The village of Wakan sits high on the western border of the Sayq plateau; it appears out of the grey dawn like an ancient fortification, high, distant and formidable. This is just part of the spectacular view from within the the Al Ghubrah bowl, from the long and winding track that leads across the wide plain of Acacias and dry thorn beneath a sunlit skirt of bone bare mountains.
The gravel plain within the Al Ghubrah bowl.
As elsewhere, the isolation is being removed by the construction of a new road; a blessing for the villagers who will soon be able to commute to the nearby towns and for tourists venturing into the tamed wilderness. The road brings improved opportunity, health and income but also ties off another ancient culture that lived a proudly independent existence but one governed by hard rules predicated on blind fortune.
The village of Wakan high on the edge of the Sayq plateau.
The village exists, like all others here, because it taps the copious water running off the plateau and this feeds the terraces that sit above the huddle of houses in a large deep green tear-drop within the bleak, earthen rocks.
The green terraces above Wakan.
A nearby oasis village below Wakan.
The water running through the rocks to the terraces.
Terraces of cereals and fruit trees.
A terrace of fodder grasses.
The terraces are filled with wild plants that are left to prosper in the margins of the fields and adjacent the many small waterfalls that spill down the hillside. I was seeking Gladiolus italicus but was just too late as it flowers very early in the Spring. The bulbous, seeded flowers on thin stems were present in the terraces which was a little frustrating (but made finding the similar G. illyricus plants in Montenegro all the better) but there was still a rich diversity of spring flowers, many of which that would not look out of place in Southern Europe.
I think this elegant fern is Pteris vittata.
The eastern marsh helleborine Epipactis veratrifolia; this and the fern species hugged the sides of small waterfalls and spillways between shaded terraces.
Broomrape was abundant amongst the arable weeds; this is I think Orobanche ramosa.
Red poppy Papaver dubium opening in the early morning; these had delicate, powder blue stamens.
Cut-leaved cranesbill Erodium laciniatum.
A white Salvia species probably Salvia spinosa.
Sour clover Melilotus indicus.
The distinctive ridged, conical calyx of sand catchfly Silene conica.
Fields of garlic.
On the rocks nearby the endemic Verbascum akhdarense is plentiful.
Caper bushes are also very common.
Sinai agama Pseudotrapelus sinaitus sitting still by the side of the road.
Back down from the village and the small town exudes colour and geometry.