Tourists hail ‘haunting beauty’ of ancient caves in Al-Baha

Tourists hail ‘haunting beauty’ of ancient caves in Al-Baha

JEDDAH (Arabnews): With the Saudi winter season providing opportunities for tourism investment, Shada Mountain, one of the most popular spots in the Arabian Peninsula, has transformed into a popular destination for visitors, attracting tourists from within the Kingdom, the Arab region and Europe.

Shada Mountain is located in the southern region of the Kingdom in Al-Baha, rising 1,700 meters above ground. It is geologically composed of granite rock, and contains a large variation of plants and greenery.

Split into high and low segments, the mountain is intricate and has withstood the test of time; its vast caverns have been used to house civilizations, and retain carvings that go back to the era of the Thamud and the Sabaeans.

Nasir Al-Shadawi is a history researcher and owner of one of the caves that has turned into a tourist attraction. He said that he might be the first person to attempt to transform the caves, upgrading them into larger spaces that can house tourists.

“These caves used to act as homes, and they didn’t require anything but a little building with exposed sides. I also worked on adding washing basins and faucets made of granite,” he told Al-Arabiya TV.

Al-Shadawi adorned the road leading to the caves with stones to guide incoming tourists and prepare them for the experience, before they even enter the caves.

Popular among commoners and poets alike, the mountain has been mentioned by several Arab poets and explorers like Abu Mohammed Al-Hamadani and Yaqut Al-Hamawi.

Saudis have taken note of the tourist site and are excited to check it out. In fact, some were enticed to visit it after learning that it has inspired famous poets.

“I would love to sense what the poets saw and felt when they explored the mysterious caves. I think witnessing these mountains and their prominent existence adds to the historical and cultural richness that Al-Baha has,” said Amani Al-Ghoraibi, a language instructor at a university in Jeddah.

Al-Ghoraibi said that the atmosphere of the caves was its most important aspect, adding that it brings the most appeal. “There is a haunting beauty that seems to call in the visitor, urging them to explore these caves,” she told Arab News. “They seem to echo an ancient history that goes beyond what our modern day life seems to perceive.”

Amal Turkistani, 55, has taken on adventuring within the Kingdom, and Shada Mountain has presented a new location to visit.

“The interest in historical sites and the investment going into revitalizing these sites is unprecedented here in Saudi Arabia, and it gives us a variety of activities to share among families and friends,” she told Arab News.

Growing up, Turkistani said that she lacked that luxury and often chased after history and culture in other countries. Now that the Kingdom’s wondrous sites have been revealed, she wants to know them, as well as introduce them to her grandchildren.

“One of my deepest regrets is not learning about my country, and my children had no clue either. I would love to take my family to explore these caves and try to submerge ourselves in the past for a few days,” she added.

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