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Saudi Heritage Preservation Society calls on Unesco to protect ancient Khawlani coffee

A coffee farmer in Jazan (picture credits: Arab News - Mohammed Albaijan)

LONDON, UK — The Saudi Heritage Preservation Society has called on UNESCO to protect traditional Khawlani coffee cultivation techniques in Saudi Arabia. The Arabian tradition has been passed down for generations by the ancient tribes of Khawlan who have grown and processed Khawlani coffee beans in the verdant valleys of Jazan, a region in the southern-most tip of Arabia, for over 300 years.

Named after the tribe that tended to them, Khawlani coffee beans are considered amongst some of the most reputable coffee beans in the world.

With techniques being passed down orally by word of mouth, Khawlani coffee cultivation techniques are crucial to the preservation not only to the nation’s cultural identity, but also Islamic history where coffee, as coffee was first cultivated by Sufi monks in Yemen.

Efforts to begin preserving this legacy began in 2019 with the documentation of the local farmers cultivation process of Khawlani coffee beans.

Rehaf Gassas, the project manager at the Saudi Heritage Preservation Society, said: “Khawlani coffee beans are described as the green gold of Jazan, but there is lack of knowledge amongst Saudis that the Jazan region is one of the biggest producers of coffee in the world.The number of farmers in Jazan is really high and they face a lot of problems and difficulties, including with water and working resources. Hopefully, by inscribing this (cultivation process) in UNESCO, it will help promote (Khawlani coffee beans) throughout Saudi Arabia and encourage the nation to help these farmers.”

On March 31, 2019, the Saudi Heritage Preservation Society delivered their application requesting protection of this ancient technique from UNESCO. By November 2020, a decision will have been reached as to whether they were successful.

“We are very optimistic,” added Gassas.”The community itself is the biggest supporter, because they are very invested in the coffee beans they are planting, and it is really very important to them to show the world that they have this rich culture and heritage.”

About Saudi Heritage Preservation Society

The Saudi Heritage Preservation Society is a nongovernmental organization established in 2010, concerned with the preservation of national heritage in Saudi Arabia.