4 of Saudi Arabia's Most Fascinating Attractions
While it’s difficult to visit as a tourist, Saudi Arabia is still a beautiful desert country in the Middle East with lots to offer in its 830,000 square miles. A Muslim nation with lots of Islamic heritage sites, it could be easier to visit for non-Muslims in the future thanks to a desire to grow tourism that doesn’t involve religious pilgrimages (see their government’s Saudi Vision 2030). Still, millions visit annually – from all over the world, though mostly arriving from Bangladesh, Pakistan, Indonesia, and other Muslim countries. If you can get in, here are some of Saudi Arabia’s most intriguing attractions that are well worth a visit.
4. Qasr al-Farid & Mada’in Saleh
Why not start off this list with a double whammy of wacky? Known as The Lonely Castle, Qasr al-Farid is an archaeological ruin built in the first century. Carved into a massive boulder, it’s not actually a castle. It is actually a tomb that was built as part of the ancient Nabatean site of Hegra. As surreal as it is bizarre, the tomb sits alone in the desert. Nearby, however, is Mada’in Saleh (Hegra). The site is the Nabatean kingdom’s southernmost and largest settlement after Jordan’s popular Petra, which was the capital. But Hegra, today’s Mada’in Saleh, has incredible remnants of the past – not just Qasr al-Farid, but Jabal al-Khuraymat and other necropolises.
3. Elephant Rock (Al-‘Ula)
There’s a rock in Saudi Arabia that looks an awful lot like an elephant. But that’s not all you can find at the site. There’s also the walled city of Al-‘Ula, which was founded in the 6th century BCE. It consists of about 800 tightly-packed mud, brick, and stone homes that look more like tombs than anything. While the city is being restored by the Saudi government, it is decaying and may turn into dust before being saved.