If you were searching for a place to spend a pleasant and chill vacation this spring, look no further! For here are two options you might have not considered.
You have probably known this before, but Riyadh and Jeddah are Saudi Arabia’s biggest and most important business hubs. This is the reason why most people don’t view them as attractive travel destinations. But, the truth is, both Riyadh and Jeddah are jam-packed with interesting cultural attractions that will take you on a journey through history, as well as dazzling modern architecture and futuristic developments.
Let’s start with Riyadh, the kingdom’s capital. Apart from being a great place for business with a number of business centers and all the government offices, as well as the Saudi Arabia Stock Exchange (Tadawul), Riyadh is an exciting holiday destination that garners a wide range of attractions.
Book your headquarters in Riyadh’s city center for easy access to the city’s attractions, as well as the variety of luxurious hotels – such as the elegant Radisson Blu Hotel, Riyadh, located in King Abdul Aziz street.
Masmak Fortress and Murabba Palace
Commence your cultural journey at the Masmak fortress, just 6 km away from the hotel, and get a whiff of recent Arabian history in this 19th century mud-brick fortress. Then, a few minutes from the fort, you will find the Murabba Palace, which was the royal residence of King Abdul Aziz in the 20th century.
Al-Bathaa Souk and National Museum Riyadh
Before you on continue your cultural journey, make sure to stop by the colorful Al-Bathaa Souk and get your bargains on pashminas, rugs and gold jewelry. Take a break and enjoy a delicious meal of traditional Kabsa in one of the area’s authentic restaurants, then carry on your way toward the National Museum Riyadh to witness the premier gallery of Islamic and Arabian history from prehistoric times to present day. Highlights at the National Museum include a model of the largest Ottoman era castle, an exquisite gold and copper Ka’aba door from 1624 AD and fascinating pottery objects belonging to one of the oldest civilizations which thrived from about 6500 to 3800 BC.
Along your way through the center of Riyadh, you will notice that the streets are studded with modern buildings and high-rise towers; the most striking of all is the iconic Kingdom Tower dominating the city’s skyline at 302.3 meters. The tower’s sky bridge provides breathtaking 360 degrees panorama of the city, best viewed at dusk to see the majestic sunset over the desert.
After this intense journey of culture, heritage and modernity, unwind in the relaxing Wadi Hanifa getaway, where you can enjoy fishing and barbecuing amidst the beautiful scenery.
Like Riyadh, Jeddah is an ancient city where the past mingles with the present. As the biggest port on the Red Sea, Jeddah has been a major destination for business and commerce for centuries and the main gateway to Islam’s holiest city, Mecca. These factors, combined with the oil boom in the country, have shaped the city to become a modern metropolis where modernity rubs shoulders with tradition on every corner.
Assume the city center as your base, where it is conveniently located within a few minutes reach of all the major attractions, and where you will find a variety of luxurious hotels – of which we recommend Radisson Blu Royal Suite Hotel, Jeddah on Medina Road.
Start your journey in the north, at the city’s most vibrant shopping area: Tahlia Road. One of the largest commerce centres in Saudi Arabia, the street cuts through the middle of the city, lined with big-name fashion stores to satisfy the needs of the most ardent shopper, and dotted with coffee shops and fine dining restaurants all along.
Take a stroll along the Jeddah Corniche and enjoy spectacular views of the Red Sea and the famous 300 meter high King Fahd’s Fountain. Stretching for 30 kilometers along the Red Sea and interspersed with parks, fountains, lakes and kiosks, the Jeddah Corniche makes for a perfect family day out.
Head south to dive into Jeddah’s top site: Al Balad, or the old town. Al-Balad is the historic centre of the city, studded with old-world architecture dating from the 7th century. With historic mosques, modern shopping malls and traditional souks, the area has a wealth of variety to explore.
Lined by coral houses on both sides, you will find the traditional Souk Al-Alawi market in the centre of the Al-Balad area. The souk is a diverse mixture of colours and aromas where you’ll find yourself surrounded by people from all over the Arab world, Asia and Africa.
On the outskirts of Al-Balad area, you can find the remnants of the old gate and walls of Jeddah; and within them the historical Naseef House (Bayt Naseef), with more than 100 rooms and a broad staircase to allow camels access.
Make sure you book yourself a scuba diving trip in the Red Sea, and prepare to be blown away by the fascinating untouched natural beauty of the coral reefs.
So, where will you be spending your vacation this spring? Riyadh or Jeddah?
Shahbaz ahmed is a technology geek, hobbyist photographer and a backpacker. He likes to travel different region of MIDDLE EAST and share his experience on different travel blogs.