The Best Mysterious and Unique Places in Saudi Arabia

List of Beautiful Places in Saudi Arabia

“Take chances, explore and find new adventures because no matter where you end up, it will always be exactly how it was meant to be, trust me, it will be worth it and you will feel it, and if you don’t, then your journey isn’t over yet

                                                                    – Enaya-

The contrasting images of the modern city and the cultural heritage & architecture of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will take you on an incredible journey into the majestic ancient era. The magical azure waters of the Red Sea call out to the soul and effortlessly your mind aligns with the rhythm of the universe. There is an air of mystery in the golden sands of the deserts, the enchanting winds whisper to you the stories of a magnificent past. You can witness unbelievable mountain sceneries and spectacular heritage villages. Why Saudi Arabia? Well, It’s not just culture, it’s a lifestyle. It’s not just traditions, it’s value. I try and write so that I can encompass, even if just a speck of the glorious features of the kingdom and I try to justify its beauty, but all boundaries simply cease to exist. I am left with a never-ending desire to capture and present the Arabian wonders and all I can say is that there is always more than meets the eye!

Al-Bahah (city) & Baljureshi

Just imagine! Taking in a breath of fresh and cold air in the midst of peaceful silence where it’s only you and the melody of nature, would Arabia ever be the first thought to cross your mind? To walk in the midst of clouds is a dream for many, it’s real for those who visit here!

Along the impressively high cliffs of the Sarawat mountains, Al-Bahah and Baljureshi will offer stunning viewpoints on the cliffs of Al-Bahah Province, historical and traditional sites, and satisfying green parks. The city of Al-Bahah will welcome you to a marvelous sight of its finely detailed and picturesque old villages. Although these traditional buildings are now unoccupied, the local residents are proud to see that the visitors are keen on acknowledging skilled carpentry and their glorious ancestral past.

Al Bahah
evening in Al Bahah
  • Al-Bahah Souk: If you are lucky, you will get the chance to see the largest traditional market that is set-up in the city

This souk distinguishes itself as most vendors are locals from the Tihama coastline. All the goods and crafts sold in the souk have been developed by local suppliers and include items such as basil, household items, textiles, livestock and so much more

  • Al-Bahah Museum for Antiquities and National Heritage: This is most definitely a very intriguing place. Located in the city, the museum, which was established by the Saudi Commission for Tourism & National Heritage (SCTH), highlights the cultural and historical dimensions and covers the long history of Al-Bahah province

Baljureshi presents one of Al-Bahahah’s most intense views. In fact, from the park located on the base of the majestic rock formation of Jabel Heznah, the panoramic view of the scarp that separates the Mountains of Sawarat from the Tihama plain is simply breathtaking. If you are adventurous in your approach, a climb to the top of the majestic Jabel Heznah will be the perfect activity for you at the end of which you will be rewarded by the highest viewpoint of the entire province.

  • Jabal Mussala Ibrahim – Sheda: Does Arabia = heat, dust, desert and sand dunes? You will be surprised! The Jabal Mussala Ibrahim presents from a distance its resplendent silhouette with its sharp granite peak pointing to the sky, the view is nothing less than monumental. When you get close, a small road leads you to the hidden treasure that the place actually holds: a village perched halfway to the top, called Sheda. There are other charming sights on your way to this village in the sky, not an exaggeration! It happens to be 1600 meters above sea level! You will experience a dramatic change in the weather, especially during summers, as it will get much cooler as you arrive closer to this destination.
Jabal Mussala Ibrahim
Jabal Mussala Ibrahim
  • Zee Al-Ayn historical village: This enchanting historical village will take you by surprise. The striking contrast of the white structure against the darker shades of the Sarawat mountain backgrounds is a delightful sight and a nearby natural spring that provides water to a lush oasis surrounding the bottom of the hill completes this iconic view. This historical village is an interesting example of traditional human settlements that were well suited to their climate and to their social and financial statuses.

