Friday, February 26, 2010

RIHLAH 2 [Day 2] : Asir Province – Al Habala


In the morning of our second day in Asir province have failed us in travelling with its cable car.  We hope we won’t be failed for the second time.  Now is the time to continue with our 2nd destination.

The 2nd destination of our 2nd Rihlah is Al-Habala/Al-Habalah, a unique village in Asir province about 60 km from Abha (as suggested by Mohammed Al-Shamrani, hubby office colleague which he told me was a powerful member of Abha tribe ;-)).

"The Hanging Village of Habala" gets the name from the meaning of Habala itself. The name means 'rope valley' or 'the ropes;' derived from the fact that the village located at 300m cliff was once accessible only by habal (rope ladders).
The village inhabited about 350 years ago by Khatani tribes who sought the most inaccessible location as a means of protection from the Uthmaniah (Ottoman) empire. 

The village was also originally inhabited by a tribal community known as the "flower men" because of their custom of wearing garlands of dried herbs and flowers in their hair.

It was until 1980 that all 80 families of the tribe from this village was relocated by the King Faisal Foundation, a charity organization; to a village a few miles away where each family got their own villa.  Subsequently, the government built this park and cable car down into the canyon, where the now ruined village can be viewed from near the cable car station on the rim of the escarpment.  Habalah was the site of the first cable-car system in the Kingdom.

Right after Friday prayer, we continue our search. Again, it is a great challenge as we can’t find the GPS coordinate.  Here goes our hunting again of driving around with ‘big eyes’ (well not so big specially mine ;-)) wide open.  Again, sight of a cable car banner attract our eyes.  What we did after that is follow the banner that was hang along the poles of the main road which were not that many as well. 

Alhamdulillah, our search comes to an end.  It was worth searching.  The view of the valley was breathtaking even before riding the cable car.  We need to experience riding on the cable car specially with hubby’s friend recommendation to taste ‘mandi’ down there which were superb.  Not ‘mandi’ as in malay word of taking shower but it is a type of rice in Saudi :-). 

Charges for the cable car :

Adult  - SAR40

Children (6-12 yrs)  -SAR25. But its negotiable!

We get SAR200 for the whole family (they just charged adult) which subsequently reduced further by SAR20 when Atok nicely talking to them.. ;-).  The cable car last operate at 6:30 pm.

The ride was not that long though.  Just about 4-5 minutes but can feel the thrill for the ‘soft-hearted’ people as it is very steep…more than 45 degree down to the village.  Looking down from the top station can make you feel dizzy as well..again..for ‘soft-hearted’ people.

Our parents at first resist to ride as they can felt or imagine the twitch of  the journey down below but as usual we said ‘It’s once in a lifetime experience!  Don’t waste the chance!”.

Habala we come!


For those who loves challenge, grab the chance!  Can feel how the Khatani tribe did it for 350 years.


New hanging village of Habala as seen from the approaching cable car. Note: The cable car in Habala Village is the steepest cable car we ever ride. Its short, like 5 minutes rides.. but its ‘really’ scary. Not for faint hearted.


Down at the village…fresh air.


Spot the baboons? Arabian baboons (Papio hamadryas) or also known as 'sacred baboons' may be the only originals inhabitants (besides the cactus/plants) of the village. We see a lot a baboons along our way from Abha to here.


Had our kapsa for SR45.  As usual..too much even for 9 people.  Great view for enjoying late lunch.


Another view from eating area.  Twitch your stomach when the kids stand/sit closed to the fence.


Easily can find mosque, one great thing here in Saudi. Up to you wanna pray or not..


See the rope?  Someone said that the rope was used by the tribe to transport people, goods and frightened livestock in and out of the village...


Up view from the hanging village. Imagining the villagers looking up at the Ottoman army that couldn't reached them..


Magnificent view..


Kakak and abang with Ma in front of cable car

Another day to appreciate the nature.  Masyaallah..prove of Allah Greatness.  Time to go back to Abha for our stay of the night.  Tomorrow, we’ll be heading to another province..Jizan.

Jizan…here we come. - tw

Rihlah 2: Asir Province - Abha


11 Feb 2010

With our parents are here and its the school semester break, so we decided to embark in another rihlah or journey. This time covering our current resident country, Saudi Arabia.  The plan is to visit 3 provinces (out of 13 provinces) of Saudi i.e. Asir, Jizan and Makkah over 8 days journey.

Our 1st destination is Abha, main city of Asir province, about 1200km from Riyadh.
Abha, being 2,200 meters above the sea level with its mild climate all year long is one of the popular tourist destination among the Saudis and expat alike, especially during summer.  Some of the homes here are made from stones and mud which were build by hand and are over 300 years old.

Picnic as usual for ‘fueling’

Journey with 9 peoples onboard is really.. happening ;-) Started off from Riyadh at about 8am, stop for brunch at 11.30am, and a couple more stops for re-fueling and "de-fueling" ;-), we reached Abha at 8.30pm.  Getting a hotel there was not that hard.  We pay SAR150/room and get two room for all of us.  That night we just strolled around the hotel area, get us some food while enjoying the night view.  The greeneries and flowers of the side walk and the cool breeze makes you felt like being in Europe. 

