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Saudi Tourism: Shaping the Arabian Landscape

Sightseers on the edge of a road overlooking the rocky landscape of Al Hada.

I know. First thing you would think when you hear 'Saudi Arabia' is 'work', or, 'OFW', or, 'work', and more 'work'. That's an undeniable truth. But,

If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine, it's lethal.

As a desert country, Saudi Arabia's landscape is mostly composed of sand dunes and rocky land forms. That's mainly why it is so interesting for me -- a stark contrast to my luscious green country.

I think these 'unusual' landscapes are its biggest assets and will shape the tourism in this country.

Travelling or tourism in Saudi Arabia has been becoming more popular (or more widely accepted) in the recent years thanks to the power of social media, and, of course, the government's effort in campaigning and enticing visitors.

The regulations for the issuance of the tourist visa, however,  is still being prepared and the details have yet to be announced by the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH).

SCTH explained that the preparations for the launch of tourist visa continues in full coordination with the Ministries of Interior and Foreign Affairs (https://scth.gov.sa/en/)

I recently happened to be in Park Inn Al Khobar and I saw this machine which apparently is dedicated for browsing the Saudi Tourism website, http://sauditourism.sa/en.

I guess they are doing a great job in promoting the tourism in Saudi Arabia by putting up this easy to use machine. (Though it was a bit slow and hanging when I tried it, and I thought the webpage itself needs more development and content.)

My Top Destinations in Saudi Arabia

In case you are reading this from the other side of the world, from a nearby Gulf country, or you're already in the Kingdom like me (as of this writing) and have been considering to have some adventures in the future, here's a list of the places that I have been to in the Kingdom.

(I have been wanting to write about these places for years! In fact, some of them have been in my drafts but I don't have the chance yet to finish and publish them. Let this be the first.)

1. Al Qarah Mountain (Jabal Al-Qarah), Al Ahsa

Al Qarah Mountain is a rocky sedimentary formation and its geological age was related to the third epoch of Miocene (from 23 to 5 million years). By the way. jabal (or sometimes jebel) means mountain.

It's ambiguous and not sure if this is the one that many Filipino expats refer to as the Juda's Cave.

It was only late last year, 2017, when we had the free time to visit the place, biglaan (without planning). After all it wasn't that far from our place in Al Ahsa.

Jabal Al Qarah by Elriz Buenaventura
Al Qarah Mountain
The area is well maintained and being really commercialized. Personally, the place I think is overwhelming with information. There are 'stone tablets' inscribed with tons of details about the town, the cave, and many more. Walking in and out of the actual cave probably won't take more than 15 minutes. 

2. Old Town, Al 'Ula

This and the next two (Mada'in Saleh and Jabal Al Feel) are all in the city of Al Ula.

The ancient town of Al Ula and the nearby archaeological site is just the best place to visit if you are fond of antiquities.

Al Ula Old Town by Elriz Buenaventura
Al Ula Old Town

Visit the ancient town of Al Ula, walk in its alleys and peek into the old mud houses. Be amazed by the amazing surrounding landscape that somehow resembles the canyons and rock in Arizona (well, at least that how I see it.

3. Mada'in Saleh Archaeological Site, Al Ula

Dig deeper into the past. Hundreds of tombs of different sizes. You will be left wondering how these structures were built back then. Some of them were built as far back as 1 Century AD.

Madain Saleh by Elriz Buenaventura
Qasr Al-Farid, Mada’in Saleh, Al Ula

The rock formations alone on the way from the Al Ula city proper to the archaeological site are astounding. Wait till you see the magnificent tombs in Mada'in Saleh.

4. Jabal Al Feel (Elephant Mountain), Al Ula

More like a mammoth, actually. 

Jabal Al Feel (Elephant Rock) Al Ula by Elriz Buenaventura
Jabal Al Feel (Elephant Rock) Al, Ula

This desert country is so huge that you can find rocks with interesting forms and shapes. But this giant elephant rock is one of the most well-known.

5. Mountain Highway Viewing, Al Hada

Al Hada is mountain resort city and has many hotels, a few resorts, and some theme parks... and monkeys. Lots of them!

I took this photograph at around 12 midnight. Despite the cold and the exhaustion from that day's travels and activities, the sight, just being there, was so calming and visually rewarding. A haven for landscape and long exposure photography.

Al Hada Highway by Elriz Buenaventura
A long exposure take of the Al Hada mountain highway.

I can't quite say which I love better: this highway at night or by day. But, why choose, right? At night, you have total darkness with faint light of the village/s below. The golden snake-like winding mountain roads. At daytime, you can feel more the height. The rocks and landscape are also in full details plus you could see the monkeys and a few species of birds.

6. Cable Car (Telefric), Al Hada

Note that this part of Al Hada, or the whole Al Hada itself, is being mistaken to be in Taif. Taif is a different city, though, and is still some 40 minutes away from Al Hada.

Al Hada Telefric by Elriz Buenaventura
It was our anniversary that day and I thought it was a lovely place to be with her. But you know the rules. Sigh.

7. Al Wahbah Crater, Taif

Aside from sand dunes, rocky mountains and canyons, parts of Saudi Arabia have vast volcanic/lava fields and craters, too. Taif in Makkah Region has one lava field and a huge crater can be found there, the Al Wahbah Crater.

Al Wahbah Crater Taif by Elriz Buenaventura
You will feel small and big at the same time when you are here.

Read More: Al Wahbah Crater (Makla Tamyah), Harrat Kishb, Taif, Saudi Arabia

I picked these places because they somehow represent and at the same time break the connotation about Saudi Arabia. Desert country, yes, but with things you wouldn't expect. (I myself was surprised to see a skating rink in a mall in Taif. Not impossible, but who would have thought?)

P.S. This post will be updated with links to the corresponding blog post to each place.

For more:

http://elriz.com/tagged/al-ula (my photos from Al Ula)

http://elriz.com/tagged/taif (my photos from Taif)

http://elriz.com/tagged/al-hada (my photos from Al Hada)

http://sauditourism.sa/en (Saudi Tourism Website in English)


kayla ahmed said...

even we get old still there are lots of things we know for first time as your article make me know for the first time that Saudi arabia is one of most interesting touristic place its the first time to discover Saudi Arabia beauty also your photos is professional at take me there

Elriz said...

Thank you very much for your comment! This country may look boring because of its vast desert areas but there are still places that are remarkable and worth visiting. I hope you could also go and enjoy theses places in your country.

Jason Martin said...

Love these amazing desert mountains, thanks for sharing.
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organic_alexa said...

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