MUHAYIL: A group of Italian architects had a unique opportunity on Friday to tour one of the most fascinating heritage villages in Saudi Arabia.
Rijal Alma, set to be transformed into a major tourist attraction, is an architectural delight located in the province of Asir in the south of the country.
The architects, who were given a tour by Rijal Alma Mayor Saeed bin Ali Al Hafiz, were informed about the architectural techniques developed by locals and materials used.
The structures, which use stones and clay and often multi-floored, are distinctive, especially the white framed windows.
The group also explored a number of public buildings, including schools and municipal premises, as well as heritage sites.
The Italians are currently taking part in an architectural exhibition in the region.
Rijal Alma won the Prince Sultan bin Salman Award for Urban Heritage in 2007, and was submitted for inclusion as a UNESCO World Heritage site earlier this year.
The Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage’s efforts to register heritage and archaeological sites to the Urban Heritage list fall under the Kingdom’s Cultural Heritage Care program that includes a system of projects and programs to develop, highlight and preserve national heritage sites.
The residents’ initiatives to preserve their village are driven by an awareness of its history, culture, nature and moderate climate are have been some of the main reasons behind the decision to rehabilitate and develop the village of Rijal Alma.
The towns along the Red Sea coast and the southern highlands contain some fine buildings in their historic old quarters.
In a bid to end reliance on oil, the Kingdom is investing in tourism, aiming to increase spending by Saudis at home instead of on holidays abroad.
Encouraging visits to local places of beauty or interest is a key Vision 2030 goal and the Kingdom has some world-class sites, some in remote areas, which are all but unknown outside the Kingdom.