Mohammed Mirza is a history junkie, food fanatic and a travel buff. The word he likes to hear most is ‘viral’ and considers himself to be a digital media ‘guru’. He also has a new found love for books.
The coming new year will mark the implementation of , vat ksa major financial implementation in Saudi Arabia. While the move is in line with IMF’s recommendation for Gulf countries to impose value-added taxes, there are many things about it that the masses are not fully aware of.
vat exempt items in saudi arabia
We came across a list of items that are exempt from VAT and we eagerly wanted to break the news to you.
1. Medicine And Medical Equipment
Only those that are specified by the Ministry of Health and the Saudi Food and Drug Authority.
2. Gold and Silver
Provided that they are at least 99% pure and tradable in the bullion markets.
3. Goods Export
However, the exemption is applicable only on foreign exports outside of the GCC.
4. Life Insurance
It includes reinsurance contracts as well.
5. Government Agency Services
So passport renewals, issuances of driving licenses etc. will have no VAT on them.
6. International Transportation
This includes air, sea or land travel outside the country.
7. Selected Financial Services Like Savings And Deposit Accounts
It also includes credit or credit guarantee provided by banks and other financial institutions.
8. Residential Real Estate Rent
Villa, apartment or studio flat – as long as it’s residential it will be exempted from VAT.
For more information on the list of exemptions, you can log onto Vat.gov.sa
Saudi Arabia is a vast country made up of 13 large provinces (or regions as some call it), all distinct to each other in several aspects including climate, topology, culture and cuisine.
saudi traditional food
Saudi food, Many of the tribes living in these provinces were living in relative isolation since ancient times, and overtime, they developed their own cuisine using the local food items available in the area which they inhabited. The variety of traditional foods in the Kingdom is remarkable, with each province having something different to offer. Here are the traditional foods from all around Saudi.
Photo Credit: 3odny.com
Khamir – Jazan
This southern delight is a type of bread that is made from ground corn grains. It is made by kneading the dough and leaving it overnight. The following day the dough is baked in an oven, resulting in a bread that can be accompanied with any curry. This baked bread is still popular among the semi-urban and rural settlements in the region.
Popular on the Tihama side of Aseer, this meat dish is the golden jewel of Aseer’s cuisine. The haneeth is made by chopping mutton into medium sized pieces and placing it in a muhannath. The muhannath is a traditional oven made from stone. Branches of trees are then placed inside so that the burning stones are separated from the meat. Then sand is used to cover the muhannath so that steam doesn’t escape. After a few hours of cooking the meat is taken out from the oven and salt is sprinkled before serving. Right from the first bite you will feel as if all the effort that was put into making the dish was worth it.
Bakila – Northern Borders
A plant called opophytum known in Arabic as ghasoul is used heavily in the Samh cuisines of the Northern Borders region. The opophytum is a desert plant that is perhaps only used in the cuisine of the people inhabiting the northern part of Saudi. To make the Bakila, which is a kind of bread, the seeds of the opophytum plant are soaked, ground, then mixed with dates.
Photo Credit: hawamer.com
Wishaiq – Jouf
The people living in the Jouf region have great diversity in the food they eat – heavily inspired from the Levant region. This dish called the Wishaiq is popular among other countries in the Middle East as well. Wishaiq is made from chopping meat into thick strands, which are then salted and hung on ropes to dry. This meat preparation can be stored for long periods of time and is normally cooked whenever needed. You can accompany it with spiced sauces if you’d like.
Photo Credit: abunawaf.com
Matazeez – Qassim
This famous dish from Qassim is made by cutting dough into small pieces. These pieces are then flattened and put in a pot that contains a meat broth. Sometimes local truffle and ghee are added in the mixture as well. Matazeez is a normally eaten during lunch or dinner. A small bite of this bread can instantly cheer you up.
Traditionally bread has been more popular in Arabia when compared to rice. This dish also is a type of bread. The Thireed is made by grilling the dough on fire or charcoal, which is later mixed with onions and ghee. Since it’s on the healthier side, eating the Thireed is like having a gastronomic adventure in which you won’t have to worry about the consequences later.
