Mawan Hidden Canyon – Khubay, Saudi Arabia - Atlas Obscura

Mawan Hidden Canyon

Khubay, Saudi Arabia

It's believed human settlements from the Palaeolithic Age were established not far from this canyon.  


Mawan Hidden Canyon is located 62 miles (100 kilometers) south of Riyadh. The adjective “hidden” is quite accurate, as you can be a few meters away and still miss the canyon. The surrounding terrain mainly consists of sandstone, sand, and gravel, and the gentle inclines are home to xerophytic shrubs. There is nothing exceptional about this landscape formation, as it is common in Saudi Arabia. What is exceptional, however, is the chasm of this landscape known as the Mawan Hidden Canyon.

Mawan Hidden Canyon is approximately less than a mile long, and it reaches a depth of more than six meters. Its width varies from four to eight meters, and it splits into two branches. Along the walls of the canyon, the fascinating interplay of layers of sandstone and limestone is clearly visible, and it forms steps and landings that facilitate the descent to the bottom of the chasm. Footprints left in the slippery layer of mud at the bottom display the presence of canines in the area, possibly desert foxes. 

Water is not always present, but it gathers here after the odd rainfall, and the shade provided by the canyon ensures that the water evaporates at a lower rate than elsewhere in the area. Nowadays, there are no human settlements nearby, but given the harsh environment, this site must have been of extreme importance in the past. This assumption is corroborated by the remains of human settlements from the Palaeolithic Age unearthed a short distance from the canyon. The mention of this location in writings from the 6th century further attests to its enduring importance.

Know Before You Go

Coming from Riyadh, exit the highway at Mawan and follow the unnamed road for 2.7km. Follow the dirt track branching off on the left for a few hundred meters. When the dirt track comes to an end, get out of the car and you will be able to discern a rapture in the terrain on your left. This is the Mawan Hidden Canyon.   

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October 21, 2022

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