When one thinks of Saudi Arabia the initial images which come to mind are likely desert, camels, magic carpet rides, gold and oil.  Some of these images were further perpetuated with classic movies such as ‘Lawrence of Arabia.’ There is no doubt Saudi Arabia has a rich and diverse history with many hidden places having treasures to discover and explore. Aseer is among those treasures.

Aseer, which is located in the center of the south-western part of the Kingdom, is one of the leading regions in the Kingdom and ranked fourth among administrative regions in terms of population and is a fertile environment for investment opportunities. HRH Prince Faisal bin Khalid bin Abdulaziz, Governor of Aseer, is aggressively promoting the investment opportunities in Aseer to have the region duly recognized as among the most competitive areas for investment not only in the Kingdom but also in the Gulf States.

Check out more info and images on Aseer in Oasis Magazine’s 7th issue (out in stores April 2009)

Popular/heritage sites to visit in Aseer: 

1. Shada Palace:  One of the most important heritage features in the town of Abha.  Shada Palace was built in 1927 upon the recommendation of His Majesty the late King Abdulaziz bin Abdulrahman Al Saud to His Excellency Sheikh Abdul Wahab Abu Milha, the financial director of Abha at that time.  The Palace was the pulsating heart of the city of Abha for a period of time and the headquarters of the Prince of the region.

2.Heritage Village of Ibn Hamsan:  This is a scenic heritage village in the city of Khamis-Mushayt consisting of four floors of stone and a lounge where celebrations and performances such as public concerts are held.  In addition there is a museum where one can see ancient holding documents of the Aseer region.

3.Al-Milha Palace:  Al-Milha Palace is located at the edge of the Sea Square in downtown Abha and is one of the defining structures of the region and is still standing.  It was constructed from local material.  The wood of the ceiling, doors and windows are from Juniper wood.  The place was built by locals who specialized in the particular architectural style unique to Al-Milha Palace.  It also differs from the other palaces in the region in that it is free of defensive barricades since it was built in an area of stability.

4.Castle of Shamasan:  This castle is actually three defensive towers and each tower differs from the others  in terms of its form and architectural style.

5.Al-Miftaha Village (King Fahd Cultural Center):  this is an old residential neighborhood consisting of a group of old adjacent buildings which had been abandoned by their owners.  The city began encroaching on this village from all sides.  For that reason the Principality of the region decided to establish a traditional village with a style mimicking the design of the old village and later renamed from Al-Miftaha Village to the King Fahd Center for Culture and Arts.  The Center hosts heritage and modern arts along with photographs and handicrafts.

6.Village and the Museum of Rigal Alma:  This village is located to the West of Abha and is one of the most famous and distinctive heritage villages in the Arabian Peninsula.  There are unique stone buildings which rise up to eight stories high.  There is also the famous Alma Palace which dates back to 400 years.  The Palace has been maintained and its heritage preserved.  It contains more than 2000 pieces of antiques and is organized in 19 different sections.  The museum receives more than 50 thousand visitors annually.

7.The Traditional Library of Rigal Alma:  The library was established in the year 2000 and focuses on manuscripts which document the cultural activities and features towards preserving the cultural heritage of Aseer.  The library holds more than 700 documents, manuscript records, old stamps and coins.

Archaeological sites to visit in Aseer: 

1. Jarash:  Jarash is an ancient city which dates back to the pre-Islamic era and located 75 kilometers from the city of Abha.  Jarash includes remnants of the architectural style left by its inhanbitants, the “Yashcarians,” as represented by the huge stones which were used in construction and inscriptions.  Mount Humoma in is the center of Jarash.

2. Stone Inscriptions in Rural Beni Amir:  The rural area of Beni Amir is located in Al-Namas governorate.  The area is rich in ancient inscriptions dating back to the pre-Islamic area.  The inscriptions are in three styles:  the first is carved in Kufic on the surfaces of rocks and consist of mercy calls from the names found in these writings; the second date back to the 2nd Century (Hijra); and the third are drawings which represent military battles, animal hunting and drawings of different animals.

3. Al-Arous (the Bride) Plateau:  The plateau is located in the Dara village, five kilometers to the East of Abha.  At the plateau one can view inscriptions of Thamudian writings and drawings of which the most prominent is a bride on Hawdag (the saddle on a camel).  Additionally one will see some forts and mosques which date back to the Ottoman era.

4. The Valley of Tathleeth:  This valley contains archaeological sites with numerous rock inscriptions throughout.  The Valley of Tathleeth also contains mines which date back to the ancient and new stone ages.  It also contains sites of the old civilizations of the southern Arabian Peninsula.

5. Almakhamsa:  This site hosts a wide range of stone tools and ancient buildings which were constructed of biomasses of stone of different sizes and forms which date back to the third millennium BC.

6. The Village Compound of Al-Hayyan:  The village compound is located in the Eastern region of Aseer.  It is a large stone on which there is a drawing of a military battle.  The large stone in turn is surrounded by other stones containing human and animal drawings.

7. Aya’a Valley:  This valley is located in Bisha governorate and is rich in archeological sites which are scattered on its sides such as Al-Safat, Al-Dahla, Al-Rakhwa and Al-Mala’a.  These villages contain buildings, castles, fortresses, mosques and cemeteries.

Two important historical routes also went through Aseer. These include the Ancient Trade Route, which traverses along the Eastern direction of Aseer at Dhahran Aljanoob, and the Road of the Elephant which is mentioned in the Quran as the route  taken by Abraham’s elephants.  The marks of these elephants are still evident in the region of Dhahran Aljanoob near Sarat Abeeda, on the eastern side.