Photo Credit: haraj.com.sa
Bur/Samen – Najran
Influenced heavily by Yemeni culture, the dishes in Najran are quite similar to those across the border in Yemen. The dish is usually eaten as breakfast. Dough is baked and placed in a container. Then, a hole is made in its center and ghee is poured inside it. Some families use honey or milk instead of ghee. Now this is something to drool over.
Photo Credit: rawya1.wordpress.com
Sileeq – Makkah
Being a melting pot of cultures, Makkan cuisine is influenced by the wide range of pilgrims it has seen over the years. Sileeq is prepared by boiling meat in water with various spices that results in a broth. This broth is then used to cook rice. Ghee is added right at the very end before serving.
Photo Credit: vb.eqla3.com
Jereesh – Riyadh
The Riyadh region has a wide variety of traditional recipes, most of which have been passed down from generation to generation. The Jereesh is a side dish that is a regular feature in many households in the central part of the country. It is made by mixing groats with milk at high temperatures resulting in a concoction that has exquisite texture and taste of course.
Photo Credit: atyabtabkha.3a2ilati.com
Mandi – Tabuk
Though popular all across Saudi, Tabuk’s Mandi is noteworthy. Mandi is made by putting a whole lamb with or without rice in an oven. The oven is then covered to prevent steam from exiting. After it has been left for around 2 hours in the oven, the delectable Mandi is ready to eat. Sometimes herbs are sprinkled on top before serving. Talk about something that is fragrant and succulent.
Photo Credit: baha-egynews.net
Famous even beyond the Kingdom’s borders, the luscious Aseedah is Baha’s pride. This savory concoction is made from either corn or wheat flour. Yoghurt and broth are mixed steadily until the mixture thickens. This is then served with butter or margarine. A thickened version of this dish is known as Al Aish.
Photo Credit: ma7shy.com
The famous dish that is found all over Saudi has been part of the traditional cuisine of the residents of Madinah for decades now. Kibdah is prepared by stir-frying lamb liver with onions, tomatoes, and various spices. No connoisseurs are required here; it’s always delectable regardless of who makes it.
Photo Credit: easy-recipes.org
Muhammar – Eastern Province
Popular over the other side of the coast in neighboring Bahrain as well, Muhammar is a sweet rice dish that is imbued with assorted spices and date palm. Relish this with grilled fish.
So treat your taste buds with something traditional this weekend.
Around five years ago I remember visiting the area when it was a dumping ground for the city’s sewage and was called Musk Lake for reasons that I can’t comprehend. I did find it pretty lush though back then, with various types of desert plants growing around the rim of the lake.
Fast-forward to today, and large portions of the forest are fenced, the lake has been filled up and tall coniferous trees have replaced small shrubs that once grew here. All in all, over 80,000 plants thrive in this man-made forest, which is now called Eastern Forest (Ghaib Sharqiya).
When visiting for the first time, I didn’t know what to expect, as there isn’t much evidence of the forest online. The photos that do exist don’t do it justice.After taking the Briman exit from the highway, we proceeded eastwards, going past car scrapyards, farmlands and tents on our journey on the highway that runs from jeddah forest – Jummum. The highway even serves as an alternative though longer route to Makkah from Jeddah. It took around 20 minutes from Briman to the forest.
The entrance is such that one might expect it to be a gargantuan sized farmhouse of an affluent businessman, with security guards and barricades, making it potentially off-putting for tourists. The signboard of the forest is too small, so you have to reach the security gate before you can read it.
The guard lifted the boom barrier, revealing a lush forest like I haven’t ever seen in or around Jeddah before. The trees, however, seemed to have lacked luster almost as if the vibrant green has been dried by the desert sun.
The sight of the forest, with many plants I’ve never seen in Saudi Arabia before, made me forget for a moment where I was. Some tall, some short, some blooming, some not, it felt like a nature reserve without the animals.
Every few meters or so, an opening in the road allowed for parking spaces. Whatever handful of families that were in the forest had parked their cars there and went deep into the forest to set camp.
