IN PICTURES: Al-Desah Valley in the heart of NEOM

Time : July 31, 2018

The project, NEOM, which is a Saudi led tourism project on a land mass that will extend across the Egyptian and Jordanian borders, rendering NEOM the first private zone to span three countries, hosts what some may call a little gem called the al-Desah valley.

The valley boasts an abundance of waterfalls, mountains and greenery which tourists will definitely enjoy.

NEOM is a planned 10,230-square-mile transnational city and economic zone to be constructed in Tabuk, Saudi Arabia close to the border region of Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

The project will be backed by more than $500 billion over the coming years by Saudi Arabia.

Wind and solar power will allow NEOM to be powered solely by regenerative energy, while 70 percent of the world’s population will be able to reach it within eight hours.

NEOM is born from the ambition of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 to see the country develop into a pioneering and thriving model of excellence in various and important areas of life. NEOM aims to thrive the transformation of the Kingdom into a leading global hub through the introduction of value chains of industry and technology.

This article was first published in  Alarabiya

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IN PICTURES: What’s the story behind ancient lion engravings in Saudi Arabia?

Time : July 19, 2018

The engravings are found on a rock in the heart of Jabal al-Manjor and Raat in Hail province. (Supplied)

Did lions ever roamed Saudi Arabia? Rock engraving by an ancient Thamudi artist who lived 10,000 years ago, answers this question as an engraving in Jabal al-Manjor and Raat at Shuwaymis in Hail Region shows a giant lion in its actual size on a rock facade.

Ancient Rock engravings in Hail Region of Saudi Arabia, which includes Jabel Umm Sinman at Jubbah and the Jabal al-Manjor and Raat at Shuwaymis, was added to UNESCO World Heritage List in 2015.

Shuwaymis is 300 kilometers south of Hail and it’s in the lava field where a volcano erupted a very long time ago. The volcanoes’ craters are still present on the lava field’s sides.

Lion of Shuwaymis

The huge engraving now known as the Lion of Shuwaymis is inscribed on a rock in the heart of Jabal al-Manjor and Raat. This site is one of the largest open natural museums in the world as there are plenty of carvings of camels, horses, ibexes and other animals.

The lion engraving is done on a wide space of the natural rock, thus depicting the lion’s esteemed status which it held more than 10,000 years ago.

Thamudi artists filled rocks in Jabal al-Manjor and Raat with engravings as well as some Thamudi letters and inscriptions.

In addition to carvings of animals in their actual size, they also engraved images of man performing daily activities like fishing and trade via the use of caravans.

Ahmad bin Ghathy, a tourist guide in Shuwaymis said the location has been protected by the lava field which it wasn’t possible to pass through before. He added that the path to where the lion engraving was very bumpy but this protected the site.

Linking sites

There are three important sites on the borders of the lava field which are Fadak, Khaybar and Shuwaymis. Some of their parts have been linked via paths which visitors can take easily to reach these sites.

Ghathy said that there is an off road which does not exceed 30 kilometers that links Raat with Khaybar, breaking through the lava field, shortening the trip by at least 300 kilometers.

Tourism and archaeology

The Shuwaymis site is one of the most looked after sites by the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage as it has launched several initiatives to protect the site and improve it.

Prince Sultan bin Salman, the commission’s chairman, inaugurated the site in a ceremony held in front the famous mountain in Raat and al-Manjor.

The site is considered one of the remote sites that is difficult to get to considering the rugged terrain and the presence of more than 12 volcanic craters around it.

This article was first published in  Alarabiya

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IN PICTURES: Story behind oddly-shaped mountain in flat Saudi desert

Time : Sunday – July 15, 2018

The area where the “desert cake” — like many locals like to call it — is located was considered among the integral trade routes in the Arabian Peninsula desert. (Supplied)

A weird-looking mountain amid Saudi Arabia’s flat desert stands tall with its unique form, looking like a piece of cake. It is locally known as the famed “Jouda’s finger,” and lies on the Joudy path near the Eastern Region, 150 km away from Dammam.

The giant structure has been mentioned in old and modern discerption of trips in the area, a landmark for passers on the Joudy path linking between the Ihsaa oasis and Al-Yamama region since the past.

The area where the “desert cake” — like many locals like to call it — is located was considered among the integral trade routes in the Arabian Peninsula desert.

The sedimentary mountain, that includes caves formed by water and winds, has been formed over thousands of years by the pure water covering the region.

Geology professor at King Saud Univeristy, Abdel Aziz bin Laboon, that this finger like some people refer to remained alone amid the flat desert after land around melted millions of years ago. It stayed strong in the face of all the geological changes that had hit the area.

