Aug 9th, 2010 |
There’s a joke I sometimes tell friends. When asked: “What do you do for fun in Saudi Arabia?”, I’ll usually answer: “We go to Bahrain”. This is perhaps a little unfair. There are entertainment choices in Saudi. But with theaters banned and social areas like malls and parks restricted to women and families, they are a little difficult to come across.
Sand duning is by no means a new activity. People have been driving through the desert ever since the first pickup trucks made it to Saudi. But in recent years, it has developed into a proper pastime, with enthusiasts convening in large numbers to drive up and down these sand hills.
Having been to the dunes several times on an ATV before, I recently decided to don a photography backpack to document what goes on in Saudi Arabia’s sand dunes.
And you’re always welcome to hide the sidebar for the hi-res versions of these photos. Do follow the site via google, twitter or FB first of course, there’s some great posts about Saudi helicopters coming up!
See it BIG
Make it small
The desert is ever-changing. Though dunes are common in the Saudi, duning locations will move around over the years at the behest of natural forces.
It's not difficult to spot a popular duning location. While the winds will cover up car tracks in the soft sands, the flats around them, which are used to gain speed for climbing, are marked with tire trails. There is a strange beauty to be found in these patterns.
Saudi Arabia's economic infrastructure was probably built on pickup trucks. With oilfields hundreds of kilometers out in the desolate desert, supplying oil workers was left to trucks like these, which Saudis affectionately call "Waneet". As the story goes, the Saudi American Oil Company used to tag its supply vehicles with IDs depending on their class. Pickup trucks' numbers always started with '18'. As time progressed, the locals started associating the arrival of the one-eight-vehicle with pickups. 'one-eight', 'oneight', 'waneet'!
It's not limited to waneets of course. Pretty any vehicle people can get their hands on ends up here. It is quite common for young Saudis to rent out new cars for a run up and down the dunes. This practice, and that of taf7eet (drifting) with new cars is why you can never find a decent rental in Saudi!
It takes a big run-up for the waneets, with their smaller engines, to make it up a hill. There is considerable skill involved as well. Don't do it right and gravity will pull you down...backwards!
Or, you would get stuck ;P
4x4s and cars with bigger engines can pull off some more tricks. On a good day, hundreds of cars will converge into the dunes, taking their turns up and down the sands. Not everyone drives of course! Some are just content to come and watch!
ATVs make an entrance too. Rented from the numerous dealers waiting around the dunes, these smaller vehicles can be found buzzing all around the dunes, dodging each other and some of the larger cars! One may notice the absolute lack of any zoning laws or regulations in the sport. Duning has a terrible safety record. Sit down with anyone heading to the dunes frequently and they'll tell you stories of horrible accidents. Upturned ATVs, collisions with other vehicles are not rare, and given the fact most duning spots are away from major cities and hospitals, often deadly.
ATVs will tend to keep to themselves and cars stay out of areas with too many ATVs. In fact, sticking close to the ATV dealers is considered very safe and you will even find women and children riding around. No I will NOT post a picture of a girl in a niqab on an ATV. Instead, here's one of some dude jumping on one ;P
It can get very, very dusty up here... This one was a pretty close call for me but I managed to duck out of the way of the oncoming waneet and turn around for a click before the dust overwhelmed me!
And it can also get very, very gay. But who am I to judge. This is Saudi; guys walk around holding pinkies here.
Sometimes though, even the dust can get quite spectacular.
Uh oh, they noticed me. There's one thing the drivers love more than putting on a show. It's putting on a show for a cameraman. Once they noticed me buzzing around in my ATV snapping off shots, things got strange. I was surrounded by waneets. Every few minutes, someone would stop and ask which magazine I was shooting for.
It was around this time that people started trying outrageous stunts around us (me and a photographer friend). Though we got some interesting shots, things were getting a little too dangerous for comfort. We decided to head back!
No related posts found
Liked this post? Subscribe to my RSS Feed or add me on Twitter for updates.
Or share it with your friends!