While a lot of people visiting Riyadh for the first time tend to get bored and feel Riyadh to be primarily a business destination, which it is, but not primarily so. To others, the lands of Saudi seems like a sacred guardianship of private space that accessing it seems nearly impossible! The truth is, a large part of Saudi life takes places in metaphorical ‘chambers’ accessible only to insiders.
There is so much mystery and charm surrounding this land that Saudi is often referred to as the Magic Kingdom by some. So, before we reveal the top attractions of Saudi Arabia, let’s get to some of the basics about this mysterious land.
5 basics to Saudi it better
The flag has a green background within which in white letters, the Muslim creed reads in Arabic: “There is no god but God: Muhammad is the Messenger of God.” Something to think about.
The national emblem is a date palm, representing vitality and growth, and two crossed swords, symbolizing justice and strength rooted in faith.
Saudi Arabia is located in southwestern Asia, at the crossroads of Europe, Asia and Africa; extending from the Red Sea in the west to the Arabian Gulf in the east; bordered on the north by Jordan, Iraq and Kuwait, on the south, by Yemen and Oman, and on the east by the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Bahrain. No more neighbourly confusion!
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The climate in June through August soars over a whooping 110 degrees Fahrenheit at midday in the desert; humidity in coastal regions rises up to 100 percent; elsewhere, mild; however, if you wish to experience the colder side of Saudi Arabia, travel toward the northern and central regions and you will feel your bones turn cold and stiff in its below freezing temperature.
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The terrain of this exotic country is varied and interesting; fairly barren and harsh, with salt flats, gravel plains and sand deserts; you can spot a few man-made lakes but unfortunately, no permanent streams; Move south, you will discover the Rub Al-Khali (Empty Quarter), the largest sand desert in the world.
The Government of the Islamic state is based on principles prescribed by the Qur’an (Islam’s Holy Book) and the Shari’ah (Islamic law); Provincial Council System, Consultative Council (Majlis Al-Shura), and Council of Ministers. The official language is Arabic, although English is widely spoken for day to day conversation. To your Islam is the basis of the legal system and of government.
Now that we’re off the basics, let’s dive into the fun part: 10 amazing places that you just cannot afford to miss when in Saudi.
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If you visit only one place in Saudi-Arabia, let it be Madain Saleh. The other-worldly scenery, breath-taking nature, and rich history make it a destination worth exploring for many days. Madain Saleh is not only about the tombs of the ancient Nabatean people, but it offers much more for the seeking eyes to explore.
The Hejaz railway built Ottomans runs through it. Nearby the town of Al-Ula, you can explore a beautiful oasis, museums, an old mud village and the ruins and tombs of Khuraibah.
The colorful city of Najran on the Yemeni border offers an unforgettable experience for travelers. Najran, with it unique culture that still preserves the old world-traditions, pleases even the most experienced travelers looking for a refreshing experience.
A favorite diving destination of Jacques Cousteau, Farasan Islands is one of the go to attractions of Saudi Arabia that have more than just private beaches and sand for the hungry traveller. Apart from being a bird-watchers paradise, this island houses lovely mangroves and endemic Gazelle species in addition to the numerous historical sites on the main island.
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The mountain city of Taif is famous for its blooming vibrant roses and rosewater so much so that it is actually known as the valley of roses. The best time to visit would undoubtedly be spring as the valley simply comes alive during this time of the year.
This volcanic crater lies 700km away from Riyadh towards Taif. Its awestriking scenery includes formidable lava fields, an oasis and salt pans that you can easily explored on foot. The site makes for an unforgettable camp out experience for the rash traveller.
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One of the most spectacular views in Saudi-Arabia can be experienced from the Edge of the World which is part of the 800 km long Jebel Tuwaiq Escarpment. Definitely one of the musn’t miss attractions of Saudi Arabia, when looking to the horizon from the edge, it appears as if the plains continue endlessly. A completely enrapturing experience, you will regret it if you don’t make it here.
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The Asir National Park and the Al-Soudah area near Abha are a lush, breezy paradise best visited in the hot summer months. The park offers trekking, camping sites, cable cars, and plenty of other outdoor activities in addition to interesting architecture and friendly people.
Al Lith is a small town about 275 km south of Jeddah. It is the port of departure for diving the Farasan Banks ecosystem and prides itself as Saudi-Arabia’s best diving destination with incredibly clear waters, amazing wrecks and abundant marine life. Scuba divers, there’s no reason not to be here!
To be completely honest, Saudi Arabia is a beautiful country that has managed to preserve her traditions since antiquity; as travelers, a journey through a country so different from ours would change a part of us that nothing else can.
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