By Abdullah Al-Qahtani
THE people of Tihama Asir describe themselves as “forgotten villagers” who live far away from civilization. Their development dreams are modest. These include a specialist hospital that serves the dozens of villages in the wadis and foothills of the mountainous region, establishment of schools for the village children, paved roads that connect the villages to the nearby cities and projects that will woo tourists to enjoy the beautiful natural landscape.
Mufrej Yahya Al-Rubaee, a native of the region, said Tihama Asir is one of the tourist hubs in the southern Asir region but it lacks essential basic facilities and services including healthcare.
“We need a specialist hospital to serve the people of Tihama and nearby villages,” said Al-Rubaee while speaking to Okaz/Saudi Gazette.
At present the residents of Tihama have to cross long distances to reach the closest hospitals such as Asir Central Hospital and Darb General Hospital, Al-Rubaee said. “Taking victims of accidents and floods to far-off hospitals would endanger their lives,” he added.
He emphasized that the construction of a new hospital in Tihama would be a big relief for people living in this mountainous region. Services provided by public health centers are not satisfactory as they neither have enough doctors and nurses nor the facilities to take care of patients.
Most public healthcare centers operate only in morning hours and people have to depend on private hospitals and clinics to get treatment. Most people in Tihama are poor who depend on social security payouts to meet their daily expenses and they cannot afford private healthcare.
Tihama villages also lack municipality services and roads. “Motorists have to drive through sandy and rugged roads with the exception of paved roads constructed by individuals. But even these paved roads would not last long due to rains and a lack of maintenance.”
Al-Rubaee referred to the suffering of students commuting to schools by traveling in buses plying on these rugged roads. “This is one of the biggest problems facing the people of Tihama.”
Ali Mohammed Aseeri backed Al-Rubaee and called on the authorities to establish schools in Tihama villages. “At present students and teachers have to travel long distances to reach schools. They travel in buses and taxis crossing dangerous roads,” he added.
He criticized the municipality’s poor services in Tihama Asir, which is a highly populated area. Budget allocations for its development in the past have been meager, he pointed out.
Ali Jabir Aseeri highlighted Tihama Asir’s tourism potentials and urged public and private sectors to establish tourism projects. “A lack of services would affect tourism in the region,” he added.
He urged the municipality, the health department, the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage and the Transport Authority to improve facilities in Tihama Asir to attract more tourists to the region and boost the national economy.
Ahmed Mohammed Abdullah urged the authorities to develop historical sites and tourist resorts in Tihama Asir and its neighboring villages to promote domestic tourism.
“Al-Nadir village is full of heritage homes and their residents have abandoned them long time ago,” he said. “The tourism authority and the local municipality should take steps to conserve them in order to woo tourists to the region.”
Maraee Al-Qahtani, resident of Al-Makr village, said the huge dam in the village attracts a large number of visitors every year. “It’s an attractive place located between two mountains,” he said, adding that businessmen should be given opportunities to carry out tourism investment projects there.
Saad Mubarak Al-Mureef spoke about tourist resorts in Souh and its beautiful valleys. He called for implementation of the disrupted Souh road project. “We expect a large number of tourists to come to Souh to enjoy its natural beauty,” he added.