We could hear birds chirp but couldn’t see them. Colorful butterflies were flying around, passing from one tree to the next. I would have loved to see flowers as well, but hardly any flowery plants have been planted. Perhaps the place achieves a more ‘foresty’ look without them.
After passing through empty roads and roaming for miles around the forest, we saw an observatory tower on a plateau. From the observatory tower, we saw the entire landscape of the forest. We could see various groups of trees planted together, ground cleared at a distance for new plantations and the road snaking its way around the forest. It looks natural, as if a road was paved through a real forest, not as if the trees were planted around the road.
There are solar powered lights along the winding road, although I’m not sure of the reason, as the forest remains closed in the night. Sticking true to its environment-friendly aspect the forest is irrigated through recycled sewage. The sewage is recycled nearby by the National Water Company.
There aren’t many facilities on site, other than a charming little mosque with beautiful gardens and a few toilets at the entrance. Whatever you need for a day in the forest – including water and snacks – must be brought with you, as the nearest baqala is miles away.
Taken as a whole, Jeddah’s Eastern Forest is ideal for a picnic, a non-barbeque one that is. The scenery provides lots of Instagram and Snapchat worthy photos and videos.
The toughest part of your visit? Trying to convince others that there’s actually a forest in Jeddah – I know I am still struggling to make people believe this.
The whole place spans over an area of 2.7 million square meters. The entire area isn’t covered in forest, but is it expanding, with many places cordoned off due to construction work.
Open on Thursdays and weekends from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., the forest is accessible only for families. Entry is free of charge.
Princess Nora University it is a world’s largest women’s university has its roots going back till almost 40 years ago when women’s colleges were first being established in and around Riyadh. Since then they have brought a positive change in society and have allowed their alumni to contribute in various ways to the Kingdom’s growth story. As per a 2009 report by the Saudi Education Ministry more women than men receive post-secondary degrees in the country.
The PNU was formed by incorporating many government owned female colleges into one large campus. Completed in 2011, it was one of the biggest education projects taken up by the Kingdom. Here are some amazing facts about this all-female university that has made headlines around the world right from its conceptualization.
1. The campus has a built up area of a colossal 3 million square meters.
Making it the largest female only university in the world.
2. The number of students in the university total to around a staggering 52,000.
It is not only the biggest all-female university in the world by size, but by number of female students enrolled in at as well.
3. For a project of mammoth proportions it was constructed in a record breaking 2 and a half years.
With over 75,000 workers working on it
4. Speaking about records there is also the world’s largest solar thermal power plant housed in the campus.
Which cost around $14 million and stores more than 900,000 liters of hot water at a given time.
Photo Credits: Nada alMegbil
5. The university is named after the sister of King Abdul Aziz, Princess Nora Bint Abdul Rahman.
She was one of the few women of the period who were literate. Princess Nora was also one of the main advisors of King Abdul Aziz and was renowned for her wisdom and charitable activities. Even many western delegates who have visited the Kingdom during the early 20th century have mentioned highly of her in their writings.
6. There are 4.5 kilometers of underground tunnels within the campus.
Yes, you read that right. These are service tunnels that interconnect various buildings forming an elaborate underground network!
Photo Credits: Nada alMegbil
7. Many energy conservation and environmental initiatives were taken up at PNU.
Among them include automated lighting management systems, a solar farm, sewage treatment plants, automated storage and retrieval systems in the libraries and amongst many others making it on course for LEED certification. This certification will be the world’s first for a public university.
8. The library holds over 2 million books, with a total capacity of close to 5 million.
Putting it in league with the biggest libraries in the Arab world.
There are some lesser-trodden highways in the Kingdom your inner roadie will be desperate to venture onto by the end of this article. So get your car serviced and head on to one of these highways for a ride that you could convincingly call ‘the ride of your life’.
saudi arabia highways
Dammam – Hofuf
dammam to abha This highway is a wide stretch of a relatively empty road that runs through the desert. While this may sound cliché for a typical journey on a highway in Saudi, wait till you get to the last 50 kilometers of this highway because this is where the enjoyable portion of the highway starts. Enigmatic sandstone formations (some of which stand isolated) flank the western side of the highway; never failing to impress passersby. Plus, you will also see the Dammam- Hofuf train passing by you, so you can test your car’s speed compared to it – needless to say, as long as you’re driving within speed limits.
