6 of the best Nature
Feburary 2021 – 3 minute read
Whether you are sailing the crystalline waters of the Saudi Red Sea, exploring one the country’s many national parks or hiking through the green hills of Al Baha, Saudi will surprise and delight you with a wealth of natural treasures. From seas teeming with exotic fish, rare marine animals and thriving corals to lush oases, verdant farmlands and even desert areas that are rich with life and raw natural beauty, Saudi is a kaleidoscope of unique natural experiences.
Al Ahsa Oasis
A desert oasis of shady palm groves and crystal clear springs, Al Ahsa Oasis stands as a dazzling haven against the untamed plains of the Rub› Al Khali (Empty Quarter). For millennia, this region’s fertile land made it a hub for traders and caravans crossing the region’s ancient trade routes, forging links across the Arabian Peninsula and beyond, and providing a stopping place for early pilgrims en route to Makkah. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site – a nod to the city’s many archaeological landmarks, which show traces of human settlement all the way back to the Neolithic period – Al Ahsa Oasis is rapidly gaining appeal as one of Saudi Arabia’s most captivating tourist destinations.
The ancient Oasis of Hegra was a lush garden consisting of three layers of vegetation. The first protective layer was formed by the date palm trees, providing shade and shelter to the numerous fruit trees below. Peach, apricot, grape, pomegranate, olive and fig trees filled the second layer while in the third layer wheat, legumes and cotton were grown.
One of Saudi Arabia’s more curious landmarks, Jebel Thera — better known as the Green Mountain — is a peak in the south of Abha, lit at night by neon green lights that emit a warm emerald glow across the city. The best way to get to the summit is by cable car, where there is a Lebanese restaurant and cafe with a terrace and panoramic views.
Taif’s Rose Fields
Every year, Taif turns pink and red, as the city’s famous -30petal damask roses scent the air. In the City of Roses, more than 900 rose farms produce well over 300 million flowers, which are harvested to produce the world’s most expensive rose oil, or attar. See the mechanism first-hand with a guided visit to one of the city’s rose factories, or visit Taif’s central market to browse and buy rose-scented oil, water, fragrance and soaps.
The Maghaer Shuaib seems to appear from nowhere in the reddish desert west of Tabuk – its elegantly carved facades and tombs built into the sandstone rocks recalling Petra in Jordan and Hegra at Al Ula. According to tradition, having fled Egypt, Moses lived here for a decade under the patronage of the Prophet Shuaib, who had been impressed by Moses’ chivalry and offered his daughter’s hand in marriage. Moses eventually returned to Egypt, but it’s easy to imagine that this beautiful place stayed with him.
A major pilgrimage site, Mount Uhud is the place where Muslim forces led by the Prophet Muhammad battled troops from Makkah. The mountain rises about 3,500 feet (1,077 meters), and it can be climbed to better observe the battlefield. Nearby is the Uhud Martyrs Cemetery, where 85 of the slain Muslim soldiers are buried. Mount Uhud is northeast of Medina’s city center.