A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about rock formations

Al Ula: Dadan, Jabel Ikmah, Hegra

A step back in time

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

After a lovely breakfast buffet, we leave the hotel at 07:30 this morning, to drive the 20 minutes to the meeting place for today's excursion. The roadside is dotted with bizarre and fantastical rock formations.





Here in Al Ula, all visits are highly systematic and fastidiously arranged through the tourist office. The only way to enter the archaeological site is on an organised visit, via e-tickets. We arrive at the location indicated on our e-ticket, which is basically just a bus stop.


There is no-one else here, some ten minutes before the allocated meeting time. Bacha, our trusted driver, wanders around the area a little, chatting to various people. Suddenly he hurries back, urging “the bus leaves in 15 minutes”, and points to a parking area further away. Bacha heads for the buses, but the road is closed. We rush across on foot, panicking slightly that we might miss our slot. An official points to one of two buses, and we get on, breathless from the haste and the heat. There is no-one else on board, not even a driver.


As we wait, a number of other tourists turn up in cars and minibuses (with their drivers dropping them off right by the bus, not 'miles' away like we were) and get on the other bus. “Are we on the correct bus?” I have to admit that I am feeling a little edgy and irritated at this stage, as I would like to know what the arrangements are. I am so not into these sorts of organised tours.

A minibus arrives with an Explore group (a small group British adventure tour company, that we have travelled with on a number of occasions in the past), and their leader comes onboard our bus with them, explaining to his group what is going to happen. I am glad someone knows what is going on, as we are completely confused.

45 minutes after the allocated time, we leave, with the first stop some 15 minutes away.

We start the visit at the very new and modern visitors centre, devoid of any atmosphere, but quite clean and airy. A female guide starts explaining the history of the area, but she doesn't wait until everyone has got off the bus before doing so, so I miss the start of her commentary. Another reason to dislike group tours, and one of the main reasons we stopped doing them 10 or so years ago.





Rock tombs
From afar, these look like simple dark rectangles near the base of the cliff. A closer look reveals skilfully crafted funerary monuments, including the seated lion sculptures that mark the famous Lion Tombs. Lions symbolised power and protection and may have marked the burial of an elite member of society, perhaps even a member of royalty. These tombs are up to 50 metres above ground level, spurring the imagination of how they were carved without modern construction equipment. It is said that the reason for constructing them so high above the ground, was to ensure an easy passage to heaven by being part way there already.


This, a photograph in the museum, is the nearest we cat get to the tombs

When I feel a sudden urge (the Saudi version of Delhi Belly), I rush to the toilets back in the visitor's centre. Thankfully they are beautifully clean, with proper western seats, soap and water. When I get out, I find that everyone else is back on the bus and just waiting for me. Someone is in 'my' seat at the front of the bus (which I chose especially as it is easier to get in and out of with my poorly leg). I probably sound as grouchy as I feel when I 'apologise' as I lean over them and grab my water bottle that I left on the shelf in front of the seat. They hastily get up, mumbling “sorry, we didn't know anyone was sitting here”. Really? This is yet another reason why we don't travel on group tours!

Another short bus journey takes us to see one of the most important discoveries in the area – the city of Dadan, dating back to between the late 9th and early 8th century BC. Due to the proximity to frankincense trade routes, Dadan was one of the most developed 1st-millennium BC cities in northern Arabia.


Dadan was first mentioned in the Book of Ezekiel (27:20) in the Hebrew Bible, where it was described as the “beating heart of the kingdom and a trading partner of the city of Tyre” (in modern-day Lebanon, which we visited in 1999).


No one is allowed into the actual excavation site, and the guide explains that it is still very much a 'work in progress', and if we come back again in two years, it will be much more interesting.

Jabal Ikmah
We get back on the bus for another short ride to another visitors centre. Here we have a bit of time to lounge around in some funky furniture before continuing with our explorations. A hospitality desk offers dates, sweets, and very welcome drinks. I try beetroot juice, which I enjoy more than I expected to, as I don't generally care for the taste of beetroot.


Tourists travel to the site in golf carts, while the guides walk.


This whole area is described as an open library of inscriptions, with rock art and petroglyphs set in a stunning desert canyon.



