One of the reasons that has motivated us to plan our toad trip in Saudi Arabia was to challenge our fears toward this country. Although Bahrain is only one hour away from Saudi Arabia,and both countries have many similarities in customs and cultural habits, but the existing laws in Saudi differs significantly from Bahrain. We think this is what makes many Bahrainis worried about traveling around Saudi. Most tour companies in Bahrain direct their tours into two main cities; Mecca and Madina. So we made it our goal to explore and unveil the treasures hidden in this land. With little research we found that Saudi Arabia contains one of the historical masterpieces “Mada’in Saleh” and here we planned our 12 days road trip to Madain Saleh.
The more I traveled the more I realized that fear makes strangers of people who should be friends –Shirley MacLaine
Sponsored by Nikon Middle East & Africa …
We prepared the plan, and we wanted to have the best photos for this trip luckily we’ve got one sponsor which contributed in making our trip successful. Thanks for Nikon Middle East and Africa for supporting our trip with one of their best cameras Nikon D800 and travel/landscape lens (Nikkor 14-24 mm).
We want to share with you the main highlights of our itinerary, the amazing places you need to visit any time you got the chance to travel around Saudi Arabia.
Ad-Diriyah town the early capital of Saudi was our first stop. The town has been inscribed by UNESCO world heritage and it was the home of the first Saudi rulers. From the first sight you can directly notice that the town has a special architectural style and well restored houses with colorful doors and windows. We couldn’t explore the old Diriyah due to the on going maintenance work, but we want to come back to explore it more in the near future!
Mecca The holy city of Islam, We consider ourselves lucky because we can visit this holy place. The city is forbidden for non-Muslims. In general it is very difficult to get a visa or permission to visit Mecca. But for people from gulf countries, visa is not required, and we can visit Mecca easily any time during the year. As muslims the first thing we did was Umrah which is a mini pilgrimage as a must do when entering Mecca.
Apart from the fascinating monument of Kaaba, We have also visited Al-Noor Mount. We hiked all the way through the rocky stairs to the top of mountain. From Al Noor mount you can have a view of Mecca from the top and you got also to see Hera cave which it’s believed to be the cave that prophet Mohammed used to meditate in more than one thousand years ago. You can also visit the exhibition Of The Two Holy Mosque Architecture Museum. This museum host very old and interesting pieces from the holy mosques.
Ta’if is only one hour away from Mecca, but surprisingly the weather is totally different. When we left Mecca the temperature was 40 C compared to 23 C in Taif. This is why it is described as the summer capital of Saudi. It was a great escape after spending 2 days in crowded Mecca. We really enjoyed Taif with all it has to offer. We have seen the rose plantation and visited the oldest rose water factory in town (Gadhi rose factory). We had also the chance to see some historical houses in Taif but only from outside as all of them were locked and closed!!.
Al Hada circular mountain road is worth driving on with all the beautiful scenery along the road, Don’t miss meeting the Baboons on the road sides
The city is also known for its production of different fruits, there is a very nice fruit market opened around the day for 24 hours!
Jeddah has two sides of the story… In one side you can see all the modern and huge shopping malls, luxury houses. On the other side you can escape to the historical side of the city.
“Al-Bald” or historical area in Jeddah is one of the main attractions in the city. This place contains lovely Coral Houses, Old Souq, and other historical sites. Make sure not to visit it on Fridays as all the Souq shops are closed.
Medina or the city of the prophet is the second holy place in Saudi after Mecca, it stores the prophet mosque that includes prophet Mohammed grave. So the main attraction is the prophet Mosque. Inside the premises there is a very old cemetery called “Al Baqi” which dates back to the prophet Moahmmed time, it is also believed to be one of the biggest cemeteries in the world.
Another attraction in the city is the Hejaz railway museum that stores the historical pilgrimage railway from the Ottman time. There are also a number of old mosques that you can visit; the most important one is Quba mosque; the oldest mosque in the world. When visiting Quba, don’t miss visiting the local shops next to the mosque and buying the famous “Ajwa” dates.
We had our best meal in Medina; we visited the fish market that is 1 Km from the prophet mosque and where you can have a variety of sea food options. People and pilgrims are coming from everywhere at lunch time. The fish is being fried in really big pans that is full of oil. After taking out the fish from the pan. A bunch of spices spilled on top of fish and the flavour is so incredible.
Khyber two hours away from Medina. We were very enthusiastic to discover this ancient place, especially when we knew that many pieces found there back to the stone ages!. Unfortunately, our plan did not go as we wanted; While trying to get in the old Khyber area, we have been threatened by a civil guy! We couldn’t go in and we left the place without exploring it. Always have in mind to have the highway police number whenever you visit remote places; this is the advice we got from our Saudi friends.
Al-Ula is one of the best cities that we visited in Saudi. The place is really clean, calm and peaceful. Moreover it is rich of history! Farms and palm trees are everywhere. We moved very easily and people were very nice and welcoming.
Al-Ula considered as one of the remarkable historical sites in the world, mainly because of the existence of Mada’in Saleh. There are many other attractions as well, such as:
- Al-Ula museum
This museum contains many antiquites and ancient artifacts that highlight the civilization of the Arabian Peninsula from the Stone Age to the present.
- The heritage village in Al-Ula
It exhibits the distinctive patterns of Islamic cities in the past, the village was built in the 7th century.
- Elephant rock
Natural rock formation that lock like huge elephant.
- Al-Khuraibat site
The excavation are still going on, a lot to reveal but Faisal and Hindi the ones responsible at Al-Kuraibat archeological site made sure that we have a perfect tour.
- Shafa Hurrat Oyred
A volcanic mountain bordering Al-Ula city.
Madain Saleh … For many people that we met, they dream to visit Petra. So we were very lucky to reach Madain Saleh. Many people don’t know that Madain Saleh exists! Madain Saleh is described as “sister city of Petra” and it’s a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The Archaeological Site of Al-Hijr (Mada’in Salih) is the first World Heritage property to be inscribed in Saudi Arabia. Formerly known as Hegra, it is the largest conserved site of the civilization of the Nabataeans south of Petra in Jordan. It features well-preserved monumental tombs with decorated facades dating from the 1st century BC to the 1st century AD.
We can describe the place as an open museum to explore, the site is huge and you need several days to explore every corner of it. We were amazed with the artistic tombs that are carved into the mountains also the desert and the remarkable and unique rock formation.
This full itinerary could be made by anyone who’s granted a visa in Saudi Arabia. Having in mind that Mecca and Madina cities are only accessible for Muslims.
We would like to thank everyone supported us in this trip … family, friends, and kind Saudi people who helped us through our trip.