Your Guide to Abha Saudi Arabia

Many imagine Saudi Arabia as a desert country with extreme temperature throughout the year. Fortunately, it is not. In fact, they have mild and pleasant winter, but summer can be very hot. However, there are also places in Saudi Arabia that enjoyed mild weather throughout the year. One such place is Abha. Let me introduce and guide you through Abha, Saudi Arabia's city in the sky.

The Al Habbala Valley, about 20 mins from Abha
The Al Habbala Valley, about 20 mins from Abha | Source

Abha's Mild Climate

Abha is located about 1.4 miles above sea level and enjoys a mild climate throughout the year with average temperature of 70°F (21°C) in the summer and 60°F (15°C) in the winter. The city seldom experience temperature exceeding 95°F (35°C) which makes it a popular holiday destination for expatriates working in Saudi Arabia as well as for the Saudis.

If you travel deep into the desert country, the temperature at night can drop to below 14°F (-10°C) and in the winter, there were occasions where it actually snowed in Abha.

Unlike other parts of the country, Abha and the surrounding area are subjected to rain, which explains why agriculture and tourism are big industries for the area.

Abha, Saudi Arabia's city in the sky

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A markerAbha Saudi Arabia -
Abha Saudi Arabia
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Located at 1.4 miles above sea level, Abha enjoys a mild climate throughout the year.

B markerJeddah, Saudi Arabia -
Jeddah Saudi Arabia
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C markerRiyadh -
Riyadh Saudi Arabia
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D markerDammam -
Dammam Saudi Arabia
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Al Sawda peak at Asir mountain near Abha
Al Sawda peak at Asir mountain near Abha | Source

Abha is located in the southern part of Saudi Arabia in the province of Asir and is the capital city of the Asir province.

Mud and Stone Houses

One of the major attractions of the city of Abha is its old mud and stone houses that were built in vertical rows. It had walls that are thick enough to repel heat, but will capture the cool desert night air.

These mud houses are suitable for countries like Saudi Arabia as it will keep the house interiors cool in the daytime, despite the hot weather outside.

There are several of these old mudhouses and you can spend a day exploring them.

Mud houses near Abha
Mud houses near Abha | Source
Stone houses of Rijal Alma'a tribes, not far from Abha
Stone houses of Rijal Alma'a tribes, not far from Abha | Source

If you drive to the outskirts of Abha, you will see other old villages made of mud and stone that date back to 300 years. If you are with a tour guide, you will learn the construction techniques of these houses, which is something worth knowing.

Other attractions in the city are Al Muftaha Village for Fine Art, and Shada Palace.

Al Muftaha Village

Al Muftaha Village was built based on inspiration from Asir's heritage and culture. It comprises of King Fahd Cultural Center, Archaeological Centre, Media Centre and Al Muftaha Theatre. It was the first project in Saudi Arabia that embraced traditional crafts, photography and fine arts.

Shada Palace

Shada Palace was built in 1927 and originally used as the headquarters of the Amara of Abha province. It is now a museum. It houses old planting & household tools, coins, several manuscripts and photographs of life in Abha in the second half of last century.

Wadi Mahala

Farther away from these mud villages, is the watering hole for various bird species at Wadi Mahala, which is about 6.2 mile (10km) from Abha city.

Araar tree that you can find in the Black Mountain near Abha
Araar tree that you can find in the Black Mountain near Abha | Source

Jabal Al-Sooda or Black Mountain

Abha is also home to the highest peak in Saudi Arabia, the Jabal Al-Sooda or Black Mountain, which stood at 2miles (3.3km) high. It has become the highlight of any trip to this area as the view delivers a breathtaking vista of the city and the surrounding area.

This is also the site for the paragliding competition held every summer during the Assir Festival.

The origin of Black Mountain name is a mystery, but locals believe the names came from the dark Araar trees that grow all over the mountain and the dark clouds that loom above it.

Cable Car to the Mountains

In and around the city you will find four cable car networks that will take you to Al-Sooda or Black Mountain, Al-Habala, New Abha and Lake Saad: a picturesque lake, surrounded by rolling hills on both sides.