Messages and notes are left by those who lived here, as well as passing traders. Hundreds of inscriptions and carvings line the cliff faces and rocks, thought to date back as far as the 1st millennium BC, giving a glimpse into the daily lives of people in the Dadanite, Lihyanite and other civilisations of Al Ula.


The main petroglyphs are associated with two different tribes that came through here around 900 BC and 600 BC


This is the end of the morning tour, and the bus drops us back to visit the site on a group tour, and still suffering from the Saudi Surge, I rush to the toilet in the bus station, which thankfully is modern, clean, and fully equipped.

Bacha spent some time working here in Al Ula a few months ago and knows of a viewpoint he wants to show us. We head for the hills, driving up a winding road that clings to the desert hillside, with great views of the flat plains below.





At the top is a large plateau, with a road leading to the popular lookout point. Unfortunately, like so many tourist spots here in Saudi, it is closed, with barriers across the road and uniformed men standing guard. All we can do is turn around and head back down again.


At least I manage to get a few photos while hanging out of the window as Bacha negotiates the hairpin bends.

We pop back to the hotel for lunch – as we have full board here in Al Ula, with a midday meal included. Unfortunately, they don’t start serving food until 13:00 and it is now 11:50. Waiting until the restaurant opens is not an option, however, as it will not leave us enough time to eat and get down to the centre of town for our next organised excursion. Another reason to dislike organised tours, as if I needed any.


David pops back to the hotel room for some snacks, and we drive down to the bus station car park where we share a packet of Doritos. The Howards sure know how to live!

On the huge 50-seater bus, there are only an Arab family, a French couple and us, as we make our way to the highly anticipated historical site of Hegra.

Visitors’ Centre
The open-air visitors’ centre looks more like a holiday resort than a museum, with plenty of seating, clever use of ropes for shade, and a bar.



Once a thriving international trade hub, the archaeological site of Hegra (also known as Mada'in Saleh) has been left practically undisturbed for almost 2,000 years. Between the 1st millennium BC and the 1st millennium AD, Hegra was an important trading place for the Nabataens and was considered the sister city to the much more famous Petra in nearby Jordan.


Like Petra, Hegra is a metropolis that has turned into a necropolis: most of the remaining structures that can be seen today are tombs, with much of the architectural remains of the city waiting to be excavated or already lost, quite literally, to the sands of time. One theory is that the cities are buried under the desert surrounding these tombs.


To some locals, however, the site has a more sinister reputation for being inhabited by jinns, or evil spirits. According to the Islamic text, the Thamudis who made their home here were punished by God for their idolatry, struck by an earthquake and lightning blasts. Thus, the site has earned a reputation as a cursed place.

Carvings above the entrance to the tomb feature steps to guide the deceased to heaven

Visitors are shown around the site by guides known as Rawis – ancient storytellers and reciters.


The site is extensive, with seven distinct areas of rocky outcrops, some with as many as forty tombs carved from it.


The bus takes us from one important cluster to another, to see some of the more important of the 131 tombs discovered to date. Only 86 of them have monumental façades, however.


There are a further 700 simple holes in the mountains.


Natural water pipes were built around the tombs to protect their facades from erosion, which, along with the dry conditions in the desert, have kept them well-preserved thousands of years after their construction.


It always saddens me when I see graffiti on ancient sites.


This one looks like it has bullet holes in it!


Hegra’s largest tomb, measuring ca 70 feet high, is the monolithic Tomb of Lihyan Son of Kuza, sometimes called Qasr al-Farid. Its name means the “Lonely Castle” in English, because of its distant position in relation to the other tombs. It was left unfinished, with rough chisel marks showing in the lower parts of the tomb.


At the end of this fascinating and educational tour, one of the highlights of the trip so far despite the overly-choreographed group visit, Bacha is waiting for us at the bus station. I ask him if we can go via the famous Elephant Rock before he takes us back to the hotel.

Elephant Rock
Before I left home, I spent a lot of time looking at Google Earth and The Photographer’s Ephemeris website to establish the best place to be for sunset photos of the rock. Not only is it a little too early in the afternoon for sunset, but more importantly, the site is closed. I have to make do with taking a quick photo from the car park before the security guard notices us.


