Rijal Almaa Heritage Village in Assir Region
Permanent Delegation of Saudi Arabia to UNESCO
Assir, Rijal Almaa Province
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Rijal village located in the Assir Region, and is the capital of the Rijal Almaa Province. The village was a natural corridor linking those coming from Yemen and the Levant to Makkah and Madinah which makes it an important regional commercial center. The village consists of about 60 palaces built from natural stone, clay and wood, and the palaces consists of several floors. The Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities has adopted a rehabilitation project for the village with the participation of partners from the public and private sectors. The village contains a heritage museum established by the efforts of the local inhabitants in order to save their regional heritage, and they have turned one of the forts into the museum headquarters since 1985. The Village of Rijal Almaa is located 45 km west of the city of Abha, a mountainous area bordered to the east by Al-Souda Center, and from the North Mahayel Asir province, and from the South Al-Darb province, on the west by the Red Sea.
Rijal Almaa in History:
Rijal Almaa has been known for their involvement in the wars for a long time, and here are the most prominent battles in which they participated:
- Al-Tabari mentioned that they were involved with Bariq and Ghamd with 700 solders (mostly from Bariq) in the battle of Al-Qadisiyah.
- They participated in the protection of Madinah as a stationed garrison there.
- The Asiri men showed courage (among them Rijal Alma’) at the Battle of Besel near Taif against the forces of Muhammad Ali Pasha, and remained in the battlefield till they died after their associates fled, Burckhardt mentions that they tied their legs together when they saw some of their associates escape.
- In (1238 AH/1822 AD) Rijal Almaaand Bani Mghaid decided the overthrow the Sharif who worked for the Ottomans in Asir, the coup succeeded, which was led by Saeed bin Maslat and thus became governor of Asir.
- The Ottomans realized the seriousness of those active political movements in Rijal Almaaduring its reign over the region, and gathered a huge army of 50,000 solders led by Ahmed Pasha to eliminate them. Ahmed Pasha managed to occupy Al-Khamis, Abha and Al-Saqa but was defeated in Rijal Alma’, and then the Asiri tribes forced the signing of the independence of Asir from the Ottoman Empire, this was on the (11 Muharram 1241 AH/Aug. 28 1825 AD), and the Convention was the first of its kind in the Arabian Peninsula.
- Rijal Almaawere able to defeat Ibrahim Pasha when he decided to discipline them to accept the Ottoman rule in 1251 AH/1835 AD, and it is worth mentioning that Ibrahim Pasha is the one who annihilated the first Saudi state that extended its territory to most parts of the Arabian Peninsula and some parts of Syria.
- Rijal Almaaparticipated with large numbers of their troops in Prince Ayed ibn Mer’i Army during the reign of his son Mohammed, and participated in the annexation of parts of Yemen to Asir, including Sanaa.
- The Turkish commander Suleiman Pasha who was the acting Ottoman ruler in Asir acknowledged the strength of Rijal Alma’, as he says in his memoirs: "and Al-Idrisi fully knows that I do not agree to exit from Abha to Rijal Almaato maintain the influence of the government and fear of being doomed”. He also says: "In order to go down from Abha to Mahayel I must pass an obstacle called " Aqbat Al-Qadha’", which are the Mountains of Rabi’ah and Rafidah overseeing Rijal Almaaand is one of the territories of Al Mousa, but when going down the soldiers become exposed from the side and come under the attack of the tribes of Rijal Alma’. Therefore, it is not permissible for a military movement in these areas only after an agreement with Rijal Alma’. He adds: "the force led by Sharif Faisal Beig (who later became king of Iraq) in Al-Quoz if they are not able to hit Rijal Alma’, why is it sitting there? Why our new forces there became disabled from work as is the case for the rest of our troops”.
- Rijal Almaaparticipated in Al-Qaher war with the largest number of solders that numbered 250 fighters, followed by Shahran with 200 fighters, followed by the Bani Shehr with 140 fighters, followed by Bani Amr.
- The Rijal Almaatribes represented a rugged obstacle in the access to Ayed bin Mar’ei for the Ottomans, where they were strong supporting force for this Governor, Ahmed Pasha says in a letter sent to Muhammad Ali Pasha: "if we win Rijal Almaathe issue of Ayed and Reedah will become easier".
