Christian bye-pass, across the Rub-al-khali

(An unlikely video of Saudi Arabia – scuba diving in the Red Sea, Jeddah)

I lived in Saudi Arabia for six months in early nineties and am I thankful to fate for that. Tourists rarely go to Saudi Arabia – the only outsiders (reluctantly) allowed in to Saudi Arabia are expat workers. As one such, I landed in Jeddah on the Red Sea coast.

Saudi Arabia has a pretty negative image among most outsiders. But, I found an endlessly fascinating country. Here are 3 things that I saw and experienced there which left me with a taste for more:

Rode down the world’s first “religious” highway – the christian bye-pass is the road non-muslims need to take to cross the great Saudi desert. Muslims can take the regular highway that goes to/near Mecca.

Saw pink flamingoes for the first time. Drove a car down the desert directly into the Red Sea and kept going for more than a mile into the water. The point where the Red Sea meets the Arabian desert is very shallow and one can wade into the foot-deep water for a very long distance. In the distance, framed by a setting sun was a huge flock of pink flamingoes.

Spoke to a refined gentleman who had published a very thought-provoking book on Economics. The book was (almost inevitably) about “an islamic view of” Economics. But the central thesis of the book, that modern western Economics without an overlay of social morality could be pernicious for most societies was intriguing. I called up the gentleman in Riyadh (who turned out to be a very senior official in the Kingdom’s central bank) and had a most interesting, impromptu 15 minute discussion. Debating modern economics with an erudite author was not something I had expected to do in the Kingdom.

For more on the Rub Al Khali (The Empty Quarter), click here:’_al_Khali



3 thoughts on “Christian bye-pass, across the Rub-al-khali

  1. My friend Rohit Hangal who runs India’s largest Tourism trade show – ( tells me that Saudi Arabia is getting very active on tourism. How the world changeth! I did a quick Google search but could not find an official Saudi tourism site; so they probably have some way to go.

  2. dear hari
    tks for the early comment ,i just wrote my blog post
    it was nice to read on S Arabia ,as most of us do not know much ,I had read a book on how shiek Saud formed the kingdome and united all the fiefdoms and all about the oil discovery etc very intresting
    there are very learned and cultured people there too
    great post

  3. Yes, Saudi Arabia was a bit of surprise. There are many funny things about that country – the religious police and public executions being two that spring to mind. But it has its cool spots too. Incidentally, i met a number of very nice people – as you say, “learned & cultured’ …

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