THE DEVELOPMENT OF TOURIST CAVES
IN THE KINGDOM OF SAUDI ARABIA
Forti, John J. Pint, Mahmoud Al-Shanti, Abdulrahman J. Al-Juaid, Saeed A. Al-Amoudi
and Susana I. Pint
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.