Sunday, June 4, 2023
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The City of Fog

AL-NAMAS, SAUDI ARABIA (AFP) – As Saudi Arabia swelters in sizzling desert temperatures, some are escaping to the ‘City of Fog’ – a mountainous oasis of cool where warm clothing is needed even in summer.

Sitting with friends on a picnic blanket, under light rain and a thick, swirling mist in Al-Namas, Abdullah Al-Enizi wears a body-warmer over his traditional white robes to guard against the chill.

The retreat, 2,800 metres above sea level in Saudi Arabia’s rugged south, is in stark contrast to other parts of the vast, largely desert country where summer heat of up to 50 degrees Celsius is an annual challenge.

At Al-Namas, humid monsoon weather keeps temperatures below 30 degrees Celsius, dropping as low as 15 degrees Celsius at night, as fog blocks out the sun over verdant hills.

“It’s 46 degrees in Riyadh and only 20 here, it’s 26 degrees lower,” said Al-Enizi at the holiday destination, about 850 kilometres south-west of the Saudi capital.

An aerial view shows people sitting by a promontory in al-Namas in Saudi Arabia’s Asir Province. PHOTOS: AFP
People in al-Namas in Saudi Arabia’s Asir province

“We’re escaping the heat. Here, it’s cool and the rain and fog are here nearly all the time,” added the semi-retired Saudi, 45, who drove about 12 hours from Riyadh.

Around his group of friends, families enjoy the breeze as their children run around in the fresh air, rather than being cooped up in their air-conditioned houses as usual elsewhere in the country.

Clusters of holidaymakers in raincoats and woolly hats sip Arabic coffee and crowd under umbrellas, while kites flutter in the wind.

“Before we came, we packed all our winter things!” said Nouf, who did not want to give her surname, while making sure to do up her daughter’s coat.

Tourist authorities have built a “fog road” for hikers and cyclists traversing a high summit that overlooks the mist-shrouded mountains.

Khalaf Al-Juheiri travelled to Al-Namas with his wife and children from Tabuk, in Saudi Arabia’s north, to enjoy the “cool weather”.

“We really miss this weather when the temperature goes over 40 degrees in summer” in Tabuk, said the 33-year-old civil servant, covering his head against the rain.

In 2020, a study published by the Science Advances magazine showed that the Gulf region has the hottest and most humid climate on the planet. Because of global warming, some Gulf cities could become uninhabitable before the end of this century, experts say.

Thanks to its altitude and strong winds, Al-Namas escapes the worst of the increasing heat, said Hassan Abdullah, a Jordan-based official from the WASM weather technology company.

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