Al-Jawf Province

  • The Dumat Al-Jandal: This oasis is located in the heart of Al-Jawf province. Visit the local palm grove provides tourists with an enjoyable and tranquil experience; green fields and plants are distributed with apparent anarchy that reveals the area’s natural lushness. Palm trees provide the most exquisite dates. A definite place to visit for an exclusive and tranquil experience.
  • Nefud Al-Kebir: A characteristic feature of the Nefud Al-Kebir is its sand’s plethora of colors ranging from not only the regular beige to red, but also from yellow to white on its edges. Another interesting feature is the shape of the hilly yet scalable dunes. However, the most fascinating part is that it hosts some of the world’s most brilliant rock art. This place has to be on your list!
Nefud Al-Kebir rock art
Nefud Al-Kebir rock art
  • Rajajil is a mysterious ancient site located on a sandstone terrace, south of Sakakah. The conundrum of the site’s standing stones has attracted widespread interpretations and among them, tales of fear and superstition also go around. Archeological excavations have revealed that Rajajil is actually a burial site. It is possible to identify more than 50 burial sites, ranging from single trench tombs to structures of funerary chambers. A place that will definitely enlighten your historic spirit.
  • Za’abal Castle: Za’abal castle sits on a mountaintop in the northwest corner of Saudi Arabia. It is a mud and stone castle situated on top of a functioning well system, which has been operating throughout the city of Sakakah for years. The castle is believed to have been built about 200 years ago, consisting of a wall guarded with four watchtowers and a water reservoir. Archeological evidence, however, shows that there have been several structures on this site since the first century AD. This impressive location, at the highest point in the region, offers it a spectacular view of the city.
Za’abal Castle
Za’abal Castle

Aseer Province

  • Abha is the largest city at a high altitude. It is about 2,200 meters above sea level, BUT the skies fall here! Among the most attractive features is the display of tremendous traditional architecture. Jabal Al-Akhdar- The Green Mountain provides one of the best views of the entire city and its surrounding mountains, as far as the tip of the mighty Sarawat Ranges. The Al-Basta district is one of the oldest villages in the Abha valley where you will find beautiful and vibrant conventional architecture and enjoy its quaint streets.
  • The Ottomans constructed many landmarks in the region, including the Al-Basta Bridge and the Shamsan Fort which overlooks the northern part of Abha at the beginning of the 16th century (BC). The fort is a 91 meter long and 25-meter wide rectangle with three towers and a gate on the southwest wall. Several rooms and services open onto the inner courtyard of the castle.
  • Dhahran Al-Janub’s old village is a beautiful testament to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s ancient traditional mud-brick buildings. There are still panels along the old street with inscriptions that surround you in an aura of the past, and even though the village is no longer populated, tourists can still experience the atmosphere that enlivened these streets not so long ago.
Dhahran Al-Janub's old village
Dhahran Al-Janub’s old village
  • The road leading from Abha to Jabal Sawdah, which is the highest point in the kingdom, runs through Moshebah’s hilly landscapes. These sights smash all prejudices about Saudi Arabia as the scenery here is all about mountains and greenery, the absolute opposite of typical sand dune landscapes.
  • The first picture that comes to your mind with regard to Saudi architecture is the artistic and dynamic Rijal Alma’s buildings. The landscape surrounding Rijal Alma ‘ is made up of steep hills overlooking a sinuous path that once carried spices and incense fruits into the Arabian Peninsula’s interior and a valley running towards the Tihama plain. It offers stunning sights and is a must-visit destination. 
Rijal Alma's buildings.
Rijal Alma’s buildings.

