Saudi Arabia — Attractions
Saudi Arabia may now be filled with modern video game shops, amusement parks and American fast food chains, but several ancient ruins and sacred religious sites still lie within this ancient kingdom. The best known of Saudi Arabia’s religious sites, Madinah and Makkah, may be off-limits to non-Muslims, but visitors of all religions can admire Abqaiq’s 5,000-year old salt mine and the pottery made by eight generations of Jebel-al-Qara residents. Taif’s stunning cliffs provide welcome shade to the pink palaces in Saudi Arabia’s summer capital.
Asir National Park
People who believe Saudi Arabia’s landscape is nothing but endless deserts should visit the varied scenery of the country’s first national park. Over 300 bird species soar around Saudi Arabia’s highest peak, Jabal Soodah, which towers more than 10,000 feet above this park’s refreshingly cool mountain ranges and green juniper forests. The park, among the very few parts of Saudi Arabia which sees occasional snowfall, contains 45 picnic spots, 67 campsites, and several nature trails. Leopards, gazelles, and baboons frolic in the park’s more remote areas.
Address: Southwest Saudi Arabia
Al-Shallal Theme Park
Asia’s biggest double looped roller coaster towers over 111 feet above Jeddah’s stunning Corniche and attracts over 700 riders per hour at this gigantic amusement park. The park’s centerpiece is a two-floor entertainment building featuring an indoor ice skating rink and sprawling Amazon ride where a 49-foot waterfall towers over a manmade lagoon. There are also separate European and Far Eastern themed villages containing several restaurants and souvenir shops. A color changing outdoor waterfall and ark containing real skeleton bones are among the park’s other attractions.
Address: P. O. Box 118985, Jeddah 21312
Riyadh National Zoo
Members of Saudi Arabia’s royal family were the only people who could visit Riyadh National Zoo, the nation’s largest, when it first opened in 1957. In 1987, the general public could finally enjoy this large collection of 40 bird and animal species for themselves. The Saudi royal family donated the first of the zoo’s animals, which now include exotic camels, kangaroos, leopards, and lions. Attendance is restricted to men and women only on alternating days, and children must always be accompanied by parents.
Address: Al Iksan St, Riyadh
Madain Saleh Cemetery
This ancient rock hewed Nabataean city is very similar to Petra, Jordan, but far lesser known and less crowded due to its isolated northwest Saudi Arabia location and the fact many Muslims stay away from the area because of a Koran passage many consider to be a curse against the location. Those who venture into Medain Saleh, however, will be impressed by the cemetery’s 131 ornate tombs and sandstone mountain backdrop. Sunsets and sunrises are especially spectacular.
Address: northwest Saudi Arabia
Visitors can soar above this deserted ancient Arabian village aboard Saudi Arabia’s first cable car system, whose Habalah station lays less than 330 feet south and north of the village’s best-preserved houses. Ropes attached to iron posts were the main means to transport supplies and people to and from this ‘hanging village,’ as its name means in English. Although the villagers eventually abandoned Habalah because its location was so difficult to reach, the intricately carved doorways of their homes remain in their original states. Today, the 1,000-foot cliff from which Habalah hangs can only be reached by cable car.
Address: southwest Saudi Arabia
Al Musmak Castle
This ancient castle is among the oldest landmarks in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia’s national capital. An impressive palace gate made from palm tree trunks, a mosque, a well on its northeast side, and four 59-foot high watch towers are all part of this sprawling structure first built under King Mohammed bin Abdullah bin Rasheed. This fortified citadel and castle which plays such an important part in Saudi Arabia’s creation is now an interesting museum.
Address: Al-Bathaa, Riyadh
Phone: +966 1 411 0091
Al Maktaba Park
This Saudi Arabia park’s thick branched trees supply some welcome shade in the midst of Riyadh’s heat. The artificial pool area contains several fountains, stone banks, and even a man-made waterfall. The wide pathways lined with colorful sand bricks are perfect for jogging or more leisurely strolling, while the park’s nearly 20-foot tall clock tower has become one of Riyadh’s most famous landmarks. Electrical games are available at one of Al Maktaba’s two children’s parks.
Address: Olaya Quarter, Riyadh
National Museum of Riyadh
The sprawling eight-floor National Museum of Riyadh has become one of the Middle East’s largest museums. A full scale Nabataean tomb reconstruction is merely one of the biggest of this museum’s many exhibits, which also include original rock carvings and educational films shown on screens throughout the building. Visitors can listen to an English soundtrack of the museum’s films on headphones.
Address: P. O. Box 3734, Riyadh 11481
Phone: +966 01 402 9500