Thursday, April 01, 2010

Rihlah 3 : 3 in 1 (Ragbah-Qassab-Shagra)


01-April –2010

Another exploration with our parents before they head back home.  Trying to find interesting places around Riyadh district to fill in our weekends.  This week we decided to cover three places in a day.  From Raghbah moving to Qassab then to Shagra. 


Compliment to for the information of the Raghbah history.

“Raghbah is about 120km northwest from Riyadh.  What’s so special about Raghbah?    This old town was said to be very fertile with abundant rainfall and was established in the year 1669. Raghbah has its historical significance in many perspectives. Imam Mohammad Ibn Saud's declaration to support "the call for returning to the basics of Islam" (Ad Da'wa As Salafia) of Sheikh Mohammad Ibn Abdul Wahab in 1744 has been considered a historic event in Najd and the Arabian Peninsula. The people of Raghbah joined Sheikh Mohammad Ibn Abdul Wahab's movement in 1750 which provoked the people of Sudair and Al Washm, who with Al Zufair marched to Raghbah in 1751 and besieged it. It was the first in the Mahmal region to join the Da'awa.

This town was one of the targets during the invasion of Nejd by Turks in the year 1817 under the command of Ibraheem Pasha. Castles of Raghbah were destroyed by Turks during the chaos.

While the word Raghbah means "to desire" or "willingness". It has other meanings as well based on the way it is pronounced. This aerial view of a portion of the old town of Raghbah is from Al Marqab Tower. “

We reach there early morning of about 9 am together with Faris and his family.  It doesn’t seem that anyone is taking effort of preserving this historical site.

Al-Hazem Quarters which was left behind

 Imagine an architecture of 22 metres with 6 blocks of different size and made of mud!

Two can fit  on top of the tower but  one at a time to climb up

The first thing that attracts our eyes is the Al-Marqab Tower.   This observation tower is one of the famous ruins of Najd in terms of historical magnitude and architectural greatness. Made of cylindrical stones, mud and bricks, this 22 meter high tower was built by the people of Raghbah with the expertise of Ibraheem Ibn Salama as recorded. Architecturally, the tower has 6 parts in different heights. It has small windows for lighting and ventilation.

As we have reach there, it is a must to climb up the tower.  Hubby and our colleague Faris first went up the tower to survey.  Yup..the writer of splendidarabia was correct.  Only two people can fit on top at one time.  We might loose our breath for a while if  we’re not fit like us :-).  It has about xxx steps altogether.  As I’m pregnant, I knew for sure i will loose my breath.  So..maybe not this time for me.  Later on the kids follow their dad’s climbing up.  No problem for the kids as usual….full of energy! 

Later on we strolled down the sites observing their architecture.  We’re impressed with the remains.  The architecture were magnificent.  Many of the roof top still intact made from palm threes and covered with mud.  Not sure whether it is the original ones or has been rebuild.  Seeing the sites being neglected makes us feel sad as it has it’s own uniqueness.  We hope the Saudi’s could do something in preserving the historical sites. 

The ceiling made of date palm i guess

The wall with its unique decor

Wonder what this hole is for

As we have our parents together with us, we knew that we need to fill up our stomach first.  My father especially can’t have his stomach empty,  We decided to move on to find a good spot to settle down for brunch.  Going up and up, we find hard to get a good spot at least with one tree to sit under.  Actually, it is a challenge to do that here. 

We drove towards Qassab in finding a good spot for picnic.  While trying to find a suitable spot, we might as well get to Qassab to try our luck experiencing salt making.  There is no information on the net about Qassab.  Hubby just got the coordinate from Googlemap. 


Reaching Qassab we saw more trees for our break time.  From the road we couldn’t see any salt lake nearby but at far we can see boxes of a rectangle shape like a pond.  Therefore, we decided to stop at a tree  by the road which look like a good spot for picnic.  The best part of driving around in Saudi is 'picnic is a must’  when you off to desert.  We hardly did this when we’re in Malaysia actually. 

As we settle down with our specialty ‘nasi lemak’ and ‘meehoon’, hubby went out by foot to search for his salt lake.  As for the rest, we can’t wait to feast our stomach with the delicious nasi lemak Diana made, currypuff by MIL and our very own meehoon. 

Picnic as usual

About half an hour later, hubby brought us with the good news.  Yes, it is the salt lake.  We need to drive in further in to see the salt lake.  An experience we can’t wait.  After finish with our meal and the kids enjoy their time playing while eating, we then continue to move on.

