The ‘Asir Region, Saudi Arabia’s Highest Point
The ‘Asir Region is an area of Saudi Arabia located in the southwest of the country, named after the ʿAsīr tribe. The mostly mountainous landscape is in relatively close proximity to the Red Sea, has the highest peaks and receives more rainfall than any other provinces within the country.
The views across the Al Souda Mountains are spectacular and the high altitude a welcome break from the soaring summer temperatures. A slight lack of oxygen caused some concern but we were not exerting ourselves too hard. Our flight arrived in the busy city of Abha, the capital city of the Aseer Province some 2,270m above sea level. The milder climate makes it a popular domestic tourist destination. In fact, the lowest recorded temperature in the area was −2 °C (28 °F) on December 29, 1983. Abha is dominated by the surrounding Sarawat Mountains with Jabal Sawda claimed to be the highest peak in Saudi Arabia.
Our trip included a visit to the Hanging Village of Habala, a small mountain village close to Abha. Originally inhabited by a tribal community known as the “flower men”, the village was once only accessible by rope ladder. It is thought the local tribes at the time were fleeing from the Ottoman Empire. The name Habala comes from the Arabic word for rope. A cable car was built in the 1990s providing access to the traditional village, helping to promote tourism within the region. The stark mountain landscape provides views across the Asir Mountains around 2000m above sea level. It’s difficult to understand that we’re in the same country. This is not the iconic image of Saudi Arabia, or even the Middle East that most people are used to.
The village is spread across the steep rock face connected by a fairly badly maintained pathway. The walk across to the facing buildings was quite perilous in places. However, we made it over to so we could look across to where the cable car station is based. When or if tourism takes off in Saudi Arabia some infrastructural improvements would need to be implemented to make the area much safer. It’s certainly an impressive tourist destination just for the views across the deep valley. This area is one of the most incredible parts of Saudi and is possibly less explored than other areas of the country. The village itself is rich in cultural history as the former residents of the village known as the “flower men” are often seen around the site of their ancestral home.