Hail Province

  • White Volcanoes (The lava fields of the Harrat Khaybar): This is also referred to as the volcanic wonder of Arabia. The jewel of the Harrat Khaybar lies at the center, where there is a very rare type of volcano made of silica-rich magma which gives it a white color. The two largest volcanoes are the Jabal Abiadh and the Jabal Bayda, whose grandiose majesty is stunning. 
  • Shuwaymis: This world-famous site contains some of the earliest and most impressive carvings and rock art of the Arabian Peninsula. The sequence that emerges from an evaluation of the hunting scenes divides rock art into an exclusive hunting period, a herding period and a later period of camel depictions. This is a fascinating place to be.
Rock art in Hail
Rock art in Hail

Jizan Province

  • Farasan Islands: It consists of 84 islands made up of coral reefs located approximately 40 kilometers offshore from the town of Jizan. With its beaches, its crystal clear waters, and its rich land and underwater wildlife. The uninhabited islands serve as breeding grounds for a large number of birds. Farasan waters also host many kinds of dugongs, sea turtles, lobsters, manta rays, lionfish, eels, etc. It is particularly famous for its parrot-fish (hareed). The land reserve has a very special feature with the Farasan Islands Gazelle, whose graceful silhouettes can be seen shyly in the bushes of the main island.
  • Wadi Lajab: Wadi Lajab’s most impressive attribute is that it provides fresh water more frequently than any other wadi in Saudi Arabia. The stream flowing at the bottom of the canyon creates mid-sized waterfalls and multiple ponds that are deep enough for visitors to enjoy a dip!
Wadi Lajab
Wadi Lajab
  • Fayfa is Jizan Province’s diamond in the sky. It provides spectacular and breathtaking views over the lush green mountains with its peaks reaching about 2,600 meters above sea level. Another beautiful feature of Fayfa mountains is the terraces that were built over the centuries in order to allow agriculture to develop in this humid and fertile but steep land.

Madinah Province

  • Wadi Jinn: The interesting part about this mysterious place is that be it a vehicle (left at neutral) or plain simple water poured onto the ground, it all moves in the uphill direction instead of the usual down the slope movement. People over the course of time have come up with all sorts of theories with the superstitious one being that the valley is occupied by supernatural beings while a scientific theory suggests that it might just be some magnetic field reaction. What do you believe?
Wadi Jinn
Wadi Jinn
  • Lion Tombs of Dedan: Some remains of these brilliant kingdoms have been excavated, including an astonishing necropolis whose tombs were dug on both sides of Jabal Dedan, which overlooks the city to the east. These tombs are square-shaped holes, cut off at different heights from the side of the mountain, with cavities about two meters deep. These lion sculptures, which are an outstanding example of the Mesopotamian influence, are proud iconic figures. An interesting fact, not for the faint of heart, is that remains of bones, shrouds and pieces of coffin wood have been found in these graves.
  • Jabal Al Rukkab: Jabal Al-Rukkab’s most impressive rock formations are three incredibly high natural pillars standing in the middle of a wide wadi and at the bottom of a huge sandbank offering a perfect view of an out-of-this-world scenery. The rocks ‘ silhouette is rather striking and the locals have nicknamed them “the three dancers.”
Jabal Al-Rukkab's rock formations
Jabal Al-Rukkab’s rock formations

Makkah Province

  • Al Wahbah Crater: The Al Wahbah Crater is located in the middle of a barren desert, but the reason that it is an amazing natural wonder is that it has a huge source of salt contained at its base. The giant crater was presumed to have formed due to an ancient meteor collision, but ultimately it was discovered to have resulted due to volcanic activity.
  • Taif (Rose festival): Taif is famous for its roses. Its most attractive rose is an oil-rich 30-petal damask rose, the perfume of which has a robust, spicy, and dizzyingly complex scent. Every year in the months of March-April Taif’s Rose Festival is hosted at King Faisal Park in Qadeera. A flowering tapestry arranged like a carpet, by the Taif Municipality spread over 750 m2, comprising more than 15,000 species of all-color blooming roses, is one of the major highlights of the festival. The festival hosts several pavilions for traditional food items, art and craft, folk dances, and cultural competitions for kids.
Rose festival in Taif
Rose festival in Taif
  • Jeddah: Jeddah presents a quite different image via the seaport city which has an extensive history of exchanges with the world. Having the natural virtue of its location along the Red Sea coast and vibrant coral reefs and the white sand beaches, it has earned its nickname “bride of the red sea.” Obhur on the north of Jeddah is renowned for its resorts with private beaches and dive center. Red Sea marvels are celebrated in the Fakieh Aquarium, where more than 200 species are displayed, including Sharks, Groupies, Napoleon Wrasse, Sea Horses, etc.

