Saudi Arabia’s Soudah Peaks: the luxury mountain destination at the Kingdom’s highest point

Visitors and residents will have abundant opportunities to enjoy Soudah Peaks with year-round outdoor activities in the clean, cool mountain air, from mountain trails and hiking paths to paragliding, mountain biking, horse riding, and zip-lining. (Supplied)
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Updated 10 December 2023
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Saudi Arabia’s Soudah Peaks: the luxury mountain destination at the Kingdom’s highest point

  • The area stands 3,015 meters above sea level and offers adventurers, thrill-seekers, and lovers of serenity a special place in Asir

RIYADH: Soudah Peaks, a sustainable luxury mountain destination under construction by the Public Investment Fund’s Soudah Development, lies in the southwest region of Saudi Arabia.

It stands 3,015 meters above sea level — the highest point in the Kingdom — and will offer adventurers, thrill-seekers, and lovers of serenity a special place in Aseer.

“Soudah Development and Soudah Peaks, as a destination that our company has been developing under the ownership of the Public Investment Fund … we believe, has done something very, very important,” said Srdan Susic, chief sustainability officer at Soudah Development. “Out of 630 sq. km under Soudah Development, we are developing only a small portion of it. So, the built footprint is not going to be very, very large.”

He added 28 percent of the land being used has been placed under numerous forms of natural protection.

Daniel McBrearty, chief development officer for the company, said: “The masterplan for Soudah Peaks epitomizes meticulous design within a sustainable environmental framework, reflecting an unwavering commitment to responsible development. Acknowledging the region’s rich biodiversity, Soudah Development is dedicated to preserving and nurturing these invaluable assets.”




Visitors and residents will have abundant opportunities to enjoy Soudah Peaks with year-round outdoor activities in the clean, cool mountain air, from mountain trails and hiking paths to paragliding, mountain biking, horse riding, and zip-lining. (Supplied)

Susic added that this information is important for the PIF-backed developer to enhance and extend protective coverage of the area.

“We are very keen on restoring around 19 priority cultural heritage sites. The ecosystems around us have been very productive in the past, and this allowed the local communities to build significant assets like old houses, old palaces, old mosques, old integrated villages … some of them we hope to see on UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites list,” he said.

Part of these efforts include a partnership with the National Center for Wildlife, which witnessed the recent release of 10 Arabian mountain gazelles into the wild, with the aim of reintroducing more wildlife to enhance biodiversity.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Part of these efforts include a partnership with the National Center for Wildlife, which witnessed the recent release of 10 Arabian mountain gazelles into the wild, with the aim of reintroducing more wildlife to enhance biodiversity.

• As well as support endangered animals, the developers’ environmental initiatives will plant 1 million trees by 2030 and rehabilitate parks and forests to enhance vegetation cover, conserve biodiversity and restore ecosystems. 

As well as support endangered animals, the developers’ environmental initiatives will plant 1 million trees by 2030 and rehabilitate parks and forests to enhance vegetation cover, conserve biodiversity and restore ecosystems.

Visitors and residents will have abundant opportunities to enjoy Soudah Peaks with year-round outdoor activities in the clean, cool mountain air, from mountain trails and hiking paths to paragliding, mountain biking, horse riding, zip-lining and more. An 18-hole golf course will sit atop the Soudah plateau with stunning views and average temperatures of 20 C.

The serene settings will offer nature lovers a chance to enjoy national parks, a network of hiking trails, local farms and find harmony with nature through a collection of luxury wellness experiences including exclusive eco-spa resorts, meditation centers and yoga retreats.




Visitors and residents will have abundant opportunities to enjoy Soudah Peaks with year-round outdoor activities in the clean, cool mountain air, from mountain trails and hiking paths to paragliding, mountain biking, horse riding, and zip-lining. (Supplied)

Soudah is also home to a rich tapestry of traditional folk music, poetry, art, locally produced honey, coffee farms and local customs passed down over generations. There are more than 200 documented heritage sites, from hamlets, mosques and minarets to watchtowers and mountain forts, and many will be considered for inclusion on the UNESCO List of World Heritage Sites.

There will also be 80,000 square meters of retail area, more than 30 additional attractions, 1,336 residential units, and 2,700 hospitality keys.

“The project encompasses six unique districts — Tahlal, Sahab, Sabrah, Jareen, Rijal, and Red Rock — each offering world-class facilities, from hotels, luxury mountain resorts, and chalets to villas, premium residential units, and diverse entertainment options,” said McBrearty.