Alternatively, I could turn to my friend Photoshop to create the photo I was looking for.


After ten days with no alcohol, David inspects the antiseptic hand wash with great interest.


Desperate measures for desperate times.


Disclaimer, no hand gel was consumed in the making of this image.

Sahary Resort
We return to the hotel for a shower, dinner and overnight.


Arabian Oryx in an enclosure within the resort

Thank you to Undiscovered Destinations for arranging this amazing trip to Saudi Arabia.


Posted by Grete Howard 21:36 Archived in Saudi Arabia Tagged desert canyon rocks tombs necropolis petroglyphs petra alcohol archaeology rock_formations arabia archaeological_site ancient_history middle_east oryx saudi_arabia breakfast_buffet rock_carvings excavations inscriptions ksa undiscovered_destinations upset_tummy elephant_rock al_ula sahary_resort dadan nabataeans rock_tombs hebrew_bible jabal_ikmah golf_carts desert_canyon rocky_outcrop dadanite lihyanite alula hegra dadain_saleh jinns qasr_al_farid arabian_oryx Comments (2)

Tabuk - Tayma - Al Ula

Continuing south

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

I wake at 05:00 to what sounds like an old-fashioned landline phone ringing in another room, or somewhere in the hotel. It does not get answered, and the ringing goes on for another forty minutes. By this time the hotel-neighbours-from-hell have woken up, and the dad is coughing, clearing his throat, and slamming doors. We escape by going to breakfast.




Today David orders something called Gazmaz Eggs, which those of you who have read yesterday's blog entry, will know that they are exactly what I thought I was getting yesterday when I ordered Shakshuka.


I, on the other hand, e joy a dish of Labneh with thyme, and ask for extra zaatar to go with that. It is served with zaatar bread too, and is incredibly yummy.

Best labneh I have ever had!

Zaatar overload this morning

Soon after breakfast, we are on our way south again. We stop at a service station for a desperate David, and although he claims the toilets were disgusting, he does come back to the car with an ice cream each. Result! I have been craving ice cream for a couple of days now.


We drive around and around this small city, with no sign of the local guide we are meeting up with. Bacha makes a phone call, then reverses around the corner, checks google maps, and phones again, but no guide to be seen. Finally, in frustration, he takes a picture of what he can see out of the window and sends it to the guide. Still no sign. Eventually, we do meet up with the guide on the main street. Abdullatif introduces himself and explains that our guide, who is a friend of his, had to go to Riyadh, and asked him to look after us instead.

Haddaj Well
The well is the main attraction in the city, and something I have been looking forward to seeing. Guess what? It is closed for restoration, so all we are permitted to do, is to take photos from the outside.


Constructed in the 6th century BC, this enormous well has a diameter of 18 metres and is one of the largest water wells in the world. 75 camels were used to draw water from the well – you may be able to see some of the 40 pulley wheels in this picture.

Al Taqqa Palace


While this place is also undergoing restoration work, we are permitted to enter. It is just one big building site, and is a bit of a health and safety nightmare, especially for someone with a knee injury.




Abdullatif has a friend with him, who records our every move on his mobile phone. It is hot, I am still feeling disappointed that the well is not open, I am trying to negotiate my way around a dangerous ruin, and this idiot is filming me! I finally lose patience and snap at him to stop it!


Post note: Some two months after returning to the UK, while researching Google Maps for this blog, I found this image of me – and the one below which was taken a little later after I calmed down.



This palace is where Abdullatif's father and grandfather were born. This, the original door to the palace, is 500 years old.


Abdullatif's ancestors, despite being of humble origin, were/are part of the local royal family, making him a sheikh.


Sheikh Madi Altalaq Palace
We are invited to visit the family's current palace, which is accessed through an impressive-looking gate, into a walled compound. The building itself, while large and sporting a splendid entrance, is reasonably unassuming from the outside.

The reception room, however, is anything but. A huge room, with extravagant chairs along the walls. We are invited in to take a seat.


An Irishman called Andrew, who we met outside the older palace, tags along. He is travelling independently, in his own car, having previously lived in the KSA.


