- 'Asir Province
'Asir — Province — عسيرMap of Saudi Arabia with 'Asir highlighted Capital Abha Government - Governor Prince Faisal bin Khalid Area - Total 81,000 km2 (31,274.3 sq mi) Population (2007) - Total 1,563,000 - Density 19.30/km2 (50/sq mi) ISO 3166-2 14
'Asir /ˈɑːsɪər/ (Arabic: عسير 'Asīr) is a province of Saudi Arabia located in the southwest of the country, named after the confederation of clans of the same name. It has an area of 81,000 km² and an estimated population of 1,563,000. It shares a short border with Yemen. Its capital is Abha. Other towns include Khamis Mushayt and Qal'at Bishah. The governor of the province is Faisal bin Khalid (appointed May 16, 2007), a son of the late king of Saudi Arabia, Khalid bin Abdul-Aziz. He replaced his cousin, Khalid al Faisal who was made governor of Makkah Province on the same day.
Geographically, the 'Asir region is situated on a high plateau that receives more rainfall than the rest of the country and contains the country's highest peaks, which rise to almost 3,000 metres at Jebel Sawdah near Abha. Though data is exceedingly sparse and unreliable, the average annual rainfall in the highlands probably ranges from 300 to 500 millimetres (12 to 20 inches) falling in two rainy seasons, the chief one being in March and April with some rain in the summer. Temperatures are very extreme, with diurnal temperature ranges in the highlands the greatest in the world. It is common for afternoon temperatures to be over 30 °C (85 °F) yet mornings can be extremely frosty and fog can cut visibility to near zero percent. As a result, there is much more natural vegetation in 'Asir than in any other part of Saudi Arabia, with sheltered areas even containing areas of dense coniferous forests, though more exposed ridges still are very dry. 'Asir is home to many farmers who chiefly grow wheat and fruit crops, though irrigation has greatly expanded production in modern times.
The population belongs almost entirely to ancient tribes native to the area such as Qahtan, moawiah wa almahlaf Bal-Garn, Elyan, Khatha'm, Rijal Alma, Rijal Al-Hajr, Amro, Shehr, Shahran, Bal-Asmar, and Bal-Ahmar, as well as a large confederation of tribes known as the 'Asir (or 'Asaryah), after whom the region was named. Their religion is chiefly Sunni Muslim of Shafii and Hanbali rites.
The inhabitants speak a conservative group of Arabic dialects. Most tribes in 'Asir are divided into three sub-parts based on their geographical location. The tribes of the central highlands are called sarat, the tribes of the western coastal plain are called tihama, and the tribes of the eastern desert region of 'Asir are referred to as badiyah. Thus many tribes are divided into sarat, tihama, and badiyah components.
The region's culture shares much in common with neighboring Yemen in its architectural style, which is adapted to cope with the occasional very heavy downpours by deflecting them from houses, but "[t]he ways of the mountaineers tend towards those of Najd." 'Asir has been much less affected by the oil boom than has the rest of Saudi Arabia, and the modern urban development of cities like Riyadh is largely absent except to some extent in Abha, which serves as a resort town for many Saudis during the extremely hot summers. Tribal laws and customs are still exceedingly strong among the peoples of this region.
At the rise of the First Saudi State in the 18th century, the towns of 'Asir were governed by local clans in a fashion similar to that of Nejd, while the large tribal confederations maintained a high degree of autonomy. 'Asir gave allegiance to First Saudi State in 1801 under the leadership of the 'Asiri chief Muhammad Abu Nogta of the Mughayd clan.
When the First Saudi State was destroyed by the Egyptians in 1818, the 'Asiris continued to fight the Egyptian forces in their region tenaciously. With the withdrawal of the Egyptians in 1840, the dynasty of Al Ayedh, also of Mughayd, took control of the 'Asir highlands. The Al Ayedh generally allied themselves to the Saudis, who had re-established their dynasty in 1824, but did not formally enter under their command. As the Al Ayedh attempted to expand into the Tihama lowlands (present-day Jizan Province), the Ottoman Turks felt provoked to invade and occupy the highlands. They defeated and executed the leader of Al Ayedh in 1872 and established a mutasarrifiyya (a sub-governorate) in Abha attached to the Vilayet of Yemen. Their rule, however, seldom extended far from the isolated forts where their troops were garrisoned.
In about 1906, Sayyid Muhammad ibn Ali al-Idrisi, a descendant of Ahmad Ibn Idris, began to establish political control of Asir. After negotiations with Italy, which had interests nearby in Somalia, the Idrisi forces of Sayyid Muhammad came into conflict with Ottoman forces in Abha. The Idrisis were defeated in 1911 by Hashemite forces under Hussein ibn Ali, Sharif of Mecca, then still loyal to the Ottomans, but the tide turned when Sayyid Muhammad concluded a secret military alliance with Great Britain (by then at war with the Ottomans) in 1915, and Sharif Hussein later switched sides and joined the British against the Ottomans.
After the end of the First World War, Sayyid Muhammad became ruler of an internationally recognized sovereign state, the Idrisi Emirate of Asir, until his death in 1920. The territories of the emirate reached from Abha in the north to Hudaydah in the south. Sayyid Muhammad's successors were however unable to resist the growing power of Abd Al-Aziz Ibn Saud, who began annexing 'Asir and its neighboring regions after Sayyid Muhammad's death, initially intervening under the pretext of mediating between the Al Ayedh of 'Asir and the Idrisis. The Saudis took control of the regional capital Abha in 1920, and incorporated the rest of 'Asir by 1923. Ibn Saud later successfully fought off a rival claim for the region by the Zaydi Imam of neighboring Yemen in 1934.
- Asir National Park: Splendid Arabia, An Online Guide to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
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