Tabuk, one of KSA’s undiscovered gems, hosts valleys that are witnesses to history

Time: 19 August 2021

Tabuk has witnessed a dramatic increase in domestic tourism over the past few years. (SPA)

The archeological village of Disa, home to Nabataean tombs carved into rock formations, is thought to date back to the end of the 2nd millennium B.C.
It is also believed to be the ancient city of Madyan, mentioned in the Qu’ran as the place where the Prophet Moses fled to after leaving Egypt
JEDDAH: Rich with antiquities and archeological sites, Tabuk is one of Saudi Arabia’s undiscovered gems. The area is home to valleys, oases, streams, picturesque sandstone columns, and tall palm trees.

It is also the site of the archeological village of Disa, where one can find Nabataean tombs, the facades of which are carved into the rock formations.

These tombs can also be found at the oasis of Mugha’ir Shu’ayb, also known as Al-Bada’. This site is thought to date back to the end of the second millennium B.C. and many believe it to be the ancient city of Madyan, mentioned in the Qu’ran and held to be the place where the Prophet Moses fled to after leaving Egypt.

Houses and temples are also carved into the mountains here, often with intricate design work around their entrances. The area has become very popular with photography enthusiasts.

These are the rare historical landmarks of Tabuk, a tourist destination popular because of its historical significance, but also because of its diverse nature and its mild climate, which makes it an excellent option for a summer getaway.

Indeed, Tabuk has witnessed a dramatic increase in domestic tourism over the past few years. Speaking to Arab News, brothers Khaled and Ahmed, who operate private tours to several areas of Saudi Arabia, said that Tabuk is still a mystery to many.

“It’s a calm place and is the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of the cities,” said Khaled. “From exploring the nooks and corners of the valleys to barbecues and star gazing at night, the place is wonderful. And, just think, (ancient) civilizations passed through here.”

This article was first published in Arab News

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ThePlace: Jabra palace, one of the oldest cities in Saudi Arabia

Time: 14 August 2021

Photo/Saudi Press Agency

The palace consists of two floors, a huge hall and an entrance decorated with beautiful ornamentations, with a fountain in the middle of its courtyard
Taif is rich in historical and heritage landmarks that highlight the status of the governorate as one of the oldest cities in the Kingdom and the region as a whole.
Jabra Palace, in the northeast of the governorate, is considered one of the oldest landmarks in the Arabian Peninsula as its construction dates back more than 1,300 years. The palace stands on top of a hill overlooking many lush farms and orchards on the slopes of Wadi Jabra, which is full of streaming torrents during rainfall and receives water from distant locations.
The palace retains the beauty of its Islamic inscriptions and rich architectural heritage. It was named after Jabra of the Makhzoum tribe, the wife of Prince Mohammed bin Hisham, one of the princes during the Umayyad era and governor of Makkah at the time.
The palace consists of two floors, a huge hall and an entrance decorated with beautiful ornamentations, with a fountain in the middle of its courtyard.
Despite its age, the palace still retains its shape and construction style, in addition to many inscriptions on its walls and ceilings, and embodies a distinguished style of architecture that combines Islamic, Roman and traditional Hijaz construction. This architecture includes stones, stucco and bricks of various shapes and sizes, while the palace lobbies tell the story of a rich history extending over many centuries.
Jabra Palace has attracted the attention of poets and writers throughout the ages due to the beauty of its construction and inscriptions and its distinguished location, and is mentioned in many old Arab poems.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea coast offers fascinating fun for vacationers

Time: 14 August 2021

The warm climate in Saudi Arabia makes for beautiful diving and swimming weather year-round along the coast, tempting many across the Kingdom to visit. (SPA)

“Saudis and foreigners alike come to my family’s quaint restaurant off the road in Thuwal and become frequent visitors”
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea coast has emerged as a top destination for vacationers. It has marine life-filled waters, fantastic vistas, swimming and diving sites — making it an ideal summer destination.
There are several excellent diving and swimming sites along the coastline, with the northern areas offering shipwrecks. The southern regions are home to islands filled with flora and fauna, offering dramatic encounters with manta rays, sharks and other species that live off the mangroves and shallow coral reefs.
The warm climate in Saudi Arabia makes for beautiful diving and swimming weather year-round along the coast, tempting many across the Kingdom to visit.
Farzanul Haque, an Indian expat living in Jeddah who has toured different cities and towns along the Red Sea coast, told Arab News: “The reason why I enjoy swimming in the waters here is due to the amazing colors of the corals, the marine life, and the water temperatures are warm all year round,” he said.
“Since my family arrived in 2017, I started visiting seaside cities such as Umluj, Yanbu and Thuwal while spending some quality time with them; we’re used to going to the Corniche most of the time, especially on the weekend and to other coastal cities during a vacation to enjoy swimming.”
For scuba divers, the Red Sea offers an adventure in discovering rich marine environments, as well as the experience of exploring historic shipwrecks such as the more than 100-year-old Sunken British ship Iona, as well as a Greek ship and a Chinese boat wholly covered with coral and seaweed.
The Seven Sisters is a series of red sea coral reefs known for their formations and bright colors. Some adventurers are keen to take photographs, with sophisticated cameras provided by diving centers.
Not only do these destinations have great swimming and diving opportunities, local seafood restaurants offer an assortment of dishes featuring the freshest catch of the day.
“You won’t find fish like the Red Sea’s fish anywhere else but here,” said Khalid Garout, a private sector worker and fishermen who helps provide his family business with fresh fish over the weekends.
“Saudis and foreigners alike come to my family’s quaint restaurant off the road in Thuwal and become frequent visitors,” he told Arab News. “Everyone here knows their fish, they know when to fish them and the best ways of cooking them.”