One of the most famous attractions here is the fish market located on the west of the Corniche and offers at least 50 species of freshly caught sea creatures from the Red Sea, ranging from hammerhead sharks to groupers, shrimps, parrotfish, and squids. Besides the seafront is the beating heart of the city.

Ancient Jeddah people used to build their homes with coral stones collected from the coastal reef along the shores of the Red Sea, while purified clay from the depths of the two Al-Mangabi and Al-Arbaean lakes were used to cement coral stones. The clay was also used to protect the soils and roofs and lower coral walls. There is also some very old traditional architecture in Balad.

Al Rahma Mosque
Al Rahma Mosque
  • The Haunted House of Jeddah: Jeddah’s haunted house sits on the North Corniche hundred meters or so from the seafront. Among the communities in Jeddah, it is well known and people avoid going close to this house. People around say it’s a magnet for the youth (shabab). Approximately 16 people have entered this house and have never returned, confirms a news report. The outside world has no idea as to where they have gone, there is no trace of them still today.

Najran Province

Najran city is famous for its two palaces, Emarah and Al-Aan, which are inevitable landmarks and brilliant examples of the province’s traditional architecture. The old streets of  Najran traditional villages like Abu As-Su’ud is a delightful experience that will take you back in time. Another artistic feature of Najran’s traditional houses is the sleek crenellations on the top of the walls, which gives the silhouette of these rectangular buildings a strong impression of lightness. It is truly an aesthetically pleasing sight.

Najran province
Najran province

Qassim Province

The province of Qassim is home to some of the most symbolic attributes of the Arabian cultural heritage, not only with its iconic date festival but also with many other festivities, rural villages, and museums that have kept Arab customs and lifestyles intact.

  • Al- Shinanah Tower: This is an extraordinary architectural feature that can be found in the southwest of Al-Rass in the province of Qassim. The slender silhouette of the watchtower is located on the top of a small hill where the desert begins. This classic 27-meter-high tower is a brilliant example of Qassim’s classic architectural heritage, which has been preserved to this day. 
Al- Shinanah Tower
Al- Shinanah Tower
  • Uyun Al-Jiwa: Uyun Al-Jiwa’s name refers to the governorate as well as its main city. The term translates literally into “the pond valley” and is derived from the water ponds that used to surround the area. Classical Arab poetry attests to the reputation of loyalty, honesty, and hard work of the people of Uyun Al-Jiwa and the historical importance of the oasis.

Riyadh Province

  • Ushaiger heritage village: Ushaiger, which literally means “blonde”, is a heritage village located 200 kilometers northwest of Riyadh in the heart of the Najd. Although it’s built of red rock, locals say that the Arabic word for red was also used for blonde in the past.
Ushaiger heritage village
Ushaiger heritage village
  • Al Ghat Heritage village (One of the largest traditional villages of Saudi Arabia): The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has an incredibly rich architectural heritage with dozens of styles across the country. It is situated 250 kilometers from the capital city of Riyadh and adjacent to the province of Qassim, Al-Ghat is one of the most well preserved traditional villages in Saudi Arabia.
  • Musayqirah rock is one of the very rare known sites in the province of Riyadh where water-buffalo carvings can be found, attesting to the Arab Peninsula’s previous humid climate. They are on the eastern side of the main rock. Particularly notable is the large panel on the western side of Musayqirah given a large number of carvings and a variety of representations it carries. Ostriches, ibexes, dogs, lions, camels as well as hunters, warriors, a human skeleton, horsemen, and even Thamudic inscriptions have been found. A very interesting sight and should definitely make it to your list!
Musayqirah rock art
Musayqirah rock art
  • Edge of the world: The Edge of the World is part of the Tuwaiq Escarpments, which runs through the central region. The splendid view of the cliffs and the endless panoramic view of the plains below make it an enthralling tourist attraction. As the cliffs face westward, they also give spectacular sunset views over the Saudi Arabian desert to tourists who camp there overnight.