It is about 2 km further in from the spot we picnic.  They have made the salt lake into about 500m x 1000m long each.  There were about 10 lakes.  The source of the salt water seems to be from down underground of a few lakes dug deeper in.  Then they have a pump to pump the salt water into the boxes of lake with the piping made to reach the lakes for the salt to dry up.  Some of the lakes were dry already and we can see small hill of the salt which they have dig to be bring to the factory.

The main salt pond to be pumped into the lake

One of the salt lake

In the process of becoming salt from salt water

Taking close view of the salt

Up, close and personal

 Gift ceremony of Salt hunting behind ‘The Hill of Salt’ and the prize is… ‘Salt Block’

While observing the salt lakes, suddenly we saw one car trying to approach us.  Actually the salt lake is a private property.  But as there was no gates or signboard saying not to enter, why not enter?? Else, we can’t get the opportunity to get up, close and personal experience seeing and touching our day to day ingredient used in our food.  When the car get closer and find us doesn’t look like a threat, he just turn back. 

It is very interesting to see the stages of the salt from water and turn harder or frozen.  We touch the dried ones in the lakes and get a taste of it.  Very, very salty.  THere are those which were dug already and pile into small hills.  Some block of the salts were even look like crystal.  THe kids ask permission to bring home a few blocks as it look interesting but we do ot allowed them as it is a private property and we do not get permission from the owner.

Satisfied with the pictures taken, we decided to find the factory itself.  Who knows we might get the chance to see the process of turning the ‘dirty’ salt into a ‘clean’ one like in our kitchen.  Driving forward with our eyes trying to catch any glimpse of possible salt factory, we think we found one.  We went offroad towards the factory to test our luck. 

In front of Zad Salt Factory

One of the truck carrying the salt from the lake to be process at the factory

We able to find Zad Salt Refinery.  We drive around to find anybody we can talk to whether we can enter the premise.  Faris and Atok approach the entrance gate as we saw a guy sitting not far from the gate.   Negotiating to persuade the guy allowing us to enter ends with failure.  He insist us of getting in the factory though we offer to pay him some money if necessary to enter.  He just offer us to go around the area to see the salt pond.  I guess it is the rules of the factory.  We respect him for being responsible for his job.  So..we just went around the area, taking more pictures.  Satisfied..we move on with our next location…Shagra.



We couldn’t find much information about Shagra as well.  We just knew that there is a castle at the area from a local who post about his hometown over the net.

The name "Shagra" means "blonde" or "blondie" which is taken from "the blonde mountain" which is north of Shagra.

[It is 190 KMs northwest to Riyadh .. the road to it is not bad. It is double lane from Riyadh to the town of Hurimla (85 KMs from Riyadh) .. and it is still double lane highyway for a few kilometers .. then it is one lane until about 10 KMs of Shagra.

Shagra is an old town and I have no source to be specific about it's age but it is absolutely not less than 500 years.
One of the most famous historical landscapes is the old wall of Shagra which was surrounding the old town to protect it from invaders. The Turk tried to capture Shagra and the town fought back for three months then the Turk destroyed parts of the wall .. then it was impssible to fight .. so, people of Shgara made a truce with the Turk

One of the most famous historical sights that you must go to is "The Subaie Palace" .. it used to belong to the vice mayor of Shagra who is last name was "Subaie" or "Al-Subaie".]

– source from and those are  the only information we have for our search today.


At a roadside in Shagra town 

We gamble our search hoping for success.  We drove around town searching for Subaei Palace. We even stop by the side road when we saw policemen at a junction expecting they should be the expert of their area.  Hovewer, we were hampered by them.  Actually we already felt like giving up but Faris insist on trying to ask a few more people.  Alhamdulillah, with his determination, we find our luck. 

It was worth searching.  The palace was under reconstruction.  Maybe 30% complete.  With it’s combination of partly ruined, partly reconstruct, partly complete, the looks was magnificent.  We can see the old architecture being rebuild.  We look at one of the door being repaired.  With its size, thickness of the wood,we can guess why their buildings can last for hundred of years.  Being in the middle of a beautiful, unique historical sites is refreshing. 


As Subai’i House probably Museum as well but closed during weekends. 


Palace entrance


View from outside


Just in front of the entrance after reconstruction


Climbing the tower is challenging as usual


The original wall with it’s decor is still intact


A view from rooftop, partly remodeled, partly still in its original form

Today was a very fulfilling day.  We felt satisfied with what we experience in a day. Can’t wait for more findings in this so called ‘sahara’.

Maassalamah. –tw/eth

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