Why Yanbu on the Red Sea is fast becoming one of Saudi Arabia’s must-visit destinations

Special Why Yanbu on the Red Sea is fast becoming one of Saudi Arabia’s must-visit destinations
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Besides magnificent annual flower, bird and butterfly shows, the western Saudi town of Yanbu is attracting tourists with its rich biodiversity. (Shutterstock)
Special Why Yanbu on the Red Sea is fast becoming one of Saudi Arabia’s must-visit destinations
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Besides magnificent annual flower, bird and butterfly shows, the western Saudi town of Yanbu is attracting tourists with its rich biodiversity. (Shutterstock)
Special Why Yanbu on the Red Sea is fast becoming one of Saudi Arabia’s must-visit destinations
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Besides magnificent annual flower, bird and butterfly shows, the western Saudi town of Yanbu is attracting tourists with its rich biodiversity. (Shutterstock)
Special Why Yanbu on the Red Sea is fast becoming one of Saudi Arabia’s must-visit destinations
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Besides magnificent annual flower, bird and butterfly shows, the western Saudi town of Yanbu is attracting tourists with its rich biodiversity. (Shutterstock)
Special Why Yanbu on the Red Sea is fast becoming one of Saudi Arabia’s must-visit destinations
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Besides magnificent annual flower, bird and butterfly shows, the western Saudi town of Yanbu is attracting tourists with its rich biodiversity. (Shutterstock)
Special Why Yanbu on the Red Sea is fast becoming one of Saudi Arabia’s must-visit destinations
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Updated 13 May 2022

Why Yanbu on the Red Sea is fast becoming one of Saudi Arabia’s must-visit destinations

Why Yanbu on the Red Sea is fast becoming one of Saudi Arabia’s must-visit destinations
  • Beyond its scenic charm, favorable climate and natural beauty, Yanbu has a particular appeal for history buffs
  • own’s historic architecture, including a house where T. E. Lawrence once lived, have been faithfully restored

DUBAI: Just a few hours’ drive west of Madinah is the historic port town of Yanbu, the second largest settlement on Saudi Arabia’s western Red Sea coast. With its curious heritage and growing wealth of attractions, this unassuming coastal gem is fast becoming a must-visit destination in its own right.

Visitors to Yanbu can traipse along the town’s historic harbor, enjoy Red Sea-caught fish prepared in the local style, and explore the recently restored Souq Al-Lail, or night market, where they can buy local dates, green mulukhiyah leaves, as well as other sweets and delicacies.

At night, the old harbor area comes alive with locals flocking to outdoor eateries overlooking the tranquil waters, protected from the waves by unspoilt coral reefs that have long lured divers to the coastline.




Yanbu's iconic lighthouse overlooking the town's coastal area by the Red Sea. (Shutterstock)

As one of the oldest ports on the Red Sea, Yanbu has a history reaching back at least 2,500 years, when it served as a crucial staging post on the ancient spice and incense route from Yemen to Egypt and onward to the wider Mediterranean.

Its strategic importance in the world of commerce continues to this day. Further south along the coast from the idyllic old town is an important petroleum shipping terminal that is home to three oil refineries, a plastics factory, and several other petrochemical plants.

While Yanbu has long enjoyed a reputation as a place of commerce, it is now developing into something of a tourism hotspot.




The market in the heritage village of Yanbu Al-Nakhl. (Shutterstock)

“In the past, most tourists were from Saudi Arabia, but now we are getting more foreigners, from France, Germany, and the UK,” Ghazi Al-Enezi, who runs the Riyadh-based operator Ghazi Tours, told Arab News.

“Yanbu has been receiving many visitors via cruises from Jeddah, cities in Egypt and Jordan.”

In 2014, Al-Enezi was named the Best Tour Guide in the Kingdom by the Saudi government. Since then, his fledgling operation has grown into a successful enterprise, with 12 members of staff operating tours across the country and a wealth of local and international clients.

