The woman unlocking mysteries of Saudi Arabia's caves

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For Bodor Al-Saleh, caving offers an experience unlike any other desert activity because each cave has its own characteristics and history — and each attracts a different type of visitor. (Supplied)
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For Bodor Al-Saleh, caving offers an experience unlike any other desert activity because each cave has its own characteristics and history — and each attracts a different type of visitor. (Supplied)
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For Bodor Al-Saleh, caving offers an experience unlike any other desert activity because each cave has its own characteristics and history — and each attracts a different type of visitor. (Supplied)
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For Bodor Al-Saleh, caving offers an experience unlike any other desert activity because each cave has its own characteristics and history — and each attracts a different type of visitor. (Supplied)
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For Bodor Al-Saleh, caving offers an experience unlike any other desert activity because each cave has its own characteristics and history — and each attracts a different type of visitor. (Supplied)
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For Bodor Al-Saleh, caving offers an experience unlike any other desert activity because each cave has its own characteristics and history — and each attracts a different type of visitor. (Supplied)
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For Bodor Al-Saleh, caving offers an experience unlike any other desert activity because each cave has its own characteristics and history — and each attracts a different type of visitor. (Supplied)
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Updated 08 March 2020

The woman unlocking mysteries of Saudi Arabia's caves

  • Bodor Al-Saleh, Kingdom's first licensed tourist guide specializing in caves, finds her work a healing experience
  • She organizes some trips exclusively for women to raise their adventurous and confident spirits

JEDDAH: More Saudi women are discovering the excitement of desert adventures, which are as diverse as the Kingdom’s geography.

But while many answer the call of the wild by hiking, rock climbing and camping, Bodor Al-Saleh likes to dig a little deeper, literally, by scrambling, crawling and climbing into caves around the country.
The caves tourist guide decided to ignore many common misperceptions about women, follow her adventurous soul and discover the mysteries of Saudi Arabia’s caves.
Caving, a pastime that is growing in popularity around the world, may seem dangerous, but for Al-Saleh it is a calming and healing experience. “Once you go inside, all the fear and anxiety is gone,” she told Arab News.
Now, as the Kingdom’s first licensed tourist guide specializing in caves, Al-Saleh is encouraging more people, especially women, to tap into the same wellspring of confidence she has been able to find in the pastime.
The adventurous Saudi said she was proud to be the first woman chosen in this field.
Caves are where she feels a sense of belonging. “I feel that caves resemble me in their mysterious nature, beauty and powerfulness,” she said.
As well as guiding tourists, Al-Saleh organizes caving trips exclusively for women to ignite their adventurous, determined and confident spirit.

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Al-Saleh said that she does not find her caves guiding work difficult. “Women are smart and skilful enough to be able to do the job; it isn’t hard as it seems,” she said. “But like any other profession, it needs proper knowledge and technique to do it the right way.”
A cave guide’s work is not limited to leading a group of tourists, telling them stories about the history and geology of the site. It also requires a more complex set of skills to ensure visitors’ comfort and safety — and also protect the caves. “It is the guide’s responsibility to preserve the formations and stop damage or vandalism during the visit,” she said. “Caves are sophisticated and delicate.”
With the Saudi Geological Survey planning to launch new ecotourism destinations across the Kingdom, Al-Saleh said most of the thousands of caves in the country remain unmapped.
She recently launched an initiative to list caves as safe tourist attractions, and is hoping to receive support for the project. “Many of the caves that have been explored have poor access, which limits what I can offer to tourists.”
The national geological organization has begun preparing access points for tourists at some caves, while protecting the environment and ecosystems of the sites.
For Al-Saleh, caving offers an experience unlike any other desert activity because each cave has  its own characteristics and history — and each attracts a different type of visitor.
There are caves with historical value because of their association with certain events, such as the Tobad Mount cave in Al-Aflaj with its links to the ancient Arab love story of Layla and Qays.
Some caves are part of humanity’s long history, such as Um Jarsan cave north of Madinah, while others are important because of their geological features, such as Heet cave, near Al-Kharj.
“Caves are a global tourist attraction with an attractive economic factor, but caving lacks promotion on the local and global tourism scene. It deserves a lot more attention,” Al-Saleh said.
“Tourism in Saudi Arabia has many great investment opportunities for young people to exploit, and guiding services are always fun and a good additional source of income.”


US court orders Iran to pay $879 million to 1996 Khobar bombing survivors

Updated 11 min 20 sec ago

US court orders Iran to pay $879 million to 1996 Khobar bombing survivors

  • The court ruled that the Iranian government directed and provided material for the attack
  • The Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia were housing US forces when it was bombed in 1996

DUBAI: A United States federal court held Iran responsible for the 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia where US forces were housed, and ordered Tehran to pay $879 million to survivors. 
The Khobar Towers was a housing complex in the eastern city of Khobar, near the Abdulaziz Air Base and Saudi Aramco’s headquarters in Dhahran, that housed American servicemen working on Operation Southern Watch.
A truck bomb was detonated on June 25, 1996, near an eight-story building of the housing complex, which killed 19 US Air Force personnel and a Saudi national and wounded 498 others.
The court ruled that the Iranian government directed and provided material support to Hezbollah who detonated the 5,000-pound truck bomb, a Chicago law firm press release said. The attackers reportedly smuggled the explosives used in the attack from Lebanon. 


The lawsuit was brought under the terrorism exception of the US Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act by the 14 injured US airmen and 21 of their immediate family members.
The defendants in the case were listed as the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps and the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security.
“We will continue to seek to hold the Government of Iran accountable for this terrorist attack as long as is necessary,” said Adora Sauer, the lead attorney of MM LAW LLC.
US District Judge Beryl A. Howell found the defendants liable and awarded the plaintiffs $132 million for pain and suffering, as well as prejudgment interest, for a total compensatory damage award of $747 million and $132 million for punitive damages.


The court also said the plaintiffs are eligible for partial payments from the US Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund, which compensates American victims of acts of international terrorism with funds obtained from fines and forfeitures levied against companies caught illegally laundering money for sanctioned countries and persons. 
The attorneys also intend to pursue enforcement of the judgments through litigation intended to seize Iranian assets.
“The physical and psychological toll on our families has been extremely high, but this judgment is welcome news. More than 20 years on, we want the world to remember the evil that Iran did at the Khobar Towers. Through the work of our attorneys, we intend to do just that,” said Glenn Christie, a retired Air Force staff sergeant crew chief who was severely injured in the bombing.


“The massive explosion took so much from their minds and bodies on the day of the attack in 1996 and every day and night since then. They can now live with that balance justice provides,” according to John Urquhart of the Urquhart Law Firm, who also represents the bombing victims.