Located in the southwestern part of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Asir Region has achieved a high level of growth and succeeded in implementing the development plans, under the directives of the Kingdom’s leadership that aim at making Asir Region lives up to the expectations of the Saudi people.
Asir Region is blessed with attractive nature and weather, making the region a major destination for national and international visitors throughout the year. In light of its nature and tourist attractions, Asir Region started developing the concept of tourism industry four centuries ago.
In this report, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) highlights the tourism development process in Asir Region as well as the various tourist sites, which are characterized by a wonderful nature and weather. When visitors arrive in Asir Region during summer season, they do not miss spending time at famous parks such as Al-Saudah, Al-Fara’a, Dalgan, Al-Habla, Al-Jara, Al-Sahab, Tamniah, Abu Khayal, Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz Park, Hadabat Al-Arous, Al-Namas Parks, Tanomah, Ahad Rafidah, Al-Wadeen, Khamis Mushait, and Bllahmer, Ballasmer and Rijal Almaa forests, and other natural sites scattered along Asir Region. As a fact, Asir Region is known for its unique heritage, valleys and forests. The region has long-standing ruins spanning thousands of years, such as Jorash, Tabalah, Al-Abla, Darb Al-Feel and other famous archaeological sites.
Compared with other regions of the Kingdom, Asir Region is distinguished with its rainy spring weather during summer season. The temperature in August does not exceed 25°C. The Region has natural high mountains, and enjoys great services provided by the Saudi Government. The Region has advanced infrastructure and large tourist facilities. The visitors have a wide range of places to visit in the Region with affordable prices.
The modern technologies have contributed to the discovery of tourist treasures in Asir Region. One of these technologies is the cable cars that can take the tourist in an exciting tour to see the historical and tourist areas in the Region. The visitor can reach the place of these cable cars easily at Al-Saudah Park, the Green Mountain and Al-Habla historic village.
Under direct following-up by HRH Prince Turki bin Talal bin Abdulaziz, Governor of Asir Region and Chairman of Tourism Development Council, the government and private agencies prepare plans every year to overcome the difficulties facing the visitor. This year, the government and private agencies concluded the preparations for holding the activities of Tourist Season 2019. The Region’s Tourism Development Council approved Activities Program for this year under the theme “Most Welcome to Asir Region”.
On this occasion, the Council’s Deputy Chairman and Mayor of Asir Region Dr. Walid Al-Humaidi said that this year’s tourism program consists of 194 activities to be held throughout the Region with the participation of 10 government and private agencies.
Dr. Al-Humaidi pointed out that this year’s summer programs include a variety of artisans’ bazaars and sport events such as Asir Rally, hiking and marathons. Abha Literary Club will also participate with 50 activities, including cultural nights, exhibitions and cinema. He also said that four concerts will be held on Talal Maddah Theater at the King Fahd Cultural Center in Abha and two concerts in Namas Governorate. These concerts will be held by a number of Arab prominent singers. Dr. Al-Humaidi confirmed the keenness of Asir Region Governor on the success of summer activities.
HRH Prince Turki bin Talal bin Abdulaziz, Governor of Asir Region and Chairman of the Tourism Development Council, has been following-up the preparations for tourism season, where he directed to launch the “Good Hospitality” initiative. This initiative was co-implemented by more than 40 government and private agencies. Therefore, a number of Region Governors interacted with the initiative which was launched under the theme “Most Welcome to Asir Region” in 17 governorates and 126 village of the Region.
In a statement to SPA, Director General of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH) Branch in Asir Region Eng. Mohammed Al-Omrah praised the role of the SCTH branch in Asir Region, which aim at achieving the Kingdom’s Vision 2030. This vision has approved tourism and national heritage sectors to be the most important element of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 and the National Transformation Program, and to be the most outstanding alternative to the post-oil economies. The Kingdom’s Vision has stressed the importance of reviving the Islamic, Arab and National ancient heritage sites, registering them within the international heritage list, and enabling everyone to access them.
Eng. Al-Omrah stated that there are tremendous efforts taken for the preservation of cultural heritage. At the top of which, 425 archaeological sites in Asir Region have been registered in the National Archaeological Register. Additionally, stages of excavation works are carried out in the archaeological sites of Jarash and Al-Ablaa in Bisha Governorate. The “Darb Al-Feel”, a historical route, is also retraced and authenticated. Moreover, work has been carried out to discover more than 130 archaeological sites in the region during 2018. Eng. Al-Omrah also said that 45 museum licenses were issued, representing 26% of the total number of private museums in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, in addition to the completion of Asir Regional Museum which is expected to be inaugurated by the end of the current year.