He also added that Saudi Arabia is a major theater for geology students, where great changes in the land are of interest to scholars.

This article was first published in  Alarabiya

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PHOTOS: In high summer, imagine enjoying 18 degrees C weather in Saudi Arabia

Time: June 27, 2018

The highlands and southwestern regions of Saudi Arabia attract tourists, nature lovers as well as photography enthusiasts.

To escape the scorchingly high summer temperatures, many Saudis take to the highlands and southwestern regions of Saudi Arabia. In July, August and September the thunderstorms transform the atmosphere and attract tourists, nature lovers as well as photography enthusiasts.

While most of Saudi Arabia is experiencing high temperatures, Abha attracts tourists and visitors with its stunning climate ranging from 18 to 28° C. Not only that in the August summer, you can experience daily showers.

This is due to the movement of the tropical rainy belt on the African continent from the south of the equator to the north. Along with this, along the orbital belt the convergence of wind which rises in a vertical direction and condenses into thunder clouds.

Rain clouds

This orbital belt in summer reaches the African regions in the north of the equator, including southwestern Saudi Arabia. High mountains helps to activate the rising air currents that condense into rain clouds.

Among the areas of attraction is Asir, Al-Souda, where the temperature reaches 18°C with moderate and heavy daily rainfall, as well as Al-Namas with the beautiful greenery where the temperature reaches 20°C.

Mowadays, Al-Namas Governorate has acquired a new appearance, decorated with a green carpet. The lovers of pure Nature and photography enhtusiasts, compete and exert their skills to capture this impressive beauty.

Al-Namas governorate enjoys a reputation as a tourist attraction  among the governorates of Saudi Arabia. It is famous for its large natural parks and high mountains.

Abha Airport

The number of passengers at Abha Airport reached 457,873 since June 1 to  July 15, from 4,178 flights. Total June passengers reached 289,207 from 2,794 flights and 168,666 during the first 15 days of July from 1,384 flights.

Asir’s photographers depict the mountains in Abha during August, as well as its great historical heritage, through creative images that archive this beauty and preserve this historical repository for future generations.


This article was first published in Al Arabiya English  

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Exploring Saudi Arabia: The Faifa Mountains known for beauty and agriculture

The mountains of Faifa, located in southwestern Saudi Arabia east of Jazan enjoy moderate climate and temperatures throughout the year, which distinguishes it from the rest of the Kingdom’s highlands.

The mountains attract a large number of visitors and tourists from different regions, distinguished by the beautiful nature and valleys known for its greenery. The mountainous areas are famous for their agricultural terraces, and characterized by these mountain are heights of green flora that cover them.

Faifa Mountains are also wrapped around each other, making them look like a single mountain pyramid from a distance, rising from the sea at about 7,000 feet and an area that encompasses nearly 600 km covered with greenery that includes many types of plants, flowers and herbs.

The area has many houses with unique archaeology designed in cylindrical forms and circular terraces. The mountainous area in known to have a large folk heritage area with many popular arts, folk proverbs, legends, judgment and poetry. The region has twenty tribes and clans.

These slopes, forests and valleys have contributed to the existence of many wild animals and the environment in Faifa, and the diversity of the flora and fauna density have no less contributed to the economic wealth of the region, including the production of large quantities and variety of high quality honey.

Agriculture is the main industry in the region, where cereals, fruits and aromatic plants are cultivated. The area is characterized by sandy clay soil and surrounded by a large valley where water is maintained throughout the year.

Last Update: Sunday, 10 June 2018 KSA 01:16 – GMT 22:16

This article was first published in  Arab News

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Many secrets buried under the sands of the Rub’ al Khali

Time: May 31, 2018

“The Yabrin oasis was attributed to the oasis located on the northern part”, thus said Yakout al Hamaoui in reference to the Rub’ al Khali desert.

A number of archaeologists believed that the ancient civilization of Ād described by the Qur’an as “Erum of the pillars, the like of which was never created on the land” is buried under the sands of this desert, but it has not been discovered as yet.

Geology expert Hamoud al-Shanti said that what makes the Rub’ al Khali so unique is not solely its aesthetic forms in the sand dunes but the presence of groundwater.

He told that Rub’ al Khali encompasses a lot of wealth, most notably petrol, gas and groundwater.

Al Shanti said: “Rub’ al Khali is a site that is rich in geological formations. It is known for its many oases, water fountains and a predominance of sand dunes. Several geological studies conducted on Rub’ al Khali have affirmed the existence of human settlements that lived near water basins where arrow heads were found which confirms the practice of fishing, and that humans dwelt at the site continuously over the years.”

