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  • Writer's pictureHilary McCormack

A full moon 'party' in the Ad Dahna super bowl

Updated: Dec 22, 2021

"Moonlight drowns out all but the brightest stars." J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

Don't think Thailand is the only place you can enjoy a full moon party. Oh no, you also have them in the untamed deserts of Saudi Arabia too. What's so special about looking at a full moon in the dark empty desert I hear you quip? Well, it really is the most unique moon you will ever find.

Communications between our group start in the days before we even leave our home base in Riyadh. I always travel in a group; on this occasion, there are about twenty of us, sand ladders of varying levels of desert experience. This is a good number of enthusiasts for 'a Full Moon' gathering. (If you are just visiting Riyadh on a short trip and want a local experience contact Salwa from Haya Tours on +966 50 416 6323).

We have a leader and a sweeper. The group leader takes the lead in laying out the plan for the trip, and we all follow and support that person by playing our own part in a successful off-road 'full moon' trip. Trip updates and advice on the trail ahead of us are given over Whatsapp when we have phone signals and via handheld radios when we are in black spots. Often the group breaks up into different levels of driving skills, and the more timid drivers amongst us learn new driving skills or improve the ones they already have.

The first part of this trip's fun is getting to this 'party.' You are driving right out in the desert. When we left the main road near Rumah Village, we drove 102 kilometers across and around the spectacular Ad Dahna Desert to the location referred to as Ad Dahna Bowl. This is where we planned to camp for the evening. It is almost the furthest delicately peaked dune you can see on the horizon.

Just when you think you can't push your vehicle over one more dune, you arrive at the top of the grand entrance to a naturally formed bowl-shaped secluded camping site. This corridor of sand connects An Nafud desert to the north and Rub Al Khali desert to the south. It is a place of exceptional natural beauty created by the blowing wind and the natural movement of the sands, which circles our camping site with towering dunes on all sides.

We park up at the campsite just as the sun dims its light above our heads. The camp is a hive of activity, with harried greetings to the early arrivals, the renewing of acquaintances, and younger family members rushing to arrange themselves around the camp for the best spot to toast their marshmallows—the perfect setting for a 'wild' camp dinner.

With our camp set up, we prepare for our starry night viewing. And then you wait for the night to come alive. And this is some of what you will see.

There is no jockeying for a position close to the 'music of nature' for your full moon experience because you can occupy a choice of dunes all around the campsite. Each dune offers a different perspective on our surroundings and is an excellent workout to get to the top. We summarily spread out and enthusiastically catch the night on our iPhone, Samsung's, and Canon cameras.

This far into the desert, the night sky is free of light pollution, cloudless, still, and painted a velvety dark black and dotted with diamond-shaped stars carpeting the galaxy above our heads. Some sleep in tents, and others sleep out under the stars. We all retire early on these trips so that we can be up early to welcome the rising sun as reverently as we greet the moon.

Photo Credit Alan Morrissey

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