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Saudi Arabia

Main attractions

Kingdom Centre, Saudi Arabia
Kingdom Centre / Ahmed Rabea, / CC BY-SA 2.0

Many landmarks in Saudi Arabia are little known to the outside world, and, unfortunately, many amazing attractions are deliberately destroyed.

Nevertheless some Saudi Arabian landmarks are world renowned and one - Kaaba in Masjid al-Haram, Makkah - is one of most important places in world. Highlights of Saudi Arabia are:

  • Islamic sites. Here was born one of major world religions and Muslims from the whole world are coming to visit the sacred sites in Makkah and Medina.
  • Archaeological monuments. Endless deserts and mountains contain countless sites with prehistoric cliff art, here are found megaliths and ruins of ancient cities. Very interesting and impressive is Mada’in Saleh. According to legends, sands of deserts still are hiding ruins of ancient cities.

Natural landmarks

Caves

  • Jabal Al Qarah - Eastern Provinces. Approximately 1.5 km long cave system, developed in calcareous sandstone.
  • Murubbeh Cave - Ar Ryadh. Enormous cave chamber, 150 m long, 80 m wide and up to 50 m high. Rich with archaeological and paleontological material. Cave serves as a trap of cool air.
  • Umm Jirsan - Al Madinah. Longest known lava cave in Arabia, 1.481 km long. Passages are up to 45 m wide and contain rich collection of paleonthological and archaeological material. Contains old stone wall.
Maha'jah Rocks, Saudi Arabia
Maha'jah Rocks / Unayzah, / CC BY-SA 3.0

Other natural landmarks

  • Al Wahbah crater - Makkah. Impressive volcanic crater (maar), up to 250 m deep, diameter - 2 km. Bottom is covered with white sodium phosphate sediments.
  • Layla Lakes - Ar Ryadh. Largest gypsum sinkholes, former lakes which have drained now. In total 23 sinkholes, up to 1,100 m long, up to 50 m deep, with vertical walls. Especially impressive feature is the beautiful, unique gypsum tufa formations covering the walls of sinkholes.
  • Maha'jah Rocks (Cathedral Rock) - Tabuk. Group of amazing cliffs with enormous natural arches, hoodoos.
  • Wabar craters (al-Hadida meteors) – Eastern Province. Unusual impact craters in the desert of Arabia. Legendary site, where iron meteorites of large size have been found. Well preserved craters show that the impact was very recent, most likely the early 18th century.

Man made landmarks

Cliff art

  • Bir Hima - Najran. Palaeolithic and Neolithic rock art in some 100 closely located sites with more than 6,400 drawings.
  • Jabal al Manjour - Ha'il. Well preserved prehistoric roct art. Depictions of dogs from the early Neolithic, 7,500 - 6,500 BC. Images show also cheetah and leopards.
  • Janin Cave - Ha'il. Cave with prehistoric rock art.
  • Shuwaymis rock art site - Ha'il. One of major rock art sites in the world, contains many thousands of drawings from 5,000 - 3,000 BC.
  • Umm Sanman - Ha'il. Site with huge amount of petroglyphs, with Levallois - Mousterian stone artefacts at the cliff. Here in the Middle Paleolite was located bank of large inland lake, drawings made from the Middle Paleolithic to Early Islamic time. Examples of Thamudic script - earliest writing in Arabian peninsula.
  • Yatib - Ha'il. More than 1,000 prehistoric petroglyphs on a more than 1 km long rock wall.
Mada’in Saleh, Saudi Arabia
Mada’in Saleh / Sammy Six, / CC BY 2.0

Other archaeological monuments

  • Al Rajajil standing stones - Al Jawf. Group of standing stones, up to 3 m tall, erected some 5,000 years ago. Aligned to sunrise and sunset, contain Thamudic inscriptions.
  • Jubail Church - Eastern Province. Ruins of the 4th century Nestorian church at Persian Gulf.
  • Mada’in Saleh (Al-Hijr, Al-Ula) – Al Madinah. Ancient Lihyan and Nabatean city with 131 monumental rock-cut structures – tombs developed since approximately the 6th century BC. It is possible that this is more important centre of civilizations than considered thus far.
  • Qaryat al-Fāw (Qaryah) - Al Ryadh. Ruins of ancient city, which flourished around the 8th century BC - AD 228. Found remnants of three pre-Islamic temples and altar.

