Al Baha: The Shada Al Ala Mountain Reserve, located in the Al Baha Region, some 20 kilometres northwest of Al Makhwah governorate in Saudi Arabia, is an extension of the Sarawat Mountains, known for their impressive heights that reach about 2,200 metres above sea level.
The majestic rock formation adorning the Tihama Plain is a geological marvel. Formed over millions of years, its aesthetic beauty and diverse ecosystem make it a vital part of the Saudi Arabia's biodiversity. This unique geological feature fosters a rare ecosystem characterised by abundant and varied plant and animal life.
There is a strong drive going on in the kingdom to preserve the rich plant and animal diversity of the reserve, particularly endangered species like the Arabian tiger and mountain ibex, the Saudi Press Agency reported recently.
These efforts aim to not only protect the area's natural beauty and raise environmental awareness but also promote scientific research and support sustainable local initiatives like Shada coffee cultivation and beekeeping, all of which contribute to the region's development.
From the towering peak of Jibal Mussala Ibrahim, the highest point in the reserve, the mountains roll down, reaching 500 metres above sea level at the serene Wadi Malil. This distinctive nature marvel stands out in the Tihama region, where a steep granite mountain rises prominently.
More than just scenic, Shada Al Ala's plant life is a testament to nature's bounty. Among the reserve's over 500 plant species are the familiar olive and juniper, alongside delights like the Namaqua fig and tamarind, and medicinal and aromatic plants, such as the hop-bushes and basil.
A haven for diverse wildlife
The Mountain Reserve is also a haven for diverse wildlife. Arabian leopards, mountain ibexes, Arabian wolves, lynxes, mongoose, foxes, hyenas, hyrax and baboons are some of the wild animal species that inhabit there.
The area also boasts a rich avian population, both resident and migratory, that includes brown eagles, buzzards, kestrels, storks, warblers, Arabian babblers, and starlings. The reserve is also home to various reptiles, such as pond turtles, snakes, and lizards.
For thousands of years, humans have inhabited this reserve, leaving behind ancient artefacts and inscriptions as a testament to their presence. Communities drawn to the area's natural fortifications and abundant resources resided in different parts of this area for centuries, adopting a seasonal lifestyle.
In modern times, locals reside in some 10 villages, including Al Saqran, Al Sur, Al Araba and Al Jawa. Until recently, these villages, with a population of around 2,500, relied on agriculture, cultivating crops like Shada coffee, wheat, corn, millet, and fruits like banana, pomegranate, guava, and peaches.
With its breathtaking landscapes, distinctive rock formations adorned with ancient inscriptions, and historical sites, the reserve has become a popular destination for visitors from within the kingdom and beyond.
- With inputs from SPA