Hiking grows in popularity in Saudi Arabia
TAIF, Saudi Arabia - As a sport, hiking is relatively new to Saudi Arabia but its popularity, especially among young people, has rocketed as enthusiasts take advantage of the kingdom’s environmental conditions and opportunities through this hobby
The English words “hike” and “hiking” have become part of the lingo of young people who have become advocates of free and organised hiking tours in areas of Saudi Arabia where the terrain is favourable to practising the activity. The experience is very enjoyable and combines sport and fitness with enjoyment of the great outdoors and discovering Saudi Arabia’s natural treasures.
Al-Walid al-Ko’aid, supervisor of the Hiking Team in Saudi Arabia said: “Hiking is one of the best sports that help people leave behind the bustle of city life and the onslaught of modern technologies and relax in unspoiled nature in the company of a group of people. It helps to discover unknown areas of our country and invites tourists to come to us for an unforgettable experience.”
The Hiking Team has attracted many newcomers to the sport, many of whom are from other countries. The sport has spread to remote Saudi villages whose natural environments are propitious for hiking and where people of the Arabian Peninsula have been familiar with hiking since ancient times.
Hikers in Saudi Arabia number more than 50,000. Some of them are organised in groups that coordinate with each other to set up periodic trips. They have expanded their activities, becoming more professional, which increased the sport’s popularity.
Musa Ghawi, an experienced hiker, said he has travelled long distances across Saudi Arabia. He was among people from 20 countries hiking the Rakayib Caravan across the Saudi Empty Quarter (“Rub’al khali”). He said his journeys in the kingdom has built relations and strengthened ties to the vast land, reinforce his sense of the value of the country and of belonging to it.
Ghawi said the Rakayib Caravan was extremely challenging. “We started from Ubar in the far south of the kingdom and finished at Yabreen Oasis, north of the Empty Quarter,” he said. “We travelled 600km over a month between historical monuments and ancient heritage sites and in the company of adventurers from around the world.
“Through this experience, I have rediscovered my country. I experienced the suffering and hardship of our people before the unification of the Arabian Peninsula and the foundation of this generous country.”
The Saudi Seasons, which are organised by the Entertainment Authority, aim to transform Saudi Arabia into an important tourist destination through major artistic and cultural events and unique tourism experiences. Seasonal activities are planned for throughout the year in most parts of the country, giving visitors a glimpse of the history of Saudi Arabia and its unique culture, in addition to the charm of its picturesque and diversified natural environment.
There have been several hiking and mountaineering events in areas characterised by mountainous terrain, such as Taif, Abha and Qiddiya.
The Taif Season is an excellent opportunity for hiking enthusiasts to experience an integrated event that includes hiking and a full range of entertainment activities, with all safety precautions available. The attention given to the minutest of details makes the experience unforgettable.
Ahmed Fahad al-Jaid, a member of the board of directors of the Saudi Association for Tourist Guidance, said the association organises hiking and mountaineering activities, including trips to Maqla’ Tamiyyah and photo competitions and workshops.
The hiking trip to Maqla’ Tamiyyah treats hikers to a spectacular view of Al-Wa’bah Crater, 250km from Taif. The crater is about 3km in diameter and 380 metres deep. The centre of the crater is coated with a white salt layer, which is thought to be formed by rainwater accumulated at the bottom of the crater, forming a shallow lake.
Jaid said he is happy with the inspiring transformations in the Saudi tourism experience and that the future looks very promising. He said hiking activities are very good to promote Saudi Arabia and its natural geographical diversity.
The Saudi terrain represents an inexhaustible wealth and Saudi citizens should take the steps to discover the beauty of the country, create lasting relations with locals and enrich the Saudi tourism.