The highest for these cable car rides is the 4.3-mile ride from Al-Sooda. It also descends 1.2 mile to connect Sarawat Mountains with the Tihama villages.

Villages along the way from Abha to Al-Sooda
Villages along the way from Abha to Al-Sooda | Source

Asir National Park

The Asir National Park, a 1.1 billion acre (450,000 hectares) of land and sea that was set up in 1976, is one of the key attractions of Abha

The misty mountains with its dense and pristine forests are homes to a variety of rare floras and faunas that are now protected from deforestation. Bring your camera, capture these rare plants, and share it with your friends.

Baboons near Abha
Baboons near Abha | Source

Here you might encounter baboons that are so used to people that they are no longer afraid of them. They will also be looking forward to you feeding them, something that almost all visitors will instinctively do, when they see these baboons!

Driving around Asir National Park is a ride filled with breathtaking mountain sceneries. The precarious two lane roads that wind through its valleys and escarpments can sometime give you that goosebumps. However, for every turn that you take will bring you another unbelievable view.

Among the other activities that you can do at Asir National Park are bird watching, hiking and mountain climbing.

view of Abha dam
view of Abha dam | Source

Al-Habala Valley

About 20 minutes' drive from Abha is the Al-Habala Valley. Al-Habala means 'rope' in Arabic and the village is called 'Hanging Village' because the only access then was through ropes! The villagers will climb these ropes and pulleys and will take with them whatever items they want to trade in the town or what they had bought there. It is much simpler now with the cable car connection. According to official record, the Qahtan clan had to flee the Turks' attack and took refuge in this perilous, but safe place.

This perilous yet interesting site has become a popular tourist area and a favorite spot for paragliders.

If you look at the first photo in this article, you will see the villages build around the mountain edge and it can be scary for a visitor to open the window or door and see ravine at the doorstep. You will probably stay indoors and dare not step outside!

Sarawat Mountains

Al-Habala valley is also surrounded by Sarawat Mountains that stood at 1.23 mile (2 km) above sea level. The hanging village is about 0.19 mile (300 m) below this point.

Sarawat mountain range is the Arabian Peninsula's largest mountain range. It starts from Jordan and run through Saudi Arabia and ends in Yemen.

Sarawat Mountains from Al-Habala Valley
Sarawat Mountains from Al-Habala Valley | Source

Shallal Al-Dahna and Tanumah

Shallal Al-Dahna is home to one of the few semi-permanent waterfalls in Saudi Arabia and is a photographer's paradise.

Tanumah is an area of broken granite hills that are mostly covered with acacia and juniperus plant varieties.

Both are about 62 miles (100km) north of Abha and are accessible via good roads, unlike some other sites.

This is part of the Sarawat Mountain range. This photo however, was taken near Taif and not at Abha
This is part of the Sarawat Mountain range. This photo however, was taken near Taif and not at Abha | Source

Malaki Dam Lake

Malaki dam lake is situated on the periphery of Asir foothills. Four wadis run through this lake and it covers an area of about 2471 acre (10 sq. km), when the water level is at its highest. One of these wadis is the famous Wadi Jawah.

The area is a popular breeding ground for several varieties of birds from the Arabian peninsula as well as migratory birds from the African continent. However, if the site is not managed properly, these breeding grounds will soon become history. The government should control and halt further land cultivation within these areas in order to preserve these important breeding grounds.

Note: Wadi means a valley or ravine, usually surrounded by steep banks that will become a watercourse during a rainy season.

Raydah Escarpment Reserve

You must visit Raydah Escarpment Reserve for its sheer beauty. It is about 9.3 mile (15km) from Abha and is off the Al-Sooda road.

This site has a vertical west facing slope with steep rugged rock that project upward as well as outward. The cool and damp climate at the top of this mountain contrast sharply with the hot and humid tropical condition at the bottom.

Old Mosques

Abha and the region have several old mosques that date back as far as 70 AH (690 CE). Some of the popular mosques are Sadrid Mosque, Jahwah Mosque built on the top of Mount Akran in Mana’a, and mosque of Thurban.

Basket Souq

Basket souq or bazaar is a treasure trove of colorful handmade baskets; made from reeds and even vinyl.

