Sunday, March 30, 2008

Fossil Hunting in Riyadh

Actually, there weren't really much 'hunting' required, we did not even have to do any digging!
It was very easy to get to the fossil site, and you don't even need a 4-wheel-drive. You just go on the riyadh-dammam highway (heading towards dammam), take the exit to thumamah, then the junction to buwiah (i may spell it wrong), then go off-road once you see an upright tire on the left side of the road. Just head towards the hills, park your car, and look for fossils on its slopes. You'd be suprised to see how easy it is to find the fossils once you found your first one.

There were lots of fossils that looked like 'lips' (as Sunflora politely calls them), but looks like something else to me (you know what I mean if you see what I named the picture). I think they were some type of sponge or prehistoric sea-life or something. I've been scouring the web for a scientific name for it, but couldn't find any that looked like the ones we found. sorry. If you do know what they're called, please tell me!

If you're lucky, you'd find shells or clams, like the ones I found above. The second one from the left is actually a whole clam (kepah). It looks like just a lump of rock, but upon closer inspection you'd see it's actual shape. The rightmost fossil is of an oyster shell. It's amazing how it still retains its sheen after billions of years.

Also in abundance are fossils of sand dollars and corals, the kinds that branch out like trees and also the soft coral types. Ihsan even found a petrified twig (the 'nose')

My prized posession, though, had to be this really tiny sea shell I found. It was so tiny I almost threw it away, but it felt round so I brushed the dirt off to see if it was something worth keeping and was pleasantly suprised to see that it was a shell :)
We were hoping to find some shark tooth but unfortunately we didn't find any. We didnt stay long enough and didnt have the right tools for digging and breaking of rocks, so we had to be content with whatever we found, but even then they were still impressive to me.

As usual, any melayu trip would not be complete without eating. We had headed out around 7am to avoid spending time out in the dessert under the noon sun, so we had a breakfast picnic near the hills after we got tired of picking fossils and started getting hungry :)
Since we had extra time, we decided to drive to another site further up, to pick 'saudi diamonds' (cubic zirconia like rocks that could be polished and set into jewellery), but unfortunately our drive was hampered by a sandstorm, so we decided to turn back and head for home instead.

We (read: Taufik and I) took a nap before noon prayers (while the kids made a racket playing god knows what), and then we drove to Granada Mall and met up with Ruby and her family for lunch.
We wanted to visit Old Diriyah, a historical site with an old fort and old buildings, but they were closed for restoration and upgrade, so we went to Ita's place for tea instead. We're not that dissapointed. At least we have an excuse to drive up to Riyadh again (and perhaps drag some other people along next time? *winks at lollies*)
That night Jeni, our host, and the other Malaysian occupants of the apartment building we were staying in held a barbecue on the building's rooftop and we had a blast eating and chatting till our tummies almost burst at their seams.

The next morning we said our goodbyes and thankyous to Jeni, and headed for Ruby's place for an egyptian-singaporean breakfast of spicy Singapore style fool (egyptian lentil soup) eaten with bread and Roti John (french bread with a layer of mince meat and eggs fried on it). We were further spoilt with chocolate cake with chocolate frosting, topped with chocolate ice cream, whipped cream and chocolate syrup. I could die happy right there and then.
But I could not die because we had to go to Swahili's house for lunch.
Swahili's house was like heaven for my kids, coz the big boys got to play Halo on XBox, and Anis and Izani played outside with the pool, then snuck off to play in the garden and got so dirty that I had to make them change before having lunch.
Lunch was super yummy and I am amazed at how Swahili managed to make time to cook dishes that cater for both adult and children taste buds. Dah lah tak kasi orang tolong basuh pinggan!
Oh, and at Swahili's I also met Han, who has been reading my blog but commented only once ;) Yay.. dapat kawan baru!

As with all of my trips to Riyadh, it was hectic but fun! Not only do I get to see another facet of Saudi Arabia every time I go there, I also most usually get to make new friends.

The kids had a lot of fun looking for and at fossils. They even had fun cleaning and brushing the dirt off the fossils to discover what it really looked like. It brought up a lot of questions about how old the earth is and how it and its inhabitants have changed throughout the ages.
I'm going to make them search the web for more information, maybe it will spark more interest in natural science.
I hope that they would gain a love for the earth, and the passion to care for it, at the very least.

My friends in Riyadh, if you're ever in Khobar, do not hesitate to contact me so that I can return your hospitality!


  1. awakkk!! kita yang dok riyadh belum gi lagi fossil hunting, but am totally intrigued! thanks for coming by eventhough schedule u tight sesangat! hehe.. i really hope to visit you around next week if my in laws cant come.. take care, send my salam to the family..

  2. awakkkk
    kita lupa nak give you some of the fossils!! Ini semua penangan chocolate cake you lah ni.

    Eh when you come to khobar, you MUST , MUST, come to my house. Sleep over also can, I have an extra room.
    Bawak baju mandi bebudak , can terjun pool.

  3. Ruby.
    then lets make that trip together, kita pun belum pergi.

    Diriyah is close?we pass by the place yesterday, decide to pop in.Parking guy say close for solat, open at 4? he allow us to just drive by for pics..
    Han's kids had a bubble bath after you left,yes in that small pool! The fun continues.I finally got my couch (YES) yesterday-was tempted to spend my nite on it, in jubilant =)

  4. We drove around the area, but the main old town is closed behind a gate. I think you can see it in some of the pictures taufik downloaded into your computer.
    Tapi the building kat luar the old town is open, but we didnt go in, thinking we'd visit properly next time.

    MasyaAllah!! Siap main bubble bath lagi! Next time i come to your house, I have to plan for extra clothes lah.
    Where are you putting the new sofa?

  5. swahili,
    u mean trip to thumamah or trip to khobar? :) both i want to do next week, spring break holidays for both me and salma, jom ah!!!

    realistically, my in laws cant come lah next week, coz the process of making a passport for my fil will take some time, so... that heading up there! inshaallah! get ready beb!!!

  6. cikgu9:56 PM

    The first set of pictures looks like 'trilobites' to me. Jealous nye, I wish to have some. Kat sini, US, mahal betul kalau nak beli.

  7. ruby - I am ready sokmo!! :)

    cikgu - I thought they were trilobites too, but looking at the pictures of the fossils on the web, they look kinda different. The ones we found didnt have any 'legs' at all, just like a lump of something.

  8. salam,
    we went to the fossil hunting site yesterday but since we were rushing for the boys to go back for Friday prayer, we gave up the fossil hunting.We only had picnic while the kids had their good (but short, as they complained) time flying kites.
    Next trip, insyaAllah.
    Nice to see your collection.At least we have the idea what to expect during our next trip!
    Thanks for sharing the story!
    : Hanim, Riyadh

  9. Hanim,

    wah, and how did you discover this ancient blog post?
    Sekarang the weather is cooler, I'm sure it's possible to go in the afternoon instead, lepas sembahyang jumaat. Tak jauh sangat kan.. just a few minutes more from the camel market tu.

  10. Salam,
    it was my hubby who found this link.he was talking to his Japanese boss in the office when the subject of fossil hunting arised.So he googled to look for pictures of the fossil and found your blog.
    we are planning for the trip again this weekend with more friends.
    Can i borrow your pix for the kids' "history tutorial" ? i'm planning to explain to them before the session cos i want them to know why we are looking for these fossils.

  11. Which area/desert can one go for the "Saudi Diamond" hunting?
    Any suggestion?

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