The sunshine was still bright, but the weather cool. The surface of the sand warm underfoot, but just an inch below already cold to the toes.

Enjoying a day out Saudi-style, we bounced up and down the sand dunes in Toyota FJ Cruiser. With air let out of the tyres to lessen the risk of sinking into the sad, the engine was gunned for ascents and throttled back to allow a silent sliding downwards on the other side.

We drove past what looked like crumbling mud fortresses but that were really old date farms, and past mighty desert palaces the gatekeepers of which dismissed as just one of their master’s little garages.

Scrambling up into an old derelict watchtower, I looked up into the clear blue sky, the shadows thrown by the walls protecting my eyes from the sun’s wintry glare. Only the mud brick walls remained; the floors and steps had long fallen away. A lone sentinel; a silent and empty mud column: the rock and sand of the desert stretching away to the cliffs on the far horizon.

We stopped by the roadside to have jugs filled with on-the-brew tea and Arabic coffee, and we ended the afternoon with a late lunch of spiced rice with camel meat.

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