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Saudi ‘virgin’ caves could be the next big tourist destination, experts say

Saudi Arabia, November 13, 2017

The Kingdom is home to great natural caves that can be prime tourist destinations and provide economic benefits, geologist Dr. Mahmoud Al-Shanty said.
Many of the Kingdom’s caves are familiar to the locals, who use them as sources of shelter and water, Al-Shanty said in a speech at the first Saudi Antiquities Forum. He indicated that experts from the Saudi Geological Survey had discovered more cavities and streams in sedimentary rocks in previously discovered caves, as well as finding new caves in many regions.
He said studies in a region of 89,000 sq km in a volcanic lava field have shown that the region consists of many lava tube caves.
In some of these caves bones, antiquities and even new living creatures were discovered that will interest archaeologists, biologists and paleontologists. It was also found that the structure of caves and cavities holds important information for climate scientists about weather patterns in the Arabian Peninsula and the process of desertification.
Al-Shanty said the scientific studies on Saudi caves have shown that when the caves are prepared and opened for tourists, they will have a great impact on the economy. A plan to prepare several caves has been developed in cooperation with the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH), he added.
Dr. Daniel Fisher, from the University of Michigan in the US, said modern techniques were used in discovering the biological history of elephants found on the Arabian Peninsula.
One hypothesis on the extinction of these elephants suggests that it was caused by climate change.
Dr. Iyad Zalmout of the Saudi Geological Survey revealed that he and his team collected 62 samples from An-Nafud desert, which revealed information about the prevailing environment in ancient times.
He said: “We found bones of deer, horses, giraffes, zebras, ostrich and birds, and the amazing thing is that we found bones of a giant elephant that used to live there when the region was still a green rainforest.”
Zalmout called for intensifying research and studies in this field that can eventually unveil a very important historic period of geological nature in the Arabian Peninsula.

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