First Timer’s Guide and Places to Visit in Saudi Arabia
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Saudi Arabia is a marvel of architectural wonders, colorful cultures, soothing sunsets, and endless other magnificent sources of attraction.
Are you planning your first trip to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia? This article will help to answer all the questions you have about the country and guide you to places to visit in Saudi Arabia.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a desert country in Southwestern Asia, also known as the Middle East, that occupies most of the Arabian Peninsula.
On the west side of Saudi Arabia lies the Gulf of Aqaba and the Red Sea and on the Eastern side is the Persian Gulf. Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates are some of the neighboring countries. Riyadh, the largest city in the country, is also its capital.
Geography and climate
The Arabian Desert covers the majority of the country and has several interconnected desert regions. There are also a few mountain ranges like the Hejaz and the Asir mountain range.
Saudi Arabia has a hot and dry climate and there is a difference between day and night. In summer, the temperature rises to 50 degrees Celsius and in winter it can be freezing due to frost and snow.
Best Time to Visit
The best time to visit Saudi Arabia is in October- March as it is considered a winter destination. These months are considered cooler and the most favorable period to visit all the tourist attractions. It is best to avoid Saudi Arabia during the summer.
Arabic is the official language of Saudi Arabia. English is also widely spoken.
Rules to be Followed
Every country has its own set of local and cultural rules, and they must be followed. Some of the rules in Saudi Arabia are
- It is mandatory for men and women to dress modestly in public.
- Public displays of affection should be avoided.
- Alcohol is strictly prohibited in the country. You should not bring alcohol to the country. Drunk driving is punishable by law.
- It is illegal to criticize or question public order, religious values, or public morals.
- Take official warnings seriously.
How to Reach and Means of Getting Around
The easiest and most popular way to reach Saudi Arabia is by air. There are regular and non-stop flights from major countries to Saudi Arabia. The major international airports are located in Jeddah, Riyadh, Dammam, and Madinah. A few of the airlines of the country are SaudiGulf, Flynas, and Mid East Jet.
Although many prefer private taxis, public transport in Saudi Arabia is affordable and consistent. The Saudi Bus Network and rail network work flawlessly to ensure good transportation.
Places to Visit in Saudi Arabia
Following are 8 must-visit places to visit in Saudi Arabia
1. Masmak Fortress
This 150-year-old fortress also known as the Masmak Palace is one of the extraordinary historical sites in the capital city of Riyadh. It is built of clay and mudbrick and can be divided into 6 distinct parts, some of them being: the courtyard, the mosque, and the towers.
It has now been converted into a museum. Visitors get a glimpse of the past with 20th-century photographs, artwork, and other presentations such as documentaries about the Royal family regaining control.
Visitors can also opt to visit a lively local market Souq Al Zal right next to the museum. One can roam around the market, buy souvenirs, and try some of the local delicacies available in plenty.
2. Empty Quarter
Empty Quarter is the English translation for its Arabic name Rub al Khali. This huge stretch of desert has gained popularity since ancient times and more so in modern times being adapted into fictional writings and films such as Men in Black. It is one of the top tourist attractions in Saudi Arabia.
Visitors gather here for the sheer experience of seeing and feeling nature in its purest untouched form. Camping is popular here because of the clear view of the stars at night. The sunsets here are as magnificent as the hue of colors in an artist’s palette.
Camel riding, sandboarding, and sand skiing are some of the adventurous sports that people like to do in the Empty Quarters. One can also go treasure hunting for geodes in the desert. Visitors are allowed to take these rocks filled with crystals back as souvenirs.
3. Al Ula
In the Medina Province of Saudi Arabia, Al Ula is an oasis city known for its historical, archaeological, cultural, and geographical significance.
The Hegra Archaeological Site at Al Ula was the first UNESCO World Heritage Site in the country. Its history can be traced back to the first century B.C. and to the history of Islam.
In Al Ula, you can visit the Al Ula Old Town, Oasis Heritage Trail, Hegra UNESCO Heritage Site, Dadan, Jabal Ikmah, Jabal AlFil (Elephant Rock), Harrarat Viewpoint or Maraya.