Tabuk Province

  • Jabal Al Lawz: Jabal Al-Lawz, which in Arabic means the almond mount, is one of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s most mystical ranges with its height at 2,549 meters above sea level, rendering it the tallest mountain in the province of Tabuk. This is the only place in Saudi Arabia where snow falls almost every year. As shocking as it is, owing to its many mountains reaching heights of over 2 500 meters, Saudi Arabia does witness regular snowfalls. It is believed that Mount Sinai is also located in this region where Prophet Musa (as) received the word of Allah.
Jabal Al Lawz
Jabal Al Lawz
  • Al Shaq: Al-Shaq means the tear (or rip) since it seems that the tectonic forces have literally torn the earth apart. This is why this place is also known as the Great Canyon of Saudi Arabia. Elegant sandstone formations can be seen everywhere in that area. This is a very captivating place and you should definitely make time for this one!
  • Mahajah: Natural arches that are present in many parts of the country are among its enigmatic characteristics, however, Mahajah hosts the most remarkable ones. Wind and rain erosion sculpted a formation of sandstone into three striking arches, the highest reaching up to 40 meters. There is a natural rock wall, more than 160 meters long, adorned with thousands of carvings depicting life-size camels, horsemen, goats, buffaloes, geometric figures, and even a boat!

Owing to its hard, rocky terrain, it is a very remote area with soft sand fields that dictate slow progress. It’s also full of dead ends, so it’s just for experienced drivers! It is strongly recommended that you go with a guide who knows the way!

Natural arches in Mahajah
Natural arches in Mahajah
  • Ras Al-Mashee – Safinat Haql: The Gulf of Aqabah offers stunning views along its magnificent stretch of 170 kilometers from Ras Al-Sheikh Hameed in the south to the city of Aqabah in the north. Turquoise waters on both sides are home to vivid marine life, variegated corals, and white sandy beaches at the foot of astounding mountains. An unintended manmade characteristic lies on the coral reef near the beach-a shipwreck, part of the hull jutting out of the water. The shipwreck of ‘Georgios G’, known as’ Safinat Haql’ which stands for ‘boat of Haql’ by the locals. It remains unclear what caused its unfortunate fate.
  • Tayeb Ism (The valley of Musa {as}): This is a destination that will most definitely take you by surprise. While approaching the road that runs along the azure waters and white beaches, the first thing to grab your attention is the reverence of the 600-meter-high granite massif, whose indentations fall into the Gulf of Aqabah. The visitors will see another enticing wonder from the bridge, a stream of crystal clear water that runs through the gravel throughout the year. As a result, the wadi hosts numerous palm trees and reeds that create small valleys overlooked by the canyon’s vertiginous sides.

Another interesting fact is that Madyan is the land where, after fleeing from Egypt, Prophet Musa (as) spent ten years in voluntary exile. It is also believed that they reached the land of Madyan at Tayeb Al-Ism when he brought the people out of Egypt through the Red Sea, which is the reason why it is also called the Valley of Musa.

Tayeb Ism
Tayeb Ism
  • Wadi Qaraqir (Wadi Dissah):  The first distinctive feature of this wadi is its dimensions: the side cliffs are already higher than 100 meters at the eastern end of the canyon, but at the western entrance the distance between the wadi’s base and the highest cliffs reaches as high as 500 meters! It is there that one can enjoy the most breathtaking landscape of this magical place, from the huge granite peaks, standing on both sides of the canyon.

A mystical aura escapes through the sands which reflect the hue of the sun and brings forth destinations that smash stereotypes of Arabia simply being a desert landscape! This list of mysterious, unique, and interesting places will definitely broaden the horizon of your imagination.  Saudi Arabia – truly a magical place, a diamond in the rough!

