Rawdat Tinhat stands a leisurely 180 km drive north of Riyadh; a forest haven for flora, fauna and visitors eager to get back to nature, recharge their batteries or see a different side to Arabia. Take an overnight or weekend jaunt during the cooler winter months to catch the countryside in full, glorious bloom, and the desert transformed into a carpeted green oasis.
Rawdat Tinhat is located adjacent to the Rawdat Khuraim nature reserve and park — also known as the King’s Forest — and late November marks the start of camping season. The scene is set early on in the journey from the capital, as the highway blooms with leafy trees and shrubs, and the desert sands give way to native flowers.
During daylight, the forest is a showcase of natural color and beauty ideal for exploring, but as sunset approaches head for the park’s perimeter to set up camp for the night. It’s a no-fuss and simple setting, and you can choose a prime spot among the patchwork of trees and bushes to pitch your tent.
Expect to see large family groups firing up the barbecue or gathered around a fire pit (a must for the mild winter nights) with laughter late into the night. Forgot to pack the tongs or the coals? Bundles of firewood and other barbecue essentials, including rental tents, can be picked up from stalls on the highway in from Riyadh and the road into the forest, with local handicrafts and foodstuffs also on offer during the weekends.
There’s a real sense of community and camaraderie here with a steady procession of locals and visitors alike making the most of an al fresco night or two. Come nightfall, unfurl a blanket under the indigo and star-speckled sky, and let the crackle of the fire lull you to sleep.
For a taste of Bedouin life, there’s also the option to camp overnight in the lee of a shifting dune, thanks to the park abutting the outlying sands of the Ad Dahna desert. A winter bonus is the spectacular technicolor sight of a desert sunset, streaking out across the dusk sky.
Rawdat Tinhat is easily accessible by car from the capital. Exit Riyadh via highway 550 before switching to highway 5323, and following signs to Rawdat Tinhat. Entry to the forest is free.