How to find more than sand dunes and camels in Saudi Arabia

Best known for its vast ocher deserts, the Bedouin on camels and the largest oasis in the world there is much to do outside of the desert in Saudi Arabia.

While the Red Sea is great for winter sun, you can camp under the stars in Saudi national parks, or maybe even see snowfall in the cooler mountainous north.

“Saudi Arabia has always been that black box and it is now ready to welcome visitors with open arms,” ​​said Fad Hamidaddin, CEO of the Saudi Tourism Authority,

“From those looking for an authentic cultural adventure experience. I think Saudi Arabia is the most welcoming and hospitable place in Saudi Arabia. After all, we have been the land of the crossroads of civilizations,” he adds.

Beyond the desert

AlUla is home to Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site in the country’s northwest.

With 7,000 year old tombs, stunning canyons and natural rock formations that offer a range of adventure sports options. Here you can see “the footprints of these civilizations that we have been able to appreciate and visit,” says Hamidaddin.

The Red Sea offers “unparalleled coral reefs and marine treasures and unique species that people can enjoy even in winter”.

Salwa Palace in Diriyah Announcement is the original home of the Al-Saud royal family. Located northwest of the capital Riyadh, it houses four museums alongside the recently restored palace.

The historic center of Diriyah is the UNESCO World Heritage Site of At-Turaif, which was founded in the 15th century. Scheduled to open in late 2021, the site is being redeveloped to include luxury resorts and allow visitors to walk around the ruins for the first time.

“Finally, you have the Asir highlands (southwest of Saudi Arabia) with verdant mountains which are the highest in the Middle East, ”says Hamidaddin.

For snow, you can try the mountainous north where you can ride a horse on an Arabian camel or take a mountain ride from the city of Tabouk. There you can also go sledding or try camping inside a traditional Arabian tent, known as a kashta, for the ultimate winter experience.

“We have a lot to offer. It’s a very diverse landscape, topography, culture, but the best part, I think, is the hospitable and welcoming nature of the people,” says Hamidaddin.

Where should first-time visitors go?

Hamidaddin says beginners should “absolutely visit the cosmopolitan capital of Arabia, Riyadh with its mix of bustling souks and ancient architecture, as well as contemporary skyscrapers, museums and galleries.

The old port of Jeddah with its historic district, Al Balad and the Red Sea coast, contrasts with the city’s luxury hotels and its major events, such as the International Red Sea Film Festival, which takes place at the end of winter. The famous seafood dishes of the Red Sea are also not to be missed.

When to go to Saudi Arabia?

“We have golden dunes in Arabia, but if you go there in the summer, the whole area is in the 1940s and 1950s. Southern Arabia is 20 degrees cooler. So it’s a great summer destination, ”says Hamidaddin.

The winter months are a great time to visit Riyadh. Although the average high temperatures in summer can reach 44 degrees C, the maximum temperatures in December and January are in the 20 degrees.

Why is Saudi Arabia investing in tourism?

According to Hamidaddin, 70 percent of Saudi Arabia’s population is under 35. “It is an opportunity, but it is also a possible threat if unemployment is not dealt with.”

With technology “cutting jobs” in every other sector, Hamidaddin believes tourism is by far the biggest creator of new jobs.

“For most of the top 20 destinations in the world, tourism contributes at least 10 percent of their total GDP.”

“For Saudi Arabia today, tourism represents only 2.5% of its contribution, so the potential is huge.”

“Add that to ambition and empowerment. Because we are the largest investor in tourism in the world, no country invests in tourism like we are in dollar terms and in terms of commitment to tourism. new innovative projects. “

Watch the video above to learn more about Saudi Arabia.

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