THE DEVELOPMENT OF TOURIST CAVES

IN THE KINGDOM OF SAUDI ARABIA

 

By

 

Paolo Forti, John J. Pint, Mahmoud Al-Shanti, Abdulrahman J. Al-Juaid, Saeed A. Al-Amoudi and Susana I. Pint

 

 

Abstract:

 

Cave tourism is rapidly expanding all over the world and for many countries is a significant element of their economy. Presently, over 90 nations have show caves and their number is increasing year by year.

 

Saudi Arabia has large karst areas and lava fields richly endowed with natural cavities, whose size and characteristics seem to be suitable for easy transformation into show caves.  On the basis of a recent survey of known caves, it is recommended that cave tourism in Saudi Arabia begin with the development in stages of three caves on the As Sulb Plateau, some 250 km north of Riyadh. These caves could accommodate as many as one thousand visitors per day. They could be developed at a reasonable cost and without damage to the karst environment or to the caves themselves. Besides providing a new form of family recreational activity for the Kingdom, cave tours would provide an educational insight into an underground environment almost unknown to the general public. Such show caves would be attractive to tourists because of well developed speleothems, which most people have not hitherto seen, as well as the opportunity to have time to relax in underground cavities that have interior climates cooler and more pleasant than the climate on the surface for much of the year.  Furthermore, sensitive development of show caves in the area would serve to help protect certain karst areas (which recharge important aquifers) from pollution and other damage that may occur due to natural or man-made causes.

 

The development project would principally aim at attracting visitors from among the millions of inhabitants of Riyadh, which is now connected to the As Sulb cave area by paved roads.

 

SGS-OF-2003-6