Not surprisingly, the Arabian Peninsula (the ‘semi-island’ in Arabic) is surrounded by islands. Saudi Arabia has 1,300 of them according to a new survey by the Saudi Geological Survey.
Saudi Gazette, republishing an article from the Arabic daily Al-Watan, notes that most of these islands are uninhabited and undeveloped. The writer of the article sees great touristic potential and would like the government to get right on it to develop them.
I wonder if the writer has actually seen many (or any) of these islands? Most of them are uninhabited for a reason… they’re unihabitable! They’ve no water; they’re well outside the electric grid; many of them are little more than spots of sand accumulating atop coral heads in the Red Sea or sandbars in the Gulf.
I wonder, too, whether it’s a good idea to start flooding these isles with tourists. Saudis are not the most tidy tourists. Visiting sites within the Kingdom is dismaying, in fact. Once-pristine areas quickly accumulate loads of trash and garbage, fire pits, the occasional gun cartridges, and bushes mowed down by 4×4 vehicles and carts as they’re discovered by young men with nothing to do to burn off their energies. The islands, at least, are semi-protected from vandalism by the fact that they’re unreachable except by boat. The waters surrounding them are currently exploited only by fishermen. These have at least some reason to not trash the places from which they earn their livelihoods. Easy access by tourists, I fear, would soon make these islands far less than they are undisturbed.
Untapped Saudi islands
Abdullah Mokani | Al-Watan newspaper
In my opinion, it is impossible to expect most people in the Kingdom to believe that there are about 1,300 islands located within Saudi waters in the Red Sea and the Arabian Gulf.
Most of these islands are uninhabited. The Saudi Geological Survey moved quickly to take a count of these islands and assess them in terms of their area, type and boundaries. Thankfully, SGS has documented them in a big voluminous book.
We have the highest number of islands compared to other countries in the Arab world. But unfortunately, there is no action to tap their high tourism potential for the benefit of Saudi people at a time when tens of thousands of citizens flock to many distant island states such as the Maldives and the Canary Islands during summer and winter. Some of them even ask: Is there any comparison between our islands and these world famous islands?