The Place: Shada mountain in Saudi Arabia’s Al-Baha region

19/12/20

  • Engravings and traces of early civilizations have been found in the caves, giving archeologists and researchers important and priceless information about the past.

The Shada mountain range is part of Al-Baha, which is one of the most beautiful cities in Saudi Arabia.
“Shada” means to “rise” or “soar”, so it is a meaning that fits the dense green mountains perfectly. They are the highest peaks in the Kingdom at 2,300 meters.
Jabal Shada, or the Shada mountain formation, dates beyond the Cambrian Period.
The giant granite rocks resting on the very top are what makes this place different from others. In Arabic they are given the name “Nadba,” almost appearing to touch the sky at an altitude of 200 meters.
Visitors may come across peculiar grottos and caves that are the result of erosion that has taken place over the course of centuries.
These caves were created by gases exiting igneous rocks and leaving apertures that coincidentally suited human civilizations and were used as dwellings.
Engravings and traces of early civilizations have been found in the caves, giving archeologists and researchers important and priceless information about the past.
Houses of Jabal Shada Al-Asfal are found at astounding altitudes. They are made of rocks that are extremely difficult to reach due to their location, and are a true piece of Saudi heritage and give valuable insight into the history of the land.

This article was first published in Arab News

If you want more interesting news or videos of this website click on this link  Arab News Home

Saudi Arabia’s caves reveal hidden treasures

Time: 10 December 2020

The western and northwestern regions of the Kingdom were home to caves and basalt tunnels between layers of lava rock near the craters of volcanoes. (Photo/ Supplied)
  • Research project opens door to tourist, scientific adventure

MAKKAH: They are among the region’s most striking natural wonders, formed over millions of years by ancient rivers — and still home to mysterious secrets.
Now Saudi Arabia’s caves, sinkholes and caverns are becoming hidden gems for the adventurous or merely curious to seek out and explore.
More than 230 caves — deep and shallow, and formed of limestone, gypsum and other minerals — have been discovered in the Kingdom’s deserts.
As the mysteries of Saudi Arabia gain wider recognition, these natural treasures are the subject of growing interest.
Mahmoud Ahmed Al-Shanti, a specialist in caves and dunes at the Saudi Geological Survey (SGS), told Arab News that caves are a valuable natural asset, and attract explorers, researchers and others interested in the field.
The SGS has launched an exploration project to determine the location, types and origins of the Kingdom’s caves.
In a study titled “Caves and Sinkholes in Saudi Arabia,” Al-Shanti said that caves or sinkholes vary in size from small, where a person can barely access the main entrance, to vast, with tunnels extending for hundreds of kilometers.
The Mammoth cave in the US state of Kentucky is more than 500-km long, for example.
Caves are a rare geological, tourist and environmental asset that must be preserved and protected, he said.
“Not only are they beautiful, but some caves can be used for academic studies and scientific research,” he said.

More than 230 caves — deep and shallow, and formed of limestone, gypsum and other minerals — have been discovered in the Kingdom’s deserts.

“Countries also can benefit from them economically through financial income, career opportunities in various fields of education and research.” Al-Shanti said the western and northwestern regions of the Kingdom were home to caves and basalt tunnels between layers of lava rock near the craters of volcanoes. Examples include the Habashi cave in Harrat Al-Buqum and the Umm Jarsan cave in Harrat Khyber, about 200 km northeast of Madinah.
Caves also form in sandstone exposed to a variety of environmental factors. Examples include Qarah cave in the Kingdom’s eastern region; Al-Doudah cave, east of AlUla; and Janine cave, near Hail.
Al-Shanti said there are also sinkholes and caves in limestone rock near Saudi Arabia’s northern border, and in the central and eastern regions.
A variety of plants is known to grow in the soil surrounding these natural wonders, with roots breaking up the limestone rock over millions of years, forming long, deep corridors that branch out in different directions.
In the depths of the cave, green plants give way to organisms that can survive without sunlight. Bacteria and algae utilize waste from animals that live inside, while some use minerals in the cave as a source of food and energy.
Al-Shanti said that caves often provide shelter for mammals, including wild cats and various types of rodents.
In desert caves, carnivores, such as foxes, hyenas and wolves, live and reproduce, emerging at night to hunt before returning to the safety of the cave.
With time and effort, more hidden wonders are being discovered beneath Saudi Arabia’s sandy dunes and rocky mountains, opening the door for adventure and discovery for all.

