WHY TO VISIT SAUDI ARABIA
The cultural richness of the country will not fail to charm you, but Saudi Arabia also has natural treasures, as the largest sandy desert in the world, as well as the largest oasis. Lying on the plateau of the Nejd, it is also bordered by my Red Sea and the Persian Gulf. On the other hand, there is no body of water inland, and the inhabitants are essentially gathered in the oases or at the coast.
Between its stunning landscapes and surprisingly modern cities, its magnificent vestiges that date back to some four thousand years, such as the rock paintings on the site of Jubbah, you will discover an unexpected and magical world. The mosques are particularly beautiful, and one can immediately see on seeing that Saudi Arabia places religion first and foremost. Mecca, the first holy city of Islam, sees millions of pilgrims coming to visit it, but it is forbidden to non-Muslims.
You will of course visit the capital, Riyadh, with the fortress of Masmak, but also the museum of the city, the ruins of Dir'aiyah and the dromedary market. At the edge of the Red Sea, Jeddah is waiting for you with its old city and its souks, as well as its twin towers, Lamar Towers, and in the city of Medina you will find the famous mosque of the Prophet. If you explore the mountainous region of Asir, you can discover the national park, but also the site of Najran and the ruins of the village of Habella.
WHAT TO SEE IN SAUDI ARABIA
Top destinations in Saudi Arabia are:
- An Nu'man Island
WHEN TO GO TO SAUDI ARABIA
Best period to visit Saudi Arabia is from November to March.
The climate of Saudi Arabia, of the desert type, may be excessively hot, but it varies slightly depending on the region. For example it is warm throughout the year on the east coast and on the west coast of the country, with more humidity in summer, and dry weather in winter.
In the heart of the country, it is very hot in summer, quite cool during the winter, and the climate remains dry permanently. Rainfall occurs in spring. The best periods to visit the country are therefore between November and March.
April and October are still acceptable months, but it is essential to avoid discovering the country between May and September.
Following a list of typical festival and celebrations of Saudi Arabia.
- Janadriyah National Festival: Saudi Arabia’s biggest folk and cultural festival takes place for two weeks each February in Janadriyah, about 30 miles from Riyadh. Thrilling horse and camel races are among the highlights of what may be Saudi Arabia’s liveliest non-religious public gathering. Artisans from across the country sell and display their crafts, while some of Saudi Arabia’s most talented poets recite their latest compositions.
- Milad al-Nabi: All Saudi Muslims celebrate the birthday of their Prophet, Mohammad, by elaborately decorating their homes and mosques. Children recite poems about the Prophet, while older Saudis tell stories about Mohammad’s life and accomplishments. Large feasts and street processions are among Milad al-Nabi’s other traditional activities. The date of Milad al-Nabi varies from year to year according to the Islamic calendar.
Jeddah Festival: Perhaps no other Saudi festival is as tourist-friendly as the one which takes place in the port city of Jeddah between June and July. The first Jeddah Festival was held in 2000 to attract more tourists to Saudi Arabia’s second-largest city, but the festival has now grown to include over 200 exciting events. Visitors can sample traditional Saudi dishes, purchase local handicrafts, or watch the opening fireworks display over Jeddah’s stunning Corniche.
- Unification of the Kingdom Day: The country’s only secular public holiday takes place each September 23 on the anniversary of Saudi Arabia’s 1932 founding. Although many Saudis still choose to quietly celebrate this formerly low-key holiday at home, growing numbers of young Saudis have chosen to express their national pride more overtly by singing, dancing, honking car horns, and waving Saudi flags.
- Eid ul-Fitr: Like their Muslim counterparts in other nations, Saudis mark the final day of the fasting month of Ramadan with this three-day religious festival. Eid ul-Fitr begins with a small morning meal and quiet prayers, and continues with larger feasts and livelier celebrations among family and friends. Saudi children receive money and elaborately decorated gift bags from adults, several shopkeepers add free gifts to all purchases, and Saudi men secretly leave large bags of food on strangers’ doorsteps during this festive time of year.
- Eid al-Adha: This important Muslim festival lasts four days and marks the moment when Ibrahim was willing to sacrifice Ismael, his son, for Allah. Today, most Saudi families celebrate Eid al-Adha by dressing up in their finest clothing, saying special prayers, and slaughtering lambs to share their meat with everyone.
- International Date Festival: In the city of Buraidah, 300 kilometres north of Riyadh, the centre of town is transformed into a vast marketplace for fresh and dried dates, the tasty delicacy of the Arab world. Sellers and buyers flock to this renowned city to celebrate the tiny, sweet fruit, and on offer are date-related products, including cookies, jams, and breads.
- Taif Rose Festival: Hundreds of thousands of people each year visit the cool and green summer-tourist resort city to enjoy captivating views and celebrate the fruits and flowers that grow in its fertile valley, including more than 200 rose plant varieties.
