Official language: Arabic
Currency: Saudi Riyal
Welcome to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The country has also become famous for its great dessert landscapes along with the religious experience that carries through in everyday life, whether it is the glitzy malls and fancy restaurants or the unexplored towns along the Red Sea Coast. Probably one of the most misterious countries with the rich culture, heritage and raw natural beauty of the landscape. From the scenic untamed stretches of Red Sea Coast, to the town of Al Ula – the gateway to Medain Saleh which has an amazing collection of stone dwellings. There’s also the cosmopolitan areas such as Jeddah which offers astonishing shops, souks, restaurants and hotels. For those traveling to experience the Islam religion, Saudi Arabia might possibly be the best place to experience it, as this is the famed birthplace of the Prophet Mohammad, and holds two of the holiest sites in Islam – the Grand Mosque of Mecca and the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina – which are inaccessible to non-Muslim’s and are protected by the mutawwa (religious police) but never the less breathtaking to view from outside. Certain cultural laws might restrict tourists in some ways, such as women who are not allowed to drive, so it would be wise to do some research on the topic before heading off, but this country remains a complex and intriguing destination that has countless possibilities.
Must see places in Saudi Arabia
Though a visit would require police escorts for safety reasons, the views are simply breathtaking, and considered a world wonder. The ancient ruins found in the mountains of sandstone showcases the carvings of the Dedan people who used it as temples and burial sites thousands of years ago.
In Jeddah you have to visit the breathtaking Corniche road winding along the Red Sea, with its amazing sculpture park that is kept cool by the tranquil waters.
Located in the center of the great Al-Hasa Oasis and boasting locals camel markets this destination is a must see and shouldn’t be considered as complete before sampling some authentic Saudi dates.
Built on the spot where the first city that was captured by the Ibn Saud in 1902 once stood, the royal capital of Riyadh’s only traces of the old town is the Masmak Fort and some traditional Nadji palaces near Deera Square. It’s a town that has to be on any travel itinerary when visiting the Kingdom.
In the ancient city of Jeddah lay the ragged and coral-colored Ottoman buildings. The city also boasts cosmopolitan hotels and restaurants and has some of the best meat and fish markets in the region.
Admire the scenic view of the pink palaces scattered between the breath taking cliff tops and enjoy the areas mild temperatures which has become famous as Saudi Arabia’s official summer capital.
Among the pomegranate, lime and banana orchids lie the ancient ruins of Timna and Shiban. You will feel like you have stepped into a land lost in time when exploring the beautiful surrounds of the area.
Things to do in Saudi Arabia
Explore the ancient crafts and skills
At Jebel-al-Qara age old pottery skills are taught to touring locals and you can buy some of the beautiful crafts on display.
Frolic in the waters of the Obhir Creek
Just north of Jeddah you can enjoy the countless water sport activities available and experience the beauty of the Red Sea which is where the waters are more remarkable than anywhere else in the region.
Tour Tarut Island
Tour Tarut Island showcasing the oldest town in the peninsula this island is a marvelous exploration site. Experience island life with views of the local fishermen and weavers going about their daily lives and enjoy the great cuisine on offer.
Tour the salt mines
The salt mine of Abqaiq is 5000 years old and still in operation. A tour here is definitely worth wile.
Explore the wildlife
In the Asir – a range of coastal mountains – you will be able to experience the wild vegetation and animal species that are on display. It’s one of the only places within the kingdom with as much vegetation and exploration opportunities.
Shopping is a favorite pass time when in Saudi since no bars, casino’s or night clubs are found here, and the array of shopping destinations are endless. Pick up some souvenirs from the grand souks (markets), massive department stores or extravagant shopping malls.
Best time to visit Saudi Arabia
Tourists visit Saudi Arabia between November and March
Saudi Arabia tends to be extremely hot and in the months of April through October sees average daytime temperatures of around 40°C with high humidity levels in the coastal regions to add insult to injury. Around the areas of Taif temperatures tend to be appreciatively cooler year round. Winter time which runs from November through March would be the ideal time to travel to the Kingdom when temperatures are much more tolerable and can even cool down to zero degrees at night.
Did you know?
Camel races, folk dances, poetry readings and other festivities commemorate Saudi Arabia’s first Natural Heritage and Folk Culture Festival (March)
Jeddah Summer Festival
This massive 5 day long celebratory festival is held annually in Jeddah and features spectacular fireworks, circus acts, live music, dancing and heaps of delicious traditional cuisine (June)
Eid al Fitr
Celebrations in the spirit of the end of Ramadan is huge is Saud Arabia and traditional song and dance; along with exceptionally large quantities of great foods are the order of the day. Gift-giving is widely practiced and a renewed sense of life can be seen in the locals (October)
- Fatir – Traditional flat bread made from toasted barley flour that gets shaped like a tortilla and baked over a metal mixing bowl for about 4 minutes.
- Kapsa – This traditional dish consists of chicken that is served in a sauce which contains hints of garlic, onion, tomato, cardamom and raisins and is served on a bed of basmati rice. Delicious and very filling.
- Rice Saudi Style – A flavorsome and delectable rice dish that delivers tastes of tomato, raisins, cloves, cinnamon and cardamom.
- Tabbouleh – This authentic Bulgur Wheat salad is a big hit on all menus within the Kingdom and replaces the regular garden salad of western worlds. It’s very filling and can stand as a meal on its own.
- Hummus – We all know the taste of hummus which is basically pureed chick peas with tahini, lemon and garlic, but the taste it delivers when made by the Saudi people is so much more rewarding. Spread it on some pita bread and enjoy!
- Read up on religious laws before departing as they might influence your experience.
- You are not allowed to take pictures of Muslim women, government buildings or airports,
- Always dress conservatively to avoid confrontation.
- No alcohol is sold or available in the Kingdom and it is illegal to bring it into the country.
- It is illegal to bring any bible or relics that promote any other religion other than Islam into the country
- Take note that the local businesses will take a halt 5 times daily for 30 minutes as this is the Islamic praying times
- Be wary of where you point your feet! Seriously, showing the soles of your feet to anyone is considered a serious insult among locals.
- Get the vaccines that are recommended such as Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Rabies and Typhoid.
- Tap water should not be used for brushing teeth or drinking as it is unsafe and reverse osmosis bottled water should be used instead.
- Milk in the country is unpasteurized and should always be boiled before use.