JEDDAH: The city of Najran on the edge of the Empty Quarter — one of the world’s largest sand deserts — is fast becoming Saudi Arabia’s most promising tourist destination, as visitors come in search of historical sights and tales of generations past.
Between November and March when seasonal winds ease, the desert offers the promise of adventure for hikers and nature lovers, while others prefer the relative comfort of road trips.
The vast sea of sand extends from the Al-Arid mountain range and nature reserve to Yadamah Province’s high Uruq Al-Mundafin.
Home to unique desert vegetation, the reserve is considered a sanctuary for a number of threatened desert species, such as the Arabian oryx, the Arabian red fox, the ostrich, the goitered gazelle and Arabian bustard.
Tourist guide Mohammed Al-Mustanir told Arab News that the Bedouin, with their rich social traditions and desert survival skills, are a major attraction for visitors.
“Raising camels is still their trademark, and they take care of their herds across the sandy regions from Uruq Bani Zabadah to Hamra Nathil,” he said.
According to Al-Mustanir, tourist groups visiting Najran in the past two years made the Empty Quarter and the archaeological sites of Hima wells a top priority.
“What distinguishes the Empty Quarter from other deserts is the difference of the sand dunes in terms of color, form and height,” he said.