Petrified Wood, Thousands of Years Old
From Childhood Playground in Saudi Arabia
In the mysterious desert between Sakaka and Arar in northwestern Saudi Arabia, near the borders of Jordan and Iraq, our family found our playground.
“I packed 15 rolls of Kimbap and some Perilla Kimchi that Ron likes,” said my mom’s older sister as she combed my hair into an airtight ponytail that made my eyes stretch up, making me look more awake than I am. Going rock picking was my aunt’s favorite activity in Saudi Arabia. We were all ready for our trip.
For a long 10-hour drive along Route 65 from Riyadh, we packed into my father’s off-white Buick at 5:00 am sharp to avoid the heat of the desert sun. We were on a mission — to fill up our empty land cruiser with lots and lots of petrified wood. We could see our driver following right behind us in our land cruiser in our rearview mirror. Everyone looked sleepy but excited to get out to the desert.
We spent the first night in Sakaka and woke up at crack of dawn the next day to head out to the wilderness. Mom boiled a dozen eggs and packed with bottles of water for our expedition.
The desert looked like it was hit with a storm of petrified wood. It was covered with dark brown rocks, almost like the bottom of an ocean. There were no traces of human invasion here. Endless waves of sand dunes without a single tire mark or shoe print. There was the nose piercing smell of the desert heat.
My brother Ron and I went off on our own for our expedition. Our favorite discovery was small round rocks that we called petrified sheep poop. They were perfectly round and could become the best “gong-gi” (a Korean bean ball game). The trick to winning is to have heavy bean balls. Petrified sheep poop were perfectly round and heavy for the game.
“Appa, appa, I found sheep poop! Look! Are these good?” asked Ron in his husky voice. Whenever he found something he liked he asked for Mom and Dad’s approval.
Without even responding to Ron’s question, my father yelled across the desert wind for everyone to hear, “Everybody, you have to see this!” He found several petrified wood pieces that lay next to each other, forming one long tree trunk.
“It’s as if a piece tall petrified wood fell to the ground and cracked into several pieces. This is unbelievable!” said my mother.
After several hours, our land cruiser was fully packed. Mission accomplished! We were stopped at a checkpoint as we start heading back to Riyadh. Young Saudi officers cracked up at how flat our land cruiser tires looked.
“What is all this?” asked a young man, a Saudi checkpoint officer.
“They are rocks we collected from the desert up north,” explained my father.
“Why would you do that? They are just rocks, no value,” said the officer as he made a confused hand gesture touching the forehead.
“Koreans like to collect rocks,” responded my father.
“Haha, yala, go!” said the officer as he waved his hand and wished us good luck driving the loaded car. He probably thought we were crazy.
Despite what anyone thought of us, as we watched the bright red sun set over the open horizon, our hearts were full of wonder. “What a blessing it is to witness such a majestic work of nature. This only reaffirms the story of Noah’s ark. How could these giant, hefty rocks fluidly spread apart unless they were submerged under water!” exclaimed my mom. We silently nod.
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