Made and sold by the local women, these baskets are favorite souvenirs among the tourists that visit Abha.

Potteries on sale near Abha
Potteries on sale near Abha | Source

Tuesday Market

Every Tuesday, near the Al-Mafteheh tourist center in Abha, there will be a traditional market. Selling mainly local produce, spices and clothing, this market attracts mainly the locals from the neighboring area.

If you have a chance, visit this market to see how the local do their shopping!

People of Abha

Despite the many beautiful attractions, the real attraction is the people of Abha, for their poetic and artistic manner.

If you understand Arabic, you will be fascinated by the language of these people. Their use of poignant words and phrases will bring life to any topics of discussions.

The women of Abha wear black dresses with intricate embroideries known as Abha thobe. Jewelry is an essential part of any women's dressing and it is no different in Abha except that the amount of jewelry worn is also an indicator of the women's social status.

A wealthy woman will wear lots of jewelry and thus marriage dowries for this region, are higher than any part of the country.

The people of Abha and the region are also friendlier and not so uptight as compared to the other parts of the country. Their clothing are more colorful and even the men sometimes wear colorful trousers. Another unique thing that you will find here is women operating booths in the souks (bazaars). In other parts of Saudi Arabia, women are seldom found doing this.

Getting to Abha

Abha is located almost to the southern part of Saudi Arabia and is geographically very far from almost all major cities and towns in the country. The best way to reach it is to fly as driving will take up most of your vacation time.

By Plane

The airport is about 30mins away from the city center and there are several domestic flights to Abha and are as follows:

Flying Time
Saudia and Nasair
1h 32min
1h 5min
1h 55min
1h 30min
2h 0min
1h 0min

International flights to Abha are as follows:

Flying Time
Cairo, Egypt
Saudia and EgyptAir
2h 52min
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
2h 50min
Sana'a, Yemen
1h 0min

By Road

The drive to Abha from most major cities in Saudi Arabia will be a long drive that will take at least seven hours.

You can take either the coastal route (from Jeddah) or the interior route. Either way you will be driving along major highways and old roads that can be both daunting and interesting.

Be warned; there are no hotels along the way so be prepared to rough it out.

Places to Stay in Abha

Besides staying in hotels, you have the option of staying in villas or apartments. There are several choices and if you intend to explore the area, it is best to use Abha as your base and then travel to your respective points of interest.

Some of the hotels available in Abha are as follows:

  1. Abha Palace Hotel: Is in a good location within the city and with a fantastic view of the surrounding mountain. Reviews by users are mixed, however the hotel had a change in management and are working to improve the service.
  2. Intercontinental Hotel: Located at the highest point and away from the city center. Rated by users as "...the hotel that Intercontinental forgot..."
  3. Assalam Palace: About 10 minute drive from Abha Mall and is in downtown Abha. Offers free Wi-Fi.
  4. Abha Palace Hotel: Located at Nahran Road in Abha and is directly connected to Jebel Zerrah and Abu Khayal by two cable cars.
  5. Boudl Abha: Located at New Al Taif Road at Abha Mall and is perfect if you are looking for city center hotel. Offer free breakfast and free wireless internet connection.
  6. Al Bouhaira Resorts: Located at Al Soudah Road and overlook the Abha Dam Lake. Rooms available are the standard, deluxe, suites and villas.

Mountainous terrains around Abha
Mountainous terrains around Abha | Source

Come Visit Abha

Abha was referred to as the land of spices and fragrances by the ancient Egyptians and over time it has become more than that; it is a land of humble people and unforgettable sights.'

Saudi Arabia has many things to offer such as the cool mountain resorts, scuba diving and fishing in its famed Red Sea.

If you have the privilege of travelling to Saudi Arabia, which is not an easy country to apply for tourist visa, make a point of travelling south to the province of Asir and enjoy the mild weather and the beauty that Abha and the region has to offer.

