The Greenland of Saudi Arabia
Al-Bahah is one of those few Saudi Provinces whose landscapes break all the stereotypes of Saudi Arabia, which is often seen as an endless sand dunes desert.
The word al-Bahah (or Bahah without al which is equivalent to "the" in English) has many meanings; it means water and the maximum of it, the courtyard of a house, the high and abundant palm tree. In tales it refers to an extremely deep bottomless well in al-Zafir fortress.
Indeed Al-Bahah will surprise you not only with its majestic mountains rising above 2000 meters, which are covered by greenery, but also with its cool and humid climate in summer (one of my most special memories of Al-Bahah Province is a hail storm a 31st of July!)
An adventure trip in Al-Bahah Province is all about enjoying the enchanting views, discovering the South-Arabian traditional arts, and discovering its heritage buildings.
Al-Bahah Province doesn't propose just one, but several distinct kinds of landscape. The most famous is the Sarawat mountains ending on their western side by impressively steep cliffs on the edge of which are located the two main cities of the Province, Al-Bahah and Baljureshi. This area is the one characterized by temperate weather and rich plant cover due to relatively high annual rainfall. Nearly 2000 meters lower lays the Tehama which is the lowland coastal area to the west of the Sarawat characterized by very hot and humid weather and very little rainfall average. That area hosts two other major cities: Qilwah and Al-Mikhwah. Finally the eastern hills characterized by an altitude of 1550 to 1900 meters above sea level with cool winters, hot summers and sparse plant cover.
The province of Al-Bahah counts 53 forests and wildlife areas, the most famous sites being the forests of Raghdan, Ghomsan, Fayk, and Aljabal. Throughout the whole Province many charming traditional villages embelish the lanscapes such as the famous Zee Al-Ayn built on a small marble mountain where a natural spring flows all year long. The mountains of Al-Bahah are crossed by deep valleys where dams create unexpectedly large lakes during raining season
A traveller visiting Al-Bahah will regularly meet a familiar figure in the Province's lanscape: the stone made towers, called in Arabic "qasaba". These special features made Al-Bahah Province known as the "Region of 1001 towers", once built to protect villages, roads and plantations from rivalling tribes.
Al-Bahah is proud of its folklore which is mainly inherited by its agricultural past. It includes legendary songs and melodies that are performed by the peasants when they are doing daily chores and activities, as well as a large number of dances, like Al-Ardah, which is performed holding swords and daggers pointing upwards, and Al-Mal’abah, with its distinct creative lyrics.
Al-Bahah region is rich in ancient mining sites. The sites of Khayal Al-Masna' and Al-Aqeeq were major gold mining areas; while the village of Kuna gathers over one hundred building structures dating back to Ancient South Arabian civilizations.
The Province is known for its healthy and nutritious traditional meals brought by local farming such as Dagabees (Arabic: دغابيس), Aseeda (Arabic : عصيده), Areeka (Arabic عريكه) and the Southern wheat bread with Butter oil (Arabic خبز البر بالسمن ). But the flagship product of Al-Bahah Province is its high quality honey. Al-Bahah farmers organized the third International Honey Festival in 2010 . The festival hosted 10 Arab states, all bringing their local product. The Province also grows grapes, grapefruits, lemons, oranges, pomegranates and dates.
Al-Bahah is the homeland of the Ghamid and Zahran tribes and today it hosts 13 settled tribes (working in trade and agriculture) and 5 nomadic tribes.
The exceptional features of Al-Bahah Province suit all types of activities including hiking, trekking, climbing and mountain biking, amidst a striking natural environment which attracts visitors from all parts of Saudi Arabia and also other countries in the Middle East.
Places to visit in Al-Bahah Province
Good roads of Al-Bahah Province offer plenty of trip options up and down the cliffs, on the plateau or in the plain. Here are some ideas to take the most of Al-Bahah experience:
The Greenland of Saudi Arabia (author Florent Egal)