The Kingdom’s growing tourism market has offered a boost to Yanbu’s hospitality industry, with the recent opening of a Novotel, a Holiday Inn, and the Al-Ahlam Tourism Resort. This in turn has drummed up new business for local cafes and restaurants.




Yanbu's nice weather make the coastal town a favorite escape during the summer months. (Shutterstock)

“Many hotels and restaurants are opening now, and local people are also trying to serve visitors their own local dishes,” said Al-Enezi. “The weather is nice as well. It doesn’t get too hot in the summer, which means during the hot months people can escape to Yanbu.”

Beyond its scenic charm, favorable climate and natural beauty, Yanbu also has a particular appeal for history buffs. The British army intelligence officer T.E. Lawrence, better known as Lawrence of Arabia, lived in Yanbu for a time between 1915 and 1916 in a typical Hijazi building.

The British archaeologist, diplomat and writer became famous for his role in the Arab Revolt and the Sinai and Palestine Campaign against the Ottoman Empire during the First World War.

Lawrence was deployed to the region to help the Arabs overthrow their Ottoman rulers, who had sided with Germany against Britain and France.




Lawrence of Arabia, left, and the renovated house in Yanbu where he lived between 1915 and 1916. (Getty Images)

On Dec. 1, 1916, the Ottoman forces of Fakhri Pasha launched a daring offensive against Yanbu with the aim of reestablishing control over the strategically vital port.

After some initial Ottoman successes, the Arabs counterattacked with the support of five British Royal Navy warships anchored off the coast. By Jan. 18, 1917, the Ottomans were in full retreat.

Yanbu served as a supply and operations base for Arab and British forces for the remainder of the war.




Yanbu industrial harbor. (Shutterstock)

In 1975, the Saudi government decided to transform Yanbu into one of the country’s two new industrial centers, the other being Jubail on the Arabian Gulf.

Since then, state and private development projects in Yanbu have boosted its economic value and prestige, attracting huge petrochemical and logistics infrastructure.

Today, as the Kingdom undergoes a fresh transformation, heralded by the Vision 2030 economic and social reform agenda, Yanbu’s fortunes are once again shifting — this time toward tourism, heritage and culture.

In 2020, the Ministry of Tourism launched a project to restore T.E. Lawrence’s Hejazi house, renovating its white stone walls and ornate wooden screens in what would become the first of the ministry’s efforts to revive the old town of Yanbu.




Heritage houses being restored in Yanbu. (Shutterstock)

Soon, other traditional Arabian homes followed, with sensitive restoration work launched to restore their coral-stone walls and wooden latticed windows to their former glory. The rebirth of Yanbu’s authentic architecture has made the city a highly desirable place to visit.

Since then, a host of tour operators have sprung up across Yanbu to cater for this recent influx of visitors.

Al-Enezi, who has run tours in Yanbu since 2008, offers a choice of two main tours — one along the coast that features a visit to Oyster Island, known for its pristine beaches and clear waters, and another into the urban heart of Yanbu that acquaints visitors with local heritage and crafts.




Ghazi Al-Enezi was named the Best Tour Guide in the Kingdom in 2014. (Supplied)

He also takes visitors to Umluj, which is situated 150 km north of Yanbu. Often referred to as the “Maldives of Saudi Arabia,” the coastal town is made up of more than 100 small islands where hotels and other attractions are now under construction.

Also outside the town, thrill-seeking visitors are drawn to Radwa Mount, with its red-hued jagged peaks towering some 2,282 meters above sea level, making it the highest point in the Al-Nakhil range.

Known for its rich biodiversity, including lynx, tigers, ibex and wolves, visitors can enjoy a safari tour along the rugged highland landscape and stop at high-altitude villages to sample the local honey.




Yanbu also boasts of attractive highland landscapes. (Shutterstock)

For Al-Enezi, the tourism industry in Yanbu is unrecognizable today from what passed for it when he began organizing tours there 14 years ago.

