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The Middle Eastern country of Saudi Arabia is renowned worldwide as the home to the holiest sites in Islam, Mecca and Medina. This wealthy country with a rich oil industry follows strict Sharia laws with overimposed restrictions, which is why travellers hesitate to stop here. Though the country flaunts a lavish lifestyle, there are no bars, clubs and most other typical forms of entertainment. However, the numerous huge malls and markets (souq), endless desert sands, lengthy coastline and rich history and culture of Saudi Arabia are compelling enough to pay a visit here.
The capital city Riyadh’s skyline is dominated by the Al Faisaliyah Center and the Kingdom Centre which are connected by the Sky Bridge. The views of the city from the Sky Bridge at a staggering height of 300 metres, are simply stunning and not for the faint-hearted! The National Museum of Saudi Arabia, with state-of-the-art facilities, displays the rich history and culture of the country through informative galleries, presentations and short documentaries. The Masmak Fortress, an impressive structure made of mudbrick and clay, is located a short distance away from the museum and is an important historical site in the city.
Saudi Arabia’s second city Jeddah is considered as the gateway to the holy sites of Mecca and Medina. Mecca’s Grand Mosque and Medina’s Prophet’s Mosque are important Islamic pilgrimage sites and it is a strong desire for every Muslim to visit these holy mosques at least once in a lifetime. Note that non-Muslims are not allowed to enter these mosques. Jeddah has a lively Red Sea coast lined with beaches, diving spots and a few resorts. Other popular sites include the iconic King Fahd’s Fountain and Al-Balad historic district. The city is expected to build the world’s first 1-kilometre tower (called Jeddah Tower) by 2024. Yanbu, another port city along the Red Sea is known for its verdant Al Fairouz Park. The city contains sandy beaches like Sharm Yanbu Bay, great dive sites and a rich coral system.
The archaeological site of Madain Saleh is a major highlight of Saudi Arabia and contains the ruins of an ancient city belonging to the Nabatean Kingdom. You will find the ruins of mysterious tombs and other structures carved out of rocks amidst a desert-like landscape.
Saudi Arabia is not an ideal choice for every traveller as one must be respectful of the various laws and restrictions of the country. It is especially not suitable for those looking for an entertainment packed and alcohol powered holiday. However, if you are drawn to ancient cities and cultures steeped in history, then Saudi Arabia is an interesting destination to explore.
Saudi Arabia is home to Mecca and Medina – two of the most sacred sites in Islam.