Tourism in Saudi – Dhee Ayn in the Baha Region
Did someone actually say “Tourism in Saudi”? Is that even possible? Yes it is true that the country has been closed to tourists for many years but it is starting to open up…. slowly. OK very slowly but that doesn’t meant there is nothing to see, quite the contrary. Believe it or not, Saudi Arabia is a country with many hidden secrets and Dhee Ayn is one of them.
Over the last vacation, we decided to finally explore this country and we opted for a road trip. Our main objective was to reach the Farasan Islands but as it is so far from Jeddah, we thought we would make use of the pit stops we would necessarily have to make to discover more than just one place. One of the planned pit stops was Dhee Ayn or the Marble Village as it is sometimes referred to. I chose this spot quite at random really. We had been invited to spend the night at a friend’s house near Baha and I simply looked on google maps for something interesting to see before we would arrive at our first destination. And I am very glad I picked Dhee Ayn. It turned out to be an incredible place, in many ways.
How to get to Dhee Ayn?
Let’s start with the location. Click HERE to access the google map pin and get some driving instructions from where you are. From Jeddah, we followed the coastal highway –Route 5- to Mudhaylif, then the mountain road –Route 246- all the way to Dhee Ayn. This is the fastest and shortest way and it is very easy to get there this way. The other option via Route 15 may be more scenic but it is much longer. Also during the Hajj season, the roads around Makkah are blocked and you will have to make an even lengthier detour.
What is Dhee Ayn?
Dhee Ayn is basically an old traditional Saudi village with houses built of flat stones using an ancient technique that required pretty much no mortar or cement. What makes Dhee Ayn even more interesting is that the entire village has been preserved! This is really unique because most, if not all, of the ancient village structures of Saudi Arabia have long since disappeared. Ancient houses and old villages have been destroyed to make room for newer constructions or have been left to crumble down. In fact, as you keep driving towards Baha, you will see many remains of old watch towers, houses and walls.
Only the people of Dhee Ayn seem to have understood the importance of preserving their history, their ancient craftsmanship, and some memories of time long gone. They all agreed to not only keep, but maintain all the old houses as well as the luxuriant gardens below the village in which they still grow bananas, lemons and basil among other things.
Is it worth it?
Totally. It is worth the long and tiring drive. It is totally worth the small entry fee. It is totally worth the leg cramps you’ll get from climbing to the top of the village. It is worth it big time! Just check out some of the pictures I took.
I also made these videos:
After we finished walking around the village, climbed up to the highest house, went down to check out the two small waterfalls and the lush gardens, we stopped to picnic. They have set up some family size picnic “huts” with a clever car park space right next to each hut and a central playground area for children. The little huts are clean and shaded. Perfect picnic spot.
After that we went back on the road to our friend’s house near Baha. This time we took the scenic mountain road. Very long and difficult drive but OH MY GOD we were treated to the most spectacular views. Panoramic mountain scenes at every bend. We kept oooohhhhing and ahhhhhing all the way. The whole area around Baha is amazing and the road itself is worth the trip.
We arrived late at our friend’s house and were received with the legendary Saudi hospitality. We were made to feel right at home and the whole family came to meet us. They even took us for a drive around the area. They knew the history of every small village and family. They showed us what we would have missed on our own. If you are lucky enough to know someone in the area, try to get an invite. It won’t be hard as it seems to be in the nature of Saudis to make people feel like welcomed guests. This would give you a different view of things and will make your trip even more amazing.
The next day, we left our hosts to continue our road trip. They recommended we keep following the scenic mountain road down. They call it the tunnel road because there are more than 20 tunnels. The road is spectacular but also dangerous in some places and it is better to avoid driving there at night, especially if you are new to the area and/or not used to mountain roads and their very sharp curves. We reached Abha a few hours later and there too, some surprises were waiting for us. But that’s another story…