Bacha appears suitably impressed. This is the room where Abdullatif's grandfather would entertain visiting dignitaries.

Post Note # 2: Since arriving back in the UK, I have seen videos of such visits.


We are offered Arabic Coffee, of course.


Also individually-wrapped cookies, dates, and apple juice.



In the small library, we are shown pictures hanging on the walls of famous people visiting this place. Abdullatif takes lots of pictures of us, promising to add them to the collection of VIPs. Should you be lucky enough to get an invitation to the palace, look out for our picture in the 'Rogue's Gallery', and let us know if you see us.



The whole experience has been surreal as well as humbling – I never thought I would be invited to a sheikh's palace here in Saudi Arabia!

Bacha has been given directions to a suitable lunch place for us, and we invite Andrew to join us. The restaurant is very traditionally Arabic, with floor seating in individual little cubicles only. Explaining about my knee injury, Bacha asks if they can find me a chair, but they have none. We decide to look for something to eat elsewhere, and after a bit of driving around, we end up in a fast food joint, where we all enjoy 'zinger sandwiches'.


After lunch we say goodbye to Andrew, and head further south to continue our journey. We enjoy a post-lunch snooze for the first few miles, but then try our best to stay away as the scenery becomes increasingly more rugged, with some fascinating rock formations.





I am disturbed to see the amount of graffiti that has been scrawled on the rocks.



I am totally blown away by the outer-worldly scenery that has been sculpted over the millennia by wind and water.





Just outside the town of Al Ula, we turn off the main highway onto a sandy track leading to our camp for the night. Bacha explains that previous customers have complained about the approach road to the hotel, and the management is now trying to improve the road. We see a number of road-work vehicles, but no workers. Bacha is concerned about getting stuck in the loose sand here, so drives very gingerly.



The track may be a basic sandy lane, but the breathtaking approach to the resort takes us between staggeringly steep cliffs and golden sand dunes basking in the late sun.


Sahary Resort


Amusingly, the sandy track turns into an elegant cobbled road as we enter the resort compound.


The reception area

Bacha, our lovely driver

The resort is large, with different types of accommodation offered.



It looks like we are staying in the Al Gazal Village part of the camp.


David walks along with the porter transporting our luggage, while I hobble behind with my walking stick, taking photos.


It seems we are right at the end of the path, the furthest away from reception, the restaurant and the car park. Oh well, I shall be giving this poorly knee a bit of a workout for the next couple of days.


Well, almost at the far end.


Our room is made to look like a traditional Arabic nomad tent, but the interior is anything but basic.



After settling in, we wander down for an early dinner, as we want to try and photograph the stars later. The restaurant looks like a wedding set-up, with white cloth-covered chairs, and it is almost empty.


For a buffet, the food is surprisingly good. We both normally hate buffets with a passion, but this has some decent meat dishes - we choose stuffed chicken in a cream sauce with rice. They also have a good selection of vegetables, which to our surprise are not overcooked, but still offer a delightful al dente texture.


As for the dessert buffet – wow! It all looks so delicious that I try one of each. Thankfully they are very small portions.

Chocolate-filled eclair, baklava rolls, honey cake, cream-filled sponge (very light and surprisingly delicious), baklava, kanafeh (sweet cheese-filled pastry), kiwi custard tart.

After dinner, we return to the room and sit outside for a while, admiring the stars, and trying to photograph them. The local light pollution in the camp, while looking very pretty, makes it hard to get a clean image.



In the end, I manage to create something by combining two images.


I would like to offer a huge thank you to Undiscovered Destinations for arranging this amazing trip for us.


Posted by Grete Howard 21:10 Archived in Saudi Arabia Tagged breakfast sheikh graffiti library rock_formations stars ice_cream saudi dates astro fast_food saudi_arabia ksa undiscovered_destinations astro_photography labneh arabic_coffee tabuk banan_suites zaatar tayma haddaj haddaj_well taqqa_palace neighbour_from_hell gazmaz_eggs dignitaries zinger_sandwiches rocky_outcrops al_ula sahary_resort nomad_tents buffet_dinner sheikh_madi_atltalaq_palace Comments (3)

Balkanabat - Yangikala - Gözli Ata - Turkmenbashi

One of our more surreal days: camel jam, bizarre rock formations, ancient pilgrimage site, agonising leg injury, restricted tourist zone, 5* yacht club, self-locking doors

View The Forgotten Stan - Turkmenistan 2019 on Grete Howard's travel map.