This article was first published in Arab News

If you want more interesting news or videos of this website click on this link  Arab News Home

The Place: Wadi Al-Disah, in Saudi Arabia’s Tabuk region

06/12/20

Wadi Al-Disah in the Tabuk region is one of the most famous valleys in the Kingdom and one of the region’s most prominent natural tourist attractions. It is also known as Wadi Al-Habak, Tamar Al-Nabq, Wadi Damah, and Wadi Qarar. Visitors to this beautiful valley will be struck by its tranquility and fresh air.
The valley is located about 220 km south of Tabuk city. It penetrates the pillar-shaped mountains, under which a wide variety of trees are found, including palms, edamas, and basil and citrus trees.
On the edges of the valley are striking red mountains. The valley also features an area known as the Blue Eye, into which water from different springs pours. One of the springs in the center of the valley has an unknown source and flows from a rocky spot. The water is renowned for its clarity and freshness.
The weather in the valley is mild throughout the year, making it an ideal place to grow crops, including buckthorn — from which people make buckthorn jam and buckthorn molasses, vegetables, citrus fruits, banana, mango, tomato, and mint.
The valley’s Nabataean façade and rock-carved tombs add to its beauty, in addition to other archaeological sites that include the remains of residential settlements, such as Al-Mushairef, Al-Sukhnah, and Al-Maskounah.

This article was first published in Arab News

If you want more interesting news or videos of this website click on this link  Arab News Home

The Place: Judaya Fortress, in Saudi Arabia’s Al-Rass governorate

28/11/20

Photo/Saudi Press Agency
  • Judaya Fortress was built from more than 13,000 mud bricks and a range of hard rocks, a construction method that was to become widely adopted

Qassim province is characterized by its numerous heritage sites, some of which have been transformed by citizens into private museums.
These independent museums have contributed to preserving and showcasing the region’s history and culture, often with the support of the former Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH), now the Ministry of Tourism.
Al-Rass governorate is home to the Judaya Fortress which has become a popular destination for history buffs.
Covering an area of 70,000 square kilometers, the governorate is situated 350 km northwest of the capital Riyadh and for centuries the area has been a key trade corridor for convoys headed between the north and east of the Arabian Peninsula.
Judaya Fortress was built from more than 13,000 mud bricks and a range of hard rocks, a construction method that was to become widely adopted. It contains a number of buildings, heritage rooms, a popular market, and residential houses.
Its exhibits and antiquities reveal the way of life and customs of the citizens of Qassim and Al-Rass down through the ages with a particular emphasis on professions and clothes.
The fortress covers an area of 6,250 square meters and houses more than 30,000 heritage objects gathered by Khaled bin Mohammed Al-Jedai, a resident of Al-Rass who since his childhood had dreamt of running a private museum.

This article was first published in Arab News

If you want more interesting news or videos of this website click on this link  Arab News Home

Saudi aerial photographer reveals secrets of AlUla Old Town to global audience

Time: 25 November 2020

Ali Al-Suhaimi’s eye-in-the-sky portrayal of the famous Islamic city has helped to provide a fresh insight into the past lives of the inhabitants of the now deserted settlement.
  • Use of drones by cameraman brings history to life in one of KSA’s most famous archaeological sites

MAKKAH: A Saudi aerial photographer’s passion for history has won him global acclaim for images revealing the secrets of AlUla Old Town.

Ali Al-Suhaimi’s eye-in-the-sky portrayal of the famous Islamic city has helped to provide a fresh insight into the past lives of the inhabitants of the now deserted settlement.

AlUla Old Town, located in the north of the Kingdom about 20 km from the archaeological site of Mada’in Salih, is seven centuries old and filled with mosques and markets that reflect its beauty and heritage.

Rich in history, the region was an ancient trade station linking the north and south of the peninsula and one of the main stopping-off points for pilgrims traveling between Syria and Makkah.