Abha in the morning

One of the many colorful buildings

View of Abha from top of the mountain

12 Feb 2010

One of the main attraction in Abha besides the fresher air, greener and more colourful city is the Jabal Al-Akhder or Green Mountain. We're lucky because eventhough its still consider winter time, the weather was nice and the sky was clear. From on top of the mountain, we could see Abha city with its green and colourful scenery.  Even some of the buildings are very colourful surely attract our eyes.

We knew that there is a cable cars in Abha that can bring us to see its surroundings providing a view of the landscape. The cable car will bring us to the village of Rijaal Almaa, a 40 minute drive down the mountains to the south-west of Abha, contains 5 and six storey traditional houses dating 400–600 years old built from local stone and quartz. One of the houses has been converted to a museum, contains examples of traditional women's and men's attire, ornamentation, farm implements, household utensils, and even old jailers.

However, finding the cable car itself is challenging itself as we couldn’t find the signboard.  After driving around for sometime, we saw a banner of a cable car restaurant.  Alhamdulillah, after going round and round for a while, we manage to find the place.  Sadly, we were told by the restaurant staff who was there that the cable car was closed.  Not sure why as they don’t speak English and we do not speak Arabic.  Still, we get to savor our eyes with wonderful view of Abha from top of the mountain while the kids enjoy playing around with its nice surroundings.

Cable car which were unoperational for the time being ..donno why

At the cable car station compound.  Great view and surrounding as well.

Easily can find flowers around here.

As we fail to get on the cable car here, we will continue with our next search at another place still within Asir province around 60km form Abha.  Habalah…here we come! - tw

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Iris Tak Menjadi (2nd Attempt of Iris) Trip


Trip No: x
When:  05 Feb 2010
Where:  About  140km from Riyadh 
GPS Coordinate:
Kambing Rating: 7/10
Total Trip Time: Half day

Following our 'dried' Iris Flower Trip last year (, we decided to make a 'revenge' this year. Knowing that the Iris is only blossoming during mid-January to end of February every year, and with our parents are here for a short visit, as to impress them that they could see flowers in the middle of the desert :-), we then took course and heading to Tumayr last Friday (5-Feb-2010).

Together with Faris family, we off to Tumayr after Jumaat/Friday prayer.

This time we are coming with very high hopes as we only able to see the dry stem last year. Reaching Tumayr, the gun replica helps us to remember where we should start going off-road. Though we have GPS to assist but the off-road track from previous trip was not available. The off-road trip scares our parents a bit as it is not a usual drive they have had experienced. We tried to find the easiest path as this time Faris and his family whom joining us was driving Mazda 3, not 4x4 like us. We tried to identify the dam and the farm of the Saudi family who were being very nice to us. We hope to meet them but knew that they are only available at the farm on Thursday. Maybe next time insyaallah we hope to meet them again.

Seeing the dam relieved us as we knew we are going at the right direction but this year round the dam is dry. I remember last year there are water like a pond at the  dam. We passed through the dam and the farm with great memories. The path to reach the field is also drier this time.

As we reached there, the excitement goes down as it was not as expected. Only a few buds blooming within a small area. Nothing at all like the pictures of the flowers blooming last year. We know it is not because its out of season this time. We guess this year round, the Iris doesn't bloom like the other year could be due to very less rains. Even my kids school hold special prayer calling for rain for quite few times. Seems like it was not our luck this year, again. Meaning that we need to have another 'revenge' next year!

imageFlowerless’ Iris field…

imageAh, found one.. so shy.

image Picnic is a must, anywhere we go ;-)


Our parents new experience, picnicking at the middle of the desert.

imageKids are always kids.. always creating and looking for their own activities regardless where they are. 

Well, at least we have seen the real flower instead of just dried stems like we did last year. Does this mean that we need to stay for another year to try our luck?? Well...we as human can plan but Allah know what is store for us.

So...for those who plan to find the Iris, maybe can skip it this year, unless you just want to fill your weekend and have another good time picnicking with family and friends, like we did. – tw&th

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Alhamdulillah, they are here…

Alhamdulillah, finally our parents are here in Saudi. They reached Riyadh today, Feb 4 2010 by Singapore Airlines. After all those hassle we need to go thru to bring them, it feels very good to see them here.

They will be here for a month, and depending on their level of ‘suitability’ and ‘comfortability’ being in Saudi, we may apply for the visa extension later on.

We have plan some activities and places to visit while they are here, but most of it will be on the weekends. The challenge is to make them feel busy and occupied during the weekdays….

The 1st activity is to bring them to see the beauty of Iris flowers in Tumayr, 140km away from Riyadh. We have been there last year in March, and instead of experiencing the beauty of the flowers, we have experiencing the beauty of the Saudis instead.

Are we going to experience the flowers beauty this time? InsyaAllah…