About 40 kilometers (or a one-hour boat ride) from Jazan
, you’ll find the Farasan Islands. More than 80 islands make up the archipelago, but only three of them are home to year-round residents. The largest and most inhabited is Farasan Island: About 12,000 permanent residents live on this island, and many of them commute to Jazan for work. The island is known for its incredible biodiversity — the Saudi Wildlife Authority declared the Farasan Islands a protected area in 1996 — and boasts pristine coral reefs for epic scuba diving, a variety of fish and world-class birding for species including the white-eyed gull, the crab plover and the sooty falcon. On land, you may catch a sighting of the endangered Farasan gazelle (there were only a thousand of these graceful creatures left as of 2013). “Farasan is a very special place,” says Saad Al Dawood, a hospitality student at King Saud University in Riyadh who has spent time on the island. “It’s a small island with simple people where you can have a truly authentic experience. They have hospitality in their blood.”
The History of Farasan Island
Since the first millennium B.C., Jazan Province has been a draw for people from Arabia, Africa and Europe. The islands were once known as Portus Ferresanus, and a Latin inscription dating from 144 A.D. has been found on the island, indicating the existence of a Roman garrison. Throughout the centuries, many people have passed through Farasan and left behind evidence of their societies, including the Aksumites and Arabs. The strategic location of Jazan Province, and especially the Farasan Islands, proved of interest once again in the 20th century during World War II: The Germans built a fort on one of the islands of the archipelago.