In the province, Habitas Al Ula is an acclaimed wellness tourism resort in the country and the Middle East. The city also allows you to have adventurous experiences through desert activities, hiking, rock climbing, and cycling.
4. Ushaiger Heritage Village
Ushaiger Heritage Village is located in the Najd Region of Saudi Arabia. About 1500 years ago, the Bedouins settled in the village.
The location, the springs, and the groves of olive and palm in the village attracted the pilgrims to use it as a resting point during their journey to Makkah.
The architecture of Ushaiger Village makes it distinct from the rest. In a village with a small number of residents, the mud houses have triangular windows and carved wooden doors.
At the village, the Al Salem museum has preserved artifacts ranging from jewelry to utensils, ceramics, clothing, and weapons. Being here, don’t forget to learn more about their rich culture by interacting with them.
5. Rijal Alma Heritage Village
The 900-year-old Rijal Alma Heritage Village is one of the most beautiful villages in the Asir Province and the whole of Saudi Arabia. The architectural beauty located at the lush green mountains is fascinating and will swoop you back in time.
Home to the Asir ethnic group, it also has a museum that was established in 1985 by the village people. It boasts 20 different sections that display traditional crafts, weapons, manuscripts, and antique jewelry among others.
The tallest fort of the village is the Fort of Al Jaber & Al Hawat. Other forts can be visited such as the Al- Sisbae and Msamr.
Jeddah is one of the busiest and liveliest cities in Saudi Arabia. Being a modern city, it has some of the best attractions in Saudi Arabia.
The tranquil beaches of Jeddah attract a huge number of visitors. People come for beach days to soak in the sun and relax and even hire private yachts for the day. Water sports such as diving and snorkeling are also very popular.
A visit to Al-Balad (Old Jeddah Town) and the Jeddah Regional Museum of Archaeology and Ethnography will help you understand the cultural history and the time before the oil industry era. It is also one of the UNESCO World Heritage sites in Saudi Arabia.
People visiting Jeddah can also go hiking and camping in the Moon Valley. There are also numerous restaurants, live events, and bars for night outs.
7. The National Museum
Photo Credits: visitsaudi.com
The National Museum is located in Riyadh. It is a part of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdulaziz Historical Center in Al Murabba. It is a place to learn about the rich history and Arab Heritage in the eight expansive galleries of the museum.
Traverse through the Ancient Arab Kingdoms Gallery, spanning civilizations from the 4th millennium BC to the 2nd century AD, and explore pre-Islamic life intricacies in the Pre-Islamic Era Gallery.
Celebrate seasonal festivities with dedicated photography corners during holidays and national events, adding vibrancy to the museum’s atmosphere. It remains closed on Sunday.
8. Makkah – For Pilgrimage
Also known as Makkah al-Mukarramah and Mecca, Makkah is the holiest city in the religion of Islam. It is located in the Hejaz region i.e. in the western part of the country. This holy city in Saudi Arabia can be visited by only people who practice Islam. Makkah is also considered an ancient city, the birthplace of Islam.
At the Masjid Al Haram, the Great Mosque of Mecca is the pilgrimage site for the Hajj. In 2023, 1.8 million people performed the Hajj. The pilgrims visited from about 150 countries. It is the holiest Mosque in the world of Islam. The city of Mecca is also the second largest in the country. The second holiest mosque, Al-Masjid an-Nabawi, also referred to as The Prophet’s Mosque is in Medina.
Saudi Arabia is a cultural hub of the Arab World. Places like the Empty Quarters give you a vacant peacefulness, while AlUla’s rock formations and adventures fill you with the essence of culture and thrill.
Vision 2030 and tourism projects like NEOM have amplified the tourism scope of the country. The Saudi Government has also made investments in varied sectors like sports, and developing and renovating archeological sites. Such initiatives will transform the country’s economy catalyzing the tourism sector.
Saudi Arabia has more to offer in every region than what is listed in this article. Be sure to follow the rules and happy visiting.