The first rock climbing areas in Saudi Arabia have opened following a month-long development project.

Shafa, near Taif, and Tanouma were chosen by the Saudi Climbing Federation as the first two climbing sites in the country as part of a wider scheme to encourage more people to take up the sport.

In total nearly 100 routes have been prepared and bolted across the two sites by a team of four professional climbing developers.

The routes were developed by Canadian climber Read Macadam, who has worked extensively in the Middle East, and three Italian climbers, Alex Ruscior, Piergiorgia Lotito and Carlo Guilberti.

The four expert climbers developed the climbing areas throughout November, ready for the official opening to the public on 30 November.

The opening saw more than 30 climbers from across Saudi Arabia test out the routes in Shafa.

The Saudi Climbing Federation was set up earlier in the year to promote climbing in Saudi Arabia, and November’s Saudi Bolting Project was a key development in this process.

The Federation chose Shafa as its first climbing area because its steep granite cliffs provide an excellent basis for difficult climbing routes.

The rock formations at Shafa have been compared to the Alps, while its cool climate also makes the area a popular summer destination.

Tanouma has a colder climate but features waterfalls and forests and is now home to 45 climbing routes.

Now that the routes are open to the public, the Saudi Climbing Federation hopes that more people will take up climbing and spend time in Saudi Arabia’s landscapes.