Traveling to Abha for the Paragliding Adventure

© 2012 Mazlan

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Comments 35 comments

greatstuff profile image

greatstuff 2 years ago from Malaysia Author

Lily, you are welcome

Lily 2 years ago

I see, thank you for your reply. It still feels like I'm in Abha right now, because of the videos, descriptive words, and wonderful pictures you posted, haha.. Maybe someday I could visit Abha, someday.. Thanks!

greatstuff profile image

greatstuff 2 years ago from Malaysia Author

Hi Lily, relatively, Jeddah is more liberal. However, if you intend to travel to Saudi Arabia, there's no such thing as tourist visa. You have to come in under business visa or if you are a Muslim, you can also enter under pilgrimage visa. Woman traveling alone is not easy, it is best to come with a man that is related to you, such as husband, brother or uncle.

Lily 2 years ago

Great! Thanks for posting this.. Is this city more "open" compared to jeddah? I like to visit saudi arabia someday, but I am afraid to be alone because I am a woman. What city can you suggest for me to adjust? Thanks.

greatstuff profile image

greatstuff 3 years ago from Malaysia Author

Hi skg abbas, thanks for dropping by and commenting. I hope you will get another chance to visit Abha again. Have a good day.

skg abbas 3 years ago

thanks great stuff, Hub pages.

I had been to Abha, jazan, farasan island. may be I would like to visit again. your information is great. I ended up here from a random search.

greatstuff profile image

greatstuff 3 years ago from Malaysia Author

Francesco, wow that was some time back and it's interesting to know the changes in Abha, since then. Hope to read your articles soon. Thanks for dropping by and sharing.

Francesco Paolo Sarno 3 years ago

Well I lived in Abha in 1983-1985 when working for the Assir Project. I was a tunnel engineer mostly (for Electrowatt) following works done by SAIPEM. I also wrote an article on Tunnels & Tunneling about it. Abha and surroundingsare really beautiful. I went down the Alhallah escarpment when there was only an extremely dangerous track (which was wiped out by a storm one year later). Abha and Soodah have a wonderful climate and even fog, but you can drive down to the Red Sea beach and find a sea full of tropical fishes and a very, very hot climate. I am writing about it (together with other adventures) in my website.

greatstuff profile image

greatstuff 3 years ago from Malaysia Author

IslandBites, thanks for reading and the vote. Have a good day.

IslandBites profile image

IslandBites 3 years ago from Puerto Rico

Very interesting. Vote up!

greatstuff profile image

greatstuff 3 years ago from Malaysia Author

@Ratatoesk, thanks for dropping by. Saudi Arabia has many interesting places to visit and Abha is one of them. If you have a chance, put Abha in your itinerary. It is a bit far though from the major cities and the best way is to fly into Abha.

Ratatoesk profile image

Ratatoesk 3 years ago

I have been twice in Dubai and once in Abu Dhabi but after reading your hub I wish to see more of the arab world. Sure, I grew up in the green of middle Europe and would miss it over there like I did in the dessert Namib, but nevertheless I´m curious. Great article. Thank you.

greatstuff profile image

greatstuff 4 years ago from Malaysia Author

@JayeWisdom: Thanks for the visit and comment. I love doing 'armchair travelling' as well esp. those on national geographic magazines.

JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 4 years ago from Deep South, USA

One of the most interesting aspects of HubPages is its international flavor. For "armchair travelers" such as I, hubs like this one (with its beautiful photos and interesting information) provide the opportunity to vicariously enjoy other countries. I enjoy travel articles very much, and this one is great! Thanks for sharing Abha with us.


greatstuff profile image

greatstuff 4 years ago from Malaysia Author

@bdegiulio. The mountain and desert sceneries are breathtaking. I love to drive to these areas, but not when there are sandstorm, hate them!

greatstuff profile image

greatstuff 4 years ago from Malaysia Author

@CassyLu1981. When I first arrived in Saudi Arabia, most of it was what I had imagined it to be but there were few pleasant surprises and Abha is one of them. Thanks for the vote and share.

greatstuff profile image

greatstuff 4 years ago from Malaysia Author

@lindacee: Yes, it is good to enjoy the mild climate when the rest of the country is sweltering hot esp in summer.

bdegiulio profile image

bdegiulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

A great look at Saudi Arabia. Definitely not what I expected. Looks beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

CassyLu1981 profile image

CassyLu1981 4 years ago from Spring Lake, NC

This is not what I had pictured this to look like at all. Very beautiful and an informative hub!!! Voted up and shared!

lindacee profile image

lindacee 4 years ago from Southern Arizona

What a fabulous Hub, Greatstuff! Abha looks so beautiful. You have provided great insight into the region. I love the fact that the climate is temperate when compared to the rest of Saudi Arabia. I am a fan of the high desert landscape -- I only wish Las Vegas was higher in elevation so we could enjoy those moderate temperatures! Well done.

