A desert country encompassing most of the Arabian Peninsula with Red Sea and Persian Gulf Coastlines, Saudi Arabia is mostly known as the birthplace of Islam and home to the religion’s most 2 sacred mosques, Masjid al-Haram, in Mecca, destination of the annual Hajj pilgrimage, and Medina’s Masjid an-Nabawi, burial site of the prophet Muhammed.
Saudi Arabia used to be an almost-secretive country until the border was thrown open to all. Although, the country generate a reasonable wealth from the annual pilgrimage of Muslims to the country, it did not avail itself of more that could be gotten from other tourist until a year ago. The pilgrims have always had tales of the generosity of the Arabs but the sentiment could not be related to by others until Prince Sultan bin Salman, the head of the Saudi tourism and national heritage commission, announced that the Kingdom would begin to issue tourist visas in 2018.
Now that the door is wide open for all, here are some of the best things you can do on your visit to Saudi Arabia.
1. Go Scuba Driving
Although many think of Saudi Arabia to be a land of nothing but deserts, the belief is untrue as the country has coastlines on the Persian Gulf as well as the Red Sea. If you’ve ever visited Egypt’s share of the Red Sea in the Sinai peninsula, then you’re guaranteed that Saudi’s share of the sea avails you some of the best snorkeling and scuba driving in the world.
2. Go on a Road Trip
Get in a car with a bunch of friends or family and see what Saudi Arabia has to offer adventurous tourists. The country is full historical, architectural, interesting and exclusive sights that you can never see in another country in the world. The perfect blend of old and new, history and present, religion and culture is one that will wow anyone. From traipsing the old and new cities of Jeddah, moving from Mecca to Medina, from city to desert, fountains to desert, the sight, smell, taste and feel of opposites in the country will stay with any visitor till their last day.
3. See the Mountains that abound Saudi Arabia
Saudi could have gotten a name as a land of mountains. It is one of the countries on earth where history meets archaeology and both meet architecture. While the glitters of Riyadh, Damman, Jeddah and Makkah may want to derail you from nature, you might want to bless your eyes with the sight of the various mountains that abound in Saudi Arabia.
There is also Mount Uhud where the Prophet once battled with Makkans. There are markers all over the place to guide you. Another mountain you don’t want to miss or ignore is Al Qarah Mountain in Al Hofuf.
4. Visit a Park
Saudi Arabia is a desert country which is hot and humid most times of the year. You should not miss out on an opportunity to cool off in one of the parks that are so popular in the cities. There is the Jeddah Waterfront which boasts sandy beaches and cool walkways on the Jeddah Corniche. They also have the Al Bujairi Heritage Park, Al-Shallal Theme Park and King Abdullah Park where you can enjoy everything from roller coasters, ice skating, and many other fun activities.
5. See the Remnants of History
Saudi Arabia is a country rich with history. This is no average feat as archaeologists have discovered remains of humans dating back to 90,000 years. Through the years of various human existences, the country has accumulated proofs of history that will later become masterpieces. As a tourist, you should begin your rediscovery of history from the lost city; Mada’in Saleh. Although, most people are quite familiar with the lost city of Petra in Jordan, most do not know that there is a twin city in Saudi Arabia. Other remnants of history that might arouse your curiosity include Jannatul Baqi; the ancient cemetery where most of the Prophet’s companions were buried including his wives. Al Masmak Fortress, which looked like a castle out of a movie. Grave of Hamzah, old Dir’aiyah; al-Ula, the old city of Taif are just a few of what history has left to be discovered.
6. The Mosques are attractions of their Own
Whether you are a Muslim or not, you have to admit that the mosques in the historic cities of Saudi Arabia are one of their kinds in which only attempts can be made at replication but not success. Although most of the mosques might not be open to tourists, the mosques in the country are sights to marvel at if you’re lucky enough to be granted access. Starting with the Kaabah, to Al Masjid an Nabawih in Medinah, Abu Bakar Masjid Grand Mosque, Masjid Quba, Masjid Al Qiblatayn, Al Rajhi Grand Mosque, Masjid Taneem, the notable mosques are endless.
7. Museums are a Must-see
One of the most-important things to do as a tourist is to see as much of the culture and history of the country you’re visiting as their fineries. One of the best places to see how much development a country has had is in museums. The rich histories of the cities in Saudi Arabia are not just scattered over places. Some records and remnants have been preserved in museums which are mostly opened to tourists. Some notable museums you can visit are the National Museum of Saudi Arabia, King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture, Al-Madina Museum, Qur’an Museum and Dar Al Madinah Museum.
8. Marvel at the Works of Nature
In what is known as one of the oldest settlements on the Arabian Peninsula, Al-Ahsa oasis lies in the middle of Riyadh and Dammam in all its glory of mountains, souks, springs and millions of date palms. In a country parched with 95% desert lands, Al-Ahsa thrives with 150 natural springs. There are also other novel sights of nature in the desert land of Saudi Arabia. You can go on a trip to the bird-filled salt marshes of Asfar Lake; the honeycomb caves of Al-Qarah Mountain; King Fahd Fountain and more.
9. Go on a Shopping Spree
The first rule in tourism rulebook is that you must have photo documentary of your trip. The second is that you must go on a shopping spree. Saudi Arabia is full of malls that will offer you niceties as well as astonishing views, both during the day, and at night. Start your tour with a courtesy visit to the Kingdom Tower. A symbol of the nation, it is the third tallest building in Saudi Arabia and is both a shopping mall and a residential area; all thanks to the space provided by its gargantuan height. You should also check out other malls including Al Nakheel Mall, Mall of Arabia, Riyadh Gallery Mall, Red Sea Mall, Othaim Mall among others.
10. Go to the End of the World
Yeah, literally. One of the best things you can do while visiting Saudi Arabia is to go the Rub’ al Khali; also known as the Empty Quarter. It is a piece of land on the border of Saudi Arabia and truly empty since it is shared between Saudi Arabia, Oman, Yemen and the United Arab Emirates. You can get there by riding on a camel safari or drive your 4×4 through the dunes.