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All about Saudi Arabia

Learn everything about Saudi Arabia

“We must never fail to affirm that we are indeed one nation under God”

Saudi Arabia is a fledgling country, covering most of the North and Central Peninsula. It is heir to a prosperous history. The Hejaz, the cradle of Islam, and the site of this religion’s holiest cities, Makkah and Madinah, are situated along the Red Sea, in its western highlands. An area is known as Najd, the country’s geographical heartland, had been inhabited, until recently, by the nomadic tribes. To the east, along the Persian Gulf, there is an abundance of oil fields that, since the 1960s, have correlated Saudi Arabia with their oil wealth. All three — culture, tribalism, and vast wealth — have fueled the country’s subsequent development.

The Arabian Peninsula has been supporting agriculture, herding, and hunting for thousands of years. Numerous civilizations, including those of Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, Rome, Byzantine, India, Persia, and China, have reached the ancestor of Arabia through important ancient trade routes. In the western Arab cities of Makkah and Madinah around 610 A.D., the Qur’an, the Holy Book of Islam, was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad. The emergence of Islam is one of the most important events in history.

The Saudi National Day

The Kingdom of Nejd and Hejaz was a dual monarchy made up of a multitude of dominions and tribes. In the early 1900s, the ruler of Nejd, King Abdul Aziz, reclaimed his family’s ancestral hometown of Riyadh and began nearly three decades of territorial expansion in the region. By 1932, his forces were able to take control over most of central Arabia, and he changed the name of his kingdom to the name of his family, the House of Saud. The Saudi National Day celebrates the passing of that royal decree and is now a public holiday in the Kingdom. The Saudi National Day is enthusiastically celebrated in all major cities of the Kingdom with ethnic dances, local festivals, and other cultural activities.

Saudi flag on pole
Saudi flag on pole

National Anthem, Emblem, Flag of Saudi Arabia and its history

 Anthem – English  translation
Anthem – English  translation

Saudi Arabia did not have an anthem in 1947, so when King Abdulaziz visited Egypt that year, he approached Abdul Rahman Al-Khateeb, an Egyptian composer, to develop an anthem, and “Aash Al Maleek” was created. The rhythm, a style of Arabic fanfare, is similar to those in the vicinity of other Arab states. Mohammed Talat composed the first set of lyrics for the anthem in 1958, but they were not often heard. It was in 1984 that King Fahd instructed the poet Ibrahim Al Khafaji to write new lyrics that have become the official lyrics of today. The instrumental version of the anthem is called the Royal Salute.

Adopted in 1950, Saudi Arabia’s emblem consists of two swords below a palm tree (honoring the Hijaz and Nejd kingdoms), that represent vitality and development, and two crossed swords that symbolize justice and strength. The Emblem appears on government documents, diplomatic missions, as well as several Saudi Arabian flags. It is emblazoned in gold on the flag of the Armed Forces of Saudi Arabia (which is also the Kingdom’s war ensign), and on the lower hoist of the Royal flag.

A green flag with white Arabic inscriptions and a sword is the Saudi Arabian flag that was officially adopted on March 15, 1973. The inscriptions on the flag are the Islamic declaration of faith, “There is no god but Allah, Muhammad (saw) is the messenger of Allah. Ibn Saud’s victories are symbolized by the sword on the flag.

Saudi flag
Saudi flag

National Animal of Saudi Arabia

It makes sense that Saudi Arabia’s national animal is the camel pertaining to its vast desert regions. Often known as the “ship of the desert “, the animal has been used for millennia as a means of transportation by nomads. Having a life span of 40-50 years, camels can withstand desert heat and survive with minimal food and water.

Camels in desert
Camels in desert

Hard to believe, but these animals can be found in parts of KSA!!!