Soudah Development and Soudah Peaks, as a destination that our company has been developing under the ownership of the Public Investment Fund … we believe, has done something very, very important.

Srdan Susic, Chief sustainability officer at Soudah Development

“Each district is curated with a different emphasis to cater to sports, adventure, wellness, and cultural enthusiasts. Soudah Peaks’ development is structured across three phases … (with) phase one encompassing over 940 hotel keys, 340 residential units, and 32,000 square meters of retail space.”

Tahlal will serve as the primary hub for tourists, offering upscale dining and shopping, hospitality, entertainment, and conference spaces, all within a sustainable ecosystem. Perched atop Soudah, it offers breathtaking views of the Sarawat Mountains.

The clifftop Sahab district will provide thrilling attractions, mountain experiences, and a hub centered around mountain sports, including hiking, paragliding, biking and zip-lining. A high-altitude performance and rehabilitation center will offer top-notch training facilities for extreme athletes.




Visitors and residents will have abundant opportunities to enjoy Soudah Peaks with year-round outdoor activities in the clean, cool mountain air, from mountain trails and hiking paths to paragliding, mountain biking, horse riding, and zip-lining. (Supplied)

Sahab will also feature 15 glamping pods, over 360 luxurious hotel rooms, serviced apartments, and commercial spaces for entertainment.

Sabrah district, which will be a remote luxury residential and hospitality destination with a wellness spa, yoga pavilion, and meditation retreats, is located on the southern plateau of Soudah Peaks. It offers peace and tranquility, with 180 different types of premium hotel rooms, 350 opulent second homes, and commercial spaces to support the residential community, all surrounded by an authentic integration within the natural landscape.

With Soudah’s green agricultural landscape, Jareen district will adopt a sincere approach to fostering a sense of connection with the natural world. Hiking paths meandering through the heritage sites and agricultural landscape, along with culinary excursions to small organic coffee and honey farms, are sure to delight nature lovers. Jareen will have 35 distinctive glamping pods with a range of boutique stores and dining options perched on the mountainside.




Visitors and residents will have abundant opportunities to enjoy Soudah Peaks with year-round outdoor activities in the clean, cool mountain air, from mountain trails and hiking paths to paragliding, mountain biking, horse riding, and zip-lining. (Supplied)

The Rijal district will offer opportunities to experience authentic culture and heritage by fusing the past, present, and future. This destination, which is surrounded by historic architecture and situated within the Rijal Almaa heritage village, will combine park areas and outdoor event space to provide a variety of year-round events. Rijal will have 80 boutique hotel rooms with chic, heritage-inspired luxury interiors, as well as boutique stores and real food options.

Situated amidst natural parkland on the plateau of Soudah Mountain, nature lovers will discover an abundance of activities including peaceful glamping sites, nature reserves, horseback riding, and cycling trails at the Red Rock district. It will also have 170 upscale boutique hotel rooms and distinctive restaurants perched atop a cliff with views of Red Rock Mountain.

Commencing in 2024, phase one is expected to be completed by 2027, marking the point at which Soudah Peaks will be ready to welcome tourists. This timeline aligns with the overarching plan for the destination to unfold gradually. Abha currently has airport access of 222 flights per week, including 34 international flights.

 

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Soudah Peaks

Soudah Peaks, the highest point Saudi Arabia at 3,015 meters above sea level, is located in the southwest region of Aseer. It is being developed as a luxury mountain destination for adventurers, thrill-seekers, and lovers of serenity. Phase 1 of the project will start in 2024 and is expected to be completed by 2027.


General Authority for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques launches e-portal for iftar spread permits

An e-portal through which people can request permits to provide iftar at the Grand Mosque during Ramadan has been launched.
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General Authority for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques launches e-portal for iftar spread permits

RIYADH: The General Authority for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques has launched an e-portal through which people can request permits to provide iftar spreads at the Grand Mosque in Makkah during Ramadan.

The e-portal aims to facilitate the process of submitting applications for those wishing to provide iftar spreads in the holy month.

Providing an iftar meal to a fasting person is considered a good deed in Islam and is encouraged, and this is why Muslims are keen to host each other during Ramadan and exchange gifts of food.


Dhahran Art Group presents diverse works at 70th show

Updated 03 March 2024
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Dhahran Art Group presents diverse works at 70th show

  • Themed ‘Araaqa: Deep Rootedness,’ the artists presented works in various media inspired by their culture, heritage

DHAHRAN: For four days this week, the lavender carpet was rolled out in front of the iconic Ad Diwan Hall in the Aramco compound leading into the 70th annual Dhahran Art Group show which concluded on March 2.

