Saturday, June 16, 2012

Day 213, Friday, 15th June 2012: An excursion to Al Wabah, a volcanic crater

Today, I went in a private taxi, to see a natural geographic formation that is located near my place of work in Al Muwayh. This place is called the Al Wabah (Maqla Tamia in Arabic). It is a volcanic crater located on the western edge of the Hafer Kishb basaltic plateau that contains many volcanic cones. To reach there, one has to leave Al Muwayh and follow the highway that goes on to T'aif. About 35 km from Al Muwayh, one approaches a bridge that points to a village called Umm-Adoom. One climbs the ramp, then follows the right path, reaching Umm-Adoom after about 31 km. Ahead, this road would finally terminate at Medina, about 400 km away. However, about 60 km ahead of the village, one reaches a brown-coloured board that points to a right turn that ends at the Al Wabah.

We left Al Muwayh at half past eight, and reached the location at about half past ten. Al Wabah is, as Wikipedia puts it (see this link), a maar crater, a formation caused by what is called a "phreatic eruption". This means that, some time in the past, the ground caved in when there occurred a massive steam explosion generated by molten basaltic magma coming in contact with subterranean water. We approached the rim of the crater from its southern side, though the northern side was also visible across the chasm. 

The Al Wabah crater; the northern rim is visible across the chasm, with some visitors.

The crater is 500 m deep, and most of its walls are steep, some sheer rock, and others, gravelly and very difficult to climb down/up without expertise. The rim has a diameter of 2 km. There is evidence of vegetation all around the rim, but especially at the northern end. The sides have stumps of date trees that failed to propagate. The floor of the crater is a smooth patina of white that is formed of sodium phosphate crystals. The appearance is of dried up water, which is what it actually is. 

My taxi driver Khalid and I stayed there, taking photographs and generally absorbing in the desolate nature and the immense beauty of this place for about half an hour or so. Thereafter, we left, and returned to Al Muwayh just around noon.

Below are some more of the pictures we took of this other-worldly location.

The northern rim with vegetation

A close-up of the far rim

First view of the floor of the crater with the sodium phosphate surface that looks like a water body

The sheer vertical wall

Nature's Art

The cracked surface of the floor of the crater in more detail

Yours truly posed against the white background of the crater floor

One of the rocky promontories that form part of the rim of the crater, on the westward side.
To see the complete album, go to THIS page on Facebook.

1 comment:

Holly Jahangiri said...

AMAZING. Did I tell you that I once wanted to be a volcanologist? I love geology. I love writing, more, apparently - but these photos are stunning. Just stunning.