Forget Dubai and the massive tourist attractions in the UAE and consider the latest country in the Middle East to open itself to tourism – Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia has begun to open up its society as well as open the country itself to tourists. This is in sharp contrast to the days when you could only arrive on Hajj or a work visa. Here are the best places to visit in Saudi Arabia.

Riyadh

Riyadh is Saudi Arabia’s capital as well as its financial center. Why would tourists want to visit Riyadh? As the capital, you’ll find many of the best museums in Saudi Arabia here. One such example would be the King Abdulaziz Historical Center. You could visit the Masmak Fortress, as well. It is a 19th century fort turned into a museum. Or take a tour of Al-Ahsa Heritage Village to learn more about Saudi Arabia’s past.

A more modern attraction is Center Point. This unusual skyscraper contains an observatory. Visitors to Riyadh could also explore the natural wonders of the desert like Heet Cave or “The End of the World” cliff.

Jeddah

Jeddah is the second-largest city in Saudi Arabia. There are regular flights from Riyadh to Jeddah, connecting the two main hubs of Saudi business and culture.

Jeddah sits on the Red Sea and is the second largest seaport in the Middle East. While its claim to fame is being the entry point for most heading to Mecca, it is becoming a tourist destination in its own right. It is often considered the most liberal city in Saudi Arabia, and that’s likely because of the massive volume of trade and travel in the city and its many Red Sea resorts. Tourists could visit the markets that have sold mother of pearl, spices and frankincense for centuries. Tahliya Street is the premier shopping destination in the city. Jeddah is home to the Red Sea Film Festival and regularly hosts other cultural events. You could visit the Museum of Abdul Raoof Hasan Khalil or Matbouli House Museum; the latter lets you see what life was like for the average person a century ago. Others choose to go fishing or diving in the Red Sea.

Jeddah is also a major travel hub in its own right. Every capital of the Middle East and North Africa are within a two-hour flight of Jeddah. Use Flyadeal flight booking to find a direct flight to or connecting flight through Jeddah. We doubt that Jeddah will be eclipsed by King Abdullah Economic City 100 kilometers to the north.

Mecca

Mecca is a must-see destination, if you’re Muslim. While millions visit on Hajj every year, it is also a worthwhile place to visit the rest of the year. There are many historic sites here, and they’re worth seeing without the massive crowd. That would be a good time to visit the Masjid al-Haram.

Jeddah has a new airport that serves as an entry point for most pilgrims. From Jeddah, you can take the Haramain rail system to Mecca. But you may want to stay in Jeddah for a variety of reasons.

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