Discover the best of Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia has many things to discover, from the beautiful mosques to the amazing attractions and the diversity of local food that you must try. Believe it or not, this should be a destination on your bucket list, as you won’t regret visiting Saudi Arabia, even if it’s just a layover. With Visit Saudi Arabia, we have decided to show you the best you can do to discover the best of Saudi Arabia.
Things you should know before going to Saudi Arabia
Language🗣️ The official language of Saudi Arabia is Arabic, which is used in all public dealings and transactions. But English serves as an informal second language and is spoken by a large part of society. Also, all road signs display information in both languages.
Culture 🇸🇦 Being the birthplace of Islam, Saudi Arabia has a rich heritage and traditions. This was also shaped by its position as a historical commercial center. Over the past few years, Saudi Arabia has undergone a major cultural transformation, adapting and evolving its ancient customs to the contemporary world.
Weather☀️ As Saudi Arabia is huge in size, the weather varies by region. But generally the climate is characterized by a desert climate, with the exception of the southwestern part of the country, which is characterized by a semi-arid climate.
Currency💵 The national currency of Saudi Arabia is the Saudi riyal (ر.س SAR), which is subdivided into 100 halalas. 1 Saudi riya is 0.26 USD.
Laws and etiquette⚖️ In Saudi Arabia, there is no specific dress code, but places of worship require you to dress modestly when visiting. It is also recommended to be respectful in public, which means not using profanity, loud behavior, or intruding on other people’s boundaries. And finally, the sale, purchase and consumption of alcohol is prohibited in Saudi Arabia.
Top activities and attractions in Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia is a kingdom full of things to do, but here are the top activities and attractions to discover when visiting Saudi Arabia:
Impressive mosques in Saudi Arabia
You might think that the most beautiful mosques in Saudi Arabia would be in Mecca and Medina, the two holy cities, but there are many more cities containing architecturally remarkable mosques accessible to the public throughout Saudi Arabia. The must-see mosques are:
the Jawatha Mosque in Al Ahsa, believed to be the oldest mosque in the eastern Arabian Peninsula;
the Al Rajhi Grand Mosque in Riyadh, one of the most important Islamic institutions in the capital;
the Al Rajhi Mosque in Hail, which contains one of the largest chandeliers in the world;
Al Rahma Mosque in Jeddah, also called a floating mosque, standing uniquely on a pile of white concrete stilts in the Red Sea.
The Great Outdoors: outdoor activities
Here are the top 5 outdoor activities that you cannot miss when you visit Saudi Arabia:
If you want to go back in time, Hegra is the perfect destination. Hegra in an ancient city in Saudi Arabia, untouched since its discovery. It became an archaeological site, but also Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site. Today it is open for tourists to discover and find the clues about the mysterious empire that built it.
2. Al Wahbah Crater
It was once thought that the crater was created by the impact of an ancient meteorite, but in reality the cause was a volcanic eruption. This giant crater is one of the most spectacular natural wonders in Saudi Arabia, measuring 4 km wide and 250 meters deep. All are welcome to climb it and enjoy the glorious views of the desert from the rim of the crater.
3. Fanatic Marina Corniche in Jubail
The Fanateer Marina Corniche is perfect for weekends. This family-friendly beach and marina in the eastern province of Saudi Arabia is the ideal place to lounge or rent a boat to enjoy the beautiful view of the corniche. Also, if you get hungry there, you should try the fresh seafood that you can find in various restaurants in the area.
4. Wadi Al Baida (Valley of Ghosts)
Wadi Al Baida, located northwest of Medina on Gravity Hill, is a magical place. A place where water flows uphill and a bus at a standstill will be ‘magnetically’ propelled forward, amazing right? But in reality this happens due to an optical illusion, which makes things appear to be pulled in the opposite direction, making this place a must-see during your trip to Saudi Arabia! Go and see if the name “Valley of Ghosts” is really appropriate for this surreal place.
5. Empty room
The Empty Quarter, or as you know it by Rub Al Khali, is the world’s largest contiguous sand desert, stretching across the southern third of the Arabian Peninsula and covering more than a quarter of the total area of Saudi Arabia. Even if it is called the Empty Quarter, this desert is not entirely empty. Many tribes have lived and still live in this part of the Arabian Peninsula, and newcomers are always encouraged to discover the vast area with a tour guide. Go and explore the west, where the sand dunes reach a height of 2,000 feet above sea level, or the east, where the elevation drops to about 600 feet.
