Hisma Desert in NEOM, Saudi Arabia.

Why Travel to Saudi Arabia?

Saudi Arabia is a country balancing the preservation of its rich heritage with a push towards modernization and openness. It invites travelers to explore its historic sites, experience its diverse landscapes, and witness a nation in the midst of a dynamic transformation.

12 min read

If you're looking for a unique and culturally rich travel destination, Saudi Arabia should be at the top of your list. With its fascinating history, stunning natural wonders, mouth-watering cuisine, and architectural marvels, this Middle Eastern country offers a wealth of experiences for travelers. In this article, we'll delve into the various aspects that make Saudi Arabia an enticing place to visit.

Understanding Saudi Arabia's Unique Culture

Saudi Arabia's culture is deeply rooted in its rich history and the influence of Islam. With a heritage dating back thousands of years, this country offers a captivating glimpse into the past. From ancient trade routes to Bedouin traditions, Saudi Arabia has an intriguing tapestry of customs and rituals that have stood the test of time.

Masjid Al-Haram mosque in Mecca.
Masjid Al-Haram

Islamic principles and practices are central to Saudi Arabian culture. The country's close association with Islam can be seen in its numerous mosques, including the iconic Masjid Al-Haram in Mecca. Visitors can witness the devotion of the locals during prayer times and experience the spiritual atmosphere that permeates the country.

One of the most fascinating aspects of Saudi Arabian culture is the influence of ancient trade routes. For centuries, Saudi Arabia has been a hub for trade between Africa, Asia, and Europe. The ancient city of Jeddah, for example, played a crucial role as a major port along the historic Incense Route. This trade route connected the Arabian Peninsula with the Mediterranean world, facilitating the exchange of goods, ideas, and cultures. Today, remnants of this rich trading history can still be seen in the architecture, cuisine, and traditional crafts of Saudi Arabia.

City of Jeddah in Saudi Arabia.
Jeddah

Bedouin traditions are another integral part of Saudi Arabian culture. The Bedouins are nomadic Arab tribes who have inhabited the Arabian Peninsula for centuries. Their way of life, characterized by desert survival skills and a strong sense of community, has shaped the cultural fabric of Saudi Arabia. Bedouin hospitality, for instance, is legendary. Visitors to Saudi Arabia may have the opportunity to experience the warm welcome of a Bedouin camp, where they can enjoy traditional food, music, and storytelling under the starry desert sky.

Furthermore, Saudi Arabia's cultural heritage extends beyond its borders. The country is home to several UNESCO World Heritage Sites, such as the archaeological site of Al-Hijr (Madain Salih) and the rock art of the Hail Region. These sites provide a glimpse into ancient civilizations that once thrived in the Arabian Peninsula, showcasing the rich history and cultural diversity of Saudi Arabia.

Rock art in Saudi Arabia desert.
Rock art

As Saudi Arabia embraces modernity, it also cherishes its traditional arts and crafts. The country is known for its intricate calligraphy, which adorns mosques, palaces, and public spaces. Traditional music, such as the captivating sounds of the oud and the tabla, continues to be celebrated and performed at cultural events. Saudi Arabian cuisine, with its aromatic spices and flavors, is a culinary delight that reflects the country's diverse heritage.

Exploring Saudi Arabia's Natural Wonders

For nature enthusiasts, Saudi Arabia boasts a diverse range of natural wonders. One such marvel is the Empty Quarter, the largest sand desert in the world. Stretching across four countries, this vast expanse of golden dunes offers a truly humbling experience. Travelers can embark on thrilling desert safaris, witnessing breathtaking sunsets over the endless horizon.

Empty Quarter in Saudi Arabia.
Empty Quarter

The Empty Quarter, also known as Rub' al Khali, covers an area of approximately 650,000 square kilometers. It is a landscape of unparalleled beauty, with towering sand dunes that reach heights of up to 250 meters. As you traverse this magnificent desert, you will be captivated by the ever-shifting patterns of sand, sculpted by the wind over thousands of years.

Aside from its stunning natural beauty, the Empty Quarter is also home to a rich cultural heritage. Bedouin tribes have inhabited this region for centuries, adapting to the harsh desert environment and developing a deep connection with the land. Exploring the Empty Quarter allows you to immerse yourself in their way of life, gaining a unique insight into their traditions and customs.

If you're a fan of underwater exploration, Saudi Arabia's Red Sea is a haven for divers. With its crystal-clear waters and vibrant coral reefs, it's no wonder this region is renowned as a diver's paradise. Snorkeling, scuba diving, and sailing are popular activities that allow visitors to immerse themselves in the colorful underwater world.

