Asir, Saudi Arabia

Asir which is located in southwestern Saudi Arabia running parallel to the Red Sea, has a joyous outlook which is reflected in the local arts and handicrafts; vibrant hand-woven rugs and fabrics with distinctive geometric patterns, colourful beaded necklaces in coral and silver. Conditions are also ideal for hiking and mountain bike riding. And the Asir mountains provide the natural resources for some of the most beautiful campings in the World. These mountains provide outstanding sporting activities; paragliding, hang-gliding, rock climbing and mountaineering are all professionally supervised here.

Travellers have been coming here throughout history; merchants traveling the spice routes; armies seeking the high ground; adventurers wanting to make a name for themselves. The English geographer Philby described Asir as, "the very backbone of Arabia," and he, like all those before and since, was beguiled by the awesome beauty and grandeur of the landscape.

Every mountain village in Asir has a different character and a different color. Some are towering terraced houses clinging to the cliff faces and decorated like cakes with white icing, while others seem to nestle together into valleys in earthy shades of brown and tan. In another village, every house is painted a different color; wildly bright and yet happy and harmonious. This strong personal identity is also reflected in the local arts and handicrafts.

Cable cars are laced around the valleys. They afford the most spectacular views over Abu Khayal when you take a ride from New Abha to the Green Mountain, or from the misty forests of Al-Soudah where you can travel 1600 meters down to Qaws Valley; or best of all from Jebel Sawdah the highest point in the Kingdom which rises to 2910m above sea level and has a cable car which plunges down past the hanging ghost town of Habalah. Magical, mystical journeys into the landscape.

Asir receives 28 cm of rainfall a year, the highest average in Saudi Arabia, which is enough to make it the most fertile agricultural region in the Kingdom. These conditions are perfect for growing grapes, peaches, apricots, limes, oranges, lemons and mangoes, wheat and other cereals. Most importantly it is the ideal climate for sugar, indigo and coffee. Asir is so fertile, in fact, that it contributed to the classical geographical notion of Arabia Felix: "Happy Arabia".

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