Al-Suhaimi told Arab News that his inspiration to photograph the area from the air came from his deep-rooted desire to find out more about the country’s ancient civilizations.

“The idea from the onset revolved around simulating the history of AlUla region, which has become one of the most important heritage attractions on a local and international level.

“The location includes stone landmarks and high mountains which set a breathtaking rocky harmony depicted by the drones of aerial photographers.

“It was the place of people who set the link with us on architectural and human levels.

The region is one of the great forgotten treasures of antiquity. (Social media)

They built a town which bears witness to the magnificence and cultural depth and momentum of its human legacy,” he said. Studies of AlUla’s castles have proved that the site was once a thriving community, Al-Suhaimi added. “Photographing these places in all their detail only adds to my enthusiasm for transmitting images to a world craving for the secrets of these places of old times to be unveiled.”

The high-flying lensman has snapped all of AlUla Old Town’s castles and villages, as well as the castle of Musa bin Nusayr, and the Aja and Salma mountains which rise to 1,000 meters.

By using drones, Al-Suhaimi has been able to get close-up pictures of the houses and buildings that occupy the site. “There are monolithic houses that reflect the depth of relationships that linked those people who fused with each other as if they were one family.”

HIGHLIGHT

AlUla Old Town, located in the north of the Kingdom about 20 km from the archaeological site of Mada’in Salih, is seven centuries old and filled with mosques and markets that reflect its beauty and heritage.

He pointed out that although the houses seemed to be randomly clustered together, they were actually “architectural enigmas” which had been cleverly designed to ensure a smooth flow of air in and around them.

Aerial photographs of the town had also raised questions about how its people had been able to move around from building to building in such a close-knit environment.

Al-Suhaimi said he had gained all the necessary licenses to operate drones in the area. “We were keen on taking pictures and transmitting them to the whole world, as internationally it is one of the most outstanding Islamic cities. Its mud houses are living witnesses that resisted time.”

He added that he had been astonished by the positive global feedback from his photographs of the region. One notable feature of AlUla Old Town is the Tantora sundial. The shadow that it cast was used to mark the beginning of the winter planting season.

“They set stones atop one another so that the shadow would be projected on the tip of the stone once per year, which is evidence of the astronomy legacy of the people of the region,” said Al-Suhaimi.

This article was first published in Arab News

If you want more interesting news or videos of this website click on this link  Arab News Home

Saudi Ministry of Culture releases mini-documentary on Tuwaiq Palace

16/11/20

RIYADH: Continuing their efforts to preserve significant aspects of Saudi heritage, the Ministry of Culture has released a short documentary film highlighting the beauty and architectural prowess of one of the country’s most incredible buildings, Tuwaiq Palace.
The 10-minute video, which can be viewed on the ministry’s Twitter account, features a look at the history of the palace, insights into the design process and sweeping views of the building that will mesmerize those who have never seen the palace’s interior before.
The building has long been considered an architectural marvel and a city landmark. Built in 1985 and located in the Diplomatic Quarter of Riyadh, Tuwaiq Palace is the award-winning lovechild of a collaboration between Saudi design company Omrania, German architect Frei Otto (Germany), and British services firm Buro Happold.
Basem Al-Shihabi, Omrania’s managing director since 1973, talks in the film about the history of the design process and explains why the building stands out from others in its category.
“The appeal of Tuwaiq Palace lies in its design — the harmony between the interior and the exterior. The dimensions, and the way the materials juxtapose and come together. And the variations in the height of the ceilings versus the depth of the floors from one section to another,” he said.
The 24,000-square-meter building is equipped for recreational, social, dining, banqueting, conference, and accommodation functions, a favorite of ambassadors and foreign dignitaries for the celebration of their countries’ national and independence day celebrations, and is even available for weddings.
Saudi architect Mai Alkhaldi told Arab News that the building is “visually stunning,” and that no other Saudi architectural landmark has quite the same visual appeal.
“It’s not an ordinary building; it’s extraordinary. The shapes, the structure, and of course, the wall. Over three decades old and the structure is still as amazing as ever,” she said.

HIGHLIGHT

The 10-minute video, which can be viewed on the ministry’s Twitter account, features a look at the history of the palace.

