When you travel, do you head towards the beaches? Do you visit historical and archaeological sites? Do you like to go shopping?
You can find all of these activities and more in a surprising location: Saudi Arabia.
Over the past several years, Saudia Arabia has been investing in tourism, hoping to attract 100 million tourists by 2030. Five historical sites have been approved as UNESCO listed heritage sites, and money has poured into shopping facilities and beach construction. Non-Muslims can’t enter the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, but there’s still plenty to see.
Read on to learn about 9 awesome places to stop when you visit Saudia Arabia.
The Jeddah Corniche, is part of the city of Jeddah, located on the Red Sea. The area contains resorts, private beaches, play equipment, and the world’s tallest fountain. An 18-mile coastal walkway links everything together.
Scuba divers love Jeddah for its shipwrecks, reefs, and warm water (averaging between 77 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit). The Jeddah Corniche is also the gateway to Farasan Island, another popular diving site. If you haven’t learned to dive, don’t worry: many resorts and other facilities offer diving schools, and Jeddah is suitable for divers of all ages.
Yanbu, about 200 miles north of Jeddah, is even more popular among divers who love its untouched reefs and small shipwrecks. A city that was first settled 2500 years ago as a staging post for the spice trade, Yanbu still contains ancient stone-walled buildings and villages in the Old Town. You can also find public parks, gardens, and museums.
3. Al-Ahsa Oasis
The Al-Ahsa oasis, approved as a World Heritage site in 2018, is located in the eastern Arabian Peninsula. The largest oasis in the world, it is irrigated by around 60 springs. Its 2.5 million date palms cover over 30,000 acres and produce over a hundred thousand tons of dates every year.
A fertile refuge in the desert, Al-Ahsa has been visited by humans for thousands of years, and was the 9th largest city in the world in 1000 CE. Today you can still see archeological sites and historic fortresses showing the progress of human development. The area also features gardens, canals, springs, wells, and mosques.
4. Al Hijr
Located in the northwest of Saudi Arabia, the archeological site of Al Hijr dates back to pre-Islamic times. It was the first designated UNESCO World Heritage site in Saudia Arabia, added to the list in 2008. Once known as Hegra it is the largest conserved site of the civilization of the Nabataeans and contains some of the same sorts of rock-carved buildings as those in Petra in Jordan.
Over 100 tombs have been found in the area, some with decorated facades. There are also traces of grand buildings and residential mud-brick homes. Farming was supplied by an irrigation system drawing on an aquifer, and many of the old wells are still in use today.
5. At-Turaif District
Northwest of Riyadh, the At-Turaif district was founded in the 15th century. The property includes remnants of palaces and buildings on the edge of the ad-Dir’iyah oasis. Since the area has not seen much development in the modern era, ancient architecture is still visible.
Known as the “City in the Sky,” Abha is located in a mountain range in the south-west corner of Saudi Arabia. As a mountain city, it usually maintains an even daytime temperature of 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. The weather has contributed to its unusual historic building style of three-story houses with thick brick walls that trap heat for cool desert nights.
Asir National Park, the first established in Saudi Arabia, is located in Abha. This park contains the highest mountain in Saudia Arabia, 10,522 feet high. The park hosts wildlife including over 300 species of birds.
7. Empty Quarter
The “Empty Quarter” is the sandy desert covering most of the third of the southern part of Saudi Arabi. Here you can join an expedition to go hiking, stargazing, camel riding, or camping. Native Bedouins act as local guides.
8. Uruq Bani Ma’arid
The national park of Uruq Bani Ma’arid
covers around 4,887 square miles, includes a protected natural area as well as land designated for grazing and hunting. Located in a region where rainfall usually amounts to only 30 millimeters per year, Uruq Bani Ma’arid preserves a surprising amount of plant life, mostly grasses, legumes, and sedges. Here you might spot an Arabian Oryx, sand gazelles, mountain gazelles, red foxes, or sand cats.
The capital of Saudia Arabia, Riyadh contains both history and modern living. Founded several hundred years ago, it still includes sites such as the enormous clay and mud fort of Al Masmak Fortress, built in 1865. You can explore the newer side of the city by riding elevators up to the sky bridge at the top of the 1000-foot Kingdom Centre skyscraper, the 5th largest in the country.
For history buffs, the National Museum of Saudi Arabia tells the country’s story from the first Arab kingdom to the present day, with artifacts from every era. One section tells the story of the development of the hajj and pilgrimage routes to Mecca and Medina. The museum is located in King Abdul-Aziz Historical Center, which is also a cultural center.
Riyadh is also a favorite place for shopping and eating out. Tourists enjoy hunting for designer goods, souvenirs, and handmade crafts in Riyadh’s markets or in one of its 60 air-conditioned shopping malls. Restaurant lovers will find plenty of variety in Riyadh.
For lodging, you can choose from a wide range of tours and hotels. Hotels range in price from $35 for a basic room to several hundred dollars a night for a place like the luxurious Ritz-Carlton Riyadh. Prices depend on travel season and religious holidays, so check out seasonal deals such as Umrah offers.
Visit Saudi Arabia
Whether you’re visiting to learn about history, scuba dive in coral reefs, ride camels across the desert, or climb to the tops of mountains, Saudi Arabia has something to offer. Visit Saudia Arabia to enjoy the adventure of your dreams!
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