With regard to heritage sites and villages in Asir Region, Eng. Al-Omrah said that the region contains more than 4,275 heritage villages. These villages are distributed as follows 542 in Abha, 220 in Bareq, 397 in Al-Majardah, 715 in Mahayil and Albark, 406 in Rijal Alma, 237 in Sarat Abidah, 182 in Balqarn, 216 in Al-Namas, 262 in Tathlith, 127 in Dhahran Al-Janub, 127 in Al-Harajah, 246 in Bisha, 66 in Tareb and 73 in Tanouma.
The Director General of SCTH Branch in Asir Region also said that efforts are being made to register Rijal Almaa heritage village in the UNESCO World Heritage List. In addition, renovating Tharban Palace in Al-Namas has been completed and it is expected to be operated soon. Restoration works were also carried out for Abu Malha heritage palace in the city center of Abha and will be added to the exhibitions under Asir Regional Museum soon. Al-Alaya Mosque was also renovated. Documentation and restoration studies are carried out for Musharafa Palace in Al-Namas. The project is currently brought forward for implementation by SCTH.
Eng. Al-Omrah highlighted the efforts exerted by the National Program for Crafts and Handicrafts in Asir Region, saying the Program succeeded in registering 264 male and female handcrafters, in addition to supporting the handcrafters’ production line through providing raw material, training and rehabilitation, so as to develop the crafts and assist in continuous marketing of the products. Eng. Al-Omrah emphasized that Asir Region is the second region in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to achieve the largest benefit from “Mohammed bin Salman’s Project for the development of historical mosques” since 23 mosques have been approved to be developed and restored.
Heritage villages and private museums attracts visitors in Asir Region. Visitors to the region are surprised to find various heritage villages and private museums scattered across the region’s governorates and areas. Information about these sites is easily available to the visitor. Heritage villages and private museums have become a haven, which embraces the heritage collectors who compete to offer the most beautiful and antique collections that have been known in Asir Region throughout the years. Antique collecting as a hobby has become significantly important to introduce the lifestyle of the people, who lived in the region in the past, to the next generation.
The historical village of Al-Muftaha in the center of Abha is one of the significant heritage villages. The 260-year-old village welcomes its visitors for many years to present its architectural art, heritage and tradition. It incorporates adjoining houses along the internal and external passageways built according to Asir Region’s traditional construction style. It is distinguished by the small openings and thick walls. Al-Muftaha Archaeological Museum is located in the center of the village. The three-story museum dates back to 150 years and is now one of the attractions of the historical region of Asir visited by national and international visitors. It exhibits many handicrafts and traditional industries in the region such as metal casting, gold and silver crafting, blacksmithing, carpentry and engraving. It also exhibits the distillation methods and techniques for roses and Kady flower, which are famous to be cultivated in Asir Region since ancient times.
“Shada Palace”, built in 1930, is opposite to Al-Muftaha village from the eastern side. It is one of the largest museums in Asir Region. It is located in the middle of Abha city, next to the building of the Asir Region Principality. It is an old four-story building with a traditional museum on the heritage of the region.
Located north of Abha city, Bin Adwan Heritage village is one of the largest heritage projects in the region. It contains a museum of 12 sections in various fields, as well as an agricultural museum, a heritage hotel for the village guests, hills, traditional yards and places allocated for events.
In Al-Namas province, there is Al-Maqar tourist village, which is one of the villages of modern tourist villages in terms of idea and design. It occupies an area of 1300 square meters above Sarawat Mountain.
Rijal Almaa village is located in Tihama part of Asir. It is one of the most important heritage villages in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It is one of the significant attractive destinations. The village is visited by more than 50 thousand visitors throughout the year. Its architectural heritage is distinguished by high stone buildings, which reach a height of seven stories. The village contains Rijal Almaa heritage archaeological museum established by an initiative of the local inhabitants in 1405H to save their regional heritage.