Continuing the trials and tribulations of a cloth napkin this morning, the waitress surprises us by NOT removing it when she brings our breakfast out. She does, however, make a big point of giving us paper serviettes. We let sleeping napkins be, and stick with the paper ones.

Breakfast just appears this morning, and a very substantial affair it is too, with egg, sausage, bread, cheese, jam and pancakes. We are not going to starve on this trip, that's for sure.


Picnic Lunch

Last night Meylis ordered a picnic lunch from the hotel restaurant for today's journey; to be ready for 09:00. When he goes to collect it, they say it will be another 25 minutes before it is ready, as it is “just cooking now”.

25 minutes later, and he is told “it has just cooked now, another 25 minutes for steaming”.

They were correct about the timing – 50 minutes late we pick up the food and can leave for the next part of the journey.

As we drive out of the town on Balkanabat, we spot some cool horse riders at the side of the road. They look so right here, like something out of a historical Silk Road movie. This is the first time we have seen anyone on horseback out here.


Wild Horses

These are of course not the valuable and sought after Ahel Teke horses, but rather amore common breed known as Yomut.



Eurasian Griffon

A large bird is circling quite low overhead, and Artem stops the car so that I can get out to take some photos.



We share the road with a small herd of free-range camels. There are infinitely more camels than cars on this stretch.





As I have said before, 80% of the country is covered in desert, and we soon see some classic dunes along the side of the road.


And not just beside the road, it is blowing across it too.


The sand is remarkably deep considering the wind apparently only started yesterday – if this is what it can do in a day, I dread to think what it will look like by the end of the week. It is obviously quite a common phenomenon, as we see a sign warning of SAND BLIZZARD.


More camels

As we climb higher into the barren mountains, we come across a huge herd of camels. These are not free-range, however, they are being guided along the road by a camel herder on a motorbike.


For the last few hours we have been driving along a flat stretch of land, with wide open spaces on either side, and no ditches or other obstructions on the side of the road. This section, however, has barriers either side of the road, so we end up having to travel at camel-speed until we can get past this jam.


A few of the camels have somehow ended up on the wrong side of the barriers.


Two of the animals clumsily try to cross to the road-side of the fence, and totally fail.


It seems that the stray camels are somewhat stuck, as the embankment and part of the road have slipped down into ravine below. Not sure what they will do now if they can't cross the barrier – go back I guess.



Footnote: I don't know what they did in the end, but when we drove past again a few hours later, there were no dead camels at the bottom - I checked.

Yangikala Canyon

Having passed the camels, we climb to the top of the cliffs with amazing views of the plateau below. This completely flat area that seems to stretch as far as the eye can see, was once the ocean bed of the pre-historical Parathetys Sea.


It is not the empty and barren lowlands that are spread before us that we have come to see, and soon we catch a glimpse of a series of surreal rock formations rising mysteriously from the planes below: The 'Badlands of Turkmenistan'.





I am fascinated by the crusty layer of rock on top, which has kept its shape and hardness while everything underneath it has been eroded away.


I wish I knew more about geology and could identify the different rocks and their formation / age.


Erosion, wind, weather, and tectonic shifts over the last 5.5 million years have all contributed to carving out the curious landscape we see today: Yangikala Canyon. Rose coloured rocks, tainted by the presence of iron, vie for attention with ribbed white limestone folds and alluvial fans in this extraordinary range of cliffs stretching some 15 miles across the desert to the Garabogazköl Basin.








Crocodile’s Mouth

Continuing across the top of these rock formations seems almost like a sacrilege. There are no roads or tracks, we just drive along the flat surface, until we come to a formation known as the Crocodile's Mouth. From its gaping overhang, it is easy to see how it got its name.


