It did not look far from Abha, but we could see from our navigation app that the ride would be longer than we expected. When we reached the edge of steep cliffs, and we started to drive down the steep and curvy road into the valley below, we understood why it would take us a while to reach Rijal Alma. At the same time, it was an unexpected gift: beautiful views into the Asir mountains. We saw plentiful of baboons running around, and were appalled by the amount of trash around. When we finally reached Rijal Alma, we felt we deserved to enjoy this old village, parked the car, and walked straight to the main square. Above us, we see tall stone buildings, easily six or seven floors judged by the rectangular, brightly painted windows in the light brown stone walls.
On the one hand, it somehow looks like a tourist village, and the buildings look restored. On the other hand, there is no one around. We need to wake up the guy to buy our tickets (it is no longer a freely accessible village) and we walk up the stairs. Now that we stand at the foot of the giants, their size becomes even more daunting. These were not just houses, they were small fortresses. The small windows make attacks more difficult. It makes me think back of Yemen, where I saws similar tall stone houses, which had no windows at all at the lower levels. Actually, Rijal Alma for centuries was a crossroads for trade and pilgrims between Yemen and Mecca. Neatly tucked away in the Asir mountains, it now is a quiet reminder of a different era. As such, it has a tentative status to be included as a World Heritage site.
We wander around the abandoned streets and alleys. Even though the houses are clearly not in use anymore, the rectangular windows are all neatly painted in bright blue, red and yellow. The houses seem in good order. When we reach the end of one of the streets, we see smaller stone houses which lie in ruins. We start to see more houses that have not (yet) been restored. We enter one of the buildings, and see furniture still standing under a thick layer of dust and rubble. It makes us wonder when people lived here last, and what happened to them. We see beautiful wooden locks on doors. On the other side of the village, we enter the museum which is set in one of the historic buildings. A collection of weapons, documents, photos and artefacts dating from times when Rijal Alma was a bustling town housing traders and pilgrims.
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Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Rijal Alma (Saudi Arabia). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Rijal Alma. Read more about this site.