Farasan Islands – Saudi’s Quaint Island Haven
Located in the Red Sea, just off the coast in the south-western part of Saudi Arabia, lies the Farasan Islands, an archipelago consisting of more than 80 islands though only 3 of which are inhabited.
It’s a nice, quaint little haven, a hidden gem within Saudi’s multitude of tourist destinations. With only 3 of the islands being inhabited, nature is able to truly take root across the rest thus allowing the flourishing of a variety of wonderful creatures, one of which is the popular and endangered, Farasan Gazelle. These can only be found on the main island and currently number less than 700 in total.
Birds are also quite a popular sight for tourists with many intriguing species such as the White-Eyed Gull, Crab Plover, Osprey and Red-billed Tropic Bird. The land and sky aren’t the only places with interesting animals, as the waters around the islands are home to 231 various species of marine life which include the endangered hawksbill turtle, Manta rays, dolphins and even whale sharks. The diversity of aquatic life present is what led the archipelago to be declared as a marine sanctuary in 1996.
Another intriguing construction of nature is Farasan island’s Mangrove forests. It’s something wholly unexpected for a region such as Saudi Arabia but is able to exist thanks to the coastal brackish waters which allow the Mangroves to flourish on various parts of the island.
If you’re in the mood for a more man-made wonder, then Farasan island has a fair bit of historic architecture to check out. Qassar Heritage village is one of the oldest places on the island dating back to the time of the Roman. Its’s modern-day incarnation has been reconstructed to showcase how the people of the past may have lived there.
The Beit Al Refai house is an especially striking structure that was built back in 1922. The place was owned by a well-known pearl merchant, Beit Al Refai, who was one of the wealthiest persons in the region. The house was built with coral stones and coated with gypsum and sported beautifully engraved windows. Time has not been kind to this beautiful construction with the years wearing it down as they pass by. Its current state is one far from the original but, nonetheless, the house still stands as an archetypical representative of Farasani architecture.
Farasan Island may not be a massively popular tourist destination but as such is able to offer a more tranquil experience for visitors and sometimes, that’s exactly what your trip needs.