  • Hamadryas Baboon: The hamadryas baboon is a species of baboon from the Old World monkey family. They are a very common sight near the cities of Taif and Abha. 
  • Nubian Ibex: This is a desert-dwelling goat species. The NCWCD (National Commission for Wildlife Conservation and Development) has established special ibex reserves to save the diminishing population of the Nubian Ibex in Saudi Arabia.
  • White-tailed Mongoose: This is the Mongoose family’s largest species and is located in the country’s southwestern region. It is a nocturnal species with a lifestyle close to that of the Desert Hedgehog, living in a burrow in the daytime and stalking at night. 
  • Caracal: It is a species of wild cat that is known for its long black tufts on the back of its ears, they are found in the western part of Saudi Arabia.
Wild cat
Wild cat
  • Striped hyena: The Striped Hyena follows the nomadic lifestyle, on the move constantly. It’s a popular feature of folklore in the Middle East

National Tree and Flower

The date palm tree is the national tree of Saudi Arabia, as a desert tree, it thrives in bright, full sun locations, and is also quite drought-tolerant, as its deep roots will travel far to seek water.” The Royal jasmine happens to be the official national flower of the kingdom.

date tree
date palm tree-National tree

National Bird

Falcon is the national bird of Saudi Arabia. They are commonly known as “Hunting Dogs of the Sky.” Falcon is by far the most powerful, huge and majestic bird of all species of birds.

falcon
falcon-National bird

National Sport

Sports in Saudi Arabia is an essential part of its culture and the country participates in many international sporting competitions. Although the traditional sport is Camel-racing the national game happens to be Football.

Traditional Dance

The National Dance is the Sword Dance, known as the “Ardha”. Men carrying swords stand in two lines or a circle, with a poet singing in their midst, performing the traditional Sword Dance. The term ‘Ardha’ is derived from the Arabic verb ‘ard’, meaning ‘to show’ or ‘to parade’. The Ardha dance recalls the battles, wars, and victories led by King Abdul Aziz Al Saud, the founder of Saudi Arabia. It is also considered as a symbol of the re-pledging of allegiance to the King.

men dancing in ethnic clothing
men dancing in ethnic clothing

Traditional attire and jewelry

In general, Saudis wear modern adaptations of traditional designs. The loose, flowing traditional clothing is practical for the warm, wind-swept climate of the Kingdom, at the same time symbolizing the Islamic ideal of modesty. 

Men wear a wool/cotton ankle-long shirt called a thawb. They wear a large square of cotton (ghutra) on the head, which is folded over a skullcap (Taqiyyah), and secured in one place with a cord (igaal). The flowing, full-length outer cloak (Bisht), generally made of wool/camel hair, completes the outfit. Women usually wear a black outer cloak (abaya) over their clothing, which may well be modern in style even in today’s society. Traditionally, Saudi women wear a black Shayla over their heads, a belt tied over their heads. Traditional dress is often richly decorated with coins, sequins or brightly colored fabrics.

Jewelry has been an essential part of Arab fashion for decades. This reflects a social and economic rank rather than a mere decoration. It was a convenient form of wealth and security for the Bedouins. Modern Saudi women wear ornaments with a blend of traditional and contemporary diamond designs and a variety of precious metals.

Arabic Cuisine

Traditional staple foods include dates; goat, camel, and cow’s milk; ghee, cheese, and other dairy products; bread and other foods from wheat, millet, and barley; squash, eggplant, okra, pumpkins, beans, leeks, onions, and a few other vegetables; mint, coriander, parsley, and cumin; and occasionally mutton, goat, or camel meat and, on the coasts, fish. Elderly people remember the food of the past as simple but adequate, with no morsel wasted. Meals today are eaten later, and the foods are more copious and elaborate.

The arrival of a guest at one’s home is an event that leads to a special meal in honor of the visitor. Traditional etiquette requires that sheep, goats, or camels be sacrificially slaughtered for a meal, and this is still often done. The meat is boiled in large pots, and part of the soup is passed between the guests, and the rest is poured over large trays of rice and on top of which the cooked meat is placed.

Chicken on rice.
Chicken on rice.

