On Saturday, November 18th, TV5 Monde premiered a new episode of the Embarquement TV series showcasing the natural and historical beauty of Asir, in Saudi Arabia.
Viewers will embark on a journey to discover the lush landscape of this gem located on the Red Sea coast and close to the Sarawat Mountains. Located in the southwest of Saudi Arabia, Asir is a region known for its picturesque mountain ranges offering breathtaking views.
Situated on a high plateau, the Asir province borders Yemen and has a coastline on the Red Sea. One of the province’s most attractive features is its relatively cool climate. While the rest of the country suffers from the intense heat of the desert, Asir enjoys milder temperatures and also receives a decent amount of rainfall. Come on board and be delighted by the unspoiled wilderness and breathtaking mountain peaks of Asir.
1. Abha, city of art
In Asir’s capital, street art is well represented. The village of Al-Muftaha, in the heart of Abha, has become a benchmark for local artists. Inaugurated in 1989, Al-Muftaha has become a center for Saudi artists, thanks to its 12 workshops where many artists learn to express themselves.
2. Jebel Soudah, Saudi Arabia’s highest peak
At an altitude of 3,000 meters, on the flank of Saudi Arabia’s highest peak, lies the Jebel Soudah lookout. It offers an astounding view of the Al-Soudah mountain. Within the beautiful landscapes of Al-Soudah, one can find many wild animals, including owls, eagles and also baboons.
People come to enjoy this wildlife and often take photos. In recent years, baboons have become very numerous. The government has taken steps to reduce and regulate their numbers. It is now forbidden to feed them.
Hiking on these little-visited slopes at the feet of Jebel Soudah is also an adventure. Other popular mountain sports include abseiling and climbing. To enjoy abseiling it is essential to have excellent equipment and experienced guides. Safety is the number one priority.
3. Rijal Alma
A must-see site in Asir is the village of Rijal Alma, one of the largest and most beautiful villages in the Middle East. Its origins date back almost 900 years, as an important connection point for travelers from Yemen, the East, and especially those passing through Mecca and Medina. This contributed to the village’s development as an important commercial center.
Surrounded by steep hills, Rijal Alma is home to 60 multi-story constructions built from mountain stone, clay and wood. Every door and window is exquisitely decorated. Architects use large slabs of stone with some jagged sections – locally known as ‘carels’ – that protect the wall from mud, wind and rain. Once the walls are fully built, they are often decorated with quartz.
Heritage preservation is clearly a priority for this village, as much for the wreaths as for the traditional clothing that has been handed down from generation to generation. One of the most famous typical wreaths is the Saba or ‘crown of flowers’. It’s made up of beautiful, intricate arrangements of greenery, grasses and flowers.
4. Cuisine and hospitality
Chef Ali Alassas has developed a guesthouse concept that aims to introduce tourists to the technique and flavors of Saudi cuisine, particularly that of Asir. One of Alassas’s speciality is Hanneth, a lamb-based dish considered to be the region’s best-known gastronomical gift. Due to its careful preparation, it can take between two to five hours to make.
The people of Asir are also known for their strong attachment to the tradition of Arab hospitality. In Saudi Arabia, it’s considered a great honor to feed a traveler, and this is especially true in Asir.
With its greenery, pleasant temperatures, rich heritage and legendary hospitality, Asir is so different from the image people have of this country, which is generally perceived as arid.