“It was hard for the few of us working in the business in the beginning because at that time the Saudi government wasn’t focused on tourism and not many people were coming to visit the Kingdom,” he told Arab News.

“But this is now a growing and changing business.”


Saudi ministry launches UN mentoring program for Taif farmers

Saudi agricultural ministry in cooperation with the Chamber of Commerce, launched a mentoring program for farmers in Taif.
Saudi agricultural ministry in cooperation with the Chamber of Commerce, launched a mentoring program for farmers in Taif.
Updated 21 min 19 sec ago

Saudi ministry launches UN mentoring program for Taif farmers

Saudi agricultural ministry in cooperation with the Chamber of Commerce, launched a mentoring program for farmers in Taif.
  • The FAO has prepared 100 demonstration farms to promote modern practices and technologies, which are expected to positively impact farmers and encourage agricultural sustainability in rural areas

RIYADH: Saudi agriculture officials on Monday launched a UN mentoring program for farmers in Taif aimed at encouraging sustainable development.

Initiated by the Ministry of Environment, Water, and Agriculture in cooperation with the Chamber of Commerce, and presented by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, the scheme aims to help introduce more efficient farming practices through the sharing of information on proven techniques and by providing access to industry experts.

The ministry’s director for Taif, Hani Al-Kadi, said: “Taif is no less significant than other cities in the Kingdom, due to its agricultural diversity and yearly abundance in crops.”

He noted that introducing farmers to effective agricultural concepts and objectives would greatly contribute toward, “producing safe and sustainable food, maintaining consumer confidence, ensuring mindfulness toward the exploitation of natural resources, and reducing environmental harm.”

Kakoli Ghosh, the FAO’s chief technical adviser to the program, said global advances in farming methods and agricultural practices had helped to increase production, job opportunities, and standards of living for small farmers, while also preserving natural resources for future generations.

She pointed out that the program would include visits to Taif farms at Al-Hada, Al-Shafa, Wadi Mahram, and Al-Dayha.

The FAO has prepared 100 demonstration farms to promote modern practices and technologies, which are expected to positively impact farmers and encourage agricultural sustainability in rural areas.

The Saudi ministry first launched the Sustainable Agricultural Rural Development Program in cooperation with the FAO in 2019. It has been designed to boost the production, processing, and marketing of fruit, fish, livestock, and Arabic coffee, and the cultivation of rain-fed crops.

The Vision 2030 reform plan aims to diversify the Kingdom’s economy and boost contributions to gross domestic product by pushing sustainable development in all sectors of the economy. One of the main areas of focus has been on the conservation of natural resources, including the rationalization of water consumption in agriculture and achieving food security.


Cambodian king praises Muslim World League efforts in strengthening civilizational alliance

Al-Issa praised the Cambodian model for achieving harmony among its national diversity. (Supplied)
Al-Issa praised the Cambodian model for achieving harmony among its national diversity. (Supplied)
Updated 24 min 13 sec ago

Cambodian king praises Muslim World League efforts in strengthening civilizational alliance

Al-Issa praised the Cambodian model for achieving harmony among its national diversity. (Supplied)
  • Al-Issa expressed his appreciation for the prestigious university and praised the values of tolerance and coexistence adopted by Cambodians as they had become an inspiring role model in fighting all forms of hatred, racism, and discrimination

PHNOM PENH: King Norodom Sihamoni of Cambodia received Sheikh Dr. Mohammed bin Abdul Karim Al-Issa, secretary-general of the Muslim World League and chairman of the Muslim Scholars Association.

The king praised the tangible impact of the league’s efforts in strengthening the civilizational alliance among diverse groups around the world and awareness among Muslim societies.

Al-Issa visited the Islamic Center in Phnom Penh and met Cambodia’s Muslim leadership. He praised the Cambodian model for achieving harmony among its national diversity.