Exotic locale, breathtaking scenery and sweeping trails on the Al Ola – Wajh Highway will keep all your senses in check. This is definitely not the safest road on the list, but it sure does provide one of the most exhilarating driving experiences in the country. You’ll hardly come across any significant sections of straight roads; the roads just keep twisting and turning. A ride through this highway will make you feel as if you were driving on the roads of a car chase from an old James Bond movie – without the bad guys chasing you of course.
Photo Credit: youllhavehadyourtea.org.uk
abha road One of the highest roads in the country, this highway makes way through dramatic mountain passes of the Sarawat mountain range. With consistent steep inclines and perpetual zigzag bends, it passes through one of the most beautiful landscapes of the country and is a must for nature lovers. Think about it this way; deep gorges next to a paved highway, clouds that appear so close almost as if you could touch them with your hands and patches of luxuriant greenery all around. A true bliss – except when it’s foggy though.
This classic stretch can be said to be the perfect driving road. It is the world’s longest straight road, stretching for around 260 km with absolutely no bends. The highway connects the Haradh area with Badha on the UAE border. Perhaps an ideal locale to shoot the next Fast and Furious movie, where else would the producers find such a long straight highway after all?
Photo Credit: saudconsult.com
Abha – Rijal Alma
The drive starts in the picturesque town of Abha and goes down from the tallest peak of the country, Jabal Souda, to the historic town of Rijal Alma. If you think you are one of those who can travel through back-to-back hairpin bends easily, then this road is for you. It is not only that the hairpin bends here are narrow; they are extremely steep as well. Enjoy all this while you take in gusts of fresh air as you pass green color coated mountains, out of which the road seems to be carved.
al saif beach , Treat the sea and sand lover in you.
As dusk strikes, the sun shines dimly, its weak rays reflect in the vast sea. The beach boasts of a sunset experience like no other near Jeddah, where neither boat nor watercraft obstructs the horizon. It’s just the sand and sea in front of us and grass and palm trees behind us with the winds slowly breezing past them, creating the most beautiful sounds.
Al Saif Beach Jeddah
The kaleidoscopic kite flies high as children learn to swim in the shallow waters while some of them practice maneuvering on their self-balancing scooters. Families try to barbeque, with some of their members taking selfies with the setting sun and a few parents close by run after their toddlers who seem to enjoy walking in the soft grass. This is a sight we saw while at Al Saif Beach.
We heard about it this new beach that opened fairly recently in 2015 a while ago. But now after hearing its reviews we couldn’t wait any longer and decided to visit. Someone told us that we could swim so we got our swimming gear along with us.
Despite opening without much fanfare, we found Al Saif Beach crowded. In Jeddah when a new attraction opens, somehow the entire city knows about it within days.
Google Maps has it listed as “Sword Beach,” a literal translation of Al Saif. If one starts asking or searching for Sword Beach they won’t find it anywhere except on Google Maps. All signboards leading up to the place have it written as Al Saif Beach and Jeddawis know the beach as that as well.
Speaking of signboards we came across plenty of them on the way, especially after reaching King Faisal Road. The road is filled with warehouses and factories and we passed hoards of them on our way. An interesting thing I saw here was the solar powered streetlights, something I haven’t seen in any place in the country before. Though they were not the best looking they were definitely the most eco-friendly ones out there.
We followed the signboards and reached South Corniche; a place anglers prefer over Al Saif Beach. From South Corniche we continued to head south following Corniche Road and went round a thermal power plant. After the power plant it was another 5-minute drive, and there was Al Saif Beach, neatly laid out with palm trees flanking the main road. The total distance of the beach from downtown Jeddah is around 55 kilometers and it took us less than an hour to reach.
