Wednesday, July 03, 2013

The week before Ramadan - Day 2 evening

In the evening, I decided to visit the RAGHADAN PARK, a highlight I had read something about and also seen on Google Maps. The signboards to go to this place were just 50 meters from the entrance to my hotel, so I walked to that point. I asked a few people where the park was and whether I would need to go there by car, or could I walk it up. Most responders either did not understand my pidgin Arabic or did not care to reply. Finally, a kind youth guided me to the appropriate road and said it was an easy walk of about 3 km down that road. I thanked him profusely. He could not have been more wrong, as I realised later.

I started off with a very high level of interest. The road was level for the first half km, then started going up slowly. It seemed right to walk. As the half km ended, though, I realised, rather uncomfortably, that I was more tired than I had understood myself to be, and that I would find the going very, very slow. To relieve myself, I started to concentrate on the sights and sounds around me. Of course, the sounds I heard were mostly the sounds of cars zipping by! But I did see some interesting murals of Abha-style homes made on the street. Here are the pictures. Do excuse the quality of my pictures as they are taken with a simple P & S camera at night. There are also a few pics of the hill on which I was walking; I took these as I continued to walk up the road. 

The hill atop which I needed to go to reach Raghadan Park. The building seen above is one of the many hotels at the top.

A view of the Al Baha town as seen from one of the vantage points

The picture above and the two below depict the styling of ancient homes in the Abha region.

Eventually, I came upon a park on my left. There were about 50-60 cars parked in the parking lot. Beyond, I could see the park which has children's swings and slides, a lot of "umbrellas" for families to sit under, and several people enjoying the place. It did not appeal to me at all, and I approached one of the Bangladeshi gate-keepers. He told me that there was one more "park" about a kilometer ahead. I set off, a little tired but enthusiastic to see what more the Saudi government had in stock for me. 

The family park at the lower level
 After the additional climb, I came across another area on my left with a lot of canopies, but it was all in the dark, at  an elevated level, and I couldn't seem to find the gate. However, there was an interesting bit of street furniture here:

Street furniture made to look like milk cans
Ahead of this, there was a beautiful valley view; the Al Baha town shone like a million stars in the night ... on one side. On the other side, there were a few roads, with moving cars seen as dimly-lit dots, but otherwise, complete darkness ... a scary proposition.

A tea vendor here directed me to the back side of the wall. From here, I reached the gate to the park. Again, there were many cars and families at this level. There were play areas for kids, with plastic slides, and a few other things:

Slides made from inflated plastic

This boy is clearly enjoying himself as he jumps up and down, tied to a swing from the top.
And then, there was this zoo - an entrance fee of SR 10 took me to an arena-like enclosure with wild animals caged inside 10X10 enclosures. Here, I have captured the view of a Bengal tiger and an Asiatic lion. The third cage has some babboons. The conditions in which these animals are being looked after would make any animal protection agency scream bloody murder. The animals seemed well-fed but listless and resigned to living their lives in these small cages. Even transport cages used by the inhuman circus owners are bigger!

I saw the manager - a Saudi who seemed very pleased to receive so many visitors on a week day. Obviously, his organisation must be raking in a lot of moolah on weekends. An assistant moved around with a large python curled around his neck, gawked at by the many visitors who probably felt they had their money's worth. I left the "zoo" and returned to the gate to make my trip back to the hotel. On the way down, I tried to stop cars to help take me to the bottom of the hill; it was after almost 15-20 tries that I got a Saudi boy to stop and give me a lift to the bottom. God bless him. I had walked over 5 km, mostly uphill, and was really tired.

Reaching the town, I asked around and located a Pakistani restaurant about 1/2 a km ahead of my hotel. I went there and had my dinner. After this, I just returned to my room to go to sleep before mid-night.

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