Both Meylis and David go to the top of the snout of the croc to have their photo taken, but as I am none too fond of heights, I flatly refuse. After a bit of persuasion I start walking out towards the edge, and find that it is not as terrifying from the top as it looks from across the small ravine.


I am not as brave as Artem, however.


The view in the opposite direction is much more picturesque, and not so terrifying.




We decide that this is a great place to have our picnic. With the temperature being in the mid-thirties (centigrade) and no shade for miles around, it makes sense to sit in the air conditioned car to eat. Overlooking one of the most sensationally striking landscapes imaginable, we tuck into cold manty while the music is blaring out Ra Ra Rasputin by Boney M. Could life get any more surreal? This surely has to be one of the main highlights of our trip and a memory to cherish forever!

Manty - traditional Turkmen beef dumplings

Adding to the bizarre feel of this place, peculiar spherical bushes, reminiscent of tumbleweed, dot the flat plateau as far as the eye can see.




Taking one last glance back at the multicoloured cliffs and the place I overcame my fear to stand on the overhang, we leave Yangikala Canyon behind and turn back the way we came.


Gözli Ata

The mausoleum of Gözli Ata, a respected Sufi teacher in the early 14th century, is now a popular place of pilgrimage.

You can read all about him here:


Visiting pilgrims walk around the mausoleum three times, always anticlockwise.


Surrounding the mausoleum a cemetery has sprung up, with some unusual grave markers.





This, a somewhat more traditional grave stone, features Persian writing, evidence that worshippers come here from far and wide.


Many of the graves have hollows cut out or a cup at the base such as this one. It is not for flowers as we would do here in the west, the containers are for collecting water to quench the thirst of the souls who are resting here. In reality, the water is used by wildlife, meaning that even in death you are still supporting life.



And here is that wildlife:


Not only do pilgrims come here to pay their respect to the revered sufi leader, they also use this site to create cairns, such as these modest collections of stones, which they believe will act as vehicles for their prayers.



A much larger and more formal structure has been created for worshippers to pray for children, health and wealth.


Items left at the site indicate what the families are wishing for, such as this comb which indicates they would like a daughter.


It seems this family were desperate for the addition of a son.


The small cot means that gender is unimportant to the hopeful couple as long as they are bestowed with a child.


Keys suggest that a new home is on the wish list.


Other visitors will make their wish in a more traditional way, such as tying a piece of cloth around a stick.


Injury time

A large building housing a guest house as well as a covered picnic area has been constructed on the site to cater for the pilgrims who visit here. We therefore make a point of utilising the facilities before we leave. While making his way back to the car and stepping up onto a 'platform', David misjudges the height of the step and takes am awkward tumble. I know nothing of this until I see him hobbling at a snail's pace across the car park.

Finally making it back to the car, he tells us the story, and admits that he is in a great deal of pain, fearing that he has torn a muscle in his calf. Right here right now there is absolutely nothing we can do about it, so he just swallows some pain killers as we make our way to our final destination for today.


Huge crowds of sheep and goats signal the presence of a waterhole.


I always struggle to tell the difference between sheep and goats in this part of the world, as they both look very similar, unlike the sheep in the UK.


The little brown and white blighter who is looking at us is a sheep, whereas the black one with his back to us is a goat. I have always looked at the coat to tell them apart – sheep are fluffier with curly hair, whereas goat wool is straighter and courser. Meylis informs us that the goats are the ones with horns, although I am pretty sure that this is not always the case.


Looks like the sheep and goats will soon have company, as we meet a number of camels making their way towards the waterhole.



They seem to be as curious about us as we are about them.


I can just hear the conversation over a drink later:

Camel 1: “Did you see those tourists earlier?”
Camel 2: “I know, the woman even had bright orange hair”
Camel 3: “You don't get many of those around here do you.”
Camel 4: “I wonder which waterhole they were going to?”

We pass more areas covered with sand dunes on our way to Turkmenbashi.



Awaza Tourism Zone

Turkmenbashi is a town of two halves and one of the more peculiar set-ups we have ever encountered. The large modern town (it is the second city after Ashgabat) is much like any other port town, with oil storage facilities and a large passenger terminal, plus the normal residential / shopping areas.

