Saudi Arabia’s caves: more than just rock cavities

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Over 300 caves have been discovered in the Saudi Arabia’s deserts. (Tareq Mohammed)
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Over 300 caves have been discovered in the Saudi Arabia’s deserts. (Tareq Mohammed)
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Over 300 caves have been discovered in the Saudi Arabia’s deserts. (Tareq Mohammed)
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Updated 14 April 2024
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Saudi Arabia’s caves: more than just rock cavities

  • Formed over millions of years, efforts are underway to turn them into tourist sites
  • Geometric features unique to the Kingdom, plus mild temperatures, make it a year-round tourism industry

MAKKAH: Over 300 caves have been discovered in the Kingdom’s deserts. A divine gift to Saudi Arabia, these earth treasures were formed in the ground in the shape of unique geometric landmarks, natural sculptures and fascinating limestone and gypsum shapes.

Large numbers and different types of deep and superficial caves and “duhool” (caves lying below the earth’s surface) are found in the Kingdom. They formed over millions of years following the dissolution of limestone rocks due to rain and floods leaking into the ground through cracks and faults, resulting in cavities of different sizes and lengths.

Mahmoud Al-Shanti, a senior geologist specializing in caves and “duhool” at the Saudi Geological Survey, told Arab News that the SGS is working on locating caves, exploring their interiors and studying their types and formation.

He said these caves are considered a valuable natural national treasure that attract explorers, researchers and those interested in the field.

“As the lava of the volcano stops flowing in the subsoil, the last remaining quantity of the lava rushes forward, leaving behind an often regular longitudinal vacuum,” he said.

“When this quantity stops flowing and completely hardens, it creates a cave or a volcanic tubular tunnel that extends beneath the earth’s surface. Examples of this type of cavities are the Ghar Al-Habashi cave in Harrat Al-Buqum, and the Umm Jirsan cave in Harrat Khaybar, north of Madinah, which is about 1,500 meters long.”

He also talked about “duhool” and caves made of limestone rocks in the northern border areas, the central region and the eastern region of Saudi Arabia.

He explained that they are called limestone caves, adding that limestone is a hardened sedimentary rock composed of sediment shells, living remnants, and dead micro and macro marine organisms. All these components gathered and accumulated on top of each other randomly under the waters of lakes and oceans over millions of years, forming rigid and coherent rock layers as a result of constant pressure and cohesion, which resulted in this type of rock called limestone rock.

He said there are other species of mammals that also live inside the caves, such as weasels and wildcats. In the Kingdom’s deserts, there are some carnivores that take shelter in caves, such as foxes, hyenas and wolves. These animals take care of their cubs inside the dark tunnels during the day and go out at night to hunt.

Tareq Mohammed is a young Saudi man in his twenties from Madinah. He specializes in cave tourism and has delved deep into geotourism in the Kingdom.

Mohammed said: “When we talk about geotourism, the first thing that comes to mind are beaches, forests, deserts, mountains, underground wells, hot springs and areas of dormant volcanoes. But Saudi Arabia is also full of monuments and caves.”

According to Mohammed, there are five basic types of cave in Saudi Arabia based on their geological division: ice caves, which are formed of ice in cold regions; marine caves formed by waves, oceans or rivers flowing into large rocks or mountains, creating large cavities over thousands of years; basaltic caves, known as volcanic caves; limestone caves; and sand caves that form inside sandy mountains.

“An example of basaltic caves is the Maker Al-Shaiheen cave, which is classified as the longest basaltic cave in the Middle East with a length of about 3,700 meters,” he said.

The cave, a long tunnel formed by volcanic lava, was made when the surface of the lava began to freeze, with the lava below ground remaining as liquid due to the high temperature.

“The lava continues to flow until it reaches the end of the tube. The dimensions of the cave vary between 4-12 meters in width and 1.5-12 meters in length,” he said.

The Maker Al-Shaiheen cave is located in the west of the Kingdom in Harrat Khaybar, Madinah region.

He added: “Al-Qarah Mountain in the eastern region is an excellent example of sandy mountains. As for limestone caves, they are formed by the dissolution of biodegradable rocks. Rainwater mixed with carbon dioxide dissolves the limestone, leaving cavities underground.

“Al-Murabba (square) cave and the Tahaleb (algae) cave are examples of limestone caves. The Tahaleb cave is characterized by moisture and the presence of some types of algae at its entrance, hence the name,” he said.

“These caves are the most beautiful in terms of their different formations and shapes, such as the different limestone stalactites and stalagmites.”

He added that the central region of the Kingdom is characterized by these types of caves, advising everyone to try cave tourism throughout the year, as the caves’ temperatures remain constant between 24-26 C.

He said that any visit should be led by a specialized guide, who will highlight the characteristics of the caves.

Firas Al-Hazabi, a tourist who is passionate about cave tourism, said it is an amazing and different experience filled with suspense and excitement, adding that these caves are not visited enough by tourists.


