Riyadh’s White Canyon: A Home to Grand Gorge and Other Desert Wonders

The Hiker’s Maxim: “Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints, kill nothing but time (J.K.).”

When I received the internal communication regarding a big discount offers relative to the celebration of International Men’s Day on 19 November 2019, I immediately chose and registered in Hikemania Club’s hiking trip to the White Canyon in Nemar. White Canyon is actually a long gorge and is just one of the many gorges in suburban areas of Riyadh.

This kind of privilege does not come often. Grabbing it was the only option.

In the early Friday morning on 22 November 2019, of the then ongoing freezing weather, I was chatting with two of my colleagues and friends inside the car en route to the meeting place at Al Awal Plaza. Our uncontainable excitement heated up the cold wind. Nothing could kill the adventurer spirits that have possessed us. A few minutes before leaving the plaza, it was mentioned in passing that the destination is one of the most beautiful hiking spots in Riyadh. That wasn’t mentioned in my previous hiking trips.

An hour passed and we were already entering the threshold of the canyon and another 30 minutes of slow drive to safely navigate the bumpy and potholed roads to the base camp. We arrived at about 0530 which is just a few minutes away from the rising of the sun.

We immediately sat by a campfire and stuck our hands in the fire at some point. The chilling temperature was at its peak since it was still early in the morning. A briefing and “tea talks” ensued for approximately 15 minutes then we started treading the rocky trail down the gorge.

I suddenly remember my hiking days in the Philippines. The trail only leads to two parts: ascent and descent. In Riyadh, those parts are constants of the endeavor. You descend and ascend in the gorge, like always.

The differences of the mountain and desert gorge trails make me appreciate the uniqueness of both and made me understand and appreciate topography better.

After an hour and a half of trekking the long cliff-like terrain, the snaking trails led us through high limestone walls and an open area, like that of a valley, which is an equivalent of a clearing in tropical mountains.

Standing on one of the edges of White Canyon range, I couldn’t stop peering into the valley below where patterns weaved throughout, a once upon a time wet now, a dry, river floor.

A desert full of rocks and a few flora on a marriage of cold winter winds and blazing sunrays…it was a bizarre yet riveting scene to feast on as well as to step and climb into.

Limestone walls feature across the skyline while jagged rocks fill the foreground.

Shades vary from brown and orange to off-white, and limestone layers almost everywhere. Getting through the clearing part of the trail meant filling your shoes with minuscule rocks, but that’s too little of a worry with what it barters for.

That is, a view that is a reminiscent of the Himalayas’. I maybe exaggerating but that’s what can actually be seen there.

This hike had been recommended very highly by Hikemania Club on their Instagram and Facebook so I knew I was in for something special further along the path.

This, I may say, is the ever-present scenery of White Canyon. The landscape of White Canyon is absolutely mesmerizing.

Later on, I indeed found something really special along the way: this exquisite view of the Canyon. (It is worth noting now that it placed 3rd in a photo contest in Almarai Company called “Kingdom Through My Eyes Gallery”).

View this post on Instagram

This photo was my entry to the “Kingdom Through Your Eyes” Gallery (photo contest) last 17 September. It was taken in one of the desert gorges called “White Canyon“ somewhere in Nemar during a hiking trip last 22 November 2019. Nemar is a suburban area of Riyadh that is now a frequented, popular hiking destination. So how did I come up with this photo as the ultimate entry? We, a group of about 50 hikers, were having a five-minute break on our final trek back to the base camp when I noticed this hole in a rock layer of the gorge right beside where I was sitting. I was instantly magnetized by it because I have a penchant for geometry in nature. I aimed the camera at it and I was so so stunned at what registered in the screen. Right then and there I realized that the beauty of Kingdom of Saudi Arabia doesn’t only lie in majestic skyscrapers, serene beaches, or traditional and familiar sights such as mudhouses, camel caravans, and sand dunes. It also lies in natural, intricate geometric figures carved into limestone layers or walls of so many desert gorges out there. Furthermore, this unique photo of the “Kingdom through my eyes” taught me one great lesson in travel photography: The beauty of a place doesn’t always appear on what’s readily seen, but on hidden vantage points where clues for it are only awarded to a pair of observant eyes. I can now say that I was the only one who saw those clues on that fateful day. Today, this photo has won 3rd place, with a travel ticket as prize. To my colleagues and friends, thank you so very much for the votes and unwavering support! 🍺🍺🍺 #shotoniphone #firsttimenasumalisaphotocontest #saudiimages

A post shared by Sonyboy Fugaban (@thewanderingfeetandmind) on

As we made our way along the path further, I could not help but take photos more than I should in total delight of the place.

Wandering through the gorge during the last part of the trek, we crawled through intricate rocks with so many geometric figures. It’s really amazing how nature silently works to give us with amazing wonders in the wild.

Nevertheless, I was, of course, paying attention not to trip and plummet down the unforgiving ravine and sharp rocks along the way.

Hiking in such an extreme, monster freak level trail was just so overwhelming. I couldn’t believe I was able to keep up with the regular hikers, considering that I’m still exercising my new ACL.

This gorge stretches for about 20 kilometers and it took us three hours and a half to complete the trek.

In the driest places on earth, there are nature wonders that are uniquely and equally astonishing as those in the tropics.

Just when you thought, the deserts out there are as barren as the dictionary’s definition, don’t just think again. Go explore them and you’ll be surprise at the many treasures they hide.

This fun and safe hike was another initiative of the clubhikemania (Instagram) or Riyadh Hiking Mania (Facebook). They welcome joiners to all of their hiking trips and can be contacted via said social media channels as well as to HikeMania Club WhattsApp/Mobile Number 0533315773.

Clubhikemania has an utmost dedication to the Leave No Trace (LNT) Principles and the joiners’ safety and fun.

Related Articles

The 6 Most Popular Trekking Spots in Saudi Arabia (destinationksa.com)

Hiking Across Riyadh (dqliving.com)

Things to Do in Saudi Arabia (agoda.com)

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Absolutely breathtaking experience, I wish I could see it with my own eyes some day

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Indeed. The place has a special place in my heart, subjectively and objectively, as you can see 😆😁 Regardless though, this gorge is a must-visited destination in Riyadh…

      Liked by 1 person

    2. It’s a lot better to see the actual place. My photos only did little justice.


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