If someone asks you if you feel like driving 160km out of Riyadh to go and look at some wild flowers, look first at your calendar and if the date is around the end of February or early March, say a big ‘Yes!’.
In a wet year the blue Iris Sisyrhynchium can be seen on either side of the main Buraydah road, but in normal years the best place to go to see them is in the vicinity of Tumayr.
It’s well worth the visit. Across the wide wadi is a series of stone retaining walls, each some 10 metres long, which form terraces. They were originally built to catch the silt washed down by the winter rains; but these fields have long been abandoned for agricultural purposes. The rich soil, however, is home to a wide range of plant life, the most dominant of which is the iris.
The flowers range from dark to medium blue with a speckled cream centre; and what is so amazing about them is that they open for only a couple of hours each day. If you go to the fields in the morning you will see very little except for thousands of onion-like leaves sticking out of the ground. Around 1pm on a sunny day, or up to an hour later on overcast days, the irises suddenly open out en masse. Come four o’clock they close up once more until the following day.
To get to the iris fields, take the Buraydah road – route 65 – northbound for 160kms until you reach junction 11, signposted to Tumayr (25 33.48’ N; 45 53.85’ E).
Here you turn right and drive just over 13kms from the junction where you will see a track going off to your left opposite an old palm garden on your right (25 38.87’ N; 45 54.53’ E).
Follow the track for nearly 3kms, passing a dam on your right. Look for the retaining walls and the irises will be in the fields created by these walls.
Don’t be surprised to see many other visitors who have similar plans for an afternoon out!