Coffee and a Swim in Jazan
رحلة مشوقة إلى مدينة جازان بطبيعتها الخلابة وقهوتها الساحرة
13 JUN 2021
Source: Sheila Anthony
We love traveling throughout Saudi Arabia, but some locations are easier to get to than others due to the vastness of the country. This was particularly the case on our recent trip to Jazan.
Driving from Jeddah took the whole day (10 hours including rest stops), so we passed the time with music, audiobooks and by counting camels.
Jazan city has lots of hotels and places to stay in, a welcome respite after sitting in the car all day. After our evening meal we walked along the North Corniche Park, where there was a pleasant sea breeze and lovely views over the water.
The next morning, we were up early and traveling inland to the mountains. Our aim was to explore one of the coffee-producing areas and visit Wadi Lajab.
Khawlani coffee, as the local brew is known, has been grown in the area for hundreds of years. It is a very important part of local culture and history. It is so important that the Saudi Heritage Preservation Society has requested UNESCO put it on the Intangible Cultural Heritage list. By doing this, it would gain international cultural recognition and protection. Its name comes from the Khawlan mountains that the beans grow in, extending from the south of Saudi Arabia to the northwest of Yemen.
These mountains are occupied by tribes who refer to their ancestor Khawlan Bin Amir, hence the name. In Saudi Arabia, these mountains are situated in the region of Jazan and the coffee bean trees grow on mountainous areas and valleys at an altitude of 1,000 meters to 1,800 meters above sea level.
One particular province that grows this coffee is Al-Reith, which is also home to Wadi Lajab.
Just before getting to the wadi we turned off the road and headed higher into the mountains. But these were not the Al-Qahr mountains we expected to see. Where were we, we asked? We found out that we were on the Black Mountain – Jabel Aswad. The sides of the mountain are blanketed in fields and trees, so much so it reminded me of the tea plantations in Sri Lanka. From this high vantage point you could see the majestic Al-Qahr mountains in the distance. Their rocky features are a big contrast to the lush vegetation around us.
We traveled back down the mountain, further and further until we reached the road at the bottom. A couple of minutes later we were at the entrance to Wadi Lajab. The track passes through a narrow ravine with very high sides, indicating that we were deep in the Al-Qahr mountains. We were lucky it was dry, as the area is usually closed during rain.
The track opened up into a wider space where we parked. Soon we were out of the cars, walking in the wadi. There were quite a few large rocks to climb over. One minute we were paddling through a gentle stream, the next swimming in a large pool. The pools rarely stretch the whole width of the wadi, so it’s possible to walk along the sides without getting too wet.
The sides are very high indeed and the wadi widens from a width of five meters in some places to 15 meters in others. The water is incredibly clear and constantly running, having been filtered by the mountains. It is a lovely temperature, and we saw much small fish happily darting back and forth.
It was just as I imagined the legendry Hanging Gardens of Babylon to look like, with green vines and trees growing out the side of the rocks. After a couple of hours enjoying this unique place, it was time to leave. We’d been careful not to go in too many deep pools on the way back, so we were almost dry by the time we got to the cars.
Our next destination was a coffee farm nearby. The main coffee growing area is in the neighboring region of Ad Dayer, but coffee farms can be found throughout the region. We drove up and up to where the coffee was grown. Coffee bean trees grow well at high altitude, so this location was perfect. The trees are a lush dark green with beautiful white flowers that will grow into coffee cherries. Inside each cherry are two beans, which once dried and roasted become the coffee we all love. After a tour of the farm, fresh coffee was prepared. It was the most divine I had ever tasted. It was silky smooth and so flavorsome; I was certainly going to look out for Khawlani coffee in the future.
Our day ended with some camping nearby. Sleeping under the stars was always a joy and waking up to the call of the birds was wonderful. It was a long road back to Jeddah but we were all smiling, chatting about the incredible things we’d done and seen in Jazan.