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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - AL-WAJH: Al-Wajh, on the Red Sea coast, is one of the most attractive Saudi cities. With a long history of welcoming sailors and visitors, it is a fitting setting for the first stage of Dakar Rally 2020.
The old city’s pristine environment, barely touched by development projects, has placed it high on the list of cities to visit for locals and tourists alike in modern times but its location was primeval.
According to local newspaper columnist and media figure Ahmed Al-Balawi, historians differ on the origins of the name, which translates as “the face.”
“The most acceptable one is that the city is located on a relatively high plateau above the Red Sea, and is considered to be the starting point of the land of the Hijaz region for people sailing from the African continent. It is the first area of the Arabian Peninsula that they ‘face’ when approaching land.”
Al-Balawi said that historians believe that the port of Al-Wajh has been known since ancient times, even before Islam, and was used by the Nabateans. The city is known for the remains of a Roman port at Al-Qusayer, 45 km to the south.
“The port became vitally important during the Islamic era, especially during the Ayyubid, Mamluk and Ottoman dynasties.”
Al-Balawi said that Dakar Rally 2020 had received great media coverage, and “this means media will focus on the city, which has all the necessary tourist attractions beginning from the moderate weather throughout the year, the presence of virgin beaches, picturesque islands, diversity of fish, coral reefs, diving, archaeological castles and houses and mosques; the thing that will definitely have a great impact on the development of the city.”
“I am thrilled to see the Dakar in our city for the first time. This means the city will be globally known through the international media coverage that is expected to accompany the events,” he said.“This major historical sporting event will allow young people of Al-Wajh to learn more about the race. This could pave the way for the local talents to practice this type of sport and hopefully become champions.”
Al-Balawi said that the governorate of Al-Wajh is part of the Red Sea Project and the mega project of Amaala.
“Al-Wajh is the nearest sea port to AlUla and is to the south of the $500 billion megacity of NEOM. All these factors are expected to significantly contribute to the development of this city, raise economic growth rates and create new job opportunities for the citizens,” he said.
Al-Balawi said that the only thing the residents, estimated at 45,000, are currently in need of is that investors speed up implementing the investment opportunities that the city has provided. “These include establishing commercial malls and recreational zones,” he said.
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