The Holy Ka'aba has been a magnet for travellers and pilgrims from the time Ibrahim (Alaihis-salaam) built it along with Ismail (Alaihis-salaam). It will remain so until just before the end of this world.
Writing an overview of Saudi Arabia and in particular Makkah and Madinah, from just a traveller's perspective is not possible. They are not just cities to visit and enjoy the sights and sounds, but most importantly, places to indulge in spiritual and life changing experiences. Most places have direct relationships to the life of the holy Prophet (sallal-lahu-alaihi-wassallam), his companions, their followers and great scholars who came after them. If one intends to travel to Makkah and Madinah and other historic places in Saudi Arabia, then a serious study of the places which have been written by illustrious writers, before embarking on the journey, will help to maximize the spiritual experience.
This is just a brief overview of the main cities of Saudi Arabia.
Makkah is the holiest place in Islam. Housing the Holy Ka'aba and Masjid Al-Haram, the city is never out of the mind of a Muslim. Every year, millions of Muslims from around the world gather in this holy city to perform the annual pilgrimage, Hajj.Mina, Mount Arafat, Jabal Al Thur, Jabal Al Noor, Ghar-e-Hira and Al-Syumaisi are historic sites that hold high significance for Muslims.
The city is currently undergoing massive changes to accommodate the phenomenal growth of the pilgrims every year. This also means some historic sites may be overrun with modern structures and amenities. Hurrying to perform Hajj as soon as the means are available will help to see some of the historic sites still in existence while fulfilling the obligation.
Madinah, the second holiest city in Islam is the "City of the Prophet" (sallal-lahu-alaihi-wassallam) and is the place where the holy prophet (sallal-lahu-alaihi-wassallam) is buried. The prophet's masjid, Al-Masjid al-Nabawi, the second most important masjid in Islam, is a visual delight only second to the Ka'aba. Other important sites close to this masjid are Jannatul Baqi, the burial site for family and companions of the Prophet (sallal-lahu-alaihi-wassallam), Masjid Qiblatayen, Masjid Jumma andMasjid Gamama. Not far from the city is the mountain and plains of Badr and Uhud, the sites where the famous battles were fought.
Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia is the largest city in the country and also a cultural hub. The city has seen a lot of development and today is one of the most developed cities in Saudi Arabia. There are over 2,000 masaajid in Riyadh. Travellers can visit quite a few historic sites in the city like Masmak Fortress and Murabba Palace. The National Museum is the main appeal of the city. There are a number of other museums too that travellers can visit such as the King Abdul Aziz Military Museum, Riyadh Museum of History and Archaeology and the Museum of Antiquities and Folklore. The Kingdom Centre is the tallest building in Saudi Arabia and is situated in the heart of the city. Riyadh has some exclusive shopping malls where travellers can have a great time. The main streets in the city are lined with towering shopping centres.
One of the most cosmopolitan cities of Saudi Arabia, Jeddah is a good place to visit. The Jeddah Corniche is a wonderful place around which travellers can find several souqs and the King Fahad Fountain. There are 1,300 masaajid in the city including aFloating Masjid. The ancient city of Al-Balad is worth a visit where visitors can see the Sharbatly House and the Naseef House. Jeddah has a number of museums like the Municipality Museum, Jeddah Regional Museum of Archaeology and Ethnography, Arts Heritage Museum and the Abdul Rauf Hasan Khalil Museum. There are numerous shopping malls around the corniche.
Dammam is an important port city in Saudi Arabia.The Dammam Corniche is the main attraction in the city and extends from the Aziziah Beach to Tarot Island. The Coral Island is a wonderful place for travellers to visit. Other places worth visiting areAl Hokair Fun Lake, Prince Mohammed Bin Fahd Amusement Park, King Fahd Park, City of Gulf entertainment, Art of Time Recreational Park, Park Mount Almreekpat, Zoo within Mintz and Fun City. The Dammam National Museum,Heritage Centre Dammam and the Regional Museum of Archaeology and Ethnography are excellent to know more about the area. Dammam too boasts of several shopping centres and souqs.
Tabuk is another city located close to the Jordanian Border. The city has a long history and some of the remains are still visible in the area. Today the city is famous for its agricultural products especially flowers like lilies, gladiola and statices.
Taif has been directly linked to the history of Islam from time of Prophet (sallallahu-alaihi-wassallam). Nestled beautifully on the eastern slopes of the Sarawat Mountains close to Makkah, it is a picturesque city in Saudi Arabia. The city is an agricultural centre and is known for grapes and honey. Taif is also popular for its holiday resorts and is a traveller's delight.
Dining in Saudi Arabia is a delight; travellers can relish leavened bread or khobz, which is eaten with all meals. Other delicacies of the region include falafel, grilled chicken, hummus, tabbouleh and shawarma. There are several coffee houses all across the countries where travellers can relax.