I have some very exciting news, I’ve finally finished my first ever e-book, a guide to the Secret Lake! The Secret Lake is a seasonal lake in the middle of steep desert valleys just outside Riyadh. It’s the perfect picnic spot and because of its secluded location, the lake area has remained clean and thankfully crowds have not found this serene place. To protect the Secret Lake nature from being ruined by the masses I haven’t been comfortable about publishing its exact location publicly since I first wrote about it in 2012.
The solution to being able to share with readers how to get there but not post the location publicly and risk ruining it for everyone was to write a guide-book about it. The guide contains up to date detailed instructions, maps and GPS coordinates of the location.
UPDATE 2018: it appears that someone has has burned down the forest at Secret Lake, we found the trees and bushes all completely burned and gasoline bottles were scattered around. There’s also been an influx of visitors to the lake who have left behind their garbage and the current state of this lake is sadly no longer as it was before. I can no longer recommend to go there and have removed the Secret Lake ebook off the site.
I’m so excited about this project and extremely happy with the outcome of the book. It was a much longer and more complicated process to set everything up than I had anticipated. Since this was the first time, for me to write an ebook and publish it, and set up a way for people to download it, everything needed to be done from scratch. I hired someone to help me with the technical stuff because I wanted everything to go perfectly.
I had finished the cover design and the writing part of the book during my winter holiday in Finland, which I had based on three previous visits to the Secret Lake. However once we got back to Riyadh I thought to myself, I must give the lake one more visit before I publish the book, just in case something had drastically changed on the route or any other details that might have been left out. So the very next day after we returned to Riyadh we headed out to the Secret Lake. And boy was I happy that we did! I ended up rewriting almost the entire eBook according to what I saw.
A lot of work needed to be done behind the scenes to set up a way for people to download the ebook. Things got complicated once we realized that my current wordpress theme, ProPhoto, doesn’t support the e-commerce plugin, (among a bunch of other things it doesn’t support!), so we had to set up a new custom sub domain and install & design another WordPress theme to host the ebook store. All in all this has been months of hard work which I put into the guide and I’m very proud of my first eBook, I think it looks awesome :)
I noticed a lot of changes on the route to the lake, which have all been documented in detail in the guide. There’s a huge restoration and landscaping project ongoing in the Historical Diriyah and Wadi Hanifa area which is also extending toward the direction of the lake. So that had some effect on the route and then we noticed some more changes to the last, most difficult part of the road. We actually had to get out of the car to move rocks and pieces of tarmac around to pass some parts, but we managed to get to the lake in just under 25 minutes from Diplomatic Quarter.
And what a sight for sore eyes this lake is! It just gets more and more beautiful year after year because the lake reeds and greenery has expanded and grown. The lake on January 24th 2016 was full of clear water, in the deepest parts it’s probably 3-5 m depth. Hard to say exactly how many metres deep it is but we could see all the way to the bottom when the kids were throwing rocks, it takes some while to reach the bottom. The lake will stay full of water for another couple of months because it’s been a very chilly winter and the water has not had a chance to start evaporating.
We spotted all sorts of little critters and tiny fish in it too. The fish being there always amazes me, it’s the same strange phenomenon as in diplomatic quarter wadi pond, which is shallow but full of fish. I’ve seen big catfish in there and people fish there. I think maybe someone brought a few fish there at some point and they managed to multiply…or something! But yeah, you could definitely try your luck fishing at the Secret Lake too. Who knows what loch Ness monster relative is living in there lol
We went to the lake on a Friday and found the entire lake area void of visitors, which is of course great. It’s definitely still a well-kept secret location. I have never been comfortable publishing the GPS coordinates online because my blog has a large audience and reach, so it might be that had I done so years ago, this place would now be in a similar sad state of Lake Kharrarah, another seasonal lake outside Riyadh. Also things published online tend to be more easily shared and copied/republished without permission, so to prevent that from happening I created the eBook guide.
The Secret Lake was much larger than I had remembered, it’s probably about 800m in total length. Walking around the entire lake would likely take an hour or so. We found a small “beach” on the banks of the lake, a soft sand ledge perfect for a picnic or small campfire even.
Watch this clip from the beach:
After our January visit to the lake, I decided to rewrite the ebook so it would be as up to date as possible, so that’s another reason it has taken this long to get things ready. I took photos of signs on the roads and the path to illustrate the way more clearly in the instructions part. I’ve also made some maps to try show in best possible way how to find the lake.
This was such a positive experience creating this ebook that I’m really excited to write more guide books now! Especially to places and areas that I would not be so comfortable to post publicly about. It’s just too much of a risk because unspoiled spots are rare nowadays. Unfortunately not everyone who finds these posts online is a responsible, environmentally conscious person.
If you’d like to check out some of the posts I’ve written about other beautiful Desert locations and outdoor activities in Riyadh area:
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Hello there, I’m Laura, the founder, author and manager of Blue Abaya, the first travel blog in Saudi Arabia established in 2010. Travel has always been my passion- so far I’ve visited 69 countries and I’m always on the lookout for new adventures inside and outside of Saudi Arabia! Having visited all corners of the Kingdom with over a decade of experience, I have a vast knowledge base about travel and tourism in Saudi Arabia.