Text 2013 by J. Pint; Photos
by their authors, as indicated

Photos by Sigurjon Jonsson

A sledgehammer is used to get a chunk of "clean" basalt. Chengcheng Tang of China breaks rock while Islam Almasri from Jordan stands ready to take over. Photo by Sigurjon Jonsson (Iceland).

Bizarre Light Effect

Bizarre lighting effects in the cave. Roslinda Mohamed on the move.

Knot Tying Practice

How to tie a "bomb-proof" knot: practice on the bus. From the left: Tunde Gaspar of Romania and Maolida Nihemaiti and Chengcheng Tang of China.

Sampling a guanomite

Kelly Edmond at work. Trying to get a core sample of a guanomite is a lot harder than it looks...and so is the guanomite!

Dust of Ages

Dust of Ages: 5000-year-old silt covering the floor makes Hibashi Cave a good contender for World's Dustiest Cave. Islam Almastri and Cody Dean.

Lava Channel

This channel was formed when hot lava surged up a slope and then reversed direction. Kneeling, Ibrahim Alabdulmohsin, standing Nabil Masmoudi and behind the mask, Maolida Nihemaiti.

Cave Register

Chengcheng Tang of Sichuan, China places the first Cave Register in Hibashi. Finders are asked to "Write your name in the book, not on the wall."

Underground In Arabia book
Want to read the story of the exploration of Hibashi Cave?
It's in Underground in Arabia, available through Amazon.



A Photo Gallery
Photo by Islam Almasri and Manar Alomairi

Deep inside Hibashi cave, students use flashlights to spell out the name of their university, no easy task to photograph! The credit for this great shot goes to Islam Almasri and Manar Alomairi.

King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) is an international, graduate-level research university located 80 kilometers north of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Staffed by many of the world's leading experts in various tecnical disciplines, the school has been in operation for only a few years, but has already made quite a reputation for itself. "What an absolutely spectacular place!" commented environmental advocate Philippe Cousteau Jr when visiting KAUST. "This place is a hotbed of ideas and potential."

Juan Cristancho measuring silt depth. Photo by Sigurjon JonssonEvery January, KAUST holds a three-week Winter Enrichment Program (WEP) aimed at broadening students' horizons and offering them new experiences. This year, one of those new experiences was a three-day course on Saudi Arabia's limestone and lava caves.  Immediately after the course, on January 16, 2013, twenty-four adventurous students and professors headed for Taif and Hibashi Cave on a two-day expedition: a significant event, since no scientific studies of this extraordinary cave have taken place since the year 2004, when Hibashi was declared one of the ten most important lava caves in the world, mineralogically speaking. 

On this occasion, a sample was taken of the basalt in which the cave was created in the hope of age-dating this flow for the first time. The visitors also took samples of the cave's soil, bat guano and of a rock-dove "guanomite" just inside the cave entrance. In addition, a study of Hibashi's many bones and coprolites was initiated. Here are a few photos taken by members of the KAUST team.

Abu Dahl

Photo by Sigurjon Jonsson

KAUST students make their way down a long slope into Hibashi Cave

(Photo by Sigurjon Jonsson)

Signing cave register

Signing the cave register in the western passage.

Photo by Cody Dean

Panoramic view of cave and carpets, by Cody Dean.

The Sphinx

Who is watching whom? Hoby Razafindrakoto from Madagaskar eyes The Sphinx.


Chicken kabsa...a long tradition for hungry cavers in Saudi Arabia.


Juan Christancho of Mexico City studies a biostalactite on the fire-blackened ceiling.


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