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Introduction

Abha is a city in Saudi Arabia. The capital of Asir province, its high altitude makes it a popular summer getaway for Saudis.

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Sights and Activities

Lookout at Mt Sooda. Trip to Habala Hanging Village - couple of hours. Trip to Turkish Fort - also couple of hours - fabulous views down a valley towards Yemen. Many older houses made of mud brick, with slates sticking out to fend off the water. Many nests in bushes of weaver birds. Most hotels will put on tours if enough people interested. One trip in August it actually hailed very hard!

Try driving down the road from near Jabal Sawda (it's insane-see picture), almost as good 'Monkey Road' heading to Mohayil or the road to Taif over the mountain range all the way.

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Events and Festivals

Milad al-Nabi

All Saudi Muslims celebrate the birthday of their Prophet, Mohammad, by elaborately decorating their homes and mosques. Children recite poems about the Prophet, while older Saudis tell stories about Mohammad’s life and accomplishments. Large feasts and street processions are among Milad al-Nabi’s other traditional activities. The date of Milad al-Nabi varies from year to year according to the Islamic calendar.

Unification of the Kingdom Day

The country’s only secular public holiday takes place each September 23 on the anniversary of Saudi Arabia’s 1932 founding. Although many Saudis still choose to quietly celebrate this formerly low-key holiday at home, growing numbers of young Saudis have chosen to express their national pride more overtly by singing, dancing, honking car horns, and waving Saudi flags.

Eid ul-Fitr

Like their Muslim counterparts in other nations, Saudis mark the final day of the fasting month of Ramadan with this three-day religious festival. Eid ul-Fitr begins with a small morning meal and quiet prayers, and continues with larger feasts and livelier celebrations among family and friends. Saudi children receive money and elaborately decorated gift bags from adults, several shopkeepers add free gifts to all purchases, and Saudi men secretly leave large bags of food on strangers’ doorsteps during this festive time of year.

Eid al-Adha

This important Muslim festival lasts four days and marks the moment when Ibrahim was willing to sacrifice Ismael, his son, for Allah. Today, most Saudi families celebrate Eid al-Adha by dressing up in their finest clothing, saying special prayers, and slaughtering lambs to share their meat with everyone.

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Getting There

By Plane

There are flights to Abha from Riyadh and Jeddah.

By Car

The drive to Abha from Khamis Mushayt can be very interesting trip, but as usual drive carefully. The road from Sharourah via Najran is daunting, but interesting - up and down ribbon across the dunes, with an old version off to one side for many km. There were camel warning signs along it, but some were single hump silhouettes, others had 2 humps!

You can also drive in from the west coast, with lots of winding roads, bypassing old washed out bridges, lots of signs of floods, some picturesque villages etc., or from the north from Taif - lots more twisty roads, and not as interesting as going to the coast. Neither trip offers much in the way of accommodations, so be prepared to camp out.

By Bus

The national bus company SAPTCO has multiple daily services from all major cities in Saudi Arabia. Abha bus station is located just north of the city centre.

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Sleep

Abha Palace Hotel (فندق قصر أبها).

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Keep Connected

Internet

Internet cafes abound in major Saudi cities, and many shopping malls feature a gaming parlor or two. Rates are around SR5/hour.

While Internet in Saudi Arabia is cordoned off by a filter, it aims primarily at pornography, non-Islamic religious and domestic political sites in Arabic, and (from the traveller's point of view) is nowhere near as strict as, say, China's. Google, Skype, Wikipedia, all major webmail providers etc. are all accessible.

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

The three mobile operators in Saudi, incumbent Al Jawal, Emirati rival Mobily and Kuwaiti newcomer Zain (Vodafone Network) are fiercely competitive, with good coverage (in populated areas) and good pricing. A starter pack with prepaid SIM and talktime starts from about SR 75, and you can sign up in most any larger mobile shop (bring your passport). Local calls are under SR 0.5/minute, while calls overseas are around or less than SR 2/min.

And yes, you can bring in your own phone: despite grumblings from the clerics, both camera phones and multimedia messaging (MMS) are now legal.

Post

Saudi Post has a good network of post offices around the country, but offices are closed Thursday and Friday. Stamps for postcards to anywhere in the world cost SR4. The bigger problem is actually finding postcards, as the mutawwa periodically crack down on the celebration of non-Islamic holidays like Valentine's Day, Christmas or even birthdays, causing all cards of any sort to disappear from bookstores! Your best bet is thus gift shops in major hotels. Mail coming in to the country from overseas is notoriously unreliable. Stories abound of things arriving months after they were sent or never arriving at all. There are branches of DHL, FedEx and UPS operating throughout the kingdom, so a good rule of thumb is to have anything important sent through those channels.

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Abha Travel Helpers

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This is version 3. Last edited at 14:18 on Oct 1, 19 by Utrecht. 1 article links to this page.

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