You know I'm inspired by my travels, and Saudi Arabia is rich with inspiration, and Rock Art! It's the fourth richest location for Petroglyphs in the world. Read on to hear the story about our discovery of these incredible petroglyphs (rock art) and see the artwork inspired by it.
We woke at 6 am for a guided tour through the dunes in Al Ula, Saudi Arabia, with a bit of dune bashing thrown in. We piled into the back of local's 4x4's, seats and doors carefully covered in plastic. Let's stop for a moment to discuss the plastic. It can be seen frequently in Saudi but initially the purpose was very unclear to me. Being Australian, the heat there is the same as the heat in Saudi, and even on the coolest day, bare skin will sear on hot car seats, so plastic covers on fabric seat was counter-intuitive to me. Not to mention, I was in my synthetic abaya, and I was sliding around on said plastic like an egg in a teflon pan (which will add to my experience - read on).
The backseats were already full, and without a thought, I jumped in the front seat. Laughter erupted from the driver's seat as he slumped over the wheel, trying to catch his breath. I quickly glanced at my my face in the sun-visor mirror, no toothpaste on my face. Is my abaya on back to front or inside out? Before I could finish checking myself for the cause of his state, with a gasp of air, he squeezed out the words, "You are my wife now!" followed by more raucous laughter.
I'd just committed cultural faux pas #1. The front passenger seat (back then) was reserved for family, or the wife of the driver. Not for some rando Sheila from Australia!
He waved me off when I offered to move seats. The thing is, I get crazy motion sickness, so the front seat on a normal road is barely keeping my innards inward, but dune bashing has the potential to unlock the motherload. (hmm, that plastic covering is beginning to make sense)
With a lead foot, our chariot lunges out of Al Ula and into the wilds of the desert. As we reach the sand, the tires hiss furiously as the guides deflate each wheel to get better traction through the dunes. Again, my head snaps on my neck, as the engine roars to a high pitched scream (wait, is that me? oh it's both of us) as we attempt our first dune.
Up. Up. Up.
"Yalla! Yalla! " The backseat brigade, yell. Faster! faster! Swaying from side to side like a ship in a storm, I have my own storm brewing in my stomach as it reaches for an exit. WIth each fishtail, me and my abaya slide violently across the plastic covered seats. Higher and higher we fly, higher and higher that mystery meat I ate for breakfast, churns. With a large gulp, and a moment of air-born weightlessness at the precipice of the dune, both the car and my breakfast return to their rightful place.
It is now that the true reason for those plastic covered interiors make sense as the interior is now orange with sand and grit crunches between our teeth.
Yalla! We all scream. Our guide obliges and needs little encouragement.
As the sun rises, we settle in a small canyon and rest by the fire, on luxurious Arabic carpets laid upon the cold sand, sipping tea, Arabic coffee and sukkary dates. The most delicious dried fruit that is creamy, sweet, and tastes like caramel. We stuff our pockets with more dates before our desert hike through the canyon, with walls so high that the early morning sun tries to burst over the crags sending rays of light into the sky.
The sand mutes the sounds of our group wandering through the canyon, and I am immersed. Exhaling, my breath reaches for the cool air in whispy curlicues, my feet walking softly on the forgiving floor, and my ears serenaded by the breeze as it meets the sand. This is the desert. This is stillness.
Allowing for our own discovery, our guide pauses, and we naturally absorb our surrounds until quiets gasps can be heard as each of us feel the discovery of ancient petroglyphs adorning the wall of the canyon.
Camels and hunters etched into the wall tell those who pass by, a story of lives past, of hunting and animal husbandry serving to educate its viewers.
it wasn't until several years later that this inspiration bubbled up into my own design that your can see here. But when I travel, whether it's to the supermarket, or to a magical place like the Al Ula desert, I take photos (a lot of photos) of things that catch my eye, and later draw on them for inspiration, so I'm never left wondering what I will create next.
Drop me a comment below if you like this artwork. You can also follow me on instagram, and you are welcome to browse my designs by clicking on the photos below.
Love and Palm Trees,