After learning of caves in the area, I decided to pay a trip to Al Hofuf to see what Saudi Arabia had to offer. It seemed odd heading off on a caving trip without the traditional pork based breakfast, but I somehow survived. The 120 mile drive (which cost about £1.50 in petrol) was passed with a local boy showing off his camel riding skills, a very flat dog taking a nap on the road and only a few near death experiences.
The cave is located in the cliffs on the side of Qarah mountain, a rocky outcrop / plateau surrounded by palm trees. The cliffs have been heavily eroded over time leaving some weird and rather phallic geological features.
Following the cracks in the rock further lead into the cave itself, a series of narrow cracks roughly 30m deep opening up to the sky on the plateau above. It was at this point that I realised I had forgotten to bring my torch, thankfully the flood lighting, concrete paths and staircases made the majority of the cave easily accessible. The bits off the beaten track had to be tackled with the LED mode on my camera and a few bumps to the head. I followed the cave as far back as I could, probably about 300m before it came to an end. With a bit more squeezing I could have got a bit further down some of the passages, but the thick layer of dust that coated the rocks didn’t encourage me, plus I wasn’t sure how much time the light on my camera would last.
After escaping back into the sunlight I scrambled up onto the plateau, the surface was covered in deep cracks, which went all the way down to the floor 30m below. Loose scree all around meant I had to tread carefully to avoid sending any down onto the people wondering round the cave below. I’m sure heading down some of the cracks would give access to some parts of the cave not accessible by foot however finding a safe anchor in the loose rock / mud would be very difficult.
Thanks to some nice people, a more detailed description of the cave can be found here: http://www.caves.org/pub/journal/PDF/V68/v68n1-Hussain.pdf