Historical cities and villages

  • Al Balad - Makkah, Jeddah. Historical quarters of Jeddah, founded in the 7th century AD. Dense urban network of ornate historical houses with many stories.
  • Al Dar'i Quarter - Al Javf, Dumat Al-Jandal. Historical part of the city. Preserved from the middle Islamic period, stands on remnants of earlier buildings.
  • At Turaif District - Al Ryadh. First capital of Saudi Dynasty, built in the 15th century in ad-Dir’iyah oasis. Many structures - palaces and other urban buildings - represent the Najdi architectural style. Flourished in the 18th and 19th century. Partly in ruins.
  • Al-'Ula - Al Madinah. Ruins of the old city are located over the former capital of the ancient Dedanites, with more than 2000 years old archaeological monuments. Flourished in 650 - 1230 AD. Current old city developed mainly in the 1300s.
  • Dhee Ayn - Al Bahah. Historical village in picturesque place, consists of stone towers (qasabas) built over a white marble hill.
Al-Masjid al-Nabawi, Saudi Arabia
Al-Masjid al-Nabawi, Medina / , Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Islamic sites

  • Al-Masjid al-Nabawi - Al Madinah. It is the second most important Islamic site, containing the tomb of Muhammad (Green Dome). The second largest mosque in world, built in 622 AD and rebuilt numerous times. Latest significant rebuildings date from the 19th and 20th centuries.
  • Hira - Makkah. Small, 3.7 m long cave - a place where Muhammad received his first revelations from Allah.
  • Jawatha Mosque - Eastern Province. Ruins of one of the oldest mosques in the world, constructed around 692 AD.
  • Masjid al-Haram - Makkah. The largest mosque in world, it was built in 638 AD to surround the Kaaba - holiest site of Islam. Contains several other sacred places, including Zamzam Well, which is widely believed to be a miraculous natural spring but in reality is handmade well.
  • Masjid al-Qiblatain - Al Madinah. Historically important mosque, where Muhammad commanded to change the direction of prayer from Jerusalem to Mecca. Ornate building, one of the earliest mosques in the world.
  • Quba Mosque - Al Madinah. Oldest mosque, construction started by prophet Muhammad. Completely rebuilt in 1986.

Modern architecture

  • Abraj Al Bait Towers - Makkah. Building with the world's largest floor area and largest clock in the world. 601 m tall, with 120 floors, floor area above 1.5 million m². Constructed in 2012, second tallest building in the world.
  • Al Faisaliyah Center - Al Ryadh. 267 m tall skyscraper with landmark design, constructed in 2000.
  • Jeddah Light - Makkah, Jeddah. 133 m tall lighthouse with unusual design, possibly the tallest lighthouse in the world.
  • Kingdom Centre - Al Ryadh. Skyscraper with unusual landmark design. Building has 99 floors, is 302.3 m tall. Constructed in 2002.
  • King Fahd's fountain - Makkah, Jeddah. 312 m tall water fountain, the tallest in the world. Operating since 1985.
Masmak fort, Saudi Arabia
Masmak fort / Sammy Six, / CC BY 2.0

Other man made landmarks

  • Marid Castle (Mard castle) - Al Javf. Remnants of castle which was built before 272 AD. Walls of castle still rise to considerable height.
  • Masmak fort - Al Ryadh. Clay and mud-brick fort with thick walls, located in the centre of Riyadh, historically important building. Constructed around 1865.
  • Naseef House - Makkah, Jeddah. Ornate house, built by wealthy merchants in 1872 - 1881. Now serves as a museum, contains numerous art values.
  • Rock of Antarah - Al Qassim. Unusual, large rock on the mountaintop. A place of Pre-Islamic legends where a heroe and poet Antarah met with his beloved Abla.
  • Salwa Palace - Al Ryadh. First royal Saudi palace, located in At Turaif. Four stories high, built in different time periods. Last large scale construction took place in 1803 - 1814.
  • Tomb of Eve - Makkah, Jeddah. Purported tomb of Biblical Eve. This giant tomb is estimated to be some 130 m long. Sealed with concrete in 1975.

List of described attractions by provinces

Saudi Arabia is divided into 13 provinces. Here below they are listed in alphabetical order:

Al Bahah
Al Javf
Al Madinah
Al Quasim
Al Riyadh
Asir
Eastern Province (Ash Sharqiyah)
ArrowWabar craters (al-Hadida meteors)Impact craters, Sites of legends
Ha'il
Jizan
Makkah
ArrowKaaba and Masjid-al-HaramIslamic shrines, Ancient shrines, Sites of legends
Najran
Northern Borders
Tabuk

Map of Saudi Arabia

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