He gave the Friday sermon at the Grand Mosque of Phnom Penh upon the request of the Islamic leadership in Cambodia. Hundreds of worshippers attended the sermon, with Al-Issa addressing key issues facing the Muslim world.

Al-Issa met the Grand Buddhist Patriarch of Cambodia Tep Vong and Patriarch Bor Keri.

The Royal University of Phnom Penh hosted Al-Issa, where he gave a lecture titled: “Our Common Values and Civilizational Alliance.”

The Royal University of Phnom Penh is the biggest in Cambodia. It was founded 62 years ago and has 20,000 students in its undergraduate and graduate programs.

Al-Issa expressed his appreciation for the prestigious university and praised the values of tolerance and coexistence adopted by Cambodians as they had become an inspiring role model in fighting all forms of hatred, racism, and discrimination.

He shared his views about the common values among humans as these values had granted full rights to everyone in Cambodia, despite the differences of religion and race, and made modern Cambodia live in security and stability.

 


Over 282k Hajj pilgrims arrive in Madinah until Sunday

Thousands of Hajj pilgrims arrive in Madinah. (SPA)
Thousands of Hajj pilgrims arrive in Madinah. (SPA)
Updated 59 sec ago

Over 282k Hajj pilgrims arrive in Madinah until Sunday

Thousands of Hajj pilgrims arrive in Madinah. (SPA)
  • Majority of worshippers Bangladeshis, followed by Nigerians, Indians, Iranians, Pakistanis: Ministry data

MADINAH: A total of 282,523 pilgrims from around the world have arrived in Madinah until Sunday to perform this year’s Hajj.

Figures released by the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah showed that 227,420 worshippers passed into the Kingdom through Prince Mohammed bin Abdulaziz International Airport, while a further 43,276 came via land routes.

Most of the visitors were Bangladeshis at 13,041, followed by 9,883 Nigerians, 8,676 Indians, 6,330 Iranians, and 6,023 Pakistanis.

The ministry data also revealed that 171,606 pilgrims left Madinah over the past few days for holy sites in Makkah. On Sunday, the number of worshippers staying in Madinah topped 95,194.

 


Tabuk governor receives German ambassador

Tabuk governor receives German ambassador. (SPA)
Tabuk governor receives German ambassador. (SPA)
Updated 44 min 40 sec ago

Tabuk governor receives German ambassador

Tabuk governor receives German ambassador. (SPA)
  • Lamle hailed the developments he witnessed while touring Tabuk

TABUK: Tabuk Gov. Prince Fahd bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz on Monday received German Ambassador to the Kingdom Dieter Lamle, who is visiting the Saudi region.

During the meeting, the two sides underlined the relations between the Kingdom and Germany, and discussed topics of mutual concern.

Lamle hailed the developments he witnessed while touring Tabuk.

 


Najiz mobile app from Saudi Ministry of Justice reaches one million users in 2022

Najiz mobile app from Saudi Ministry of Justice reaches one million users in 2022
Updated 27 June 2022

Najiz mobile app from Saudi Ministry of Justice reaches one million users in 2022

Najiz mobile app from Saudi Ministry of Justice reaches one million users in 2022
  • The app was launched by the ministry to promote the pursuit of justice

RIYADH: Najiz e-services mobile app launched by the Saudi Ministry of Justice has reached one million users in 2022, Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.

Najiz has expanded access to judicial services through handheld devices.

The app was launched by the ministry to help streamline digital services and promote the pursuit of justice.

Najiz app has added 21 new services, including a digital notary, downloading and verifying judgments, inquiring about enforcement applications, and booking appointments.

The most popular e-services provided by Najiz are inquiries about cases and real estate, booking appointments, verifying debt invoices, verifying marital status, and the digital notary, according to the ministry.

The app has a single sign-on feature that saves clients’ time and effort when obtaining services remotely.