Uruq Bani Ma’arid Reserve in Saudi Arabia honored as UNESCO’s newest natural treasure


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Saudi Gazette report

RIYADH — In a historic moment, the Uruq Bani Ma’arid Reserve in Saudi Arabia has secured its place on the prestigious UNESCO World Heritage List. The announcement was made by Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan, Minister of Culture, Chairman of the National Commission for Education, Culture and Science, and Chairman of the Heritage Commission.

This remarkable achievement was the culmination of efforts during the extended 45th session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee being held in Riyadh from September 10 to 25.

Saudi Arabia now proudly boasts its very first UNESCO Natural Heritage Site, underscoring the Kingdom’s unwavering dedication to safeguarding its natural ecosystems and cultural heritage.

In a statement, the minister extended heartfelt congratulations to Saudi Arabia’s leadership for this momentous international recognition. He underscored that this achievement was a testament to the Kingdom’s steadfast commitment to preserving its culture and biodiversity, evident across its diverse regions.

Highlighting the collaborative national efforts that paved the way for this recognition, Prince Badr stressed Saudi Arabia’s dedication to preserving heritage and ensuring its sustainable development. This commitment aligns with the overarching goals of Saudi Vision 2030, he said, emphasizing the strategic significance of natural heritage.

Prince Badr expressed his views on the achievement by stating that “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.”

The Uruq Bani Ma’arid Reserve, located along the western edge of Ar-Rub Al-Khali (The Empty Quarter), covers a vast expanse of over 12,750 km². It stands as a singular sand desert in tropical Asia and the largest continuous sand sea on Earth. Offering a breathtaking panorama of the Empty Quarter’s sands and boasting some of the world’s largest complex linear dunes, the Uruq Bani Ma’arid Reserve possesses outstanding universal value.

Notably, the reserve serves as an exceptional testament to the environmental and biological evolution of flora and fauna in Saudi Arabia. It provides crucial natural habitats for the survival of more than 120 indigenous plant species and shelters endangered animals, including gazelles and the world’s only free-ranging herd of Arabian Oryx.

The Uruq Bani Ma’arid Reserve complies with the rigorous World Heritage standards as a sand desert that embodies outstanding universal value, forming a unique and diverse landscape. It encompasses a range of extensive natural habitats that are vital to the survival of key species and encompasses five sub-groups of the Kingdom’s national ecosystems, a critical component for maintaining the site’s biodiversity.

The inscription of the Uruq Bani Ma’arid Reserve as a World Heritage Site reflects the dedication and collaborative efforts of various entities, including the Saudi Ministry of Culture, the National Commission for Education, Culture and Science, the National Center for Wildlife, and the Heritage Commission.


This prestigious addition to Saudi Arabia’s UNESCO-listed sites joins the ranks of Al-Ahsa Oasis, Al-Hijr Archaeological Site, At-Turaif District in Diriyah, Ḥimā Cultural Area, Historic Jeddah, and Rock Art in the Hail Region, showcasing the rich cultural and natural tapestry of the Kingdom. The inscription serves as a testament to Saudi Arabia’s commitment to preserving its heritage and environment for generations to come.

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