An enigmatic country of ultra-modern cities and ancient holy places
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is an oil-rich nation that sits in a hot, arid region between Africa and Asia, with the Red Sea on one side and the Persian Gulf on the other. Saudi is a deeply religious Islamic country and is the location of two of the most important religious meeting places in the Islamic world; the cities of Mecca and Medina. Most visitors to Saudi Arabia are either pilgrims making the journey to Mecca for the religious festival of Hajj, or business visitors, many of whom are connected to the lucrative oil business. The Saudi capital is a remarkable feat of modern construction and engineering principles, but visitors see the real Saudi Arabia when they mingle with locals in traditional souks, or marketplaces, to barter for souvenirs such as carpets and handicrafts.
To western eyes, Saudi Arabia is one of the world’s least understood nations, which means a holiday in Saudi can be a very culturally rewarding and enlightening experience. Once a nation wary of outsiders, Saudi is opening up to tourism with more and more opportunities for cultural sightseeing.
When to Go?
The best time to visit Saudi Arabia is either in winter or early spring, depending on where you go. During the summer, temperatures in the capital Riyadh can become unbearably hot, which does not lend itself well to sightseeing, while winter evenings can be cold, so spring is the ideal time. The winter in coastal cities such as Jeddah is pleasantly hot during the day, but unlike Riyadh it stays warm throughout the evening.
How to get there?
Flights to Saudi Arabia from the UK are available with the Saudi flag carrier Saudi Arabian Airlines, flying to Riyadh (RUH) , Jeddah (JED) and Dammam (DMM) from London Heathrow. British Airways and BMI also fly the Heathrow to Riyadh route. For flights to Dammam, BMI flies from Heathrow, while BA flies from London Stansted. All three fly from Heathrow to Jeddah.
In the capital Riyadh visit the Riyadh Museum of History and Archaeology and the impressive 19th century Musmak Fortress. Discover the historic part of Jeddah where you can find crumbling buildings dating from the 7th century interspersed with modern boutique shops. Jeddah is also the location of the world’s highest fountain, King Fahd’s Fountain, which shoots upwards over 850ft in Red Sea off the coast of Jeddah. Jeddah is the gateway to the holy Islamic city of Mecca, but Mecca is out of bounds for non-Muslims, and this rule is strictly enforced under Saudi law.