During the show, the Aramco community came together to listen to live piano, enjoy tasty hors d’oeuvres and mingle with local artists showcasing. This year’s theme was “Araaqa: Deep Rootedness.”

Among the participants was Jordanian artist Suad Sami, a familiar face in the local art scene. Armed with a degree in interior design and an insatiable desire to further her creative passions in every form and medium, she completed a jewelry design course 13 years ago, which inspired her to create a small collection of carefully-curated and thoughtfully sourced stones.

Jordanian artist Suad Sami is among the artists who presented works at the 70th annual Dhahran Art Group show which concluded on March 2. (AN photo)

After teaching art classes locally for a time and realizing she would rather make art than teach it, Sami took a leap of faith and invested in herself by become an entrepreneur.

Arab News spoke to Sami a decade ago when she was only a few years into her jewelry business. At that time, she was known for her horoscope pieces.

As an artist, you always want to sprinkle in a bit of your essence into your pieces, something that is distinctly you.

Suad Sami, Jordanian artist

“I design pieces that can be worn on an everyday basis which is simple yet extravagant, casual yet fancy, simple yet extravagant enough to complement women’s beauty and enhance their style,” she told Arab News in 2014.

Serene Rana. (AN photo)

Fast-forward to 2024, she feels she has evolved and improved on her craft — but her inclination to design elegant bespoke pieces in a sort of curated capsule collection remains. She unveiled two necklaces at the Dhahran Art Group’s annual fine art show.

Discussing one of her jewelry designs on display, she told Arab News: “The sword has been a well-known tangible symbol of strength for Arabs. I designed this one specifically for Founding Day and wanted to bring in something new to the table — not something already available in any shop.

“I always strive to design something timeless and unique, not something the eye has seen. As you know, the gold market in Saudi Arabia is huge so I needed to make something to stand out. As an artist, you always want to sprinkle in a bit of your essence into your pieces, something that is distinctly you.”

Art by Serene Rana. (AN photo)

Also, in an artful symbol of solidarity, Sami showcased a series of paintings she crafted showcasing tatreez, the Palestinian-style stitch. She also showcased paintings of birds perched on a bench.

The Dhahran Art Group show is a cornerstone of the local art community, and to Sami it is about more than just showcasing her works. “I love art in all its forms. My daughter is also a designer and used to display her work alongside me at this show in the past. She moved to Dubai now and became a mother and couldn’t be here today — but I’ll keep the tradition going,” she said.

Because of my heritage — I’m from Afghanistan — I wanted to make art that would reach people and would give meaning and change the way people think.

Serene Rana, Artist

Serene Rana, a towering eighth-grader, found out about the show through her mother, who bought her a small set of acrylic paints and a fresh white canvas a few summers ago. Rana found it to be a fun way to pass the time and to express herself.

Jordanian artist Suad Sami is among the artists who presented works at the 70th annual Dhahran Art Group show which concluded on March 2. (AN photo)

At 13-years-old, this was her first big show. She told Arab News: “I think I’m the youngest one here, so it’s kind of intimidating, but at the same time, it feels like I belong here.”

The self-taught artist proudly displayed multiple paintings as people stopped by to ask her about her process and what each piece meant.

“I had a dream and it kind of looked like this — it was in the galaxy so I painted that,” she said of one of her paintings.

Jordanian artist Suad Sami is among the artists who presented works at the 70th annual Dhahran Art Group show which concluded on March 2. (AN photo)

Her early works were mostly void of people but soon after, she started to insert more of her emotions into the pictures.

“I first painted a landscape; it was like a fairytale almost. But as I kept progressing in my art, I realized that because of my heritage — I’m from Afghanistan — I wanted to make art that would reach people and would give meaning and change the way people think,” she explained.

Her pieces, inspired by pop art and surrealism, represent her journey navigating the delicate and dramatic space balancing teen angst with female empowerment and everything in between.

“I was influenced a lot by the pop art style. I feel every color has a certain emotion, so when I want to convey sadness and when I want to convey anger, I use a different color,” she added.

It took Rana about a year to paint the canvases on display, and she is already planning for the next show.

“I think a lot of these pieces hanging here were influenced by my culture — the cultural richness — but I want to go back to solidifying that one idea. I think in my next painting, I would want to go to my heritage more,” she added.

