast. I suggest 08:30. They seem happy with that. I expect we are the only ones staying here, and that they don't want to prepare unnecessary food, which makes perfect sense.

While getting ready for bed, David switches on what he thinks are the bedside lights, and creates a whole new atmosphere in the room. Oooh, la la!

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Goodnight from Ta'il and thank you to Undiscovered Destinations for arranging this exciting trip for us.

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Posted by Grete Howard 16:51 Archived in Saudi Arabia Tagged fort market palace sheep grapes reservation camels best_western souq goats saudi dates butter cookies middle_east saudi_arabia red_light hail ksa delsey_dining bureidah camel_market qassim desert_rose toilet_paper shougaf_grill artillery_and_weapons_depot aarif_fort aarif arif_fort chicken_tawock arayes_chicken qashiah_palace qahiah closed_for_restoration maamoul camel_skin lizard_skin arabic_coffee key_card mango_juice Comments (2)

Araras Day Three - Bridge 3, swimming pool, anteaters

A great finish to our stay in Araras


View Pantanal and Amazon 2022 on Grete Howard's travel map.

Another early start this morning: up at 04:15 for a 05:00 safari.

We stop at the statue of São Francisco, the protector of ecology, to photograph the sunrise, before continuing to Ponte 3, our favourite bridge (I never thought I'd end up with a favourite bridge on the Transpantaneira).

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Bridge # 3
There are way more birds flying this morning than yesterday, and in greater quantities.

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Most birds roost near water at night, as the sun heats the water during the day, which helps keep the birds warm during the night. In the morning they fly off in search of food.

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It is mesmerising to watch.

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Flash Gun
After the problems I had with low light necessitating high ISO (= noisy/grainy images) yesterday, I brought my Speedlight with me this morning, plus my Better Beamer.

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Ringed Kingfisher

The Better Beamer is basically a fresnel lens on a frame. Its main purpose is to extend the range of the flash, although it will also reduce the possibility of the lens hood casting a shadow.

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Green Kingfisher

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Caiman

I am impressed that it seems to work all the way across the other side of the pond!

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As well as into the sky above.

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Large Billed Tern

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Black Vulture

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Black Bellied Whistling Ducks

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Orange Winged Parrots

After a while, I abandon the flash.

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Caiman

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Wood Stork

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Jabiru

Black Skimmers
I love watching the way these birds fish by skimming the water with their beaks open. The lower mandible is larger than the top one, allowing them to more easily hook up some breakfast.

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This one's got a fish!

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Large Billed Terns having a bit of a domestic

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Yellow Billed Cardinal with a colouration issue

This is what he is supposed to look like:

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Southern Caracara

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Black Capped Night Heron

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Maguari Stork

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Peach Fronted Parakeet

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Unicoloured Blackbird

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Striated Heron

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Great Egret

Reluctantly we move on from the pond at Bridge # 3, and slowly make our way back towards the lodge.

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Maguari Stork

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Savanna Hawk

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Southern Lapwing coming in to land

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Black Stilt

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Wood Stork

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Wattled Jacana

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Monk Parakeets

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Roseate Spoonbill

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Rufous Cachalote

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Bared Faced Ibis

We see a Southern Caracara have a wrestling match with a stick.

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Guira Cuckoo

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Lesser Yellow Headed Vulture

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Black Vulture

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Snail Kite

Breakfast
By the time we get back to the hotel, we are too late for the breakfast buffet, but the lodge has laid our usual table in the shade of a tree on the patio, and they bring us a number of different dishes.

It seems the chachalaca have got to the butter, however, before we can.

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Caught red-handed - or is that red-beaked - with a large knob of butter in his mouth.

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I bet the butter does melt in his mouth, though!

This is the most we've eaten for any breakfast so far. Disclaimer: we didn't eat everything served! We do feel obliged to eat more than we normally do, however, as they've brought us all this food.

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Chill time
Mid-afternoon we spend some time in the pool cooling down. We are the only ones around, so have the pool to ourselves. I guess everyone else has gone out for a strenuous walk or horse-riding.

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This is not a sign you really want to see right next to the pool

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Afternoon safari
At 16:00 we set off for our very last safari in the Pantanal, as tomorrow we are moving on to pastures new.

The first thing we spot is another armadillo.

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Agouti
He is a long way away, there is lots of dust in the air, and I am shooting into the sun, so unfortunately I don't get any good pictures of the agouti.

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A Crab-Eating Fox rushes past us.

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Blue Crowned Parakeets

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Yellow Collared Macaws

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Collared Anteaters
Leaving the best until last, Roberto slams on the brakes and reverses the car back a few yards before jumping out with his binoculars. Soon he beckons us over: he has seen an anteater in a tree.

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Wow!

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Not just one, but there is another one in a nearby tree, which is quite surprising, as they are normally solitary creatures.

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Once the sun's gone down, leaving the anteaters in very low light, we reluctantly return to the lodge for a shower, dinner and packing before bed.

Goodnight and goodbye from Araras. Thank you to Undiscovered Destinations for arranging this trip for us.

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Posted by Grete Howard 19:30 Archived in Brazil Tagged birds wildlife breakfast kite safari parrots pool hawk brazil birding brasil ducks fox swimming_pool south_america caiman swimmingpool heron egret stilt stork vulture ibis armadillo cardinal caracara blackbird kingfisher pantanal butter cuckoo bird_watching transpantaneira anteater jacana undiscovered_destinations tern lapwing parakeets bird_photography wild_birds flying_birds speedlight flash_gun skimmer araras sao_francisco bridge_three roosting_birds better_beamer cachalote chachalaca butter_wouldn't_melt_in_his_mou chill_time agouti Comments (0)

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