Visiting Neom: an adventure extraordinaire
Flying from Riyadh to Tabuk en route to Neom one passes over scenic ‘crop circles’ of green cultivated land in the desert and also some spectacular mountain ranges. From the air and from a distance, the true beauty evades any onlooker but once on the ground it is not far outside Tabuk that the mountain ranges begin to appear and the staggering beauty of the area of Neom becomes breathtaking.
Our sojourn into Neom began with a rental car hire in Tabuk at the airport and then the journey to Magna commenced. Magna is a small tranquil seaside village and the Hasco Dive Centre was the overnight stop – a pleasant 24 room hotel style accommodation with a superb beachfront setting.
Nearby is Wadi Tayyb-Esm an incredible crevice between the 600m high granite mountains that provides a 5km hike through some of the most incredible mountain terrain in Saudi Arabia. It is said that when Moses brought the people out of Egypt through the Red Sea they reached the land of Madyan at Tayeb Al-Esm.
“Neom is not just going to be a great place to go to, it will be the greatest place on earth to go to”
No trip would be complete without stopping to see the wrecked Catalina Seaplane near Ras Gasabah South of Magna on the way to Sharma. The wreck has lain there for over 60 years now since it was shot up in 1960 after a case of mistaken identity.
Travelling on to Sharma, the scenery is wonderful, and the roads are outstanding. Near Sharma is the Neom Base Camp where fervent activity is underway to manage, create and turn Neom from a vision into a reality. Experts from around the globe are clustered together in this immaculately laid out base camp comprised no doubt of every facility imaginable and resembling what Elon Musk may have in mind for the first station on Mars.
From Sharma it is a short drive South to Al Muweileh another small village which has many hidden gems and quaint farm stays and beachfront accommodation. This is also home to the Castle Moelh Ottoman which is a large historical monument located near the village of Al-Muwaileh, which belongs to the Duba Governorate, which in turn belongs to the Tabuk region. In the ancient times, the castle was considered one of the main stations of the coastal pilgrim road, as well as being a portal of the northern gates in the late Islamic eras. The castle was built during the reign of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent in 968 AH, and it has been inhabited for more than four hundred years and is considered by historians as one of the major castles in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Heading South, Wadi Her is just a stone’s throw away and this is a landmark to know in the area, directly thereafter comes the Port of Duba, a large seaport that caters to international shipping and has its own ecosystem including customs, immigration, security and more.
30km south of Port Duba, is Duba city itself, an icon and source of diverse commercial activities and resources for Neom.
A trip to Wadi Al Disa is a must and it is truly a great sight to see – it is hard to believe that this majestic oasis is not in Arizona or in the Grand Canyon somewhere. The Wadi and surrounding mountain range sights are amazing and truly remarkable to see. This is a real hidden gem of Saudi Arabia and not to be missed.
Another day trip that will be mind-blowing is a day out at the Bajda Mountains. This mountain range has the most incredible formations imaginable and certainly not the ordinary mountain ranges generally seen. Caves, crevices, waterholes, desert flowers, Bedouin camel camps, 4x4 terrain and adventures like never before. There is no doubt that a person exploring could spend a lifetime at the Bajda mountains and still not see all of it.
The general concept of Neom appears to be to harness everything nature and man has to offer in Saudi Arabia, the best of everything, and consolidate it making it affordable, accessible and enjoyable. The vision of the Kingdom’s ruler is fast becoming a majestic reality and once the doors are open and the tourists are accommodated, this will be to tourism what Dubai is to air travel and there will be no reason to go anywhere else. Neom will be the holiday, travel and tourist destination of choice and what a good choice it will be.
As the sun set on the final day and we looked back, I knew one thing – I will be back. Neom is not just going to be a great place to go to, it will be the greatest place on earth to go to.