An Experience to Discover
The birthplace and spiritual home of Islam, Saudi Arabia is as rich in attractions as it is in stirring symbolism. It is also one of the most difficult places on Earth to visit.
Here are the some of the beautiful places of Saudi Arabia:
The country’s commercial capital, and a point of convergence for pilgrims and traders for centuries, Jeddah is the most easygoing city in the Kingdom – not to mention its most beguiling. The Al Balad district, the heart of Old Jeddah, is a nostalgic testament to the city’s bygone days, with the beautiful coral architecture of historic buildings casting some welcome shade over the bustling souqs where shopkeepers hawk their goods.
Jeddah has done much to improve its image over the years. North Jeddah in particular has undergone massive redevelopment to make the corniche more attractive to visitors, while upscale department stores and malls have expanded shoppers’ choices. The city is also famed for its international cuisine and seafood, and remains a sweet spot for scuba divers both seasoned as well as novice.
Once a walled, mud-brick way station along desert trading routes, Riyadh (meaning ‘garden’) is the Kingdom’s political, financial and administrative capital and one of the wealthiest cities in the world. It also has a very Saudi subtext: nowhere are the contradictions of modern Saudi Arabia more evident than in Riyadh. Seen from afar, soaring, sparkling, stunning modern towers rise above the desert and shiny 4WDs throng modern highways. Up close, Riyadh is cautious and sober (certainly comparable to Jeddah), not to mention conservative and deeply rooted in Saudi traditions. Throw in fine hotels and restaurants and some excellent sights, and it’s a fascinating place to spend a few days.
At first glance, with its port, refineries and petrochemical plants, Yanbu is hardly the Kingdom’s most attractive spot. But it’s fast becoming the top tourist destination in the country with its premier scuba-diving locations and pristine white sandy shores, with many resorts and private beaches geared towards families. The industrial section of Yanbu is a good 10km to 15km South of the city centre and has little impact upon the region’s gorgeous beaches to the North. The downtown area is small but quaint, with an unhurried atmosphere not found in the larger cities.
Just outside town is a vast open desert that gives way to the water, and it’s here that most visitors spend their time. Imagine sitting on the beach with few people on either side of you. Hajj season however, draws big crowds.
Situated 1700m above sea level, Taif can seem like a breath of fresh air in summer, and compared to humid Jeddah it truly is. Its gentle, temperate climate is its biggest attraction. Watch for wild baboons along the mountain roadside on the way into the city from Jeddah.
Taif is family friendly, with over 3000 garden parks scattered throughout the city and outlying areas. In the evening the parks are packed with families spreading out a full supper on blankets where some bring sheesha, filling the night air with a sweet, smoky aroma. Taif is not known for its restaurants, so buying everything you need at a market and settling down for a picnic is a wonderful alternative. The city is particularly popular among visitors for its roses and fruit – particularly honey-sweet figs, grapes, prickly pears and pomegranates.
In summer Taif becomes the Kingdom’s unofficial capital when the king relocates here.