Uruq Bani Ma’arid Reserve has been named Saudi Arabia’s first Natural UNESCO World Heritage Site. The reserve known for its vast sand dunes, unique flora, and endangered wildlife is the Kingdom’s seventh UNESCO Heritage site.
Uruq Bani Ma’arid Reserve
Positioned along the western edge of Ar Rub’ al-KhaIi (The Empty Quarter), the Uruq Bani Ma’arid Reserve spreads over an area of more than 12,750 square kilometers. It is the only major sand desert in tropical Asia and the largest continuous sand sea on the planet.
The reserve encompasses a diverse range of natural habitats vital for the survival of over 120 indigenous plant species. Additionally, it provides a home for endangered animals living in harsh environments, including gazelles and the only free-ranging herd of Arabian Oryx in the world.
“The inscription of the Reserve on the UNESCO World Heritage List as the first Natural Heritage Site in the Kingdom contributes to highlighting the importance of natural heritage on a global scale and reflects the outstanding value of the Reserve,” Prince Bader bin Abdullah bin Farhan Al-Saud, the Saudi minister of culture said in a released statement.
The Uruq Bani Ma’arid Reserve is undoubtedly a spectacle of nature’s beauty. It boasts a world-class panorama of the sands of the Empty Quarter and some of the world’s largest complex linear dunes. This reserve embodies outstanding universal value and is an exceptional showcase of the environmental and biological evolution of flora and fauna in Saudi Arabia.
The Journey to UNESCO Recognition
The inscription of the Uruq Bani Ma’arid Reserve on the UNESCO World Heritage List is a result of joint national efforts by the Saudi Ministry of Culture, the National Commission for Education, Culture, and Science, the National Centre for Wildlife, and the Heritage Commission.
The decision was taken during the extended 45th session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee held in Riyadh.
The inscription of the Reserve on the UNESCO World Heritage List as Saudi’s first Natural Heritage Site signals the importance of natural heritage on a global scale. It reflects the outstanding value of the reserve and contributes to highlighting Saudi’s commitment to the conservation of natural heritage and the sustainable development of natural heritage.
Saudi’s Other UNESCO Sites
The inscription of the Uruq Bani Ma’arid Reserve adds to the six other Saudi UNESCO sites, namely Al-Ahsa Oasis, Al-Hijr Archaeological Site, At-Turaif District in ad-Dir’iyah, Ḥimā Cultural Area, Historic Jeddah, and Rock Art in the Hail Region. Each of these sites bears testimony to the rich cultural and historical heritage of Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi government has shown a strong commitment to environmental conservation, as demonstrated by its efforts to protect and maintain its natural ecosystems. The inscription of the Uruq Bani Ma’arid Reserve as a World Heritage Site is a reflection of these efforts.
The importance of natural heritage and its strategic relevance to Saudi Vision 2030 cannot be overstated. Saudi Vision 2030 is the country’s economic diversification roadmap that recognizes the sustainable development of natural heritage as a critical component.
The Future of the Uruq Bani Ma’arid Reserve
The future of the Uruq Bani Ma’arid Reserve looks promising, with ongoing efforts to protect and preserve its unique biodiversity. The recognition by UNESCO is expected to attract more tourists and researchers to the site, contributing to its sustainable development.
The recognition of Uruq Bani Ma’arid Reserve as Saudi Arabia’s first Natural UNESCO World Heritage Site is a significant milestone. It not only showcases the country’s rich natural heritage but also underscores its commitment to environmental conservation and sustainable development.
As Saudi Arabia continues to make strides in preserving its unique ecosystems and cultural heritage, the world is set to witness more of its natural wonders in the years to come