He said that the recent bounteous rainfall as a result of the Mekunu cyclone, has not been experienced in Rub’ al Khali  for the past 30 years or more. The water will permeate the sand and the groundwater slowly over the years due to gravity.

Al-Shanti pointed out that there are many sand types in Rub al Khali which echo the identity of the place and the history of the human settlements.

The site is a world of secrets buried under the sand. The studies also included probing the meteoroites that fell in Rub’ al Khali, the caves, the marshes and all available geological factors. The Saudi government has not spared any effort to explore and conduct possible studies in an attempt to discover its secrets.

In an interview with Al Arabiya, geological expert Dr. Abdullah al-Amri said that the current water in the Rub’ al Khali is located in geological formations in the south-eastern part of the Arabian Peninsula. It covers a very large area. All streams of water come from the Arabian Shield and from the north of Saudi Arabia, from Wadi al-Rummah and several valleys.

Water at the hollow of Rub’ al Khali

Rub’ al Khali comprises deep springwater which  is over 5,000 to 10,000 years’ old, called the non-renewable groundwater or deep water.

Al Amri emphasized: “We conducted a study three years ago to explore water resources in Rub’ al Khali. We found two types of water, including water near the surface which in a short period of time ends up evaporating, like the water that is currently present after the recent hurricane. The other type of water is located in deep geological formations that are 4km deep below the surface of earth, rain is abundant in Rub’ al Khali in a location situated at 500 kilometers from the city of Harb.”

He pointed out that exploratory studies in Rub’ al Khali have proved that the desert has immense water resources, but a large proportion of existing water contains a high amount of sulphur.

In the past, it was believed that the Rub’ al Khali is a running river which was a common idea. Geophysical studies have revealed deep waterways, some of them still exist to this day while others perished.

Some of the sites are rich in water, while others contain formations and layers of oil and gas.

Water presence becomes stronger in the south-east border of Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Oman, which are water-rich locations because of moist water swales, since runoff water is inclined to flow according to the different slopes which are inclined towards the east or south east direction.

After Cyclone Mekunu

On the effects of the water left by the cyclone, al-Amri said: “At this point the water is lying on top of the ground and it would take years for it to reach the underground. The water in Rub al Khali is mostly formed during the ice age that covered the whole world 10,000 years ago which is now lying at the bottom of the sand dunes.”

Despite the harshness of the natural environment in this region and the lack of human activity, it is rich in oil, natural gas, radioactive metals, glass sand and solar energy. The experimental wells drilled in the east and southeast of the desert of the Empty Quarter shows that the water is abundant in the Eocene limestone formations which are the same water-bearing layers as in al-Ahsa.


This article was first published in Al Arabiya English  

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5 Things To Know About Saudi’s Tallest Volcano And Why It’s Referred To As ‘White Mountain’

Time: May 27, 2018

Screen Shot 2018 05 27 At 4 00 44 Pm

The ‘Jabal Abyad‘ is one of the Kingdom’s pride possessions and one of nature’s force to be reckoned with. It is the tallest volcano in the Kingdom but isn’t quite so easy to visit (for tourists). However, it still manages to fascinate residents and foreigners alike and we can’t blame them.

Here are a few things to know about the Jabal Abyad

1. It stands at 2,093 meters (6,867 feet)

Holy moly!

2. Its name ‘Jabal Abyad’ translates to ‘White Mountain’

And the reason for that name is due to the fact that it produces white ash.

3. This volcano rarely erupts

(Image Credits:

Screen Shot 2018 05 27 At 5 19 07 Pm

4. It won’t be such an easy spot for tourists to see

According to Arab News, its terrains are hard even on the toughest ground jeeps.

5. It’s located in Harrat Khaybar

Harrat Khaybar is located about 130 km north of Al Madinah and covers an area of  14,000 square km, according to Stanford Education.

This article was first published in Lovin Saudi

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Alluring rock carvings reveal Saudi Arabia’s ancient civilizations

Sunday, 27 May 2018

Modern and ancient historical studies revealed the existence of scattered human settlements in the north and south of the province of Bisha, and in addition to the southern Asir region, according to The Saudi Press Agency.

In ancient times, convoys carrying pilgrims traveled through trade routes, leaving behind  around 10,000 traces of drawings, inscriptions and etchings on the rocks and mountains of Bisha. These etchings are spread across several locations, including Al-Hamaa, home to over 1,300 ancient rock sketches and 50 manuscripts which drew the attention of many researchers and historians.

