Rijal Alma: Saudi village with a long history prepares for international exposure

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The importance of the village lies in its cultural depth and prominence in trade and architectural arts, represented in tall fortresses that combine beauty and expertise. (SPA)
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Updated 30 October 2018
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Rijal Alma: Saudi village with a long history prepares for international exposure

  • Indications suggest presence of human settlement at the site before 10th Hijri

RIYADH: The village of Rijal Alma has finalized its submission for the UNESCO’s World Heritage List and is now awaiting the arrival of experts from the UN International Organization for Culture, Arts and Heritage.
The importance of the historical and archaeological village lies in its cultural depth and prominence in trade and architectural arts, represented in tall fortresses that combine beauty and expertise. The space is exploited in a remarkable way, where eight blocks rise on a small surface, forming a united bloc with various fluctuating heights, reaching six floors at times, meticulously decorated from the inside and the outside.
Visitors can reach the village of Rijal via several roads, the most important of which is Aqabat Sama, linking Abha and Rijal Alma through the famous tourist Sawda Center in Saudi Arabia. There are also two other roads leading to Rijal, linking it to the province of Muhayil Asir and the Hobail leading to Ad-Darb province in the Jazan region.
The researcher Mohammed Hassan Gharib wrote about the history of the village and its development. He pointed out that “the evidence of civilization is depicted in buildings, roads, reserves, agricultural planning, wells, crowded cemeteries and in what has been revealed in terms of underground houses in valleys and coal in one of the 30-meter-deep wells dating back to 1375 AH in the neighborhood of Asla. This gives definitive indications of settlement and human presence in the village before the 10th Hijri century and depicts the stages of growth and prosperity.”
Gharib confirmed that the old commercial dimension of the village was the most famous in the region: “The traders in this region reached far regions and the sailboats that they used to rent to transport goods from Aden, Hodeidah and Habashah (Ethiopia) remained in the Red Sea, loaded with products and goods they bought from these areas, which made them an important economic power.” He added that the Rijal village has remained for a period of time, the destination for traveling traders coming from the ports of the Red Sea, especially from its local and foreign trade centers, and it also remained the favorite destination for those coming from Jeddah, Qunfudah and Qahma, Jazan, Hodeidah, Aden, and some of the east coast countries on the African continent like Djibouti, Massawa and Ethiopia.
Gharib said that the goods sold in the shops of the village at that time were Indian, Egyptian, Yemeni, European and African commodities. They even used to sell products from East Asia, such as from Japan and China. Some of them used to mix many trades together, such as food, grains, household items, spices, perfumes, jewelry and others.
The Rijal village has undergone various stages of development including an open theater that extends over an area of 615 square meters, and can accommodate about 1,000 people.
Documenting the heritage of the Alma province started while establishing one of the oldest museums in the Kingdom: The “Alma Museum of Heritage” in 1985, in one of the fortresses of the village. This museum has 2,800 pieces distributed in 12 rooms, each devoted for a particular type of heritage such as agricultural tools, clothes, jewels, old cooking utensils and accessories, ancient education tools and many other aspects related to ancient life, in addition to some rare manuscripts.
Gharib said: “The museum was created in 1405 AH upon the initiative of the people of the province to preserve the heritage of the region. Al-Alwan fort was chosen to be renovated in the Rijal village and it is one of the largest fortresses. The villagers in Rijal collected old artifacts donated by the people, and women in the village have also contributed to this work, under the supervision of Alma artist Fatima Ali Abu Qahas. Many women donated their old jewelry and adornments. The work at the museum was completed and then inaugurated by Prince Khaled in Asir in 1407 AH. The museum has become a cultural touristic hub since then.”


Saudi Arabia, South Korea reach agreement on visas

King Salman chairs the Cabinet session in Riyadh on Tuesday. (SPA)
Updated 16 January 2019
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Saudi Arabia, South Korea reach agreement on visas

  • Cabinet OKs air transport pact with Indonesia

JEDDAH: The Saudi Cabinet met to discuss a series of national and global developments on Tuesday, in a session chaired by King Salman.

At the forefront of the agenda was the escalation in tensions between Israel and Hamas along the Gaza border, and the continuing encroachment on Palestinian land by Israeli settlers in the West Bank. The Cabinet responded by demanding that the UN Security Council intervene. King Salman also relayed to ministers the outcome of his talks with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, which covered many regional issues.

The minister of media, Turki bin Abdullah Al-Shabanah, announced that after reviewing proposals from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a decision from the Shoura Council, a memorandum of understanding between the government and the Republic of Korea on granting visit visas had been agreed upon.

The Cabinet approved the amendment of the air agreement on regular air transport between Saudi Arabia and Indonesia.

The Cabinet, meanwhile, praised the progress of the 2025 Sustainable Agricultural and Rural Development Program, aimed at enhancing farming techniques by promoting sustainable water and renewable energy sources.

They also discussed the framework in Vision 2030 and the National Transformation Program 2020 for building a sustainable renewable energy sector, reiterating aims to lead global renewable energy developments over the next decade, and create projects such as the wind-powered plant at Dumat Al-Jandal, as part of the King Salman Renewable Energy Initiative.

In a statement, though, Al-Shabanah said: “The Cabinet discussed the announcement made by the minister of energy, industry and mineral resources about the Kingdom’s oil and gas reserves, which highlighted the importance of Saudi Arabia as a secure source of oil supplies in the long term.”

He added, in closing, the Cabinet’s praise for the efforts of Saudi security forces in the tracking and arrest of seven people in Qatif, which foiled a planned terrorist attack.