Aseer - Saudi Arabia

Forget everything you think you know about Saudi Arabia. In the southwestern province of Aseer, you will be surprised by an unsuspected display of colors. Be enchanted by flowering jacaranda trees, colorful murals in Al Muftaha and Flower People in Habala.

To encourage art and culture in the kingdom, the up to 260-year-old traditional houses in Al Muftaha were given an imaginative makeover. Here, instead of brown mud walls, you walk past colorful murals and blue and white-painted shutters and doors. The highlight of the Al Muftaha art district is the mosque decorated with calligraphed graffiti - let's call it calligraffiti - with small galleries on either side where local artisans and artists display their work.

As contemporary as Al Muftaha's beautiful drawings and calligraffiti may sometimes seem, it is definitely not a whimsical modern splurge. Traditionally, the quality of murals in Abha played a role in the social status of local families.

But it is not only the geometric patterns and studios where artists are at work and show their creations to the public that amaze in Al Muftaha. In addition to an archaeological center and the King Fahd Cultural Center, which brings together lovers of photography, traditional crafts and modern art, you will find the Al Muftaha Theater, the largest theater in the Middle East. And with any luck, during your visit you will experience one of the cultural festivals that take place regularly on Art Street, the pedestrian zone between Al Muftaha and downtown Abha.

Earth tones and neon lighting

Al Muftaha is not the only sight that gives Abha color. A short walk away are the earth tones of Shada Palace. Don't be intimidated by the tall windowless mud walls: visitors are welcome to discover inside the fort's walls how the royal families lived here two centuries ago.

To the south of the city, Jabal Thera, better known as the Green Mountain, literally catches the eye more. The short cable car ride to the top guarantees a fine view of Abha, but it becomes truly startling when the lights come on at night. Neon lights then envelop the mountain in an emerald green glow. Creative? Definitely. Beautiful, well ... there is no accounting for taste.

Wreaths of flowers on the edge of Aseer National Park

Abha is also the base for Aseer National Park, Saudi Arabia's first national park. This vast natural area stretches from the Red Sea in the west to the desert in the east, with mountains in between that are home to Arabian leopards, manta baboons and three hundred species of birds.

On the edge of Aseer National Park, an hour's drive southeast of Abha, lies the hanging village of Habala. This place high in the mountains used to be accessible only by rope ladder. Flower people with brightly striped clothes and head wreaths of flowers and herbs led a reclusive life there. Today, as in so many places in Aseer province, you simply take the cable car.

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