“The wall” refers to the 800-meter-long “Living Wall,” which winds on itself and wraps around the palace’s lush garden. Five tensile structure “tents” cover sports facilities and distinct landscaping in the inner gardens and outer spaces generated by the winding wall, giving the palace its unique shape and structure.
According to the co-designers at Omrania, the palace was designed to touch on two local archetypes, the fortress and the tent, and incorporate the natural phenomenon of the oasis.
“Much of development in Saudi Arabia during the 1980s was based on glossy western building models. Tuwaiq Palace is a bold departure from that trend, touching instead upon easily understood signals from past desert civilizations. This reinterpretation is a daring confrontation with and successful marriage of tradition and high tech,” says the company’s website.
As the building turns 35 years old this year, many Saudis consider Tuwaiq Palace to be unmatched among Saudi landmarks. Alkhaldi is no exception to this.
“Tuwaiq is such a unique building. Every part of it is different, yet all of it comes together so beautifully. Nothing else can really compare. Not truly,” she said.

This article was first published in Arab News

If you want more interesting news or videos of this website click on this link  Arab News Home

The Place: Antarah’s rock, located in KSA’s Uyun Al-Jiwa governorate

14/11/20

“The Poem of Antar,” in which he mentions Uyun Al-Jiwa as the place where Ablah lived

Known locally as Sakhrat Antarah (Antarah’s rock), the precariously perched boulder in Uyun Al-Jiwa governorate is rumored to be the place where knight, adventurer, and celebrated poet Antarah bin Shaddad met with his sweetheart Ablah. It is also known as the Lover’s Rock.
Situated northwest of Qassim, the site was settled by the Abs tribe that Shaddad originated from. One of the region’s oldest and most famous tribes, it was known for its trading prowess and hardworking, honest, loyal people.
Although only 30 kilometers from Buraidah, the people of Uyun Al-Jiwa share a different dialect from those in Qassim.
Uyun Al-Jiwa is locally referred to as the “oasis celebrated by Arab poets” in reference to its historical significance in several poetry collections known as the “suspended odes” or Mu’allaqat.
Shaddad, whose name still carries resonance through school curriculums and storytellers, often wrote about his love, Ablah. In one of his most famous pieces, “The Poem of Antar,” in which he mentions Uyun Al-Jiwa as the place where Ablah lived, he said: “Oh house of Ablah situated at Jiwa, talk with me about those who resided in you. Good morning to you, O house of Ablah, and be safe from ruin.”
The rock has for years acted as a monument for Saudis and visitors from Arab countries to the popular romantic tale. The former Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH), now the Ministry of Tourism, gave it a new look and helped restore it in 2019.
A specialized team from SCTH used the latest technology to preserve inscriptions on the rock and clean it.

This article was first published in Arab News

If you want more interesting news or videos of this website click on this link  Arab News Home

The Place: Volcanic Harrats in Saudi Arabia’s Umluj

07/11/20

Photo/Saudi Press Agency

The Umluj governorate has become a major destination due to its distinct, natural features that make it one of the primary landmarks for the tourist path launched by the Saudi Tourism Authority
The famous volcanic Harrats (meaning “stony areas volcanic country or lava field” in Arabic) in the Umluj governorate constitute a striking natural picture for visitors at first glance.
They are mostly formed by sequences of Basaltic lava stacking on top of each other, creating the distinctive topographical shape of the Harrats that appear in the form of volcanic plateaus.
Basaltic lava originates from lava flow through surface fissures that appear on the earth’s surface in the form of scoria volcanoes stacked in belts. The Harrats are considered one of the most important tourist assets in the Umluj governorate. The region’s lava-painted geometric shapes and dazzling colors unleash the imagination and tell stories that attract tourists.
Volcanic craters and lava create a new environment and different colors, shaping an exceptional natural painting that blends mother nature with features augmented by the volcanoes and scattered lava.
The Umluj governorate has become a major destination due to its distinct, natural features that make it one of the primary landmarks for the tourist path launched by the Saudi Tourism Authority.
The path includes diverse destinations that let tourists discover the natural, historical and cultural treasures of the Kingdom. It starts in the city of Tabuk in the northwest and ends in Abha. It also passes through 10 tourist destinations in the country, where the diverse nature and stunning climate attract all kinds of tourists.

