This post is somewhat of a change from the usual pondering about what is going on in Saudi Arabia (see the topic list at left), but it is every bit as intriquing. The Google Earth team occasionally updates the current satellite imagery in small selected areas. I don't have a real clear idea of how areas to update are chosen. I do know that DigitalGlobe (who provides the high-resolution photos from their QuickBird instrument) often has more recent images available that have not yet made it into the GE view.
In the last update, a rather isolated swath of desert just to the west of the Ghawar oil field was brought into focus:
This picture was taken on January 8, 2008 -- a remarkably recent view. The question is, why this area? Did someone request the photo shoot? At first glance, there appears to be not much going on. There are a few agricultural features, including the orchard below with a residence on the north end:
However, to the west of there, there is something much bigger:
The entire area is enclosed by a fence. There are some orchards as well, but also an airstrip on the east side. A closeup reveals a rather well-marked and maintained strip with a good place to park the plane:
On the north end, there is convenient access from the 4-lane highway running between Dhahran and Riyadh:
And the gate at the entrance is not exactly a cattle guard with a wire fence:
The driveway running south from the gate is lined with trees and seems more than a dirt road:
Finally, we arrive at a little hacienda. Or something. Not a bedouin encampment, anyway:
View in Google Maps
(or put these coordinates into Google Earth: 25.933219, 49.028520)
Anyone who know whose home away from home this is (or what it is), drop me a line.