Red Sand in northeastern Riyadh has become a popular weekend destination among Saudis and expatriates who are fond of the desert. As its name suggests, the sand is red. It is an hour’s drive along winding roads. Mountainous areas, ancient date forests and green hills and valleys can be seen along the way. “You could rent four-wheelers to ride around the area, like we do whenever we go there on weekends or Eid holidays,” said Jack Canete, who works for a local construction firm and is a member of a bikers’ group. Canete and his group head out just before sunrise and find residents from the city or adjoining districts renting out four-wheel drives.
“This is a way of reliving our youth back home, where we used to bike as a way of keeping ourselves physically fit.” For others, visiting Red Sand is a way of taking a break from city life. “If you’re tired of the humdrum, especially bumper-to-bumper traffic during peak hours, a visit to Red Sand is a welcome break,” said Cenon ‘Nonie’ S. Sagadal Jr., a local bank marketing representative. Sagadal still visits Red Sand but not as frequently as when his family was still with him in the Kingdom. “There’s not much to see if you’re looking for breathtaking scenery, but the vast desert that you see around as you drive toward the area could evoke immense happiness that’s better felt than understood,” he said. He added, however, that the adventurous could make things happen. “My family and I, for instance, used to hike the sand dunes. We considered this an important exercise because it’s one way of bonding as a family.” Abu Ali, a Saudi who works for a local company, added that he and a few friends go to Red Sand once in a while to escape the noise of the city. “We have our own place in the area for quiet reflection, while others have their fun. We hike the trails out of curiosity with the birds chirping and flying above us. We try to discover new ground every time we go,” he said. Benny M. Quiambao, a Filipino community leader, added that he also likes Red Sand. “I have memories of certain woods and certain hills at Red Sand,” he said.
One advantage is that visitors make it a point to pick up any litter before they leave the place, he said, probably because they want others to do the same as well. “Others bring food which they eat after hiking or riding around with their four-wheelers, but they make it a point to pick up trash before they leave. This encourages visitors to the area to do the same,” he said. A visitor, named Janelle said, the Red Sand is located 80 kilometers outside Riyadh’s city center and is less than an hour away so it’s the perfect weekend getaway for us who are looking for some change in an otherwise lazy weekend afternoon. Before reaching the Red Sand, the road leading to this spot is gifted with amazing views as well. Sedimentary rock walls sandwich the road. And the road probably looks like a snake from an aerial view judging by all the bends we have to traverse. The slight shift of the car gear is no biggie especially when there’s a surprise that awaits each bend.