Hmm, door number 1 or door number 2?
Trip Start Jul 16, 2009
9Trip End Aug 14, 2009
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So after filling out the information, my husband walked back to the kiosk. There was already another car there, but that doesn't matter you still walk up to the window. The man then informed my husband that we (meaning him and me, not the kids) had to be fingerprinted; so we have to get out of the car and go over to a small cabin that he pointed out
We passed through customs quickly; some years they have searched the car (including under the seats and in the glove box) but this year there was virtually nothing; the officer peered in through the car windows, saw our sleeping children, and motioned us on.
Once through the border we were faced with the question of which road to take -- either through Hofuf, which is larger and longer or through al-Kharj, which is smaller and shorter. I think we have only taken the Hofuf road once over the years, we have grown to prefer the Kharj Road as it shaves a couple hours off our drive time. However, this year was the first time we reached the border at sunset and started on the Kharj Road, and in retrospect I don't know that it was the safest course of action.
The Hofuf Road is a four-lane, divided highway to Riyadh. The Kharj road is a two-lane highway, with no lights, and it passes through a section of the Empty Quarter. In that part the dunes continually drift onto the road, and you see a fleet of front-loaders working continuously to remove the sand from the road (talk about a Sisyphean task!). In past years we reached this section in daylight, but this time it had gotten dark by the time we reached and with less traffic on the road and no lights it was dicey. There were a couple of times we nearly slammed into a dune that had inched onto the road. Similar to driving in a hard rainstorm or snowstorm, we were forced to drive slowly and cautiously until we reached Haradh.
You don't really see Haradh from the Kharj Road, just the turn-off for it; so after passing a few gas station-rest stops and some large factory-type structures we were on our way to al-Kharj. It was night when we reached al-Kharj, and we quickly passed through the outskirts and turned to get on the main highway (Route 40) to get to Riyadh.