Located in south of Asir Region, Al Khalaf village is one of the antiquity treasures with particular significance in history. It has been lately selected to become a heritage village from among more than five thousand villages and settlements in Asir Region. Al Khalaf village is among the finest examples of the region’s traditional forms of architecture where accuracy in implementation, strength and ability to endure natural elements are altogether combined. A visitor can obviously see a village-specific and quintessential in character due to its huge size, tall old adjoining buildings where more than 17 attached buildings form a continuous architecture with only one joint roof. The houses contain tunnels, lanes and many twists and turns with side openings along the way for illumination. This type of architecture is unique in Asir Region since it provided security to the village inhabitants in the past. In addition, Asir Region has many museums, which are open to visitors every tourism season and throughout the year. “Al-Raqdy” museum is one of the significant museums in the center of Abha city. It contains nine sections exhibiting copperware, silver antiquities, pendants, women jewelry and a collection of tradition clothes. It also contains old kitchen utensils, agricultural and handicraft tools. Other museums include “Al-Shafa” museum, “Al-Orsh” heritage museum in Bani Amr, the heritage village museum and Balqarn cultural museum.
Al-Namas museum is one of the most important museums in Asir. It is located in the old neighborhood near old palaces and historical forts. The neighborhood is a magnificent architectural masterpiece dating back to almost 250 years. It consists of five stories and contains more than 2000 heritage pieces. Al Soufan museum is located in Lashaab village in Al-Namas governorate. It contains a large collection of historical pieces that are exhibited in a remarkable way in four large halls and an external open hall. The number of exhibited pieces at the museum is around 1200 pieces.
All governorates and urban centers located throughout the Asir Region possess a huge heritage that belongs to the individual and the community. The diverse heritage encompasses traditions, customs, folklore and popular rituals. These heritage sites still exist to tell its visitors the stories of the past. The spectacular nature, terrain, environment and events of these sites have not been the only elements to attract tourists to Asir Region. In fact, inhabitants of the region played an important role in achieving an active partnership in promoting and developing the tourism industry decades ago. Over the green fields and amidst its rainy clouds, visitors are warmly welcomed and all hospitality means are provided to satisfy them, including arious attractive touristic elements such as folklore and traditional culture encompassing all arts, traditions, customs and celebration rituals of the people in Asir Region. In addition, a wide range of local popular dishes are easily prepared by productive families in front of visitors at various sites.
Folklore differ from one place to another in Asir Region. Many folk dances such as Alardha, Alkhtwa, Aldamah, Alkazwey and others have similarities in their component among tribes of Asir Region, however each one has its characteristic music and way of performance. Folklore in Asir Region is considered as an original folk art and it has various names according to how they are performed. A visitor to the northern part of Asir Region will notice that “Alardha” and “Alaeb” are the two preference folk dances especially among Rijal Al-Hejer tribes. However, other tribes in Asir Region such as “Saraah and Tihamah” are known for their folk dance of “Alkhatwa” and “Aldamah” which they perform in local and international occasions.
Alardha is a popular warriors dance known in ancient times. The dance is combined of chanting poetry and body movements of the dancers. The quick dancing is performed using rifles and heritage guns accompanied by drum beating and musical instruments such as “Alzalfa”, “Alzeer” and “Almezmar”. New rhythms have been recently added to this type of dance. Qahtan and Wadaah tribes of the Southern and Eastern part of the region are famous for performing the “Alzamel” and “Alkazwey” folk dances.
The elements of tourist attraction are not limited solely to nature, historical treasures, folklore or the traditional culture of individuals in the region. However, women have been able to create artistic works in which all its colors and tools have been inspired from nature and the surrounding environment. The women’s artistic works of painting have directly contributed in bringing about a taste of the past heritage. The women artists have gone beyond national and regional boundaries as they achieved a great success in the Asiri wall decoration which is called locally as “Al-Qatt Al-Asiri” as the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) announced in December 2018 to add “Al-Qatt Al-Asiri” art to the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
This art is not coincidental or it is born of the moment of the day, but it originated for many years and it is more than hundreds of years. Aseer with its natural culture is aware of its concept and its details. The best evidence of this is the houses of the old and the new ones, which still witness their ruins, creations that are shaped in paintings and murals with engravings and attractive colors created by women of Asir.
The director of the branch of the Culture and Arts Association in Asir Ahmed Sarawi said that, “The identity and the culture of person and the diversity of the traditions that he created since ancient times and coexistence with it made him a tourist attraction, the folk arts and folkloric, which are presented through the folklore groups that are under the umbrella of the association and participate in tourism activities, have revealed to us a real pleasure for the visitor in the follow-up with passion and interest, in addition to the fine arts presented by the artists of the region and their artists through the society and its cultural programs, and here we find that the person was able to provide art that dazzles all delegations and visitors.
