This article was published in Awesome Asia on 29th September, 2011.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is the second largest Arab country and the largest in the middle east. The kingdom’s terrains consists of the Arabian desert, semi desert and shrub-lands. Apart from being known for having the world’s largest oil reserves, the country is mainly known as the cradle of Islam. The major tourists attractions of the country revolves around Mecca and Medina, the two historically rich cities and also the pilgrimage sites for the Muslims. There are many other places in the country that are worth seeing but are lesser known to the people outside. Here is a list of 10 best places to see in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Mecca is the holy city of the Muslims. The Holy Qur’an recommends all able-bodied Muslims to go on a spiritual pilgrimage to Mecca once in their lifetime. Thousands of Muslims from around the world visit Mecca every year. The rectangular brick building called the Kaaba is said to be built by Ibrahim and his son Ismail. The great mosque of Al-Haram is close by and the place had been considered holy from pre-Islamic times.
Medina is another holy place for the Muslims. Masjid al-Qiblatain in this holy city is a major attraction for Muslims from all over the world. This mosque embodies the culture of Saudi Arabia. Another mosque in the city, Al-Masjid al-Nabawi, is considered to be the second holiest mosque in the world. This mosque was originally built by the Prophet himself and later various Islamic rulers raised it to its present form.
3. Madain Saleh
Madain Saleh is a site of historic importance and is located in north-west Saudi Arabia. Madain Saleh was designed by the Nabataeans and is famous for its Madain Saleh cemetery. The cemetery houses 131 tombs and Armanic inscriptions adorns 45 of those. The cemetery looks spectacular against the sandy backdrop in the soft sun rays during sunrise and sunset. Many Arabs believe that the cemetery was the place where Prophet Salih and the Thamudian people resided.
4. Al Musmak Castle
The Al Musmak Castle is presently a museum and a heritage center. It is situated in Riyadh, the capital city of Saudi Arabia. The Ministry of Education had a major role in converting this fort into a museum. The main things to see inside the castle are the mosque, the sitting place or saloon, the watch towers, the well and the gate of the palace.
Habalah was originally a village and now a gorgeous tourist destination. Habalah literally means ‘hanging village’. The village sits atop a cliff, which is a thousand feet high and cannot be accessed by roads. The village is deserted in present day and the empty houses have become a tourist destination. The village is connected by cable car. When the village was inhabited, there used to be a rope hung from an iron stand above by way of which food and other amenities were supplied to the dwellers. The carved doorways of the houses are amazing and the view of the valley from the cliff top is spectacular.
6. The Empty Quarter
The Empty Quarter is the largest sea of sand on Earth. The sand dunes here are of the size of a huge ship. It is the home to the beautiful Arab animal, the oryx.
7. City of Old Diriyah
The City of Old Diriyah or Ad’Diriyah is a witness to the Kingdom’s rich historical past. The city is considered as one of the alluring tourist sites in the country. The city is full of palaces and mosques. Also, a major Islamic reform movement took place here during 1745. The Saud Palace, the Salwa Place and Turaif Bath House are the major attractions in this old city.
8. Dumat Ul Jandal
Saudi Arabia has been a home to exotic and ancient civilizations. The ruined city of Dumat Ul Jandal is a witness to this. One can learn about interesting aspects of the Sumerian civilization in this city. In the Assyrian records, the city is mentioned as ‘Adamatu’.
9. Mount Uhud
The famous Battle of Uhud was fought on this site on March 23, 625 CE. Mount Uhud extends from west to east and covers seven kilometers in length and three kilometers in breadth.
10. Rock Carving Site
The Rock Carving Site is a historical attraction in the kingdom. Shuwaymus is one such recently discovered site. The site tells that Saudi Arabia was not a desert since forever and undergone a plenty of climatic changes. The rock carvings depicts domestication of animals in early times.