The best sunset views in Saudi Arabia
You can’t go to Saudi Arabia and not enjoy its beautiful Arabian sunsets, so to help you out, here are the best places to enjoy the golden hour when visiting Saudi Arabia:
Edge of the World – The actual name of this place is Jebel Fihrayn, but it is called ‘Edge of the World’ because it has an uninterrupted view of the horizon atop its 300 meter high cliffs. So imagine watching the sunset there, where all the fossils come to life when the golden hour is reflected on them.
Jeddah Corniche – As stated before, Jeddah Corniche is one of the best places to spend the day in Saudi Arabia, and it is worth waiting until the sun goes down. Here you can watch the sunset behind the King Fahd Fountain, or gaze at the Floating Mosque, which at sunset looks even more magical.
Asfar Lake – Asfar Lake is a wonder day or night as the contrast between the blue lake and the golden dunes is striking. But during the golden hour, the colors come even more alive, making it as spectacular as can be.
Al Disah Valley: Waldi Al Disah, or Al Disah Valley in English, is as impressive as the Grand Canyon (some say even more impressive). Here, due to the high walls of the canyon, with a bright red color, and the reflecting pools in the ground, the sunset is said to be breathtaking, bringing out all the colors visible in this incredible place.
Farasan Island – After spending the day exploring the island, the best time to return is when the sun goes down. So you will enjoy a beautiful sunset over the water, making the island shine in a unique way. And if you’re lucky, you might even get to see the dolphins swimming by during the golden hour.
As big as the kingdom is, is how big the kitchen is in Saudi Arabia. Each city and region has its typical dishes, so to enjoy them all you will need to make a complete journey through the kingdom. These are the best flavors to try when discovering Saudi Arabia:
Abha is the capital of the Aseer region, which is considered to be one of the ancient regions that preserved its folk identity and heritage, and this includes its food. Traditional Aseeri dishes have been passed down from generation to generation, pique the curiosity of travelers upon arrival in this beautiful region. Some of the foods to try are: Hanith, Arika and Asedah (the main traditional winter dishes), Altsabee, Shadkh and Rijla, and the Pan Mefa.
Jazan owes its rich culinary cuisine to its vast geographical resources, as it is a key agricultural heartland. In addition, in this beautiful city some of the dishes received the name of the instruments with which they were cooked, which were made from scratch by the matriarchs of the family. Three of the dishes that you must try when you visit Jazan are: Samak Mkashan, Mahshoosh and Mafalet (Thareed).
Flavors of Jeddah
Jeddah, also known as the ‘Bride of the Red Sea’, has a treasure trove of delicious culinary dishes, even more so when most of them are made from freshly caught seafood. So if you are a seafood lover visiting Saudi Arabia, you must visit Jeddah and try its tasty seafood dishes such as Fried Najil, Fried Sijan, Fried Shrimp and Fried Crab, Fish Kofta, Mashramel, Matfi Samak and last but not least, Kozi Samak.
Flavors of Najd
Najdi’s cuisine is hearty and healthy, dominated by stews, wheat and rice dishes, with aromatic spices making the dishes delicious and unique. This traditional cuisine is characterized by its long preparation, so you should enjoy this food even more, since it has been prepared with a lot of effort and care. The best dishes to try when visiting Najd are: Jareesh, Mataziz, Marquq, Ghorsan, Kabsa, Hinaini and Kleija.
Medina’s cuisine is known for its locally grown produce, mainly dates, herbs, and mint, and most recipes use these ingredients, in one way or another. But the must-try dishes to taste the true flavors of Medina are Shorbat Hub, Medini Rice, Makhtoom Bamia Okra with Yogurt and Saffron, Samboosak Buff and Buraik.
Flavors of Mecca
Pilgrims have been coming to Mecca for as long as anyone can remember, bringing many different cultures to the beautiful city. This diversity of cultures has influenced what is now Makkawi cuisine, mixing the original flavors of Makkawi with the flavors of the pilgrims who came to the city. To experience this cultural exchange, the dishes you must try when in Makkah are Sobia, hummus rice, Miro Kebab, Tagatea and Aish Bil Lahm.