Then there is Awasha Tourism Zone. This is the bit that has me scratching my head (and shaking it).

'Normal' cars are not permitted into the area, so Artem has to drop us off at a huge covered parking area, which houses around two thousand cars. We see less than two dozen.

From here we have to take government approved taxis to our accommodation, which is around two miles away.

It all happens in such a flurry of activity that I end up not taking a photo of the enormous, empty car park. To try and redeem myself, I snap this through the taxi window as we make our way to the hotel.


Yelken Yacht Club

This five star tourist hotel is in beautiful, green sprawling grounds, such a contrast to the barren scenery earlier today. I shall post more about this hotel with lots of pictures in tomorrow's blog entry. It is so big in fact, that we are taken to our room by a golf buggy; despite Meylis arranging for us to be in the nearest room to the main building as David can hardly walk on his damaged leg now.


Drinks on the Balcony

We have a large, well furnished balcony overlooking the extensive hotel gardens, so we make the most of the remaining sunshine with a drink outside.


Thankfully we have wifi here, so I email our trusted chiropractor (and good friend) John, to see if he has any suggestions what David can do to alleviate the pain in his leg. John recommends elevating the leg, taking Ibuprofen, putting ice on the painful part; and he also suggests some exercises that David can do to speed up the healing. I do love my chiropractor for providing instant remote consultation.


Meylis pops his head around the corner and we invite him to join us for a drink. Being young and fit, he simply jumps over the bannister and on to the balcony. When I try to get a glass from the bedroom for him, I am unable to open the door. David tries, Meylis tries. None of us can shift it, which is odd, because I went back in earlier. The door was a little stiff then, but not insurmountable.

Jumping back over the railings, Meylis goes to the reception to get a card key for the room. Being the sensible, security conscious person I am, I double locked the door to the room when we arrived, so the key does not work. Back to reception for plan B. I am so grateful Meylis happened to turn up at the right time, as we'd never be able to explain this to the receptionist in Russian / Turkmen / sign language.

When he returns, Meylis explains that the self-locking door is a safety feature, so that you cannot enter the room from the balcony once the door is closed. How absolutely ridiculous! There are no signs warning us not to close the door when we go out there, something we are obviously going to do in order to keep the room cool and the air conditioning working efficiently.

Reception send a maintenance worker, who has to use his electric drill to take the handle and lock off in order to let us in. By now I can see the funny side of this, and cannot stop giggling.




Turkmenbashi is situated on the Caspian Sea, so it seems logical to order fish for dinner this evening. I choose the speciality dish called 'sturgeon on a tile'. This is a new fish to me, and while it is pleasant, it is nothing out of the ordinary. It comes with lovely rich mashed potato, however. Not sure where the 'tile' comes into it though.


The fried meatballs that David ordered

An unusual dessert of pumpkin with tahini sauce and walnut syrup

David's apple and raisin tart with (a very white) ice cream

Meylis just has ice cream. As you can see, even here in this posh restaurant, all we get is café-style cheap paper napkins. I'm afraid I am a bit of a napkin snob and I do judge an establishment on whether they offer paper or cloth for their diners to dab their lips with. There, I've said it!

After dinner we retire to the room, reflecting on what an fabulously adventurous day it has been.

Thank you Undiscovered Destinations for arranging this great private tour for us.


Posted by Grete Howard 14:23 Archived in Turkmenistan Tagged horses canyon cemetery sheep sand balcony camels picnic dumplings sand_dunes rock_formations graves mausoleum badlands prayers vulture injury goats waterhole turkmenistan griffon turkmenbashi chiropractor sturgeon central_asia wild_horses manty yomut undiscovered_destinations yacht_club picnic_lunch ex_ussr caspian_sea paper_serviettes napkins horse_riders yangikala yangikala_canyon parathetys_sea garabogazköl_basin crocodile's_mouth bomey_m gözli_ata pilrgimage_site sufi_teacher grave+markers grave+stones persian_writing prayer_scarves prayer_cloths leg_injury awaza awaza_tourism_zone yelken yelken_yacht_club locked_out maintenance_man pre_dinner_drink Comments (6)

(Entries 1 - 3 of 3) Page [1]