Rijal Alma, about 45 kilometers west of Abha, is one of the most prominent cultural and archeological destinations in the Kingdom. Situated at the foot of the Assouda Mountain on an ancient trade route connecting Yemen, Makkah and the Red Sea, Rijal Alma is called a stone village because it was laboriously built from local stone. Some buildings are up to seven stories high and accented in gleaming white quartz.
The mountainous region has Markaz Assouda as its border to the east, Mahayil Asir to the north, Darb to the south and the Red Sea in the west. Easily accessible from the cable car that extends from the Assouda National Park complex, it is a place redolent with history and tradition, well preserved and clearly oriented to tourism.
The region boasts of pleasant weather most seasons of the year and this is mainly because of heavy rainfall in the region.
Rijal Alma’s mountains and valleys are attractive tourism destinations and, therefore, people not only from Asir province but also from other parts of the Kingdom are flocking to this region, according to a report in Makkah daily.
Rijal Alma has become an increasingly popular attraction for visitors, tourists and archeologists. The most important attraction of the village is its archeological and historical landmarks, which stand out as a witness to the depth of its civilization.
In course of time, the village fell into disrepair but in an enterprising project, was restored and preserved by the local community to attract tourists to the area and benefit from its economic potentials.
The heritage village tourism festival draws huge number of local residents as well as tourists from other regions.
The Permanent Heritage Museum is one of the major tourist attractions in Rijal Alma. It was established in 1986 with the initiative of the people of the region.
The museum became a reality as a result of serious efforts made by the local community to preserve their invaluable heritage.
As a result of the community effort, al-Alwan Fortress, the largest in the region and which dates back more than 400 years, was renovated.
The Rijal Alma Palace was refurbished with the active participation of the local community. Villagers collected artifacts and antiquities donated by people in the region.
Women took part actively in the refurbishing of the palace with their carving works under the supervision of the famous artist Fatima Ali Abu Qahas. Most of the local women have donated their silver ornaments and precious pieces of antiquities to the museum.
Prince Khaled Al-Faisal, the then emir of Asir province, inaugurated the museum.
The museum is regarded as a major tourism and cultural landmark in the heritage village. The Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) is undertaking a big task of preserving the heritage village.
Prince Sultan Bin Salman, chairman of SCTA, has given great attention to the preservation of the historical and archeological sites of Rijal Alma. The prince noted that Rijal Alma is one of the SCTA’s projects for developing heritage villages and town projects.
“The SCTA aims at rehabilitating these sites, which were on the verge of destruction, and transforming them into economic projects that attract investment and generate employment opportunities for locals,” the prince said.
The project is being implemented as a joint venture by eight ministries and cooperative societies owned by village residents.
The village was awarded the Prince Sultan Bin Salman Architectural Heritage Prize in 2006 for preserving its architectural heritage.
The people themselves organized the 20 sections of Rijal Alma museum. The committee in charge of developing the village and its museum is conducting several studies to further develop the village and turn it into a heritage site, popular market and a recreation center.
Following the completion of the cable car project in the Assouda area, the number of visitors and tourists to this region soared tremendously.
Picturesque valleys, green meadows and mountains and pleasant weather are the main tourist attractions.
Sultan Al-Ahmari, a journalist, said Rijal Alma is an ideal destination for those who want to enjoy the real beauty of nature away from the hustle and bustle of city life.
Majed Al-Amri, another resident, said Rijal Alma is unique for its geographical diversity with a range of peaks on the Sarawat Mountains, deep valleys and meadows.