There were also a wide variety of artists on display of both genders, some seasoned figures like Sami and others new-time artists, like Rana. The diverse works ranged from paintings, large and small sculptures to accessories and mixed-media pieces.

As in the previous 69 iterations, the group show was curated locally by the Dhahran Art Group and each participating artist had the option to include a for-sale sticker on their displayed work.

 


Saudi Arabia’s antiques museum in Tarout unlocks bygone eras

Updated 03 March 2024
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Saudi Arabia’s antiques museum in Tarout unlocks bygone eras

  • Mahdie Maylw told Arab News: “At the age of 15, I started collecting paper currency and amassed notes from up to 190 countries around the world

RIYADH: Visitors to Al-Dirah Asalah Museum on Tarout Island, Eastern Province, can travel back in time and admire Saudi Arabia’s rich history and cultural legacy.

Mahdie Maylw, the museum’s owner, took a chance when he built it, as the space once used to be his grandfather’s house on the verge of collapse.

Today, the museum is licensed by the Ministry of Culture and stands tall as a renovated building designed in a traditional Saudi style.

Visitors to Al-Dirah Asalah Museum on Tarout Island can explore rare and valuable items that provide insights into past civilizations and cultures. (Supplied)

Maylw says he grew up with a love for vintage items that reflect his heritage. He told Arab News: “At the age of 15, I started collecting paper currency and amassed notes from up to 190 countries around the world. I continued this hobby for 15 years, before shifting my focus to collecting traditional artifacts that delve into the lives of our ancestors. I have acquired some rare pieces, such as manuscripts and ancient items used by sailors.”

His museum has a range of documents from manuscripts of the Holy Qur’an to vintage newspapers and notes.

I present heritage for educational purposes, to teach generations to preserve the heritage ... I haven’t even started yet, and the best is yet to come.

Mahdie Maylw, Museum owner

Maylw buys his collection of antiques through auctions across the Kingdom, including Dhahran, Al-Ahsa, and Riyadh. He also exchanges valuable items with collectors, and sometimes he even buys from eBay.

The museum is divided into several areas, including a pottery corner, an electronics room, a book and text corner, a vintage watch corner, and a toy room, among others.

Visitors to Al-Dirah Asalah Museum on Tarout Island can explore rare and valuable items that provide insights into past civilizations and cultures. (Supplied)

The “Bride’s Room” is one of the museum’s most popular sections, displaying various items used in preparing a bride prior to her wedding. The room contains Indian-made furniture as well as a collection of cosmetics ranging in age from 50 to 100 years.

The “Divers Room,” or tawashin in Arabic, is dedicated to the ancient method of pearl extraction. The area contains vintage instruments such as a rope box and a compass which were once used to dive for pearls. The tools are about 70-150 years old.

“The tawashin are pearl traders who, after a journey that may last up to three months, return and open the shells to extract the pearls. They then gather in gatherings to exchange buying and selling,” the museum owner explained.

To preserve the museum’s antique items, Maylw ensures that they are stored properly in climate-controlled and secure facilities, “We make sure to preserve the pieces and do some maintenance on them, and I myself do a complete cleaning of the museum,” he said.

Visitors can also explore a collection of rare and valuable items, such as traditional pottery, manuscripts artworks and household items that provide insights into past civilizations and cultures.

Maylw added that the museum has seen visitors from all over the world such as Spain, Azerbaijan, South Africa, and more. “Within a year, the number of visitors reached 6,000. I receive visitors from all over the world. This is an achievement for myself and for the people of the region.”

Speaking about his future plans, he added: “My ambition is greater than this work that I have done. I present heritage for educational purposes, to teach generations to preserve the heritage ... I haven’t even started yet, and the best is yet to come.”

 


MDLBEAST launches Beast House for music enthusiasts in Diriyah

MDLBEAST on Sunday inaugurated Beast House, a members-only club in Diriyah, Riyadh. (Supplied)
Updated 03 March 2024
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MDLBEAST launches Beast House for music enthusiasts in Diriyah

  • As part of its overarching strategy, MDLBEAST aims to venture into music venues, strengthening the Kingdom’s music ecosystem
  • Beast House, an innovative hub in Jax District, fosters talents, offering a creative space for artists and music enthusiasts

RIYADH: MDLBEAST, the leading Saudi music entertainment company, on Sunday inaugurated Beast House, a members-only club in Diriyah, Riyadh.