Finding a parking spot was a hassle, but we eventually found one. The swimming gear wasn’t of much use as the water was only knee-high and the waves were negligible; no wonder it was mostly filled with children. An excellent spot for the young ones to learn swimming, as the sand beneath is extremely soft and no stones or algae whatsoever are found at the beach.
Plus the beach is surprisingly clean considering the numbers it sees, especially if we consider what happened to Jeddah’s Corniche only days after reopening, where one would find plastics and all sorts of garbage seaside.
What we enjoyed most at the beach was walking in the shallow waters, the soft sand dispersed with every step we took making the seawater look murky. The experience of dusk here deserves a mention on its own; pristine – to put it in one word. (socialsamosa.com) A place where you can get a book or drink a fine cup of tea while watching the sun set into the vast seas ahead of you.
Since there isn’t any habitation or makeshift kiosks nearby it’s best to get all your supplies from Jeddah. There are even huts available for families who want that extra bit of privacy; we didn’t find many using them though. A makeshift mosque is available at sight along with many restrooms that one comes across while walking by the beach. On the whole it is an ideal picnic spot for families, be it barbeques or weekend gatherings.
Defining and redefining contemporary Islamic architecture.
عبد الواحد الوكيل abdel wahed el wakil is afamous islamic architects has designed over fifteen mosques in Saudi Arabia, including the Quba Mosque, the Qiblatain Mosque and the King Saud Mosque. He is one of the rare distinguished present-time architects that the Islamic World has produced. This is his story.
Photo Credit: beautifulmosque.com – The Qubbah Mosque, Medina
Early Years in the life abdel-wahed el-wakil
El Wakil was born in Cairo in 1943. Early 1960’s, he joined the Faculty of Engineering at Ain Shams University. It was while pursuing his degree that El Wakil came across Ruskin’s writings –the latter’s writings were to have a profound effect on El Wakil.
After graduating from college, he was appointed a lecturer in the Architecture Department. At one of his lectures, he met renowned architect Hassan Fathy. Shortly thereafter, Fathy became Abdel Wahed’s mentor. As a result, the promising student left his job as a lecturer to begin working with his instructor.
Following his mentor’s example, Abdel Wahed started using indigenous materials and architectural techniques. This was at a time when modern building materials had become scarce, due to an economic crunch Egypt was going through.
Photo Credit: archidatum.com – Halawa House
He designed noticeable works, including the Halawa House, Hamdy House and Chourbagy House, all of which used local design elements and construction techniques.
Oil Boom In Saudi Arabia
The year of 1973 left a big, positive mark is Saudi Arabian history, as the country witnessed a huge economic boom. Seizing the opportunity, El Wakil moved to the prospering Kingdom. His early projects in Saudi Arabia involved the construction of grand mansions.
His overall layout of the mansions was a stark difference to the regular villa type layouts that were the norm. He placed a number of internalized spaces in his designs in the forms of patios, courtyards and atriums. The grand mansions upheld an indigenous feel to their luxurious interiors.
The Suleiman Palace, Jeddah.
Among the mansions he designed is the Suleiman palace. It was nominated in the AIA Journal as one of the best designs accomplished in Saudi Arabian architecture. Its main feature is the traditional Arab design concept applied to contemporary architecture.
His constructions caught the attention of the mayor of Jeddah, Sheikh Said Farsi, who appointed him as an architectural advisor.
El Wakil conceived a program for introducing traditional architecture into the skylines of Saudi Arabia. The proposal got the nod from the Ministry of Pilgrimage and Endowment and El Wakil began working on an ambitious project that has given Saudi Arabia some of its most iconic mosques.
He was the sole designer of the mosques, which allowed him to display his full prowess. What was special in his constructions was his ability to make a good portion of them without using concrete, even for mosques of monumental sizes. From vaulted domes to towering minarets, El Wakil pushed the bar with each of his works.
The Egyptian architect built a total of fifteen mosques, nine of which are in Jeddah, including the King Saudi Mosque, which is the largest of them all and the pinnacle of his work. It stands as an architectural masterpiece in the city’s heart.
