In this Saudi Arabian farm in al-Ahsa, rare hassawi rice is ‘as precious as gold’

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The city of al-Ahsa in the Saudi Arabian eastern region is famous for its rare hassawi red rice, a hidden gem which farmers say has high nutritional value and can help alleviate the pain of those suffering from arthritis and broken bones.

Chanting prayer songs in unison and their feet submerged under water, farmers in the al-Ahsa oasis say they have been planting red hassawi rice since generations, among the world’s most expensive.

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The al-Ahsa region, in the eastern province of Saudi Arabia, was listed in 2018 as a UNESCO world heritage site and the Guinness Worlds Record describes it as the largest in the world.

The oasis has over 2 million palm trees, and has dozens of artesian springs, enabling farmers to cultivate plants in an area surrounded by desert.

Saudi Arabia’s Al Ahsa. (Supplied: Abdullah al-Sheikh)
Saudi Arabia’s Al Ahsa. (Supplied: Abdullah al-Sheikh)

“Al-Ahsa is famous for its palm trees. What most people don’t know is that we plant hassawi rice in this area,” said farmer Abdulhadi al-Salman.

Farmers say hassawi rice fetches a very high price, 25-30 Saudi riyals ($6-8) per kilo, because of its high nutritional value and health benefits for people that eat it regularly.

A Saudi farmer plucks rice plantation, known as “Hassawi Rice” in a rice field in Al-Ahsa. (Reuters)
A Saudi farmer plucks rice plantation, known as “Hassawi Rice” in a rice field in Al-Ahsa. (Reuters)

But for the farmers, it’s not just about the money. They describe their trade as one that has been passed down to them from their grandfathers, and which they will work to protect for their children as well.

“This is gold, this is wealth, these are our children that we raise over four months. We protect it and later pass it on to future generations,” said al-Salman.

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