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May 31, 2020

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"Measuring 4 km wide and 250-meters deep, the sprawling Al Wahba crater is one of Saudi Arabia’s most dramatic natural wonders: a vast hollow with an opaque lake at its heart.

Carved into the western edge of the Hafer Kishb basalt plateau, the crater is around 250 km and a two-hour drive north of Taif, or about a four-hour drive from Jeddah. The lunarlike landscape offers a near-otherworldly experience for those who come to climb it – complete with glorious views over the desert from the crater’s rim.

But as wonderful as the views are from above, the real magic happens when you climb down into the heart of the crater. In the center of the bowl, you’ll find white sodium phosphate crystals that create a glittering crust visible from the sky. This salt-bed transforms into a pearly lake whenever rain gathers in the hollow, fringed by the shrubs and palms that dot the crater’s rim. A dried lava field can also be seen snaking away from the northern edge of the hollow.

The crater was once thought to have been formed by a meteorite crashing to earth, but research by geologists in the 1960s revealed Al Wahbah to be a maar crater. These shallow hollows are caused by volcanic eruptions that occur when groundwater comes into contact with hot lava.

Locals, however, have their own legend of Al Wahbah’s creation. According to the tale, the area once held two mountains: Tamia and Cotton. One night, after a flash of lightning illuminated Cotton’s beauty, Tamia fell in love with him and vowed to uproot herself to be closer to her beloved. But before she could reach him, her mountain-cousin Shelman became jealous and shot her with an arrow, sending her crashing to the ground. The crater was formed by her fall."

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LOCATION Al-Waba Crater - 27711, Saudi Arabia

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