As part of its overarching strategy, MDLBEAST aims to venture into music venues, strengthening the Kingdom’s music ecosystem. This includes boosting production capabilities, empowering talents, and curating immersive musical experiences globally.

Beast House, an innovative hub in Jax District, fosters talents, offering a creative space for artists and music enthusiasts.

The club includes a cutting-edge recording studio, production rooms, designated spaces for workshops and music seminars, and a versatile stage for concerts and musical events.

Beast House provides four membership tiers, each with unique benefits. The studio membership, designed for creative individuals, grants access to recording studios and specialized programs to enhance musical skills, fostering engagement with the vibrant creative community.

Ramadan Al-Haratani, CEO of MDLBEAST, said: “Our aim is to establish innovative spaces and a supportive community that (empowers) musical talent and cultivates production capabilities, providing creative individuals with an inspiring environment to transform ideas into captivating music experiences.”

MDLBEAST will unveil new music venues, showcasing innovative ideas and pushing boundaries in the music scene while fostering creativity. In collaboration with NEOM, the company is creating a modern beach club on Sindalah Island, and additional venues are slated for 2024.


Saudi date industry targets East Asian markets, says official

The value of Saudi Arabia’s date exports increased by 14 percent in 2023. (NCPD)
Updated 03 March 2024
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Saudi date industry targets East Asian markets, says official

  • Kingdom’s date exports hit $390m, marking a 14% rise in 2023

RIYADH: The value of Saudi Arabia’s date exports increased by 14 percent in 2023, reaching SR 1.462 billion ($390 million), compared to SR 1.280 billion in 2022, according to a report released by the National Center for Palms and Dates.

By the end of 2023, the number of countries importing Saudi dates had reached 119. The total value of date and date by-product exports increased by 152.5 percent since 2016, from SR579 million in 2016 to SR1.462 billion in 2023, with a compound annual growth rate of 12.3 percent.

The rate of increase in 2023 compared to the previous year and the market entry of about 120 countries “mean a lot to us,” while the cumulative annual rate (12 percent annually) — compared to the base year 2016 — indicates that “we are steadily entering global markets and expanding steadily as well,” said Dr. Mohammed Al-Nuwairan, CEO of the center.

Date exports to Singapore recorded an 86 percent increase in 2023, while South Korea saw a 24 percent increase, and France experienced a 16 percent increase.

Currently, more than 20 Saudi companies are approved by Chinese customs, and this is reflected in the expansion of the Kingdom’s exports of dates to China. There is a focus on East Asian markets more clearly than other global markets, Al-Nuwairan added.

Dr. Mohammed Al-Nuwairan, CEO of the National Center for Palms and Dates. (Supplied)

He told Arab News that Saudi Arabia is not limited to exporting dates only, “but rather the export extends to include date derivatives such as molasses, pastes, and others, which enhances the presence of exports from the sector outside Saudi Arabia.

“East Asian countries are receiving attention from Saudi exports of dates, especially to Singapore, situated in the heart of countries targeted for exporting dates and their derivatives, such as Indonesia, Malaysia, and also China in particular. What supports this is the high demand for Saudi dates, which possess high nutritional values and production quality,” Al-Nuwairan added.

He expects the growth rate of date exports to increase, “or to remain stable at least,” in the next five years.

Al-Nuwairan pointed out that there is a significant trend from local and international partners to invest in the sector, especially concerning plastic wood derived from palm trees, and date products such as powder, molasses, pastes, and vinegar that can be derived from dates.

The date derivatives can be used in various products such as dairy, bakery, ice cream, and confectionery factories.

“We are currently engaged in serious discussions with large international food companies to include date derivatives in food industries,” Al-Nuwairan said.

He affirmed the concerted efforts between Saudi date producers, exporters, and government sectors to support marketing activities in targeted countries. This includes participation in local and international exhibitions, trade missions, facilitating export procedures, and collaborating with the private sector under a joint strategy, all under ambitious and supportive leadership.

Al-Nuwairan emphasized that efforts are ongoing to enhance the presence of Saudi dates worldwide, noting that Saudi date exports have witnessed significant increases in many countries. He pointed out that date exports to China increased by 121 percent last year compared to 2022.

Through its strategy and partnership with the private sector, the National Center for Palms and Dates aims to achieve its strategic objectives, with Saudi dates being the first choice for consumers globally, according to Al-Nuwairan.

The center implements several initiatives, including increasing national exports of dates and their derivatives, improving agricultural and industrial practices to enhance production quality, providing marketing services, and necessary information about the sector, and empowering the sector, he added.