El Wakil also redesigned and designed a number of mosques in Madinah, including the Qiblatain Mosque, where believers first changed the direction of their prayers from Jerusalem towards Makkah. He also redesigned the Quba Mosque, which is historically very significant as it was the first mosque in Islam. The old mosque at the site was brought down and El Wakil initiated the construction from scratch.
Observing his designs, one can notice traces of his inspiration. El Wakil relies on several traditions across the Islamic World. The Qiblatain Mosque in Madinah has traces of Yemen’s Ashrafiyya Mosque and the Binladin Mosque in Makkah has similar design elements to that of Turkey’s Sokullu Mehmet Mosque.
On a national scale, he was honored the King Fahd Award for Research in Islamic Architecture in 1985. He was also given the first prize at the International Congress for Mosque Architecture that was held in Riyadh for the Design of Contemporary Mosque Architecture.
At age 73, El Wakil still continues to work. He divides his time between Middle Eastern capitals, working on major projects in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Lebanon and his home country, Egypt.
“The Mosques of Abdel Wahed El Wakil” by Mohammed Assad (1992) Muslim Heritage Archnet Al-‘Udhaibat, building on the past at Saudi Aramco World, July/August 1999, p32-45 William Facey, Back to Earth: Adobe Building in Saudi Arabia, 1997, ISBN 1-900404-13-3
map 2000 years ago , The remains and legacy of many Arabian civilizations continue to baffle onlookers, be them of the Thamuds or the Dilmuns;
Arabia has seen many homegrown superpowers of their time, and likewise Arabia has been ruled many a times by powers that were not from Arabia but were rather outsiders. From the Persians and the Byzantines before Islam to the Mamulks and Ayubbids after the birth of Islam, all had their capitals outside Arabia yet continued to rule over the vast lands of the peninsula.
When it comes to history, one cannot be cent percent sure regarding the extents of lands that were under a particular civilization. This is particularly more relevant to Arabia as written documented facts have been to a large extent limited, especially during pre-Islamic times.
We came across these maps on this useful website worldhistorymaps.info that is run by Thomas Lessman, whose maps have been regularly featured in Wikipedia articles.
map of arabia 2000 years ago
Starting from 1300 BC we try to present to you Arabia in a way you’ve probably never seen before. Highlighting the different civilizations and tribes that thrived here and the foreign powers that controlled the region right up till 1300 AD.
The Kassite and Dilmun Kingdoms control significant areas of Eastern Arabia. Their remains and legacy depict them to be one of the finest civilizations to inhabit the region. The rest of Arabia is scarcely populated with nomads.
The Kassites have long gone, yet their counterparts, the Dilmuns, remain. A new Kingdom of the first notable civilizations from southern Arabia emerges, the Kingdom of Saba.
Apart from Saba, 5 other kingdoms hold vast expanses of Arabian Peninsula’s coasts. They are the kingdoms of Hadramaut, Qataban, Gerrha, Muscat and Ma’an.
Thekingdom of saba map becomes one of the longest surviving Kingdoms in Arabia. Powerful tribes hold considerable amounts of land. The deserts of central Arabia however, continue to be inhabited by nomads.
The Kingdom of Saba has been wiped away. Only one kingdom exists at this time, the Kingdom of Himyar.
This is Arabia during the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H). Southern Arabia is ruled by Persian vassals, while rest of Arabia is in the hands of powerful tribes such as the Quraysh in Makkah and the Hanifas in the Najd region.
The Islamic Empire stretches from Spain in the West to the borders of India in the East. The entire Arabian Peninsula is ruled by the Abbasid Caliphate.
A new power emerges in the east of Arabia breaking off from the Caliphate, the Qarmartians.
The Qarmatians are to a great extent wiped off. There are three caliphates ruling over the Muslim lands. With their base in North Africa, the Fatimid Caliphate rules over much of the Hejaz region in Arabia.
Founded by the legendary sultan, Saladin Ayyubi, the Ayyubid dynasty rules over the western parts of Arabia.
