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Saudi Arabia: Beyond the Veil

26 December 2017 United Arab Emirates No comment

Saudi Arabia

The land of the Bedouins, of vast swathes of sand and deserts, but hidden behind that dusty façade is a country waiting to be discovered. Hitherto known mostly for religious tourism, the country is slowly opening for global tourism. As you make your way through the country, you would be surprised that those stories that we heard about harsh lives in the desert have moved on progressively to modern city life. The country is endowed with incredible natural beauty, is culturally rich, and endowed with archaeological wonders that few have known till date. 

Be it Historical Jeddah, the rock art in Jubbah and Shuwaymis, the ancient ruins of Mada’in Saleh, the Nabatean tombs in Hegra and Maddain Saleh, or the salubrious climate at Abha, this ancient landscape is enigmatic. You could start off your tour with a visit to majestic Jeddah, also regarded as the commercial capital of the kingdom and one that still holds imprints of the ancient Ottoman Empire. You could then move to Abha and enjoy the towering peaks of Mount Souda. You could opt to drive or take the flights from Jeddah to Abha. Other notable places to visit include the capital city of Riyadh, the Wahaba volcanic crater, Barmah caves, and the Tarut Island.

Jeddah, the commercial capital

Jeddah, famous for its elaborate and ornate wooden windows, is also known as the gateway to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina. Note that the two holy cities are only accessible to Muslims. Start your exploration of Jeddah with a visit to Balad. Intriguing, you would feel as if you have stepped back in time. The city was mainly a fishermen’s village who had sailed along to its shores long back. The old houses, built with traditional coral stones and palm wood lattices are fascinating, to say the least. While in Jeddah, you should definitely try its colorful markets. You could shop along with the locals at Heraa, Palestine or Gabel Street areas or head to the high-fashion malls like the Mall of Arabia, Roshan mall or the Red Sea Mall. Plan for a day to visit the El Beit Nassif, which translated means Prince Nassif House and is one of the finest examples of a traditional house of the region. The Abdul Rauf Khalil Art Museum is a rich repository of local art, while a visit to the Municipality Museum is highly recommended to understand how the fishing village evolved into a modern metropolis.

The Switzerland of Saudi Arabia

Abha is a hill station that’s situated at an elevation of 7,500 feet above sea level and is a very popular destination for Saudis as well as people from other countries in the Arabian Gulf. This vacation spot is well known for its moderate climate and is in the Asir region. The Asir mountain ranges support a wide variety of wildlife including gazelles, leopards. and baboons. Some of the amazing attractions in Abha include the Al Muftaha village, Shadda Palace, and an amazing Souk market that’s held every Tuesday. A large number of festivals are also organized in the city and the Abha Festival held is summers draw a considerable tourist crowd. A visit to the Rijal Alma stone heritage village is a must to get a feel of local life and culture as is a visit to Al Habalah, that are connected to the city by a modern cable car.

The Rolling Sands

Popularly known as the “Empty Quarters”, this region of unending sand dunes can be captivating. Do keep in mind though that exploring this region on your own is not suggested as you could easily lose yourself. Instead, you should take a package tour from a registered tour operator in the region. Join your group tour to experience desert camping, dune bashing, or a quiet night in the desert enjoying the start-lit skies and a dinner by the warm fire.

Riyadh – a History of Many Civilizations

Riyadh, strategically located at the crossroads of ancient kingdoms, has a rich history that reflects the many civilizations that were established in the region in ancient times. Some of the significant heritage sites include historical Dir’iyah, a UNESCO “World Heritage Site” and the Al Ghat historic village. At Al Ghat, the Amara Palace is a wonderful example of Islamic architecture. The Bamrah Cave can be done as a day-trip and is located 66 kilometers from the city. The site has wonderful inscriptions carved on the rock faces and is said to be more than 2000 years old.

 

How to get there?

When planning a trip, it’s always better to compare prices on the net. Many famous airline companies offer a variety of online booking to Saudi Arabia, and it’s always fantastic to get the best flight for the best deal. One of the most recommended airlines operating these days, would be Etihad Airways, which is the second largest airline of the UAE. The airline provides services across the Middle East. Just make sure you find the right deal for you.

Bon Voyage!

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