Al-Baha's village in the sky
People who think that Saudi Arabia is only flat desert and sand dunes are surprised to discover that on the western part of the country are many mountainous massifs. Then they are amazed while admiring the majestic kilometer-high cliffs of the Sarawat Mountains in the southwest of Saudi Arabia, from Taif to Abha. And if they explore a bit deeper they would find an even more surprising relief, the Jibal Mussala Ibrahim (جبال مصلى إبراهيم), a granite mountain located in Al-Bahah Province, 50 kilometers from the famous marble-hill village of Zee Al-Ayn.
Unlike other mountain-like areas one can find in the west of Saudi Arabia, the Jibal Mussala Ibrahim has the shape of an alpine mountain with a difference in height of 1 700 meters from its base to its summit, that peaks at 2 222 meters. Actually its altitude is exactly the same as the Cliffs of the Sarawat just 20 kilometers to the east, making the Jibal Mussala Ibrahim look like a challenge to the erosion that has already leveled the surrounding landscape.
The Jibal Mussala Ibrahim is visible from the road that runs along the bottom of the cliffs which passes to the eastern side of the massif.
From afar, the Jibal Mussala Ibrahim reveals its imposing silhouette with its sharp granite summit pointing at the sky, and the view from the nearby Wadi Suqamah is simply majestic.
But it is possible to get much closer as a small road leads to the hidden treasure of that place: a village perched half way to the top (above 1 600 meters) whose name is Sheda (شدا).
The road meandering along the sides of the Jibal Mussala Ibrahim to the village of Sheda offers absolutely stunning viewpoints of the faraway Sarawat cliffs, the surrounding green hills and wadis, the terrace cultivations, and, of course, the gigantic shape of the Jibal Mussala Ibrahim.
Some other charming villages are found on the way and also some fancy stone constructions where local Bedouins probably used to live.
A driver going up the mountain to the village of Sheda experiences of a big change of climate in a short period of time as the weather is much cooler and slightly dryer at the top than at the bottom where the weather can be incredibly hot and humid, especially in summer.
These specific conditions have even allowed some rare plants and trees to grow around the village of Sheda, such as the elegant while flower Capparis Cartilaginea and the wide-trunk tree Dendrosicyos that is also found in the remote island of Soqotra, off Yemen.
How to visit Sheda?
The location of Sheda is available on GoogeMaps (under its Arabic name شدا) and, as said earlier, there is a road that leads to the village which is indicated as "Jibal Sheda Al-A'la".
But the path has been damaged at some parts by the rain and it is overall really steep with some parts showing a staggering 16 % incline!
Therefore it is highly recommended not to take that road when raining (or when rain is forecasted) and despite the presence of tarmac a 4X4 (even a basic one) would make the drive safer and definitely more comfortable.
The village in the sky of Al-Bahah (author: Florent Egal)