25 hours on the road through the Kingdom of Saudi-Arabia
After waking up, we watched several episodes of series before we finally arrived in the port around 13:45PM (almost 5 hours late). How it was triggered, we do not know, but from the moment we entered the ship, we had the feeling we were treated with priority. Very pleasant, but also very unexpected. We were the first to receive our passports back, the first to receive ‘the mandatory antibiotic pill’ from the doctor (which we tossed in the trash) !?, the only ones allowed to wait in the hallway towards the car deck and the first from the ship into the bus to the immigration office…and as a logical result, the first in line at immigration. We entered Saudi-Arabia at exactly 14.30PM and would have 72 hours to get our car freed from customs, drive 1500kms and exit the country towards U.A.E.
To our surprise, the VIP treatment continued…once we arrived at customs, we were directed to a waiting area with air-conditioning. After paying the customs charges, we were instructed to wait till further notice and we started reading... About 45 minutes later, the guy came back and asked our papers. Some 30 minutes later, he asks for some help to get the papers completed and about 45 minutes later, the car was brought to us. Normally this would be it. However, we thought we needed the carnet de passage signed and stamped as well, which took another 30 minutes… It however turned out that this was not required (KSA was not mentioned on the carnet). Although 2,5 hours still is still one of the most time-consuming border crossings for us, it was much faster than we expected based on the stories we had read online. At 17:10PM, we started the car to drive at least some of the 1500kms with the intent to camp somewhere next to the highway. Once we got to Mekkah and we were directed to the detour for non-Muslims, the highway also had some nice areas where we could indeed have camped close to the road. We however thought it was too early and still daylight to stop driving and drove past Mekkah and ended up on the main highway towards Riyadh, but without any (suitable) camp spots. As a result, we drove towards Ta’if and booked ourselves a nice room in the Intercontinental hotel where we enjoyed a tasty diner-buffet and a comfortable bed.
The next day, we make an early start and drive the 775kms towards the capital Riyadh close to non-stop. This time, we decided to stay overnight in the Holiday Inn relatively close the National Museum that we wanted to visit and would be open on Sunday evenings. The latter was unfortunately not true and we ended up in a Hypermarket to buy ourselves a picnic that we enjoyed in our room.