Saudi’s Farasan Islands eyes UNESCO’s MAB list position

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
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Saudi Farasan Island
Representational Image

Saudi Arabia’s Farasan Islands Marine Sanctuary will soon become the first Saudi natural reserve registered in the Man and the Biosphere Program (MAB) at UNESCO.

“We are working on our Twitter account,” tweets Minister of Culture and chairman of the board of directors of the Saudi Heritage Preservation Society Prince Badr bin Farhan. “Our country is dear because of its people and its natural and cultural diversity.”

The region is considered as a cultural and tourist treasure because of its virgin islands which are strategically placed to the highly significant Bab al-Mandab strait and its many palaces and heritage sites, which had previously been a meeting point and place to rest for commercial and military ships.

Each island in Farasan contains historical imprints and a heritage dating back to ancient periods set by cruise ships left by imperial ships, in addition to industrial history, having been the German coal depot during World War II. All this gives these islands, which have an estimated total area of 1050 square kilometers, historical significance.

The over 12,000 residents of the area live almost exclusively on the main Farasan Island and have a unique maritime lifestyle. Ships and sailboats are major means of transportation to those who reside by the diverse islands on the colorful shining water which sits on top of the coral reefs, alongside diverse marine life, including whales, dolphins, sharks, turtles.

The region also has its own annual fishing festival, Al-Harid which began decades ago but has been canceled this year because of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The Saudi Society for the Preservation of Heritage is working to register the Farasan Islands on UNESCO’s MAB before the registration deadline in September.