Several other historical sites in Bisha were also revealed around different trade routes such as the Hadrami Road, and the Yemeni Hajj Road, known as “The Elephant Trail”.

Who inhabited Bisha?

Researchers found that these archeological sites prelude to various pre-Islamic time periods in Bisha which included Thamudic letterings. As the first, second, and third state of Saudi Arabia emerged, Sadrah became known for its alluring architecture and other relics along the old trade route.

Abdullah bin Saeed Al-Aklabi, Director of the Office of the National Authority for Tourism and National Heritage, also reveals Nabataean and Kufic text.

Why are these rock etchings so important?

The rock inscriptions are considered one of the most important sources of information in the study of the Arabic and Islamic civilizations. It serves as tangible evidence of the Arabian Peninsula society, in terms of their laws and regulations, and political movements.

Addtionally, Bisha has been listed by the National Tourism and Heritage Council as one of the most significant ancient sites. One-hundred sites in Bisha revealed over 10,000 engravings, and 2,000 written texts distributed across seven administrative centers (Al-Thunaya, Tibala, Jouba, Naqie, Al-Geneina, Al-Hazmi, and Samakh).

Human and animal rock engravings

The rocks reveal various forms of art, some in the form of sculptures, while others included more abstract markings, indicating the gender of the subject drawn. Portrayals of men and woman were found and drawings of daggers, swords and spears symbolized masculinity. Animals such as cows, donkeys, and horses were also drawn.

This article was first published in  Al Arabia

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Saudi Red Sea project to offer visa on arrival for tourists

May 27, 201812:13

  • Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea Project has been registered as a standalone company

  • The venture will be will be headed by John Pagano, former director of London’s Canary Wharf business zone

The Saudi government revealed plans to develop resorts on some 50 islands off the Kingdom’s Red Sea coast. (SPA)

LONDON: Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea project will offer visas on arrival for overseas visitors following the creation of a company to deliver the ambitious project.
The project marked a milestone on Sunday with its incorporation as a standalone closed joint-stock company, The Red Sea Development Company (TRSDC), wholly owned by the country’s Public Investment Fund (PIF).
The company, which in October announced Virgin Group founder Richard Branson as one of its board members, on Sunday said it had recruited John Pagano, the former managing director of development for the UK’s Canary Wharf Group as its chief executive.
The newly-incorporated company will now move forward with the creation of its Special Economic Zone, with its own regulatory framework, it said in a statement.
The framework will be separate from the base economy, with a special emphasis on environmental sustainability, and will offering visa on entry, relaxed social norms, and improved business regulations.
“The destination will provide a unique sense of place for visitors and offer nature lovers, adventurers, cultural explorers and guests looking to escape and rejuvenate, a wide range of exclusive experiences, combining luxury, tranquillity, adventure and beautiful landscapes,” said Pagano.
The first phase of The Red Sea Project — which will occupy an area greater than the size of Belgium between the cities of Al-Wajh and Umluj — will include hotels and residential units, along with a new costal town, an airport and a marina, and is due for completion by late 2022, the company said.
Authorities hope the project will create as many as 35,000 jobs and contribute SR15 billion ($3.99 billion) to the local economy.
The project, unveiled last July by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, is one of the key developments in Saudi Arabia’s strategy to develop its tourism sector, alongside Qiddiya, an entertainment resort near Riyadh that will be two-and-a-half times the size of Disney World.
The country’s Vision 2030 economic development plan is targeting the creation of 1.2 million new jobs in the Saudi tourism sector by 2030.

This article was first published in  Arab News

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Al-Ula Treasures: Al-Khoraiba a reflection of the ancient Dadanian Kingdom

Monday, 21 May 2018

The sites around al-Khoraiba have witnessed civilizations after another in the historic region of Saudi Arabia’s al-Ula.

Al-Khoraiba site is part of the ruins of the ancient city of Dadan, which was Dadanian Kingdom’s metropolis. It is followed by Lehyan. The two are ancient Arabian kingdoms.

Dadanian Kingdom’s influence had emerged in the seventh century BC, dominating several neighboring regions, while Lehyan Kingdom influence had extended from the sixth century BC until the second century BC. Archeological findings show periods of weakness and strength in the Kingdom, which had ruled most of the north-west parts of the Arabian Peninsula.

Due to its historic and geographic significance, the site has become a key tourist destination for both visitors and locals interested in the history of ancient civilizations that ruled Arabia.

Al Arabiya’s Mohamed Hadi Hannachi reports from the site.


This article was first published in  Al Arabiya

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