Sixth Saudi site makes UNESCO heritage list

Sixth Saudi site makes UNESCO heritage list
3 min read
24 July, 2021
Saudi Arabia is now home to six UNESCO world heritage sites.
Hima is the sixth UNESCO heritage site to be listed in the kingdom[Getty]

A sixth site in Saudi Arabia has been added to UNESCO's world heritage list, the UN organisation announced on Saturday.

Hima, in the Gulf state's southwest, is home to one of the largest rock art complexes in the world.

"New site inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List: cultural area of Hima, Saudi Arabia. Mabrouk (congratulations)!" UNESCO announced.

Hima features more than 34 separate sites including rock inscriptions and wells along the route of the ancient Arabian caravans.

Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan Al Saud, the Saudi culture minister, welcomed the listing, the official SPA news agency reported.

The kingdom has a "rich heritage (of) human civilisations. Efforts have borne fruit in making it known to the world," it quoted him as saying.

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SPA said Hima was a conduit for caravans on the trade and hajj routes to and from the southern parts of Arabia.

"People who passed through the area between pre- and post-historic times have left behind a substantial collection of rock art depicting hunting, wildlife, plants, symbols, and tools used at the time, as well as thousands of inscriptions," the news agency said.

The site covers 557 square kilometres (215 square miles).

SPA said the wells in the area are more than 3,000 years old and were considered a vital source of fresh water in the vast desert of Najran province.

"They still serve fresh water to this day," it added.

Other UNESCO sites in Saudi Arabia include rock art in the Hail region and historic Jeddah.

In 2019, Riyadh announced that for the first time it would grant tourist visas for those wishing to visit Saudi Arabia.

Previously, the country was open only to businessmen and Muslim pilgrims visiting the holy cities of Mecca and Medina.

Saudi Arabia's new tourism strategy is hoping to pull the kingdom into the top five tourist destinations in the world by 2030.

The National Tourism Strategy aims at creating a million new jobs in the kingdom's growing tourism industry, in a move to diversify the economy away from a reliance on oil.

This move by the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage also hopes to nationalise large portions of the sector such as tourism offices and tour organisers. 

The strategy aims to create more work for Saudis in restaurants, hotels, transport, construction, souvenir shops and similar services.

These are jobs that have traditionally been low-paid and dominated by foreigners and it is not clear if Saudis will fill these roles.

Riyadh's reputation has been damaged with the murder of Jamal Khashoggi by leading security officials, at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is steering the kingdom's diversification plans, has also been criticised for a crackdown on activists, including women's rights' campaigners.