ABHA: The historical allure of Asir region's ancient palaces and forts has been revitalized to beckon tourists into a modern interpretation of the past.
Scattered across six distinct areas, these architectural gems stand as testaments to eras bygone, each varying in size and elevation. Among the meticulously restored structures are the Abu Nuqtah Palace near Abha's Tabab, the Lahj Palace nestled within Al-Dara village in Abha, and the Wazih and Aziz palaces alongside Al-Musalla fort in Al-Abu Sarah, within the realms of Al-Aziza village in Al-Soudah.
These palaces, some boasting over two centuries of history, crafted from the marriage of stone and wood, have undergone a metamorphosis, emerging as boutique hotels adorned with cafes, restaurants, and modern amenities. Through this transformation, the essence of original architectural splendor remains preserved.
Chairman of the board of directors of Abu Nuqtah Al-Mathami Center, Saeed bin Saud Al-Mathami, noted that the motivation behind restoring these age-old structures was to bolster cultural tourism in the Kingdom, anchored in its abundant heritage. These historic sites, he emphasized, serve as more than tourist attractions; they stand as educators, imparting the region's culture and storied history to future generations - a legacy to be proud of.
Al-Mathami emphasized that the ramifications are far-reaching, benefiting the local economy and ushering in a plethora of opportunities. "We have begun to perceive the economic ripples of these tourism projects," he said.
Abdulaziz Abu Sarah, the overseer of these sites, underscored that these palaces are but a fraction of Asir's historical tapestry, bearing witness to the region's illustrious history. Their significance lies in their role as conduits for transmitting cultural knowledge to the present generation. Demand for these historical treasures has surged, as both young and old revel in the ambiance, cuisine, and folklore they offer.
The process of restoring ancient forts and palaces requires a unique set of skills and knowledge. According to Abu Sarah, the essence must be preserved during restoration, with modern additions primarily focused on cafes and restaurants. Traditional materials rooted in the local environment should guide the reconstruction process, under the watchful eye of regional construction experts.
In Abha, Abdulaziz Makhafa's investment in the four-story Lajh fort has yielded rewarding results. The fort began welcoming visitors last year, and the response surpassed expectations. Visitors relished the opportunity to dwell within its chambers and savor traditional dishes.
Makhafa attributed his venture to the ambitious Vision 2030, championing the preservation and investment in heritage properties.
According to the Saudi Heritage Commission, Asir region boasts 4,275 heritage villages, some boasting a half-millennium of history, alongside 651 documented historical sites adorned with inscriptions and carvings from pre-Islamic eras.