Yanbu al Nakhal
On our site visit to the coast, we called into Yanbu al Nakhal, Saudi Arabia; which means "Spring of the Date Palms", about 30 miles northeast of Yanbu al Bahr, which means "Spring of the Sea".A thousand years ago, this valley was in its prime. It was dotted with more than 300 thriving villages. Today, there are only 24. Oral history from the villagers indicates that the valley was dotted with neatly planted and watered farms. This area was well known for wild date farms and sweet and sour lemon orchards. Now, it is known for growing watermelons, henna and vegetables.
Thousands of years ago, channels were built to bring water from the mountains to the valley. There are thousands of channels around this valley. They can usually be found near a village or farm. Water was available to the farms even during droughts in the valley. But this water was not enough for the farms to be successful. They needed to store water when it was plentiful. For many centuries, drinking water was carried by camel and donkey to stone lined watering places that were built approximately every 6 miles on this plateau (Al Baydhah). They built 3 ft stone walls around the water channel to keep out sand and debris. These water storage places were replaced when the government built freshwater pipelines.
Given the heat and the sand, it’s really a surprise to see the wadi’s filled with vegetation and the odd stream, with the backdrop of the ancient settlement. For those usually dealing with European river catchments this a contrasting climate and sustainable issues than we’re usually used to. A thoroughly enjoyable visit and nice surprise.