- Due to the military superiority of the Rijal Alma’, Ahmed Pasha tried recruiting them doubling the amount of money to that he gives other Arabs. Where they were offered twenty French riyals for each Sheikh leading a hundred soldiers, four French Riyals for each soldier from Rijal Alma’. He tried to convince Muhammad Ali to stop them from contacting Ayed bin Mar’ei. Ahmed Pasha was ready to go to Abu Arish for this task, but the Khedivial rejected this proposal and stopped his plans, where its response was: "if they accept to take, such as amount taken by Arabs who obligated themselves soldiers in Makkah is well, otherwise we shall not pay them more than the others". And who tracks accounts finds that Khedivial has blocked all ways for Ahmed Pasha’s scheme aimed at the destruction of Ayed bin Mar’ei force, he mentions that his defeat in 1241 AH/1826 AD in Asir was at the hands of Rijal Almaa(alone), where they are the only ones from Asir with Saeed ibn Muslat governor of Asir at that time. As well as he mentions the defeat of Ibrahim Pasha in front of Rijal Almaain 1251 AH/1836 AD. Therefore, Ahmed Pasha worked to pull the rug from under the feet of Ayed bin Mar’ei, so when he loses the support of Rijal Almaahe will lose the most important force championing and supporting.
- In 1233 AH/1817AD, a force from Rijal Almaaled by Sheikh Qasim bin Ali attacked returning Turkish forces from Al-Sarat, where Hosni Pasha gathered a strong army to attack Rijal Alma’, and the Rijal was better than Asir Al-Sarat where the Egyptian and Turkish campaigns directed, and the Rijal managed to eliminated this campaign and defeat them, as the Rijal have asked Hamoud Abu Mismar for the lack of support for of their fellow inhabitants of Al-Sarat to their side for what they inflected after the Turks entered Tabbab, and saddened Hammoud and rode the wave of Asiri resistance against the Turks and sent a force with Hassan ibn Khalid to support Rijal Almaain the war. As a result, the Ottoman forces sent an army to attack the Abu Mismar for standing with Rijal Alma’, and this was the battle near Al-Darb where Rijal Almaastood with Abu Mismar in gratitude to his stand, and they were able to defeat the Turkish army..
- A battle between the army of Al-Idrisi and Al-Sharif in the Ballahamar County. The number Al- Idrissi men were 4.300, and were as follows: Rijal Almaa1.000 soldiers, Mahayel 800 soldiers, Asir Al-Sarat 700 soldiers, Ballahamar 700 soldiers, Sharan 600 soldiers, Qahtan 500 soldiers.
- Cornwallis description of Rijal Almaatribes: “although few in number compared to some other tribes, they are perhaps the most famous tribes in courage and boldness in wars, and in the internal unity and pride in their independence”.
- In Jamada I 1218 AH/Aug. 1803 the 500 armed men from Rijal Almaaattacked 8 ships coming from Yemen, they chased them for two days and then over took them, and in that Ismail Al-Hafzi says in a letter to Prince Abdul Wahab Abu Nuqta: “that is virtue of Allah bestows on whom He will, and Allah is the ultimate creditor, and from the facts of this virtue, and because Allah singled out Rijal Almaa in Al-Shaqeeq sea they returned with eight Zaim (Leaders) of the infidel’s ships charged from every type headed for Jeddah, captured by Muslims, and looted) and killed it who were in them except for three people from Yemen”.
The inhabitants of Rijal Almaa took care of agriculture, the most important crops include: corn, millet, coffee, several fruits, vegetables and a variety of trees that litter the area, and also cared for livestock and animal husbandry and benefiting from them. They knew all types of meat and butter extracted from the milk of high-quality and unique taste, the inhabitants also adopted this wealth with agriculture in the formation of the basics of their food. Rijal Almaa are famous the production and export of the finest honey which the inhabitants used as food and medicine.
Commerce and Trade:
Rijal Almaa is famous for its diverse markets motivated the area, was known by the inhabitants and named by the days of the week; where each tribe holds a market by regulating issues and maintaining a dynamic exchange among people from other tribes in the market. Some of those markets were beyond the business nature holding agreements and solving disputes. The area was an important commercial center for the country because it attracts trade convoys from neighboring areas along the Red Sea coast. These markets are still exist to this day despite the fact that the tribal nature is gone and now dominated by government and civil organizations.