- Jeddah Summer Festival: For more than ten years, the Red Sea port town of Jeddah, on the western edge of Saudi Arabia, has hosted a festival that begins with fireworks on the Corniche waterfront, and includes a circus, musical performances, and children’s theatre.
- King’s Cup Camel Race: Janadriyah begins with an annual camel race in which hundreds of animals and riders compete to win the King’s Cup, with a purse of hundreds of thousands of dollars. There are several races on subsequent days that are open to the public.
HOW TO REACH AND TRAVEL THROUGH SAUDI ARABIA
For your travels, the plane is very convenient given the long distances between the main cities, but there is also an efficient road network and efficient bus routes connecting the cities to each other. Inside the cities, the taxi is very convenient.
by plane, main airports are:
- Al-Hofuf, Al-Ahsa
GENERAL INFORMATION ON SAUDI ARABIA
country entry requirements: passport + visa (check your visa requirements)
health tips & vaccination: drink only bottled water and avoid ice. Vaccine against meningitis, hepatitis A and B and malaria prophylaxis are recommended.
local currency: Saudi Riyal
local time zone: GMT+3
electricity: type G (220-3023 V, 50 Hz)
mobile phone operators:
WHAT TO DO IN SAUDI ARABIA
typical food in Saudi Arabia
- Pitta bread: flat, unleavened bread) accompanies every dish
- Rice, lentils, hummus (chick peas) and burghul (cracked wheat) are also common
- Kultra: (chicken or lamb on skewers) is popular for lunch
- Kebabs: are often served with soup and vegetables
- Mezze: the equivalent of hors d'oeuvres, may include up to 40 dishes
- Kabsa or Mofatah: dish made of a mix rice, vegetables, and meat
- Margoog: vegetable stew, usually containing squash and eggplant, cooked with thin pieces of rolled out dough
- Jareesh: boiled, cracked, or coarsely-ground wheat, mixed with meat
- Gursan: meat and vegetable stew made with Gursan (a special kind of bread)
- Fattoush: bread salad made from toasted or fried pieces of Arabic flat bread combined with mixed greens and other vegetables
- Hininy: dish made from date, brown bread, butter, Cardamom and saffron
- Quzi: dish of slow cooked lamb, roasted nuts, raisins, served over rice
- Haneeth: dish made of basmati rice, lamb, and a mixture of spices
- Aseedah: round wholemeal wheat dough with a depression in the middle filled with hot chili tomato paste or Helba (a fenugreek mixture made with parsley and garlic) and lamb or chicken stock poured around
- Mathlotha: dish made of layers of Korsan bread, Jarish wheat, rice and meat
- Tharid: dish made from pieces of bread in a vegetable or meat broth
- Murtabak or Mutabbaq: stuffed pancake or pan-fried bread with many variations. The most common form is a egg-filled pancake, sometimes mixed with green onion and minced meat, made from pan fried crepes which is folded and cut to squares
- Markook or Shrek: a type of unleavened flatbread baked on a domed or convex metal griddle
- Maqluba: dish of meat, rice, and fried vegetables placed in a pot, which is then flipped upside down when served
- Mansaf: dish made of lamb cooked in a sauce of fermented dried yogurt and served with rice or bulgur
- Matazeez: hearty stew of lamb and vegetables with whole-wheat ‘pasta’ discs
- Saleeg or Saleek: a white-rice dish, cooked in broth resembling the italian "risotto"
- Mandi: dish made from rice, meat (lamb or chicken), and a mixture of spices
- Shakshouka: dish of eggs poached in a sauce of tomatoes, chili peppers, and onions, often spiced with cumin
- Jalamah: dish made of from lamb and a mixture of spices
- Kibbeh: dish made of bulgur (cracked wheat), minced onions, and finely ground lean beef, lamb, goat, or camel meat with spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, allspice)
- Roz Bukhari: chicken and rice stir-fried with onion, lemon, carrot and tomato paste
- Güllaç: dessert made with milk, pomegranate and a special kind of pastry
- Muhallebi: creamy milk-based pudding, thickened with rice flour or cornstarch, and then topped with sweet syrup
- Kanafeh: pastry soaked in sweet, sugar-based syrup
- Basbousa: sweet cake made of cooked semolina or farina soaked in simple syrup
- Jallab: a fruit sirup made from carob, dates, grape molasses and rose water
souvenirs from Saudi Arabia
- Bedouin silver jewelery
- bronze and brassware
- richly decorated daggers and swords
- brass-bonded chests
- teapots and housegoods
- Ithar, a popular tradition porfume with a strong fragrance
- Sudi Arabian's traditional dresses
- wooden boxes
- fabrics with metal embellishments
Hello: مرحبا (marhba)
Goodbye: وداعا (wadaeaan)
How are you?: كيف حالك؟ (kayf halk?)
Thank you: شكرا (shukraan)
What is your name?: ما اسمك؟ (ma asmak)
How much is it?: كم سعره؟ (kam saerha?)
Sorry: معذرة (maedhira)