UNWTO adds Saudi’s Rijal Almaa to list of ‘best tourist villages’ in world

By Shilpa Annie Joseph, Official Reporter
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Rijal Almaa
Representational Image

The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has recognized Saudi Arabia’s Rijal Almaa as one of the best tourism villages in the world.

Rijal Almaa was selected from among 175 nominations from 75 countries. The village, which is 45 kilometers west of Abha, in the mountainous Asir region is a unique example of Saudi Arabia’s diverse heritage and culture.

The Rijal Almaa village is comprised of 60 multistory palaces constructed of natural stone, clay, and wood. Further, it stands at the heart of ancient trade networks linking Yemen, the Levant, Mecca, and Medina.

Princess Haifa Al Saud
Princess Haifa Al Saud
Assistant Minister – Tourism
Saudi Arabia

“The Best Villages Program aims to celebrate and recognize outstanding examples of rural tourism that combine cultural and natural assets. That is exactly what Rijal Almaa represents. The village is a unique expression of Saudi culture. Nestled in green mountains of the Asir region, in the south of the Kingdom. At the heart of ancient trade routes connecting Yemen and the Levant, Mecca, and Medina. And with a unique heritage. We are proud of the efforts that have been taken to preserve the village and its unique culture and to ensure that these can be shared with the world.”

According to the statement, the UNWTO’s Best Villages Program intends to celebrate and recognize outstanding examples of rural tourism that combine cultural and natural assets, preserve and promote community-based values and sustain traditional lifestyles and production techniques.

The AlUla Framework for Inclusive Community Development through Tourism, which was announced during Saudi Arabia’s G20 presidency last year, provides the foundation for the Best Villages Program. The program celebrates a commitment to sustainability and the use of tourism as a force for positive change within communities.

UNESCO, the UN body that recognizes and protects unique culture and heritage, has added the village to its list of tentative World Heritage sites and has compared it with France’s Mont Saint Michel, as an excellent example of the preservation of unique architecture and history reflecting the unusual location of the village.

Related: Saudi Arabia’s Soudah Development wins UNWTO’s affiliated membership