This article was first published in Arab News

If you want more interesting news or videos of this website click on this link  Arab News Home

Qasr Al-Farid, a largest single rock in Saudi Arabia’s AlUla

31/10/20

The Saudi tourist destination of AlUla reopened its doors to visitors on Friday, and will remain available and packed with outdoor activities throughout the year. Visitors do not have to wait for a season to visit AlUla; they can now visit the ancient site at any time. The destination will be ready for international visitors, too, when travel restrictions are lifted next year.
Qasr Al-Farid, one of the largest existing tombs, is among the main attractions. Its name reveals its uniqueness as a single rock independent of the other palaces or tombs.
The tomb is unique because it was left incomplete and there are no signs of burial sites inside. While most graves have two columns, Al-Farid has four with Nabatean crowns on the front.
The palace contains a pagan symbol, the eagle, in front of the gate. The Nabateans were known to be polytheists.

This article was first published in Arab News

If you want more interesting news or videos of this website click on this link  Arab News Home

AlUla unveils new experiences, heritage sites open for bookings

Time: 30 October 2020  

There is an Experience AlUla app for an immersive digital guide, and visitors can speak to a Rawi (Arabic storyteller) for a more personal tour of the sites. (Supplied)
  • From late-December, parts of AlUla Old Town will be open to the public

JEDDAH: AlUla, the historical crossroad of ancient civilizations, has officially reopened for visitors.
The Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU) has unveiled the full suite of experiences that are being introduced over the coming months.
Heritage sites, Hegra, Jabal Ikmah and Dadan are the first to reopen for bookings. The Hegra experience includes a full immersion into the Nabataean way of life at the Tomb of Lihyan son of Kuza, including Jabal Ithlib, The Diwan, Jabal Alhamar and the well.
At the ancient city of Dadan, the capital city of the Dadanite and Liyhanite kingdoms and one of the most developed cities in the first millennia BC, visitors will get the chance to become an archaeologist for the day.
Archaeologists began extensive excavations at Dadan in February to explore this relatively unknown period in AlUa’s 200,000 years of human history. From December, a family-friendly 40-minute “Archaeology for Everyone” workshop will have kids digging for artifacts to get in on the action. There will also be live immersion shows, audio tours and visitors will have the opportunity to roam the site in a vintage jeep.
From late-December, parts of AlUla Old Town will be open to the public. While full conservation is ongoing, the visitor experience will include Rawi tours of Tantora Plaza and views from AlUla citadel, experiencing a bustling souq, handicraft pavilions, souvenir shops and new dining options.
Outside of the heritage sites, there will be plenty of other activities to keep visitors entertained.
A new Adventure Canyon area will offer a suite of experiences for those looking for high-energy thrills.

HIGHLIGHT

From mid-November, visitors will be able to appreciate the landscapes, rock art, dunes and peaks of the desert while zipping around in dune buggies, or book a stargazing tour at Al-Gharameel rocks.

From mid-November, visitors will be able to appreciate the landscapes, rock art, dunes and peaks of the desert while zipping around in dune buggies, or book a stargazing tour at Al-Gharameel rocks.
Another trail available from mid-November is a leisurely two-hour cycling trip, which runs through palm groves and citrus trees. A horse riding trail through the oasis is also slated for later in the year.
Available from December, a family bike track is being constructed as well as a zipline at the new Adventure Canyon by experienced operators Warrior.
For a more relaxing experience, the AlUla Fresh Farm visit offers visitors a glimpse into the agricultural life with fruit picking, animal feeding and seed planting. From the 2.3 million date palm trees to the 29 different citrus fruits, farms play an important role in AlUla’s economy and daily life.
AlUla will also welcome new permanent experiences in the arts and cultural space. The former AlUla Secondary School for girls near the old town is being transformed into an arts and traditional crafts hub.
Restaurants have also been given careful consideration and further announcements are to be made in the coming weeks about some exciting new dining options. In the meantime, key local cafes Barzan and Al-Makher are working with the RCU to ensure a year-round offer of fabulous local cuisine.

This article was first published in Arab News

If you want more interesting news or videos of this website click on this link  Arab News Home