Al-Baha, Saudi Arabia
Al-Baha is one of the Kingdom's prime tourist attractions nestled between the resorts of Mecca and Abha in the south west of Saudi Arabia. The cooler mountain climate makes the region a welcoming retreat from the heat in the summer months when it plays host to a thriving population of local visitors and neighboring Gulf countries' tourists. The region also has over 200 forts and watchtowers, with some dating back more than 300 years.
The word Baha means the "vast land". In a country as famously dry as Saudi Arabia, this is an auspicious title which rings true every year as more than 500 mm of rain falls in the region. Due to its rich soil, cool mountain air and plentiful water Al-Baha supports a vibrant agricultural community, with conditions perfect for growing a wide variety of fruits, vegetables and flowers - not to mention some of the most popular honey in the Kingdom.
The Yemeni pilgrimage and trade routes once passed through Al-Baha, bringing with them a healthy exchange in produce and products. Over time, Al-Baha developed its own distinctive cultural traditions which are on display each year at the Al-Baha Summer Festival. Busy local Souqs also showcase the region's rich array of local fabrics, silverware, leather-goods and carvings. And at the beginning of spring each year, more than 100 painters take part in Al-Baha Art Competition.
The drive from Taif into Al-Baha is one of the greatest scenic drives in the World. It includes a 45 km mountain pass from Al-Makhwah that zigzags up the mountain and through 25 man-made tunnels. This road links Al-Baha city to Al-Makhwah, passing by Dhee Ayn village and takes about 2 hours to complete. These same mountains also provide an opportunity for discovery and adventure - from a serene walk in the woods, to hiking, rock climbing, and abseiling for serious athletes.
It is also rich in archeological and cultural heritage. The most prominent example of this is the painted rock art site located at Bal-Harith near Al-Makhwah, which is still very well preserved in its original dark brown color. The figures are depicted in a rock shelter and show goat, ibex, human figures carrying daggers and ostriches. Inscriptions and petroglyphs are also located in the villages of Dhee Ayn and Asham, which is more than 300 years old.
With art, beauty, history, good food and activity, Al-Baha offers a balance of elements for anyone who wants to relax, recharge or rejuvenate.