The city of Abha leads the tourist scene on the visitors’ list. It boasts a beautiful atmosphere and a mild climate in summer, and includes a large number of monuments and palaces, The most important city in the south of the Kingdom in the area and the population and the fourth shopping center in the Kingdom is a tourist and commercial city, characterized by a mild atmosphere in summer, and the abundance of rainfall and major mediating parks in the region.
The Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture have established the national parks in the Asir region as a matter of interest. It concluded several contracts for operation, maintenance, and cleaning to prepare parks and equip them to receive all categories of society to ensure easy access to them and provide them with the best services. The Ministry supported 10 parks in Asir region while the ministry seeks to expand the scope of the national parks in Asir region, given the nature of the region and the vegetation of a promising and distinctive.
In Abha city, there is Aseer National Park, which was established in 1401 AH, is one of the most important national parks that spread its wings in front of the first of its visitors who used to meet them every year. It is the first protected area for the plants and wildlife and the first national park in the Kingdom and covers an area of 455 thousand hectares, which is a system of parks under the name of “Asir National Park”.
Al Souda Tourism Park is located about 25 km west of Abha city and rises above sea level by more than 3000 meters. It has unique environmental characteristics, it has the highest rainfall in the Asir region and is rich in dense forests of juniper trees, high in the distribution of vegetation cover and its geographical nature between the flat land and the steep slopes by all the trees of juniper dark green due to the abundance of rain and high humidity in the region.
The Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture provided Al-Saudah Park with all necessary services for the visitors. It increased its readiness through developing and improving the infrastructure of the parks and that is through maintenance and cleaning, restoration of buildings, paving of dirt roads and asphalting other and the delivery of water and electricity networks and the establishment of many places for meetings and umbrellas and prayer rooms and paving sidewalks and the establishment of wooden bridges and tables and chairs for picnic and creating of places for cooking and grilling. The Municipality of Saudah has also worked to establish a popular market for the productive families of the region that allows the visitors to obtain their acquisition and gifts that reflect the nature of the place and its history of utensils, antiques, clothes and jewelries. In addition, it provided parks and hills with magnifying binoculars to view the wonderful views of Tihama and its beautiful valleys. Security guards secure critical sites and modern technology was introduced in this park through the construction of cable cars to connect the visitors to Al-Aows Parks in Rijal Almaa.
Al-Sahab Park considered one of the most important amusement parks in Al Saudah Park, and it is about 15 kilometers away from Al Saudah Park. It is located west of Al-Saqa Village on the branch road leading to Al Saudah Center. The park has a beautiful view of Tohama from the west and the surrounding villages to the east and like other parks there are many services needed by visitors. As for Sha’af Al Wemen Park is located in the south of the Sahab park and is characterized by dense forests, abundant shadows and a distinctive view of the city of Abha from the west.
Prince Sultan Park is located on an area of about 420 hectares and is 4 kilometers from Dalgan Park. The parts of these sites are divided between flat land and rocky hills. Prince Sultan Park overlooks Tohama, where the viewer can see steep slopes, steep valleys and sharp fractures of rock ledges. In addition, the location provides the necessary services like other parks, and the southeast parts of the city of Abha embrace Al Jara Park, which is about 40 kilometers from the city and is one of the important protected areas in the region.
Al Habla is one of the most important tourist attractions in Asir region. It is characterized by rock cuttings in the mountains, which are vertically formed at a height of more than 2000 meters above sea level, through which the historic village of Habla can be seen. Al Habla Park includes an integrated tourist resort, in addition to the cable cars, which lead to the old village of Sidr Tohama. The provinces of Asir region host other attractions and natural parks varied and scattered between the northern governorates of the region, extending from the city of Abha, passing through the centers of Bllahmer, Ballasmer, and the provinces of Tanomah and Namas to the provinces of Balqarn and Bisha.
There are many tourist destinations during the winter tourism season. Visitors will find the opportunity to travel through the Asir beaches on the Red Sea, which extends from Al-Qahma and Al Huraida centers through Al Birk governorate to Saidat Al-Sawalha, the last administrative border of Asir with Makkah Al-Mukarramah. In addition to the governorates of Rijal Alamaa, Mahayil Asir, Bariq and Al Majardh, which are connected by many modern road networks with multiple tunnels that penetrate the mountains to facilitate access to the country where the visitors enjoy three types of nature: sea, mountain and plain, with the warm weather in the winter.
Here is a clear indication that Asir is moving steadily towards realizing the concept of real tourism, by concerted efforts by all governmental and private sectors which have contributed significantly to building the tourism process since its inception four decades ago, and its status made it one of the first tourist destinations in the regions of the Kingdom.