This article was first published in Arab News

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The Place: Dhat Al-Hajj, a historically significant fort on the Shami Hajj Road in Tabuk

17/07/21

A prosperous village grew up around the fort, providing accommodation for pilgrims and a place to top up their stores of food and water
Dhat Al-Hajj fort lies between the Halat Ammar Center and Tabuk city on the ancient Shami Hajj Road, also known as Al-Tabukiya road, which was once a popular route for pilgrims from the Levant traveling to Makkah and Madinah.
Many of them would take the opportunity to rest at the fort during their long journey, and it was also a convenient meeting point for convoys of pilgrims — thus becoming a place where cultures would often mix, swap stories and trade goods.
Built in 1564 CE, Dhat Al-Hajj is a fine example of the regional architecture of the time and is one of the most historically significant forts on the Shami Hajj Road. Its name is reportedly derived from a plant that grew abundantly in the area.
The fort is a rectangular five-room building, with an entrance in the western wall through to the interior courtyard. Outside the fort stands a pool that is the source of the drinking areas used by passers-by.
A prosperous village grew up around the fort, providing accommodation for pilgrims and a place to top up their stores of food and water. The location became still more important when the Hijazi Railroad was established in the early 20th century.
Despite their names, both the fort and the road were used throughout the year by merchants, and not just by pilgrims during Hajj.

This article was first published in Arab News

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ThePlace: Shada Palace, one of the historical buildings in Saudi Arabia’s Abha

Time: 10 July 2021

Photo/Supplied

The residential quarters and living areas of the building are open to visitors and entry to the palace is free of charge, Saturday to Thursday
Shada Palace is located in Saudi Arabia’s city in the sky, Abha, and reflects the traditional architecture of the Asir region and the Kingdom as a whole.
It is one of the few historical buildings left standing in Abha and currently houses exhibits of handicrafts, old household items, antique coins, and early photographs depicting local life.
The palace, that stands prominently between modern buildings, was constructed in 1927 for the then-governor. The lack of windows and the high walls on the roof were designed to maintain privacy for female occupants. The residential quarters and living areas of the building are open to visitors and entry to the palace is free of charge, Saturday to Thursday.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Asir, Saudi Arabia’s summer destination for nature lovers

Time: 08 July 2021

Famous locations in the Asir region include Shada Palace, the mud-walled embodiment of traditional architecture
ABHA: In the high altitudes of Asir, green landscapes that stretch as far as the eye can see offer a unique connection with nature.
Asir topped the destinations announced by the Saudi Summer 2021 program launched by the Saudi Tourism Authority through the “Saudi Arabia Spirit” portal, under the slogan “Our Summer, Your Mood.”
The program began on June 24 and will last until the end of September. It includes 11 tourist destinations, with over 500 touristic experiences in cooperation with more than 250 partners from the private sector.
Famous locations in the Asir region, which can be accessed through roads paved between mountains and greenery, include Shada Palace, the mud-walled embodiment of traditional architecture, which has been turned into a museum.
As one explores the region, the archaeological village of Rijal Almaa appears from atop a hill with its immortal image that dates back over 350 years. The village retains its glory and beauty, illustrated by the white quartz that adorns its structures from the outside and merges into the rural scenery from afar, with the green terraces that extend along the mountains and on all edges.
Heritage is seen as an eternal symbol throughout the region, and this is reflected in its residents, who are proud of their deep-rooted sense of belonging to the land.
The small neighborhood of Al-Muftaha village is a distinct cultural center characterized by bright murals and narrow lanes with beautiful art.
Despite the ideal scenic landscape, the spirit of adventure remains the major motive for enjoying the trip.
Riding the cable car is one of the most enjoyable experiences in the Asir region, with panoramic views that will be remembered forever.
The cable car journeys between the mountains, traveling through four stations, the first based on the Abha Palace Hotel.
The new Abha cable car station, which heads toward the Green Mountain, is exciting in daylight and picturesque at night. The mountain is lit with green neon lights whose warm glow can be seen from all over the city.
The third station is the Al-Soudah cable car, which transports passengers from the Jabal Al-Soudah to the village of Rijal Almaa. The last station is the Habala cable car, which extends toward the old village of Habala, and is the only means of transportation since it can only be reached by cable car.
After experiencing the cable car, tourists can visit the high city linked to the summit of the mountain. Mountain rocks were carved into walls and sidewalks on which the city rests. The high city has recently flourished with cafes, restaurants, and various recreational activities that cater to everyone’s taste.
The Asir region offers a wide range of nature scenes every day depending on the light, wind or rain. The image of the earth changes from bright and glowing on clear days to refreshingly wet after rain, and the air tends to cool as people ascend the hanging roads that rotate around mountains.

This article was first published in Arab News

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