Kahf Al Rootoobah


The Perfect Cave for a Dehydrated Dwarf

© 2005 by John and Susy Pint - Photos by J. Pint unless otherwise credited

                                                      Updated September, 2013


Ironically, this fine cave was found by Lars Bjurstrom and Andrea Chow back in January of 2001 exactly while Mahmoud Alshanti and I were perched on top of a nearby jebel, supposedly searching for good caves...

The Gecko's Lair.  



Photo by Lars Bjurstrom

...The first room in the cave had five geckos on the ceiling, one of which turned out to be an ideal photographers’ model. We believe it is Ptyodactylus hasselquistii. This gecko was observing us strange invaders from a wide, thin, translucent stalactite and stayed there for at least an hour while each of us took turns photographing it from every possible angle… and all we had to do was tap it on the nose or tail to get it to move up or down. That’s where the name Gecko Cave came from, but in Arabic it eventually became known as Kahf Al Rootoobah, which means Steamy Cave and is also quite appropriate as you’ll see below.  


It was only late in May of 2002 that we were able to return to Gecko Cave to map and photograph its many interesting features. In the month of May, however, the temperature soars right up to the highest number reached by most thermometers and the success of our mission depended on finding a refuge for our food, equipment and drivers while we went about our work.

Our first choice was Abu Marwah, where we hoped to find shade at the bottom of its steep walls. Alas, before we were halfway down the slope we felt we were entering a hellhole which was hotter than the surface! Next, we went to Mossy Cave, figuring its 24 degrees (76 F) would seem cool on a day like this. But, alas again, the high humidity in the air wafting out of the cave was enough to steam my glasses and get me dripping wet in two minutes. “Forget it,” we said and drove off with no goal in mind, just stopping at every hole we saw and reaching out a hand to feel for blessed cool air.


Just like in the movies, we were saved at the very last moment. Exactly as sunset was upon us, we drove up to a very large depression. This hole had a long, gentle, sandy slope leading down into a wide, beautifully lit room which looked welcoming and comfortable. Behind what immediately became our dining hall, we found several rooms with flat, sandy floors, 45% humidity and a cool 21 degrees C (70 F). Some were partially lit, others were in total darkness and all were perfect for sleeping.

Checking coordinates, we discovered we had chosen for our refuge, B31 Cave, which is only three kms away from Gecko.

The next morning we drove off to Gecko Cave, whose entrance is a low, horizontal slot at one end of a  rather uninspiring depression.

This is a detail of the Gecko Cave map. Click to see the whole thing.

Click here to see the entire map.


Mahmoud squeezing out of the tortuous entrance passage.




Two special characteristics of Gecko cave are its smooth, soft, sandy floor and its rather low roof, forcing you to crawl on hands and knees or at least walk bent-over in a Groucho Crouch in order to get anywhere. Unfortunately, one of the few places in Gecko cave that doesn’t have a soft, sandy floor, is the entrance passage, which is maliciously paved with sharp, broken rocks and has a ceiling so low that only a long belly crawl will get you inside. Of course, if you happen to have a ton of equipment with you, each piece must be pushed or pulled through that same long slot. Now, we not only had to bring in our cave packs, survey and photography gear (including tripods and Coleman lanterns), but also various other items like GPS, satellite phone, food, water, etc. which could not be left sitting in a car which would quickly be turned into an oven while we were inside the cave.


Moving all that gear under that hot sun and through the tortuous entrance passage had all of us in such a sweat that we had to spend nearly a half hour inside the cave’s first room, just panting and cooling down...

Abdulrahman, wishing he were at the beach. 

...Then we began mapping, taking compass readings both forward and back (Every time we have run into a problem turning our data into a map, it’s always been due to a bad compass reading). Once again, we saved lots of time by using our Disto laser to take the measurements up, down, left, right and forward.


This shot proves there is no danger of going hungry in Gecko Cave.





Here is just one of many displays of stalactites of many sizes and shapes, some with delicate red bands... 





Of course, surveying forced us to peek into previously overlooked corners of the cave and we discovered (a) a place where we could actually stand up (!!) ....


... and (b) a room with two ceiling holes which eerily resemble the tooth-encircled black maws of ferocious sharks.  

And here we present the sad saga of a doomed caver, fatally obsessed by the mystery of THE GREAT WHITE  CAVE SHARK 



50 meters into the cave, you hook a right and head SW. It’s another low belly-crawl followed by a squeeze into a wide room, stretching off both left and right...



Photo by Mahmoud Al Shanti

... Here you can see the cave’s most impressive displays of stalactites, stalagmites, columns and flowstone, but there was something weird about the place… in a matter of minutes I lost all my enthusiasm for exploration and could barely muster attention for the surveying. Listless, I dragged my feet over to a piece of flagging tape that had been hanging in this room for a year and a half.

Photo by Mahmoud Al Shanti

Well, that flagging tape looked very strange indeed. Down both sides of it were sliding numerous drops of water which then dripped off the end to the floor. We had created artificial stalactites! Even stranger, quite a few stalactites in the room are dripping, but the source appears to be the humidity in the air, not water from outside the cave.

The hygrometer showed the humidity of this area to be a whopping 97%. It was a natural steam bath and I am sure lots of Turkish tourists will especially enjoy a visit to Gecko Cave, which Mahmoud decided to call Kahf al Rootoobah for its humidity and also, perhaps, because there was nary a gecko to be seen on either of the days we worked in the cave.

Photo by Mahmoud Al Shanti

For me it was a great relief to leave that sticky zone and crawl back into the “normal” part of the cave with its pleasant 66-69% humidity. In fact, the next day I was quite content to photograph every other corner of the cave but the Steam Bath, with the help of Said, while Mahmoud and Abdulrahman wrote up a geological description of the cave, which required their return to this energy-draining area. During the course of their studies, they came across what seems to be a beetle larva... wandering awfully far from the entrance. Here, too, was where one of Mahmoud's legs refused to follow him out of a tight passage, resulting in a painful sprain, which eventually resulted in a knee operation for Mahmoud.

This is the Coral Room (so named because it's where those nasty sharks hang out). Here we held some long photo sessions...




..Resulting in this picture titled :


After hours of dragging equipment around, unpacking it, posing for several eternities, repacking the gear and then dragging everything to a new spot, you'd feel like this too!


And now it's back out into the 50-degree Centigrade heat!





Steam Room Drip - Photo by Mahmoud Al Shanti

You might imagine from my comments that only a Turkish midget would feel at home in a cave like this, but in reality, it’s quite a fascinating place and ought to appeal to adventurous souls. You'll find this one on our list of Caves with Potential for Ecotourism.


John Pint