Arriving in Abha, perched 2200m above sea level, is a shock to the senses. Not only is it palpably cooler – or colder (hail and ice are not unheard of in winter), but it’s the neat green lawns, marigolds, mountains and mist that make the greatest impression.
Attempting to explain the stark contrast to the torrid, torpid lowlands below, the locals talk rather unkindly of the giant, invisible air-conditioner that points to Abha, with its back to Jizan.
Some tourists (particularly the Japanese) are disappointed by Abha; for some it’s too much like their home country. For the Saudis, however, the cold, mist and rain is all a bit of a novelty and they flock here (along with other GCC citizens, particularly Kuwaitis) to escape the relentless heat and humidity of the lowlands during summer.
Unfortunately, this has seen the rise of unchecked and uncontrolled building, which has resulted in a rash of carbuncle-like concrete apartments on Abha’s gentle hills.
Last updated: Feb 17, 2009
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