Saudi, Kosovo officials discuss parliamentary ties

Updated 25 May 2024
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Saudi, Kosovo officials discuss parliamentary ties

RIYADH: The Saudi-Kosovo Parliamentary Friendship Committee, led by Khalid Al-Bawardi, the committee’s chairman and Saudi Shoura Council member, met with Kosovo’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Kreshnik Ahmeti and other officials in Pristina.

Discussions aimed to boost bilateral relations and parliamentary cooperation between the Shoura Council and Kosovo Parliament, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Saturday.

Faisal Hifzi, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Albania and non-resident ambassador to Kosovo, Montenegro, and North Macedonia, attended the meeting.

Additionally, the committee met with Podujeva’s Mayor Shpejtim Bulliqi and discussed cooperation in municipal affairs. The mayor praised Saudi Arabia’s environmental conservation efforts.

The Shoura Council delegation also engaged with local companies, reviewing Kosovo’s future projects and discussing opportunities for economic cooperation.


Saudi authorities arrest 17,030 illegals in one week

Updated 25 May 2024
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Saudi authorities arrest 17,030 illegals in one week

RIYADH: Saudi authorities arrested 17,030 people in one week for breaching residency, work and border security regulations, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Saturday.

According to an official report, a total of 10,662 people were arrested for violations of residency laws, while 4,147 were held over illegal border crossing attempts, and a further 2,221 for labor-related issues.

The report showed that among the 1,119 people arrested for trying to enter the Kingdom illegally, 71 percent were Ethiopian, 27 percent Yemeni, and 2 percent were of other nationalities.

A further 65 people were caught trying to cross into neighboring countries, and 17 were held for involvement in transporting and harboring violators.

The Saudi Ministry of Interior said that anyone found to be facilitating illegal entry to the Kingdom, including providing transportation and shelter, could face imprisonment for a maximum of 15 years, a fine of up to SR1 million ($260,000), as well as confiscation of vehicles and property.

Suspected violations can be reported on the toll-free number 911 in the Makkah and Riyadh regions, and 999 or 996 in other regions of the Kingdom.


KSrelief continues aid projects in Sudan, Somalia, Lebanon and Yemen

Updated 25 May 2024
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KSrelief continues aid projects in Sudan, Somalia, Lebanon and Yemen

RIYADH: The Kingdom’s aid agency KSrelief  continued its humanitarian projects in Sudan, Somalia, Lebanon and Yemen.
In Sudan, the agency distributed 950 personal hygiene kits to displaced and needy families in Kosti, benefiting 5,463 individuals. In Wad Sharifi, 330 food parcels were provided to displaced families, benefiting 1,710 individuals. 
Meanwhile in Lebanon, KSrelief continued its implementation of the Al-Amal Charitable Bakery Project in Akkar and Miniyeh. The project distributed 150,000 loaves of bread daily to Syrian and Palestinian refugee families, or about 62,500 individuals.
In Yemen, 897 food parcels were delivered in Al-Abr, benefiting 6,237 individuals, as part of the Kingdom’s humanitarian initiative.
in Somalia, KSrelief continued providing medical services in collaboration with the Kidney Dialysis Center at Banadir Hospital in Mogadishu. The center catered to a total of 384 patients and assisted dialysis, medical examination and emergency sessions.


12 arrested in qat smuggling attempt in Saudi Arabia

Updated 25 May 2024
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12 arrested in qat smuggling attempt in Saudi Arabia

  • A separate smuggling attempt of 70kg of qat was thwarted in Jazan Region

RIYADH: Saudi authorities arrested 12 Yemeni nationals for attempting to smuggle 266kg of qat through the borders of Asir region, state news agency SPA reported.
The items were seized and handed over to the relevant authority, SPA said on Friday.
A separate smuggling attempt of 70kg of qat was thwarted in Jazan region. Border authorities said the suspects were arrested and the seized items were transferred to relevant authorities for further action.

Mostly chewed by users, Qat is a mild stimulant and illegal across most of the Arab world.

The government has urged citizens and residents to report any information they have regarding drug smuggling or sales to the General Directorate of Narcotics Control. Reports can be made by calling 911 for Makkah, Riyadh and the Eastern Province, and 999 for other regions. Alternatively, information can be emailed to [email protected]. All reports are treated confidentially.

 


Saudi foreign minister meets French counterpart, discusses bilateral relations and situation in Gaza

Updated 25 May 2024
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Saudi foreign minister meets French counterpart, discusses bilateral relations and situation in Gaza

PARIS: Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Faisal bin Farhan bin Abdullah met on Friday with French Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs Stephane Sejourne in Paris.

The two ministers discussed Saudi-French relations and ways to enhance them as well as improve coordination on various issues of mutual concern.

The two officials also discussed the current situation in Gaza and its surroundings and the need to deliver humanitarian assistance to the civilians in the enclave.

The meeting was attended by Saudi Ambassador to France Fahd bin Mayouf Al-Ruwaili, Foreign Minister’s Office Director General Abdulrahman Al-Dawood and Ministry of Foreign Affairs Advisor Dr. Manal Radwan.