Saudi Arabia has some of the most iconic cities in the world. The holy cities of Makkah and Madinah have been visited and considered sacred for centuries.
More recently, other cities like Riyadh have become popular as major centers of trade. Then, there are some unique and amazing cities that are almost unknown to the outside world. This article will cover all of the best cities and attractions in Saudi Arabia and the cool things to do there.
The 4 Regions of Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia is bordered by Jordan, Kuwait, and Iraq in the North, Yemen in the South, and Qatar, The UAE, and Oman in the South-east.
It is by far the largest country in the region, covering over 2 million square kilometers. In fact, Saudi Arabia ranks as the 12th largest country in the world. There is no shortage of space.
Unfortunately, most of the land in Saudi Arabia is either unusable in its current state or not fully exploited by the government and people. There are 4 main regions in Saudi Arabia:
- The central region: This region was historically called Najd. It is home to the capital Riyadh. Other major regional cities include Buraidah, Hail, and Kharj.
- The western region: This region is was known as Hijaz. It includes the major coastal city of Jeddah, on the Red Sea, along with the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah.
- The eastern region: This region is referred to as Ash- Sharqiyah, meaning The Eastern Region. This is by far the most significant region in Saudi Arabia, economically and strategically. This is where the highest concentration of oil is located. It is said that the largest oil well on earth is here. This region is home to many ARAMCO projects. Major cities include Dammam, Khobar, Dhahran, and the industrial city of Jubail.
- The southern region: Known as Asir, this region is rich in water and more fertile. It is the home of some of the famous Saudi tribes, making it a strong and almost nostalgic cultural center. However, there is not much going on there in the form of industry and job prospects. This region maintains a strong military presence due to its border with Yemen. The major city is the regional capital, Abha.
Now that we’ve learned a lot about the main regions in the country, let’s check out the different cities in Saudi Arabia.
The holy cities in Saudi Arabia
Makkah has been a sacred city for thousands of years, even in pre-Islamic Arabia. Today, Makkah is considered the most sacred site of Islam. The holy Mosque has the iconic Kaaba, which is not found in any other mosque.
The city of Makkah is also where the annual Haj or major pilgrimage takes place. This is one of the most important events in the life of a Muslim.
Millions of worshippers visit Makkah every year.
Equally important is the city of Prophet Muhammad (may peace and blessings be upon him). Madinah is considered the second holiest city in Islam. The holiest place in Madinah is the picturesque Musjid Al-Nabawi, Mosque of the Messenger Muhammad.
The city was the capital of the first Islamic State and has always been a center of Islamic learning. People that visit Madinah say that it is peaceful and serene. No visit to Saudi Arabia is complete without visiting Madinah.
Biggest cities in Saudi Arabia
Riyadh is the political and administrative capital of Saudi Arabia. It is also the largest urban center in the Arabian peninsula. Located in the center of the desert, Riyadh boasts an impressive skyline of tall, lavishly constructed buildings.
For the most part, the best things to do in Riyadh are fine dining and shopping. There is an unlimited number of top-quality restaurants that offer food from all over the world.
The shopping malls in Riyadh provide the ideal opportunity to get your hands on the latest local and international brands.
Jeddah is the second-largest city in Saudi Arabia. It is very diverse and the people are easy-going.
As the major city on the Red Sea, Jeddah has Saudi Arabia’s biggest port that receives people and business from all over the world, especially North Africa.
Jeddah’s Old city or Al Ballad is an amazing site that was recognized as a UNESCO world heritage site.
The Eastern Corridor: Dammam, Jubail and Al Ahsa
This is the newest and most prosperous region of Saudi Arabia. The Eastern Region is home to the largest oil well in the world and most of the oil and related industries are located there.
Also, the Eastern region is a collection of cities that offer a wide variety of living and entertainment options. These cities include Dammam, Jubail, Khobar, and Dhahran.
Several new restaurants and cool specialty cafes are opening up in these cities, daily.
Historical cities in Saudia Arabia
In 2008, Madain Salih became Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO Heritage Site. It was chosen for its well-preserved remains from late antiquity, especially the 131 monumental rock-cut tombs, with their elaborately ornamented facades, of the Nabataean Kingdom.
The archeological city of Madain Salih, or Hegra, is situated 20 km (12 mi) north of the town of Al-‘Ula., in the North of Saudi Arabia.
This is the most significant archeological site in Arabia and one of the most remarkable ancient dwellings in the world.
Off the coast of Qatief, Tarut Island is one of the oldest inhabited regions of the Arabian Peninsula. Tarout’s history dates back to pre-5000 BC.
The island was famous as a trade hub and a seaport that was significant in the Gulf region. Today, there is not much going on in Tarut but the rare Tarut Castle is a rare treat. It is one of the few remaining old castles in Saudi Arabia.
Dumat Al Jandal
Dumat Al Jandal is an ancient city in Al Jouf Province of Northern Saudi Arabia. The site has an oasis and a number of ancient ruins. The most prominent structure is the Marid Castle, which dates back to the first century C.E.
A visit to the historic city of Dumat Al Jandal is a rare glimpse into the history of pre-Islamic Arabia.
Najran is among the oldest ancient settlements in Saudi Arabia. Its history dates back to 2000 B.C.E. It was once conquered by the Romans and was home to historical Christian and Jewish communities.
The city of Najran is thought to have been a well-fortified city, surrounded by a circular wall of around 230 meters. The city still has remains of old houses and ancient structures.
Excavations have revealed traces of glass, bronze, and pottery artifacts.
Beautiful cities in Saudi Arabia
Rijal Almaa (Abha)
Located in the beautiful Asir region of the South of Saudi Arabia, Rijal Almaa is an enchanting village that you must visit.
It is a small mountainous village of several well-kept multi-story homes and buildings made of stone, wood and clay. Some call it ‘The Gingerbread Village’. Where did that name come from?
It was also a well-fortified city that saw visitors from all over the Arabian peninsula over the ages.
Wadi Al Disah
This is one of the most delightful hidden gems of Saudi Arabia. Camouflaged in the western region of Tabuk, is the magical valley of Wadi Al Disah.
It is a paradise of freshwater streams, palm trees, and caves hidden in the surrounding mountains of this amazing place.
What makes it more incredible is that it gives a whole new meaning to the endless desert that people know as Saudi Arabia. The peace and serenity of the place give it my vote as the most beautiful natural space in Saudi Arabia.
Al Qarah Mountain
Al-Qarah mountain or ” Jabal Al-Qarah” is a calm and cool natural phenomenon in Al-Ahsa in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia. The site covers around 14 square kilometers of lovely red-colored sedimentary rock structures.
It is a famous tourist attraction for locals and foreign visitors and one of the coolest things to do is explore the unique caves.
It is also listed as a UNESCO heritage site, since 2018.