One of Saudi Arabia’s treasures is the city called Abha, the capital of Asir province, with a population of over 250,000, located on the southern part of the country and 2,270 meters above sea level of the Asir Mountains of Southern Western Saudi Arabia. It’s not the coldest of regions in Saudi Arabia, but it’s definitely one of the coolers regions in the Holy country, where they enjoy mild temperatures throughout the year and mercury dropping to 15 degree Centigrade in the later part of the year, making this one of the popular holiday destinations among the Saudis. They do experience a good amount of rainfall and have had a taste of snow in the past as well.
The Asir National Park
Rich in culture, the city does have its own share of outdoor activities like the Asir National Park. The first national park of the Kingdom with an area of 1,600 sq. km, and home to over 300 species of birds and animals. Well equipped with parking and descent toilet facilities, the park also boosts 67 campsites and 45 picnic sites. For the serious camper there are also natural trails, play areas for kids and hiking paths. Although most of the park remains in wilderness, as it’s protected from deforestation. The Asir National park is also home to the Jabal Soodah the highest mountain in Saudi Arabia with a height of 10,522 feet above sea level.
The Cable Car
With the temperatures dipping, a trip to Abha without taking its famous cable car would be incomplete, make sure to keep your fear of heights at home. Carry a bag full of snacks and camera as you are sure to come back home clicking pictures of lots of pleasant memories, as it’s a good 25-30 minutes ride. You can take the ride from 3 places, Green Mountain to Abha City, Souda Mountain and Habala besides being scenic it’s also friendly on the pockets too with prices ranging from SAR 50-90 per person/per ride. You can view the picturesque lake, surrounded by hills on both sides. Each cable car takes about 8 people and there discounts available if you’re traveling in a group.
The Habala Hanging Village
On the periphery of city of Abha is the Habala Hanging Village, among one of its eminent features is its inhabitants maintaining its customs of wearing tribal garlands of flowers and dried herbs and dried herb as a hair accessory known as ‘flower men’ . The discovery of the Habala Hanging Village was done by sheer serendipity as it was discovered in 1990’s by a helicopter. The people of Habala were originally from the Ottomon Empire, relied on trade and used rope pulleys to exchange goods up and down the mountain. Habala is a great example of how the Saudi government is trying to encourage its cultural tradition and promote tourism. Simultaneously the village also been modernized with new building and cafes and at times the old city is hard to find. Back in the day, the village was only accessible by rope, which is where the village gets its name as ‘habal’ means rope in Arabic. What makes it so special during winter is that as fog engulfs the mountain, it looks as though the village is floating on the clouds.
Souq Al Thulatha
Taking full advantage of the cooler temperatures is a visit to the local Souq’s. Although Abha has a plethora of Souq’s but a visit to the popular Souq Al Thulatha is a must. Although open 7 days of the week, a lesser known fact to the outsiders is that the Souq’s in the city are named after the days they are opened, as Souq Al Thulatha is known commonly known as the Tuesday market. Located in the Al Muftaha district off King Khaled Street, the circular shaped Souq is home to many vendors selling regional fruits, vegetables and herbs. One of the first things you see while entering the market is the oodles of honey traders. You can also pick the precious Sidr honey which is used for many medicinal purposes. If learning about honey is not your cup of tea, there is also a host of textiles, crafted clay pots and tandoori oven vendors. With its bonhomie people, a trip to the Souq Al Thulatha is sure to be a memorable one. The famous Tuesday market has also a separate Women’s Souq market as well.
One of the popular destinations of Abha is the Green Mountain, before your mind starts wandering around, it’s not the home of the famous Hollywood flick the Green Lantern, but due to green lighting surrounding the mountain. The real name of the mountain is ‘Jabal Thera’ and is a pure spectacle. Initially the area was used as a military headquarters, then later for wireless communications and now finally serves as a restaurant of all oriental and international foods. Just before entering the Green Mountain you can also collect some souvenirs from the Al Raqdi Museum.
Last but not the least, making full use of the weather, a trip to the Rijal Almaa is a must. Located on the outskirts of Abha is the Rijal village in the Assir region. Rich in history and culture, the village is home to about 60 palaces built from natural stone, clay and wood. There is an also a museum established by the government to save the regional heritage. Also, in 2018, the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage has awarded Rijal Almaa the title of UNESCO World Heritage Center. Rijal Alma is considered an architectural icon and one of the most prominent destinations and is a must visit place.