Rijal Alma, it’s the reason why I came to Abha. Pretty with tons of history, it will get Unesco status any day now. But how I got here is more important.
Two days ago the Uber driver dropped me off at the Saudi Tourism Board’s office building when the hotel I planned to stay at didn’t exist. I told the workers that I came to see Rijal Alma. They said the cablecar isn't running this time of the year, I could drive, but I already knew there were no rental cars available for me in town.
Some other guy interrupted, "You come by yourself? No guide? Why do you come here? It is too difficult to travel. Come back in five years when we have things. This is my job". Turns out he is an engineer working on brining infrastructure for tourism to Abha. He said that if I stayed until the weekend he would take me, showed me around town and brought me to a hotel in the center and even got the them to cut the price by almost half. Today he spent 10 hours driving me around the 'Asir Region. At Rijal Alma I found out that he is the leader of its restoration project. Not having to pay admission was nice, and so was watching him yell at workers to open locked doors so I could see everything. It was so special to see this place before it is ruined; across the street they are building the first hotels, inside some of the old buildings will be a spa.
Even cooler though was the traditional lunch afterwards, a trip to the barber, meeting two of his brothers for tea and shisha, and finally stopping at the house he grew up in for coffee with more brothers.
Everyone I met today was so welcoming, always asking me to stay for dinner, that I can spend the night at their house if I needed.
The biggest takeaway today was when he was explaining the importance of the Friday noon prayer. “You are Christian or Catholic?” he asked. “Uhhh, I’m Jewish” "Why are you shy about Jewish, we don’t care. You are my friend. We are brothers"
This is traveling.
#travel #adventure #asir #rijalalma #saudiarabia #foodporn #fujifilm