Riverfish24 profile image

Riverfish24 4 years ago from United States

Great hub, a very good review of a place to visit. Kudos!

Robert Erich profile image

Robert Erich 4 years ago from California

greatstuff! Another awesome hub here. You have documented everything so thoroughly. Well written and organized. I would love to check out those mud huts - I have heard how efficient they are weather wise. Your writing is impressive and I look forward to traveling to many of these great places!

greatstuff profile image

greatstuff 4 years ago from Malaysia Author

@teaches12345, thanks for the visit and commenting. Saudi Arabia has its charm and despite the horrendous driving by some mindless drivers there, driving through Saudi Arabia landscape is a wonderful experience. You will be amazed at how nature can turn desert to grassland when there are rainfalls. What I like most is the changing colors of the desert as you drive along the journey.

teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 4 years ago

Thanks for posting information on this area of the world. It is fascinating and I have heard of its beauty from others. Perhaps some day, I would journey there to experience this first hand.

greatstuff profile image

greatstuff 4 years ago from Malaysia Author

@spartucusjones Thanks for the compliment and I am glad this hub have given you an insight into a country that many thought is just desert!

greatstuff profile image

greatstuff 4 years ago from Malaysia Author

Om, unfortunately Saudi Arabia is not an easy country to get tourist visa. You either enter the country on a business or pilgrim visa. Even when I was working there (with an employment visa), for my family to visit me, the process of applying for their visit visa wasn't that easy. So Abha may not be on your to-visit list, unfortunately, unless you work there or enter on business visa!

greatstuff profile image

greatstuff 4 years ago from Malaysia Author

@krsharp05, the souk or bazaar/market is always a great place to visit. I always make a point of visiting these places, when I travel including going to the flea market. The desert sceneries in Saudi Arabia can change from almost white sand desert to dark red sand and the mountain changes in color as well as you drive along their vast landscape. Thanks for the compliment

spartucusjones profile image

spartucusjones 4 years ago from Parts Unknown

Very informative, detailed and well laid out hub! I definitely learnt a lot about a part of the world that I was unfamiliar with.

greatstuff profile image

greatstuff 4 years ago from Malaysia Author

@watergeek. Actually, the video original title is Abha City- Saudi Arabia. Maybe I should add my own title to give a clearer explanation. I do agree the video can be confusing as it is a long video and have almost everything that they were doing while in Abha, with no proper 'scripting'.

I use this video as it covers the rain, food, paragliding, cable car and the scenery.

watergeek profile image

watergeek 4 years ago

Great article, greatstuff. I especially liked the video. Do you have a title for it? I was a little confused about what it was about at first.

Om Paramapoonya profile image

Om Paramapoonya 4 years ago

I was one of those who assumed deserts were pretty much everywhere in Saudi Arabia. It's great to learn that there are also places with mild weather and forests. I think I'll put Abha on my to-visit list! Thanks for this wonderful travel guide.

krsharp05 profile image

krsharp05 4 years ago from 18th and Vine

Awesome hub greatstuff. You deliver a lot of information and have beautiful photos as well. The mountains seem almost black but they are really pretty in the distance. I think the market would be wonderful to visit. Thanks for the fantastic and informative hub. -K

greeneryday profile image

greeneryday 4 years ago from Some tropical country

greatstuff, right now I am not in KSA, but I will someday...thanks!

greatstuff profile image

greatstuff 4 years ago from Malaysia Author

@greeneryday . Thanks for the visit and commenting. Are you in KSA right now?

greeneryday profile image

greeneryday 4 years ago from Some tropical country

Very detail and informative hub, I doubt I could find better hub about Abha than this one. Voted up for awesome.

PS : I am definitely going to visit abha someday, thanks!

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