Diving in Red Sea in Saudi Arabia.
Diving sea turtle in Red Sea in Saudi Arabia.
Red Sea, Saudi Arabia

The Red Sea is teeming with marine life, from colorful tropical fish to majestic sea turtles and even dolphins. The coral reefs, known for their biodiversity, provide a habitat for a wide range of species. As you dive beneath the surface, you'll be greeted by a kaleidoscope of colors and a symphony of underwater life.

For a contrasting experience, Asir National Park is a lush green oasis nestled in the mountains of southwestern Saudi Arabia. Its mesmerizing landscapes and diverse flora and fauna offer a refreshing break from the arid desert. Hiking trails, wildlife spotting, and picnic areas make this park an ideal spot for nature lovers.

Asir National Park is a true paradise for botany enthusiasts. With its diverse range of plant species, including junipers, acacias, and wildflowers, the park showcases the rich biodiversity of the region. The park is also home to a variety of wildlife, such as Arabian leopards, ibex, and numerous bird species, making it a haven for wildlife enthusiasts and birdwatchers.

Saudi Arabian Cuisine: A Gastronomic Journey

No trip to Saudi Arabia is complete without indulging in its delectable cuisine. The traditional dishes of Saudi Arabia are a reflection of the country's heritage and regional influences. From succulent grilled meats to aromatic rice dishes, every bite is a fusion of flavors that tantalize the taste buds.

One of the most iconic dishes in Saudi Arabian cuisine is the Kabsa. This fragrant rice dish is made with a blend of spices, including cardamom, cinnamon, and cloves, giving it a rich and aromatic flavor. The rice is cooked with tender pieces of meat, such as chicken, lamb, or goat, and garnished with nuts and raisins. Each bite of Kabsa is a burst of flavors that will transport you to the heart of Saudi Arabia.

Coffee holds a special place in Saudi Arabian culture. Known as "qahwa," coffee plays a significant role in social gatherings and serves as a symbol of hospitality. Don't miss the opportunity to savor the traditional coffee ceremony, where the aromatic beverage is served in small cups, accompanied by dates, a traditional sweet treat.

As you wander through the streets, you will come across the enticing aroma of grilled kebabs. These skewered meats, marinated in a blend of spices and grilled to perfection, are a popular street food option. Whether you choose lamb, chicken, or beef, each bite is a burst of smoky and savory flavors that will leave you craving for more.

Another must-try street food in Saudi Arabia is Shawarma. This mouthwatering dish consists of thinly sliced meat, usually chicken or beef, marinated in a blend of spices and slow-roasted on a vertical spit. The tender and flavorful meat is then wrapped in a warm pita bread and topped with a variety of condiments, such as tahini sauce, pickles, and fresh vegetables. The combination of the tender meat and the flavorful toppings creates a taste sensation that is hard to resist.

Al-Madīnah souk in Saudi Arabia.
Al-Madīnah souk, Saudi Arabia

Exploring the culinary landscape of Saudi Arabia is not just about the food, but also about the cultural experience. The bustling markets, known as souks, are a feast for the senses. Here, you can find an array of spices, dried fruits, and nuts, as well as traditional cooking utensils and pottery. The vibrant colors and lively atmosphere of the souks make it a perfect place to immerse yourself in the local culture and discover the ingredients that make Saudi Arabian cuisine so unique.

The Architectural Marvels of Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia is home to a wealth of architectural marvels, both ancient and modern. The country's historic structures offer a glimpse into its rich past and the civilizations that once thrived here. From the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Mada'in Saleh, with its intricate rock-cut tombs, to the ancient Nabatean city of Al-Ula, each site tells a story of the land's ancient civilizations.

Giant mirror in Al-Ula desert in Saudi Arabia.
Hegra historical site in Al-Ula desert.
Al-Ula, Saudi Arabia

In contrast, Saudi Arabia's cities boast impressive modern architecture. The stunning skyscrapers and innovative designs of cities like Riyadh and Jeddah showcase the country's rapid development. Iconic structures like the Kingdom Centre Tower and the Jeddah Tower provide breathtaking vistas and a striking testament to Saudi Arabia's modernization.

Kingdom Centre Tower in Saudi Arabia.
Kingdom Centre Tower, © Kingdom Centre

In conclusion, Saudi Arabia offers a truly unique travel experience. From immersing yourself in its fascinating culture to exploring its natural wonders and indulging in its tantalizing cuisine, this Middle Eastern gem is a destination that should not be missed. So pack your bags, embrace the journey, and get ready to unravel the enchanting mysteries of Saudi Arabia.

LZ

Lizzie Z.

As a top level corporate executive, Lizzie embarked on a soul-searching journey of adventure and slow living, passionately sharing her insights as the founder of RLM.

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