Culture and Traditions

Saudi Arabia’s culture is characterized by its Islamic heritage, its historic position as an ancient commercial center, and its Bedouin traditions. The Saudi culture has evolved over the years, changing with modernization Saudi Arabia’s cultural dimension is represented as follows:

  • Depth of its civilization that dates back to more than one million years, which is confirmed by the archaeological evidence and the heritage prevalent in this country
  • Its distinguished geographical location made it a point of intersection of international trade routes through all the ages
  • Being the cradle of Islam and the country of The Two Holy Mosques.
  • Being a bridge for cultural communication

A number of organizations have been set up across the country to protect the cultural heritage of Saudi Arabia. One of the largest of them is the Ministry of Culture and Information of the Ministry of Culture, which supports a wide range of cultural activities, including literature and theater groups, storytelling workshops, museum festivals, arts and crafts, and science projects. Many clubs offer Saudis the opportunity to cultivate different artistic talents. The Saudi Arabian Society for Culture and Arts; and The King Fahd Cultural Center, play a key role in the artistic life of Saudi Arabia.

Saudi traditions are embedded in Muslim teachings and Arab rituals. The crest of the year is the holy month of Ramadan, followed by Eid ul Fitr and the season of Hajj (Pilgrimage), followed by Eid ul Adha and the other national holidays. Arab traditions also have an important role to play in Saudi life. Over the millennia, these age-old traditions have evolved and are highly respected. These include kindness and hospitality provided to strangers, friends, and relatives by every Saudi individual. Arabic coffee is known as “Gahwa” is the simplest form of hospitality–its preparation alone is a sophisticated cultural tradition, and it is often served with dates and sweets in small cups. The burning of incense (oud) to welcome guests is another gesture of hospitality.

men in congregational prayer
men in congregational prayer

Folk Music, Dance, and  Poetry

The annual Jenadriyah National Cultural and Heritage Festival is a recognition of Saudi Arabia’s cultural heritage. “Al Ardha,” the kingdom’s national dance, is one of Saudi Arabia’s convincing traditions. It is an ancient Bedouin practice that is based on this sword dance: drummers beat rhythms and poets recite verses as shield-carrying men walk shoulder to shoulder, swaying. The festivals also feature the reading of poetry by established poets.

The hollow-drum is also an important instrument in traditional and tribal practices. “Samri,” in particular in the eastern region of Saudi Arabia, is a popular traditional music and dance form in which poetry is sung. In Arab cultural life, poetry is particularly important and has long been considered to be one of the most important forms of literary art. This is a way to preserve the history, customs, and social values of the nomadic days of the Bedouins. Poetry remains popular with the Saudis even today. 

men playing instruments
men playing instruments

Festivities in Saudi Arabia.

  • The Jenadriyah Heritage and Cultural Festival

    It plays a crucial role in preserving Saudi national heritage, coordinated by the National Guard under the direction of the Crown Prince. The festival opens with a traditional camel race and intends to cover all facets of Saudi Arabia’s traditions and culture. A highlight of the festival is the performance by folklore troupes of traditional music by musicians from across the Kingdom and national dances. The festival runs every year for two weeks, with more than one million Saudis participating.

  • Riyadh Festival for Shopping and Leisure

    This festival is held every year in the month of July. Visitors can shop all types of things right from garments, accessories, and electronic goods. 

  • Riyadh Food Festival

    Among the most popular festivals and events in Riyadh, the Saudi Food Festival is one of the longest established food exhibitions in Saudi Arabia. It is a bi-annual event and it is a great opening to introduce new products, innovations, and machinery to the leading food production companies.

  • Buraidah Date festival

    In accordance with the ubiquity of this gift of nature, there is an annual festival devoted to dates, held in the agricultural heartland of Saudi Arabia, Buraidah, in Qassim province. It’s the largest festival of dates in the world.

There is something very intriguing about exploring culture, there is always more than meets the eye. Don’t look at it, try and actually see it. Once you see it, you will understand it too.

“Travel to regulate the imagination of reality, and instead of dreaming about how things can be, just see them as they are”

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