Architecture of Rijal Almaa:
Rijal Almaa constructed their homes from solid stone, and mud and climbed with their homes until some reached three stories known to them as forts, and the remains of these buildings are still existing till this day.
Rijal Almaa Museum:
The permanent Heritage Museum of Rijal Almaa was established in 1405 AH/1985 AD with a general initiative of the province inhabitants in order to save the heritage of their area, Al Elwan Fort was chosen that was founded by Al Elwan family a foundation in the village of Rijal Alma’, being the largest of the forts. The fort was renovated with the cooperation of the inhabitants of Rijal Almaaeach according to his potential and experience. The sons of the village collected old objects donated by the people, and women of the village contributed to the decoration of the fort under the supervision of the local artist Fatima Ali Abu Qahhas, later many of them donated their old ornaments of silver and some of their savings. The work in the museum was completed, and it gained a lot of support, concern and encouragement by those interested in tourism. It was inaugurated by HRH Prince Khalid Al-Faisal, former Emir of Asir region in 1407 AH/1987 AD, and the museum began to exercise its role of cultural tourism conduit since then, until it became a world tourist destination year round, the number of visitors has increased after the opening of the cable car project in Al-Souda and securing transportation between Al-Uos station and the museum; it played an important role in facilitating the visit to the museum, especially in the summer, when the tourist season peaks, some statistics showed visitors to the museum is to nearly 30,000 visitors in 1419 AH/1997 AD and increased more in the summer of 1420 AH/2000 AD.
The museum has received numerous awards, including:
- Meftaha Award for the year 1421 AH/2001 AD.
- HRH Prince Sultan bin Salman Heritage Architectural Award.
- Provincial Heritage Preservation Award for the province of Rijal Almaain 1427 AH/2006.
Justification of Outstanding Universal Value
Rijal Almaa Traditional Village in Assir was built on the hands of the men of this region and that with their efforts were capable to preserve the heritage of this region and collect it in one of the fortresses of this majestic village. The beginning of the village construction was not in its current location, but it was in Um sedrah which lies to the west of the current location and then was moved, the village was described as a jungle with running water, the village was capital of Hilli Emirate in the reign of its governor Mousa Al-Kanani in the year 730 AH/1329 CE, mentioned in 550 AH/1155 CE as a civic centre, perhaps it derived force presence through the dedication of its people to trade when they made it a commercial station receiving Red Sea trade through the ports of Al-Qunfudah, Al-Qahmh and Jizan and Indian trade through the port of Aden. It had a customs office for received goods; its trade reached parts of the southern region and was a vital scientific centre with scholars from around the southern region.
Criterion (v): The Traditional Village of Rijal Almaain Assir is an outstanding example of a deliberately preserved traditional settlement, representative of a culture that has become vulnerable under the impact of irreversible change. This village, which developed mainly during the 10th century AH/8th century CE, not only represents the architectural subgroup within the Assir Region but also bears witness, for the Kingdom as a whole, to the traditional forms of rural life which were generally abolished by the agricultural revolution in the 20th century.
Criterion (iv): The Traditional Village of Rijal Almaain Assir is an outstanding examples of traditional human settlements that are perfectly adapted to their environment and their social and economic raison d’être.
Statements of authenticity and/or integrity
Integrity: The property includes the most important elements and components of the village and the surrounding landscape: the deliberately preserved traditional settlement, the farm lands belonging to it, the wider landscape and the natural environment with all its character-shaping elements. The traditional settlement and its landscape environment, shaped by land-use, together with its fortification that organize and orient the landscape's panorama, form a harmonious and intact entity in its visual appearance.
Authenticity: The Traditional Village of Rijal Almaa in Assir, was organized in a homogenous way, preserving heritage elements and traditions that characterize it. The preservation of the traditional techniques of The Traditional Village of Rijal Almaa in Assir architecture, the local use of materials and forms, as well as the historical, village structure have been maintained. The Banana plantation, orchards and gardens have been preserved; the ecological balance has been maintained even in the forestry environment, taking special care to respect historical authenticity. Thus, The Traditional Village of Rijal Almaain Assir is not a museum village devoid of any traditional activity, but a living community whose conservation includes farming.
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