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Sightseeing in Saudi Arabia

While the sights of Saudi Arabia are renowned the world over, it is important to remember that Islamic places of worship and pilgrimage are closed to non-Muslims. In fact, a 25km radius to Mecca and Madinah is cordoned off and is strictly for Muslim pilgrims only.

Mecca is Islam's holiest city and all devout Muslims dream of coming here at least once in their lifetime. This journey is a pilgrimage and it is called "Hajj". In the centre of the city is the Grand Mosque with the sacred Well of Zamzam beside it.

The Kaaba to which all Muslims turn when they pray is in the central courtyard of the Grand Mosque and, according to Islamic tradition, the first prophet Abraham and his son Ishmael built it.

Madinah is the holiest city in Islam after Mecca and was in fact the first to accept Prophet Mohammed’s message. The Prophet fled to Madinah, erstwhile Yathrib, from Mecca in 622 AD. The Islamic calendar starts from His flight.

The most important place in the city is the Prophet's Mosque that contains His burial place. Everything of historical or religious significance within the precincts is forbidden to non-Muslims, although the outskirts of the city and the airport are open to all.

If you are in Saudi Arabia as a tourist, ramble in the Masmak Fortress in the center of Riyadh , feel the ambience of Jeddah with its houses built of coral in the old section and shop at the souq; tour the ruined city of Dir’aiyah, just outside Riyadh; browse through the museum at Dhahran and visit the largest archaeological digs in this part of the world at Madain Salah . You have to get a site permit for every single site that you visit such as forts, ruins or an archaeological site.

The Department of Antiquities office at the Riyadh Museum issues all permits. Permits for the Eastern Province outside the Al-Hasa oasis can also be obtained from the Regional museum of Archaeology and Ethnography in Dammam.

For something different and slightly off the beaten track, shop for Bedouin jewellery at Najran and take in the spectacular mountain scenery of Abha .

The resonance of faith takes people to religious place around the world for pilgrimage, missionary or mere relaxation purposes. A ...

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