Welcome, explorers, to the land of enchanting deserts, rich culture, and unparalleled history - Saudi Arabia. As this magnificent country opens its doors wider to travellers, 2023 marks an exciting time to delve into its hidden gems and captivating locations. From ancient heritage sites to modern marvels, let’s embark on a journey to uncover the beauty and splendour of this evolving nation.
RIYADH: WHERE TRADITION MEETS MODERNITY
Our journey begins in Riyadh, the vibrant capital city that encapsulates the fusion of tradition and progress. Admire the Kingdom Centre Tower, an architectural masterpiece offering a panoramic view of the city and the mesmerizing Sky Bridge for an exhilarating experience.
For a touch of history, venture to Diriyah, a UNESCO World Heritage site that serves as the birthplace of the Saudi Kingdom. This old town, with its mud-brick structures and historical significance, offers a glimpse into the kingdom’s origins as Diriyah was the original home of the Saudi Royal Family.
ALULA: THE ANCIENT WONDER
A gem hidden in the vast expanse of the desert is Alula, an archaeological treasure trove.
Marvel at the UNESCO-listed Hegra, a Nabatean wonder reminiscent of Petra in Jordan. The striking sandstone cliffs and intricately carved tombs stand as testaments to ancient civilization. Of the 111 monumental tombs, most are intricately and elaborately decorated.
This ancient oasis town once thrived with incense trade routes and contrary to its desert surroundings the area's high-water table enabled them to harness and innovate the use of water. Artificial wells in rocky ground are still used to this day. Hegra celebrates its 15th Anniversary as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2023 and was the country's first entry on the UNESCO list.
While exploring the history of Alula make sure to visit Maraya, a remarkable mirror-clad concert hall that hosts cultural events amidst the stunning desert backdrop. It’s a futuristic gem nestled in the heart of history.
According to the Guinness World Records, it is the largest mirrored building in the world with 9740 mirrored panels on this state-of-the-art structure. Maraya is a piece of art in the desert designed to blend into the surrounding landscape and celebrates AlUla’s significant role in history as a crossroads of cultures for centuries.
JEDDAH: THE COASTAL JEWEL
Moving westward, the Port City of Jeddah beckons with its captivating blend of modernity and tradition. The Corniche, a beautiful seaside promenade, offers stunning views of the Red Sea and is a perfect spot for leisurely strolls or a delightful picnic at sunset.
Being the largest city in the Makkah Province and the second largest city in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Jeddah is an economic powerhouse and a cultural melting pot that brings various cultures and traditions together.
Explore the historic Al-Balad district with its charming traditional buildings and bustling souks. The coral houses and intricately designed wooden windows showcase Jeddah's unique architectural heritage.
From the cutting-edge architecture and luxury hotels to the beautiful beaches and rich history Jeddah has something for everyone.
THE EDGE OF THE WORLD: AN ENIGMATIC WONDER
A relatively undiscovered gem is the Edge of the World, located just outside Riyadh. This geological marvel, a sheer rock face that plunges into a vast expanse of desert, offers a surreal and breathtaking view, especially at sunrise or sunset. It's an adventurer's dream spot for hiking and photography, providing an otherworldly experience.
Explore the area and you might find snail and marine life fossils indicating that the area had once been a marine habitat. The best time to visit would be in the wintertime when the beautiful nature is accompanied by cold weather and the rainy season.
DIVING INTO THE RED SEA: UNDERWATER TREASURES
For diving enthusiasts, Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea coast is a paradise waiting to be explored. The pristine waters of destinations like Yanbu and Jeddah offer an opportunity to discover vibrant marine life, including coral reefs, colourful fish, and even wreck sites waiting to be uncovered.
The clear waters, excellent visibility and consistent water temperatures create the perfect conditions to explore the untouched underwater paradise.
CULINARY ODYSSEY: SAVORING SAUDI DELICACIES
No travel experience is complete without indulging in the local cuisine. Saudi Arabia offers an array of delectable dishes, from traditional Kabsa to the delightful sweets such as Baklava and Kunafa. Relish the flavours of the Arabian Peninsula and be sure to explore the local eateries to enjoy an authentic culinary journey.
Saudi Arabia, with its rich heritage, diverse landscapes, and warm hospitality, is an unfolding treasure trove for intrepid travellers. As you immerse yourself in the vibrant tapestry of this evolving nation, be prepared to be spellbound by its hidden gems and the confluence of ancient history with modern marvels.
2023 presents an opportune moment to explore the splendour of Saudi Arabia - a land where the past meets the future, and travellers create memories to last a lifetime.