Beauty, heritage of Fifa mountains offer ideal tourist destination

The old cylindrical mountain houses and the agricultural terraces of the Fifa mountains reflect the heritage and authenticity of the area. (SPA)
Updated 04 July 2019

Beauty, heritage of Fifa mountains offer ideal tourist destination

  • The stunning mountains in Jazan remain one of Saudi Arabia’s most popular tourist attractions

FIFA, Saudi Arabia: The Fifa mountains, which rise more than 1,800 meters above sea level, are about 100 km from the southern Saudi city of Jazan and offer an idyllic tourist destination.

The governorate of Fifa looks like a modern city with its tall buildings that touch the clouds. This mountainous region in southwest Saudi Arabia enjoys generally mild weather during summer and cold temperatures in winter.

The mountains, part of the Sarawat range, are known for their parks and high tops, most notably Al-Absiyya, Al-Laghtha, Al-Kidra, Buqa’at Al-Washl, Al-Surra, Qardha and Al-Sima’a.

Neighboring governorates can all be seen from the pinnacles of this mountain group, including Al-Daer Bani Malik, Al-Aidabi and Al-Ardhah, in addition to the valleys of Jawra and Dhamd.

The old cylindrical mountain houses and the agricultural terraces of the Fifa mountains reflect the heritage and authenticity of the area.

The people of Fifa estimate there to be millions of agricultural terraces, and the fertile soils are protected from erosion by an elaborate system that collects water from the mountaintops and roofs of houses in specially built reservoirs to be used for irrigation during dry seasons.

The inhabitants of Fifa rely on agriculture and livestock as sources of income. They plant aromatic trees and grains of all kinds, in addition to pomegranates, Annona, coffee, cocoa, guava, tamarind and other fruits and vegetables. They also rely on beekeeping, with the Fifa mountains now well-known for the quality of its honey products.

Tourists visiting Fifa can enjoy the local heritage found in Al-Nafi’a souq, which is one of the first markets to be established in the governorate and preserves its traditional character and simplicity of its shops.

Alternatively, the Haqou Fifa market was established by the municipality of Fifa in a modern architectural style and provides municipal services to the market’s visitors and the large public squares, where local events are held.


Saudi Arabia may allow women to perform Hajj without male guardian

Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Hajj and Umrah Dr. Mohammed Saleh Benten approved updates to Umrah services. (SPA)
Updated 20 October 2019

Saudi Arabia may allow women to perform Hajj without male guardian

  • Ministry exploring visa options for solo female pilgrims
  • The Maqam portal is an online platform, designed so that Muslims from around the world can apply for an Umrah package digitally

Women could be allowed to perform the Hajj without a male guardian, Arab News has learned, with the government studying various visa options. Women are currently required to travel to Saudi Arabia to perform pilgrimages with a mahram (male guardian), or be met by him on arrival in the Kingdom, although women over the age of 45 may travel without a mahram if they are in an organized tour group.
If women travel with a group and without a mahram they must submit a notarised letter of no objection from someone who could be considered their mahram, authorizing travel for Hajj or Umrah with that group.
But Arab News has learned that the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah is conducting studies to issue visit visas for both tourism and Umrah purposes, and that this process is expected to pave the way for allowing women to come without the need for a mahram.
It is one of a number of developments in the Hajj and Umrah sector, with Arab News also learning that the ministry was urged to intervene in the sector to save businesses.
Umrah firms have raised their concerns about the impact of regulations, saying they are losing out and warning around 200 companies will be leaving the market if authorities do not step in.
Marwan Abbas Shaban, head of the National Committee for Hajj and Umrah, said each Umrah company was obliged to have two branches, employ 20 staff and spend at least SR1 million ($266,666) annually even if it did not receive a single pilgrim. The majority of companies operating in this sector were small and could not bear such costs, he added.
“We always seek officials to interact with us and we call on higher authorities to consider our demands,” he told Arab News.
Shaban said there were about 750 Umrah and Hajj companies with licenses, but only about 500 of these were in the market and they were only running at 1 percent of their capacity.
The Umrah sector was more profitable than the industrial sector, he added, and pointed to the value of land in the holy city of Makkah.
Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Hajj and Umrah Dr. Mohammed Saleh Benten approved updates to Umrah services following a meeting with the National Committee for Hajj and Umrah to discuss updates to regulations and instructions for Umrah companies.
Deputy Minister of Hajj and Umrah Abdulfattah Mashat said after the meeting that the updates included allowing all IATA membership categories — including travel agencies, WTO certificates, or a certificate of membership of the World Travel and Tourism Council — as a requirement for the eligibility of an external agent.
The ministry updates also include giving pilgrims greater flexibility on transport options, Mashat added, and can be accessed on a portal that allows Muslims around the world to apply for an Umrah package digitally.
The Maqam portal is an online platform, designed so that Muslims from around the world can apply for an Umrah package digitally.
Almost 1.1 million people used Maqam in its trial phase last year, allowing them to choose between over 30 companies providing travel, accommodation and other necessities for trips to Makkah and Madinah.