Riyadh’s Masmak Fort becoming popular tourist destination

Updated 29 January 2014

Riyadh’s Masmak Fort becoming popular tourist destination

Masmak Fort in Riyadh has become a model for modern museums in the Kingdom since its revamping by the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) in 2012. Many of the most important historical artifacts related to Kingdom’s foundation and unification are found here.
“Masmak Museum is an important tourist destination for visitors of the Saudi capital, residents and students. Since its restoration in 1995 Masmak Fort has received around 1.3 million visitors,” said Nasser A. Al. Arifi, director of Masmak Museum.
With an aim to promote historical and cultural heritage of the country, the Ministry of Tourism has licensed a number of tour operators throughout the Kingdom to conduct periodic and systematic excursions to important places and cities in the country. These tours are becoming increasingly popular among youth and foreigners.
This year, an exceedingly large number of groups of expatriates joined the exposure visit to Masmak Fort accompanied by official tour operators. The Ministry of Tourism had appointed these operators for cultural exchange.
“The Kingdom has a rich potential for tourism. Displaying the country’s culture will help in its overall economic development,” said Salwa Hamad Al-Qunaibit, tour manager for Haya Tours.
Guided tours are increasingly becoming popular among inhabitants in the region.
Attending a line of display at Masmak Fort, Arab News talked to a group of tourists about their experience with tourism in Saudi Arabia.
“Tourism in Saudi has an interesting range that stretches from deep seas to endless deserts, rocks and mountains to holy sites. I have undertaken snorkeling and scuba diving excursions along the coral reefs in the Red Sea and I have made memorable visits to Madain Saleh and Taif with a couple of colleagues,” said Ed Young, a SABIC employee from England.
According to Mark Reilly from Scotland, who works for Al-Khorayef Company, “Visiting sites with tour guides is helpful. I have visited a number of tourist destinations in Saudi Arabia with tour operators. They provide accurate and detailed guidelines about the history, traditions and culture of the ancient and modern Saudi Arabia.”
Gerard van Heijster from the Netherlands, who works at SABIC Head Quarters in Arizona Resort, said, “I believe we have all gained extensive knowledge about the founder of Saudi Arabia, King Abul Aziz Al-Saud. The pictures and data in the different halls provided detailed information.”
Esabel from Germany shared, “I appreciate the English transcripts with various artifacts and exhibits in the museum. It really helped us understand the basic details about the historic displays.”
“I particularly liked the presentation on King Abdul Aziz and the men in armor, also the Najdi architecture reflected in the little triangular ventilators was fascinating,” said Erica Renbarger from California, a faculty member at Al-Faisal Academy in Riyadh.
Jade from England, who works as an English teacher at Princess Noura University, said, “It is enriching to utilize our stay in the country and learn about the richness and goodness of the Kingdom.”
Masmak Museum consists of several halls. The first recaptures Riyadh in its early days, the second showing the storming of Masmak Fort. A third hall explores the comrades of King Abdul Aziz Al Saud, who had participated in the recapture of Riyadh. There is a hall of Riyadh history, a hall highlighting the fort itself; how it was built and the material used in its construction. Another hall shows the building's various uses and purposes during King Abdul Aziz’s reign, in addition to a hall depicting the photographs of King Abdul Aziz in different stages of his reign.
With the rapid developments in the tourism industry, especially in Riyadh, there is immense scope for a better future and economic returns for tour operators in the Kingdom.


Asir ‘could be hotspot for global tourism,’ say travel bloggers

Paragliding is among the attractions for thrillseekers in addition to bungee jumping, ropes course, slingshot and paintballing. (Photo courtesy: @AlsoudahSeason)
Updated 10 min 9 sec ago

Asir ‘could be hotspot for global tourism,’ say travel bloggers

  • Flower Men Festival a hit with visitors
  • Season ends Aug. 31

AL-SOUDAH: Asir province has the potential to become a hotspot for international tourism, according to bloggers who were impressed by the events and activities on offer at Al-Soudah Season. Joshua Van Alstine, who shot to fame in Saudi Arabia with his YouTube videos, said the public and private sector were taking advantage of the area’s potential and would develop it to accommodate demand.
 Van Alstine and his wife, who hails from the southwestern city of Tanomah in Asir, were driving to Abha from Riyadh and were invited to explore Al-Soudah Season.
“I loved it, I am so glad I accepted the invitation,” he told Arab News. “The best part of visiting Al-Soudah was trying out the bungee jumping.”
He also met his wife’s relatives. “We had dinner with them, they came to visit us in Al-Soudah and I gave them a tour and they really liked it. They could not believe this was happening in the region and I could not either. This is something so special, even as an American and we have had these events for years back home, this to me is something incredibly special.”
Al-Soudah has other attractions for thrillseekers in addition to bungee jumping. There is a ropes course, a slingshot, paintballing and paragliding.
Slightly more leisurely activities include trekking, cycling, enjoying performances of a local dance, and learning more about the distinctive traditions of the region’s Flower Men, a tribal group famous throughout the Kingdom for their floral crowns who live high up in the mountains.

I loved it, I am glad I accepted the invitation. The best part of visiting Al-Soudah was trying out the bungee jumping.

Joshua Van Alstine, YouTuber and blogger

“They did a great job,” said Van Alstine. “I am sure they had a lot of challenges moving up and down the mountain area into that valley. There are not that many places where you can walk into a town and see people singing, dancing and that is what happened when we visited. We walked into this old school village and people were laughing, dancing and the smell of food ... it was kind of like a barbeque.”
Travel blogger Paris Verra, who also visited Al-Soudah, said the region’s people were hospitable and welcoming. “The place is unreal, the beauty is just incredible,” she told Arab News. “Coming here I feel safe and there are many misconceptions of coming to Saudi Arabia. If people would open up there are so many great things about this country in general, especially in this region.”
Verra experienced four seasons in one hour. “I mean, it was like eating lunch in the clouds. Then there was rain, then there was thunder, and then clear blue sky ... and the Flower Men festival is on a whole different level.”
Al-Soudah Season runs until the end of the month and its programs are held across seven locations. The main area, called The Hub, is suitable for families. There is also the Kids Zone, where the Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz Foundation is holding educational workshops at the House of Qatt.
It is one of 11 festivals being held across the Kingdom to promote the country as a global tourist destination.
It also seeks to contribute to achieving goals within the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reform plan, which aims to improve the quality of life, raise living standards, and create career and investment opportunities in Saudi Arabia.