A relaxed and charming region between the mountains and the coast
Asir offers a glimpse of traditional Saudi Arabia, with remote villages, charming people and a fascinating history
The southwestern region of Asir stretches all the way down to the Red Sea and is renowned for its stunning mountain landscapes, unspoilt beaches and a range of activities that will delight thrill seekers looking to explore. It is also home to some interesting cultural sites, vibrant markets and warm, friendly locals.
Abha, the capital of the region is its cultural hub, with buzzing traditional markets, striking hilltop forts and the old palace of Shadda which is now a museum dedicated to the history and culture of the town. Other smaller towns such as Kharmis Mushait are also well worth a visit, with their vibrant old quarters, beautiful buildings and excellent restaurants serving amazing local cuisine. For culture vultures the entire region is fascinating, with visits to the tribal villages of Al Habala and Rijal Almaa on offer, as well as trips to the charming Al Muftaha art village with its colourful local art works and interesting little museums.
Another huge attraction is the “hanging village” of Al Habala whose sandstone houses sit on the edge of a sheer cliff looking down in to the valley below. Built by the Qathan tribe some 400 years ago it was, remarkably, occupied right through until the late 1980s, with the occupants working their small terraced farms consistently throughout that time. Visitors today can visit between May and October thanks to a cable car that has been built there and are greeted by a Qahtani man wearing a traditional floral costume.
To the south of Abha is a curious landmark knows as Jebel Thera or the Green Mountain, whose lights shine over the city and give it an unusual green tinge. Again it is accessed by a cable car and there is an excellent Lebanese restaurant at the summit where panoramic views can be enjoyed alongside the superb food.
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