Saudi village of Rijal Alma prepares to join UNESCO World Heritage List

Rijal Almaa heritage village in Asir Province. (SPA)
Updated 04 August 2018

Saudi village of Rijal Alma prepares to join UNESCO World Heritage List

  • Rijal Almaa, which won the Prince Sultan bin Salman Award for Urban Heritage in 2007, has become a tourist destination for those visiting the region of Asir
  • The residents’ initiatives to preserve their village are driven by an awareness of its history, culture, nature and moderate climate

JEDDAH: The Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH) prepared the file of Rijal Almaa heritage village in Asir and handed it over to the UNESCO World Heritage Center in January 2018.

The village of Rijal Almaa had won the Prince Sultan bin Salman Award for Urban Heritage in 2007 and has become a tourist destination for those visiting the region of Asir. This importance comes as a result of the numerous historical, cultural, heritage and natural factors, and the hospitality and culture of its residents.

The residents’ initiatives to preserve their village are driven by an awareness of its history, culture, nature and moderate climate — the main reasons behind the decision to rehabilitate and develop the village of Rijal Almaa.

Those elements were the driving factor for a general plan for the development of the village, including its infrastructure, in addition to creating economic opportunities of heritage value that benefit the villagers.

The development plan was the result of the collaboration between many parties that included the SCTH, the authorities of Asir region, a number of government and service agencies in addition to the villagers.

Rijal Almaa witnessed many stages of development. At first came the open theater, which can hold up to 1,000 people, as well as the surrounding areas that are mainly shopping places that showcase the village’s famous products. 

Green spaces were increased by about 7,000 square meters, in addition to 15 canopies, family gatherings at the village entrance and the lighting of the highway leading to the village.

The Commission has taken an interest in the registering of heritage sites considering it “an activity that contributes in shedding light on the Kingdom’s cultural heritage worldwide, in preserving this diverse history, archaeological sites and heritage that enrich the Kingdom and in rehabilitating these sites according to the standards of specialized international organizations.”

The SCTH’s efforts to register heritage and archaeological sites to the Urban Heritage list fall under Kingdom’s Cultural Heritage Care program that includes a system of projects and programs to develop, highlight and preserve national heritage sites.

The Commission has allocated a department, which is a part of the Commission’s antiquities sector concerned with the registering of site in with UNESCO. This department has specialized people and experts in the field and is directly supervised by Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz, the Commission’s director.

Saudi Arabia first started registering sites when the government approved the registration of three sites on the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2006. The SCTH later worked on the files of all three sites that were added to the list in 2008, 2010 and 2015, in addition to a fourth site that was registered in 2015. The fifth site was registered during the meeting of the World Heritage Committee held in Bahrain on June 29, 2018.

A royal decree approved the Commission’s request to register 10 new sites to the World Heritage list that included the Rijal Almaa village on Oct. 24, 2014. This came after the SCTH asked the organization to add the 10 sites to its preliminary list through the Kingdom’s permanent representative.


Worshippers flock to reopened Prophet’s Mosque for Friday prayers

Updated 06 June 2020

Worshippers flock to reopened Prophet’s Mosque for Friday prayers

MADINAH: Hundreds of thousands of worshippers attended the first Friday prayers to be held at the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah since the gatherings were suspended to stop the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak.

The green light for the resumption of the prayer meetings came as part of a plan to gradually reopen the Kingdom’s mosques while ensuring worshippers and visitors adhered to preventive measures.

A ban on access to the Rawdah remained in place and only groups of worshippers numbering up to a maximum of 40 percent of the mosque’s capacity were being allowed entry.

Precautionary measures also included the allocation of specific doors for the entry of worshippers, the installation of thermal cameras, removal of all carpets so that prayers could be performed on the marble, sanitization of the mosque’s floors and courtyards, periodic opening of domes and canopies to ventilate the mosque, and the removal of Zamzam water containers.

The Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah will be closed after evening prayers and reopened one hour before dawn prayers. Parking lots will operate at 50 percent capacity and a media awareness campaign has been launched to highlight safety procedures at the holy site.

Medical teams have also been stationed at the main entrances to the mosque in cooperation with the Ministry of Health.

Elsewhere in the Kingdom, worshippers also flocked to perform Friday prayers at mosques amid strict health measures.

On May 31, Saudi authorities reopened all mosques for prayers, except in Makkah, as part of the Kingdom’s plan for a gradual return to normal life.

Last week the minister of Islamic affairs, dawah and guidance said that the country’s mosques were ready to welcome back worshippers, following his field trips to check that necessary preparations had been made.

All worshippers must still maintain a distance of 2 meters between rows, wear masks to enter a mosque, and Friday sermons and prayers have been limited to a maximum of 15 minutes.