Uruq Bani Ma‘arid Reserve provides natural habitats for iconic desert animals such as gazelles and the Arabian Oryx.
RIYADH – Saudi recently marked the inclusion of Uruq Bani Ma‘arid Reserve in the UNESCO World Heritage List. Uruq Bani Ma‘arid Reserve is Saudi’s first UNESCO Natural Heritage Site, and its seventh site with UNESCO World Heritage status.
Located at the western edge of ar-Rub al-Khali (The Empty Quarter), the 12,750-square kilometre Uruq Bani Ma’arid Reserve is a largely untouched desert ecosystem that has more than 120 plant species and 526 animal species including endangered animals.
Uruq Bani Ma’arid Reserve has been a protected area by Royal Decree since 1996 and its inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage List as a Natural Heritage Site underscores the significance of preserving natural heritage. The Saudi Government funded a three-year management plan that kicked off in 2021 to transition the property from a protected site to a World Heritage site. There are now more than 140 staff managing the site as well as a ten-year plan to ensure the long-term integrity of the site which has been zoned according to use: wilderness zone (54%), sustainable resources use zone (44%), nature- culture ecotourism zone (2%), general use zone (less than 0.5%).
Alhasan Aldabbagh, President of Asia Pacific Markets at Saudi Tourism Authority (STA), said: “The recognition of Uruq Bani Ma‘arid Reserve as a UNESCO Natural Heritage Site is a testament to Saudi’s dedication to preserving our ecosystems and championing our natural heritage. The goal is to achieve a balance between conservation and sustainable development, which is in line with the objectives of Saudi Vision 2030.”
Saudi has six other sites that have been granted UNESCO World Heritage Site status in recognition of their cultural significance and Outstanding Universal Value:
Ḥimā Cultural Area (2021)
In addition to housing some of the Middle East’s most significant ancient desert wells, some of whichar e 3,000 years old and yet still functional, Ḥimā Cultural Area in southwest Saudi Arabia has possibly more than 100,000 petroglyphs (prehistoric rock carvings) and rock inscriptions in various scripts including Arabic, Aramaic-Nabatean, South-Arabian, Thamudic, and Greek. These date as far back as 7,000 years. Well preserved, the spectacular markings provide a visual history of the area, across which ancient armies and caravans once traversed.
Al-Ahsa Oasis (2018)
Al-Ahsa Oasis is the largest oasis in the world. Located in the eastern part of the Arabian Peninsula, it includes springs, a network of canals, more than 2.5 million palm trees, gardens, historic buildings, and archaeological sites that illustrate the history of human settlement and the evolution of cultural traditions in the area.
Rock Art in the Hail Region (2015)
Jabal Umm Sinman at Jubbah, Jabal Al-Manjor and Jabal Raat at Shuwaymis, located near the city of Hail, have a large number of well-preserved rock inscriptions and rock art. Carved using stone hammers, these markings include depictions of humans and desert animals, chronicling 10,000 years of life in an area that used to have a lake, as well as how ancient inhabitants were affected by environmental challenges.
Historic Jeddah, the Gate to Makkah (2014)
An ancient port established in the 7 th Century, Historic Jeddah on the Red Sea’s eastern shore was the gateway to Mecca for pilgrims arriving by boat as well as an important port along the Indian Ocean trade routes. With a cityscape that reflects its vibrant commercial and cultural history, Historic Jeddah is one of the few remaining places with buildings that showcase Red Sea architectural traditions.
At-Turaif District in ad-Dir’iyah (2010)
Located near Riyadh, the At-Turaif District in ad-Dir’iyah was the first capital of the Saudi Dynasty. Dating ack to the 15 th Century, the district encompasses a historic citadel that was once the centre of power, as well as the remains of many palaces.
Hegra Archaeological Site (al-Hijr / Madā ͐ in Ṣāliḥ) (2008)
Saudi’s first UNESCO World Heritage property, Hegra Archeological site is one of the largest conserved Nabataean sites in the region. It includes monumental tombs and facades dating as far back as the 1st Century BC, inscriptions that are even older, and wells that illustrate the ingenuity of the Nabataeans.
Vicky is the co-founder of TravelDailyNews Media Network where she is the Editor-in Chief. She is also responsible for the daily operation and the financial policy. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Tourism Business Administration from the Technical University of Athens and a Master in Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Wales.
She has many years of both academic and industrial experience within the travel industry. She has written/edited numerous articles in various tourism magazines.