Thee Ain, a unique village in Al-Baha

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Updated 27 July 2015
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Thee Ain, a unique village in Al-Baha

DAMMAM: The village of Thee Ain in Al-Baha is a unique heritage site that includes old archaeological buildings, agricultural lands, springs, distinctive cultural and natural landscapes, gardens, and a visitor’s center.

The village, near Al-Mekhwa city in Al-Baha province, is one of the heritage sites that the Council of Ministers approved to be registered in the World Heritage List of UNESCO. The well-preserved and authentic site comprises a distinctive cultural and natural landscape and distinct model of human adaptation to the natural environment.
The village’s multi-story houses are marvelous as they are simply constructed by stones laid one atop another, with timbers that form floor beams to provide stability to the stone structures. The houses have three levels with narrow alleyways between them.
The 400-year-old village is famous for agricultural crops such as bananas, basil, lemon and palm trees, and has many stores and a scenic river, too. The year-round spring supplies water for the many fields in the area. The agricultural area in the village covers approximately 40,000 cubic meters, upon which many of the village people from ancient times to the present day depend.
Due to its great importance, the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTNH) has prepared a rehabilitation and development plan for this heritage village to become an economic, tourism and cultural resource that provides job opportunities for local communities and tourist guides.
The SCTNH aims to turn the village into a tourist destination equipped with all required services, and increase the marketing of its products after receiving it from the Thee Ain Cooperative Society for 30 years.
The SCTNH’s development plan that began several years ago, consists of five stages; three of which were completed and two are under implementation.
The first stage included the rehabilitation of a number of buildings to be a private museum in the village, along with the village main alleyway with seats established along which till the waterfall, in addition to the re-opening of the archaeological mosque.
The second phase included the creation of the village garden with SR4 million total cost, while the third phase begun with the restoring a number of buildings in the village that cost SR7 million.
In addition, the fourth development stage began recently to restore the rest of the buildings with a total cost of more than SR7 million, and the fifth stage includes the completion of the visitor’s center and its accessory structures to be an exhibition for the local products.
Al-Baha region in general is a delightful tourism destination rich with natural resources and known for its cool weather and natural diversity. Its charm lies in the architectural heritage, mountains, folk arts, crafts, heritage and buildings.
People looking for excitement visit the surrounding mountains and embrace the green surrounds, and the cool mist. Many from around the GCC visit the region every summer to experience the adventure found in the lush, green tourism resorts in the middle of Al-Baha mountains, and to enjoy the fascinating views and weather.
Al-Baha is dream-like with all its components of heritage, culture and breathtaking nature including Raghdan forest, the traditional souks, the old fascinating crafts, and the Thee Ain village sitting beautifully atop white stones.


Tourists follow ‘Game of Thrones’ trail in Northern Ireland

Updated 20 April 2019
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Tourists follow ‘Game of Thrones’ trail in Northern Ireland

  • Since the series began in 2011, fans have started to flock to the coastal caves and ruined castles of the British province where much of the show was shot
  • Tourism Northern Ireland estimates the magical show drew 120,000 visitors to the province in 2016

BELFAST: Wielding a replica broadsword, Indian tourist Akshay Mannur duels with friends — re-enacting scenes from “Game of Thrones” on the Northern Ireland pilgrimage trail for devotees of the blockbuster fantasy TV show.
Since the blood and guts series began its rise to prominence in 2011, fans have started to flock to the coastal caves and ruined castles of the British province where much of the HBO television production was shot.
“Every new step is like something new, it’s more than my expectations,” 23-year-old student Mannur marvelled.
“It’s a beautiful country — Northern Ireland is just amazing.”

Tourism Northern Ireland estimates the magical show — in its final season — drew 120,000 visitors to the province in 2016, generating £30 million (35 million euros, $39 million).
One in six visitors now comes to Northern Ireland to visit shooting locations, according to their estimates.
Along the largely coastal trail, a short drive outside the capital of Belfast, that popularity is clear to see.
A steady hum of buses and coaches are marshalled in and out of parking lots on strict schedules, and sleepy village shops throng with tourists.
“The last week, I think on Saturday past, we had a bus with 24 nationalities on it,” said tour guide Patrick Rogan at the mouth of the Cushendun Caves, the site of a pivotal plot point in the series.
“We had people from Patagonia, from New Zealand, from Japan, from Russia, from South Korea and Europe, so I think that tells its own story.”
Since 2012 his employer — the “Stones and Thrones” tour — has offered daily outings out of Belfast, manned mainly by guides who have acted as extras on the show.
Today they run at least two full buses a day, he said, competing with at least four other companies offering a similar service.
Other more bespoke tour services offer immersive experiences — axe-throwing, archery, and photo opportunities with a pair of wolves that starred in the epic series.

A popular comparison holds that “Game of Thrones” is to Northern Ireland tourism what “Lord of the Rings” has been to New Zealand.
But Northern Ireland’s very recent bloody past during the so-called ‘Troubles’ — when 3,500 were killed in 30 years of sectarian strife — makes the boom particularly welcome.
“The dark history that was here is coming out,” said Irish actor Liam Cunningham, a stalwart character in the series now feted as the most expensive to ever be filmed for the small screen.
“The place is blooming, and for us to have this show here and be part of that transition is joyful.”

Cunningham was speaking at the opening of a touring exhibition of costume and scenery pieces in Belfast, the same week as the new season of the series premiered.
Ranked displays of dragon skulls, intricately crafted weapons and interactive exhibits are preceded by a gallery of landscape prints, depicting the countryside shooting locations.
A caption on one image reads “Views to die horribly for,” whilst another reads “Sun, sea and savagery,” referring to the show’s reputation for bloodily killing off major characters.
They are testament to the canny local tourist board, making efforts to cement the link between their territory and the series.
“I think our association with such a global success helps to transform the image of Northern Ireland across the globe,” said John McGrillen, chief executive of Tourism Northern Ireland.
“In many ways that gives you PR that you just simply couldn’t buy.”
With the final season of “Game of Thrones” under way, the fever pitch devotion to the series may be about to end.
But with spin-off projects in the pipeline and a studio tour development due to open in Northern Ireland next year, the province still hopes for tourism revenues.
“We think this still has longevity,” said McGrillen.