Saudi Arabia, the largest of the Arab states in terms of land area, has been a destination for religious pilgrimage for centuries. Every year millions of Muslims from around the world flock to its two holy cities of Mecca and Medina for the annual pilgrimage, or Hajj. However, there is a side of Saudi Arabia that is relatively unknown and unexplored by outsiders. The country has a rich culture, beautiful landscapes, and warm hospitality that make it an ideal place to visit.
Saudi Arabia may be known for its of the world’s largest deserts, the Rub’ al Khali or «Empty Quarter», but it also has other breathtaking landscapes such as mountains, wadis (dry riverbeds), and coastal regions. The country is bordered by the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf, which offer spectacular diving and snorkelling opportunities.
The Rich Culture of Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia has a rich and diverse culture, shaped by its history and tradition. The country is home to some of the world’s most significant archaeological sites that showcase the ancient civilizations that once thrived in the region. The most famous of these sites is Madain Saleh, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which is also known as the «other Petra.» Here, visitors can marvel at the well-preserved tombs and buildings carved into the sandstone rock formations.
Another site that showcases the rich history is the Al-Ula, located in the northwest of the country. The site was the capital of the ancient Lihyan civilization, and it features stone tombs, rock art, and ancient inscriptions.
The culture of Saudi Arabia is also reflected in its traditional arts and crafts. The country is famous for its handwoven carpets, textiles, and pottery. The Qassim region is known for its weaving, while the southwestern region of Jizan is known for its leatherwork.
One of the most popular cultural events in Saudi Arabia is the annual Camel Festival, held in the winter months. Visitors can watch camel races and camel beauty contests, as well as enjoy local food, music, and dance performances.
The Endless Sandscapes of Saudi Arabia
The Rub’ al Khali desert covers a significant part of the Arabian Peninsula, and it is one of the world’s most extensive sand deserts. The desert is known for its towering sand dunes and shifting sands that create an otherworldly landscape. However, the desert is not the only sandscape that Saudi Arabia has to offer.
The southern region of Asir boasts the Al-Soudah mountain range, which is known for its spectacular sandstone formations and gorges. Visitors can trek through the mountains, explore the wadis, and enjoy the stunning waterfalls.
Another sand landscape worth exploring is the Red Sea coastline, which stretches for more than 2500km. The coastline is dotted with beautiful beaches, crystal-clear waters, and coral reefs. Visitors can go snorkelling, diving, or simply relax on the beach.
The Warm Hospitality of Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia is known for its warm hospitality and welcoming people. The culture values guests and visitors, and locals are often eager to share their customs and traditions with visitors.
One of the best examples of this hospitality can be found in the country’s food culture. The cuisine of Saudi Arabia is a blend of Middle Eastern and Bedouin influences, and it is known for its rich flavours and spices. Visitors can enjoy local dishes such as shawarma, falafel, hummus, and kabsa.
Saudi Arabia is also known for its coffee culture. The country is home to some of the world’s finest Arabica coffee beans, and locals take pride in the traditional coffee ceremony. Visitors can experience this first-hand by joining a local family for a coffee ceremony and enjoy the hospitality and warmth of Saudi hospitality.
Useful Tips and Advice for Travellers to Saudi Arabia
Travelling to Saudi Arabia can be an exciting and enriching experience. However, visitors should be aware of the country’s cultural and religious norms and customs. Here are some useful tips and advice for travellers to Saudi Arabia:
– Dress modestly: The country is conservative, and visitors should dress appropriately, particularly in public places. Women should cover their heads and wear long-sleeved, loose-fitting clothing. Men should avoid wearing shorts and sleeveless shirts.
– Respect local customs: Visitors should respect local customs and traditions, particularly during the holy month of Ramadan. This means avoiding eating, drinking, or smoking in public during daylight hours.
– Observe the cultural norms: Visitors should be mindful of the country’s cultural norms and etiquette. For example, it is customary to remove shoes before entering a mosque or a private home.
– Get travel insurance: Visitors should have comprehensive health insurance that covers medical treatment and repatriation.
– Stay safe: Visitors should exercise caution and be aware of potential safety hazards, particularly in remote areas.
Saudi Arabia offers a unique and exciting travel experience for visitors. Its rich culture, beautiful landscapes, and warm hospitality make it an ideal place to visit. From the ancient archaeological sites to the stunning sandscapes and the welcoming people, there are endless wonders to discover in Saudi Arabia. Visitors should be aware of the country’s cultural and religious norms and customs, dress modestly, and respect local traditions and etiquette to ensure a smooth and safe trip.
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