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Blog 31 Tabuk to Maziem

15th October

Left Tabuk in the 7am rush hour. The traffic is safe enough as long as you don’t get in the way. There’s only one direction to stay alive and that is forward and only one shape, as narrow as possible. If a vehicle is at speed it is not to be assumed it will change its direction of travel. There’s no malice but in the minds of Saudi drivers I’m notarially supposed to be there. By noon the heat is stifling but I always push through. By 80 kms to go I stop at a police post and the fellas treat me to a seat in their building, a bowl of dry dates and disgusting Turkish coffee.

Ali suggests I go to AlUla, but the old route on my map I missed way back in Tabuk when 3 kms up the road towards Al Quilibah there’s a right hand turn not marked on my map and a good road clear of major traffic. I ask a shepherd if it goes to to AlUla and he says it does. It seems to parallel the busy highway 15 so I take it.

What I didn't realise and almost certainly would not have been allowed to visit as it's still a building site is the remarkable new city of Neom, not from Tabuk.

A Bit of Information

A Guardian report 4th May 2020 says, "the name "NEOM" is derived from two words. The first three letters from the Ancient Greek prefix neo-meaning "new". The fourth letter is from the abbreviation of Mostaqbal, an arabic word meaning "future".

The brainchild of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the new city state of Neom, named from a combination of the Greek word for “new” and the Arabic term for “future”, is intended to cover an area the size of Belgium at the far north of Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea coastline.

There has been no shortage of outlandish promises for the $500bn (£400bn) city-state. According to strategy documents leaked last year, the project may include a huge artificial moon, glow-in-the-dark beaches, flying drone-powered taxis, robotic butlers to clean the homes of residents and a Jurassic Park-style attraction featuring animatronic lizards.

Neom in pictures

The road is a good choice, less trucks, a lonely road across the desert, but which road in these parts does not cross somewhere lonely. I ride hard all day with only dates and water. Late afternoon I see another police vehicle by what looks like honey hives and sure enough it is 'The Honey Man'. It almost feels biblical.

Further on I pass the fort described by the police fella and pressed on and onto the street lights that illuminate a small settlement. There is only a small shop run by a fella from Afghanistan but I have no rials and he doesn't take a Visa card. He’s a kindly man, 44 and with his hat and beard and long brown chin looks every bit form the Hindu Kush. As I wonder what to do a guy walks in and offers to change some of my Jordanian Dinars for rials so I can get something to eat. I ride on beyond the street lights, away from the darkly lit group of small concrete dwellings as removed from the concept of Neom as the planet Mars is to the Palace of Versailles and so off across the sands to find place to lay out my blanket. It is cold and the I sleep badly. The ground is hard without loose sand and the wind creeps into the blanket.

Map of the Day

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