The Uruq Bani Ma’arid Reserve is the kingdom’s first UNESCO Natural Heritage Site.
A first for Saudi Arabia, the Uruq Bani Ma’arid Reserve has been inscribed by UNESCO, finally adding a Natural Heritage Site to the set of six other UNESCO Heritage Sites in the Kingdom: Al-Ahsa Oasis, Al-Hijr Archaeological Site, At-Turaif District in ad-Dir’iyah, Ḥimā Cultural Area, Historic Jeddah, and Rock Art in the Ha’il Region. The milestone was announced by His Highness Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan Al-Saud, Minister of Culture and Chairman of the Heritage Commission. The decision was taken during the extended 45th session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee held in Riyadh this month.
Situated along the western edge of Rub al-Khali (Empty Quarter), Uruq Bani Ma’arid Reserve occupies an area of over 12,750 square kilometres and is the only major sand desert in tropical Asia and the largest continuous sand sea on Earth. With a world-class panorama of the sands of the Empty Quarter and some of the world’s largest complex linear dunes, it embodies outstanding universal value — it’s an exceptional showcase of the environmental and biological evolution of flora and fauna in Saudi Arabia and provides vital natural habitats for the survival of over 120 indigenous plant species, as well as endangered animals living in harsh environments.
The latter includes not only gazelles, but also the only free-ranging herd of Arabian Oryx in the world. The reserve also contains a range of extensive natural habitats vital to the survival of key species and includes five sub-groups of the kingdom’s national ecosystems, which is vital to maintaining the site’s biodiversity. The inscription of the Uruq Bani Ma’arid Reserve as a World Heritage Site comes as 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 successful nomination of the site is proof of Saudi Arabia’s continued efforts to protect and maintain its natural ecosystems and cultural heritage. His Highness Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan Al-Saud explained, “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,” he said.
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