Road trip day trips from jeddah , There’s no better way to discover Saudi Arabia than by criss-crossing the country via its numerous highways. Saudi Arabia possesses a variety of road trip-suitable routes, from straight shots across deserts to snaking switchbacks through the mountains.
Road Trip day trips from jeddah
There’s a road out there for anyone seeking adventure and places to visit jeddah .
It’s time to head out on the road and let unexpected diversions and detours (and maybe even a dirt path) add drama to your journey.
Nestled in a silent valley close to the town of Al Lith lies Saudi Arabia’s very own set of hot springs. The newly built tarmac road runs between beautiful beige colored hills with splashes of green all across them.The charming valley at the foot of which the hot spring burbles out of the ground is verdant and houses grazing livestock.It offers scenes of a green rural idyll that are sharply at odds with the concept of a “desert kingdom.”
The hot springs boast a dramatic landscape, with hills on one side and marshy ground covered with radiant green grass on the other. Part of its charm is its isolation and the fact that there has been minimal development around it. This hot spring with its ideal bathing temperature is the perfect place to relax and ease your aching backs. It can also be enjoyed year round. So prepare to get soaked on this road trip!
To Get There: Catch the Jeddah-Jizan Highway. After covering a distance of 215 kilometers, you will come across a major intersection with a road that leads to the town of Al Lith to the west and a road that heads towards the village of Gumaygah and beyond on your east. From there, set your odometer to zero and follow the road that heads east. When your odometer clocks 49 kilometers, look out for a road on your left and you will see a road that heads down into the valley. Follow this road until it reaches a dead end. Reach there and you will be a stone’s throw away from the hot springs.
The appellation of a “Desert Kingdom” carries the emptiness of infinite sand attached to it. This is by far the longest road trip on our list, but is worth the cross-country east-west travel. Plenty of highlights along the way ensure that you’ll want to take several days to explore this route that passes through basaltic lava fields, desert dunes, numerous oasis and ramshackle villages.
It is believed that the ancient Arabian city of Gerrha existed at this very spot. Today, a colonial fort survives, which highlights the grandiose of the rich trading center the place had become in the 19thcentury. The fort is strategically located between the fertile oasis of Al Ahsa and the enigmatic Arabian Gulf. It formerly acted as a gateway for traders to the whole of Arabia.
Surrounded in murky history, this isolated fort is a compelling place surviving the harsh shifting desert sands for centuries. Though depleting, trolling around the ruins of this historical fort of Uqair is a fascinating experience, where one can relive a bygone era.
To Get There: Head to Dammam following the cross country Jeddah-Dammam Highway that passes through Riyadh. Approximately 265 kilometers after Riyadh, you will reach the village of Judah that sits by the highway. Once you pass through Judah, catch the second exit that leads towards the town of Buqayq. From the town of Buqayq, head east and after about 100 kilometers you will arrive at a major intersection. Take a right from this intersection and head straight until you come across an exit that reads Uqair Beach. Take this exit and head straight on this road. This road will ultimately end at a roundabout and from there you will be able to spot the fascinating fort on your east.
3. Relishing fresh fruits at the Taif Fruit Market
Road trippers can expect some majestic mountains and breathtaking scenery on this one. This roadtrip will take you to the top of the Sarawat mountain range on a road that has short, straight sectionsand subsequent hairpin turns. And after every hairpin, a new view reveals itself: vast, cocoa-colored mountains fading to a hazy blue, bisected by a thin gray road. Just before entering the town of Taif after you have completed your ascent to the mountain city, you’ll want to stretch your legs and enjoy the stunning views of the Hada Valley down below.
At the fresh fruit market you can expect to see a myriad of colors created from the variety of fruits being offered. Fruits such as red berries, apricots, cactus fruit, pomegranates and loads of other drool-worthy seasonal fruits are offered by cordial vendors. This isn’t a road trip for speed demons; to truly experience the place, slow down and let your appetite guide your way.
To Get There: Head towards Makkah from Jeddah. As soon as you reach Makkah catch the outer ring road. While on the ring road you will see signboards that read Taif. Follow the signs towards Taif and you will come across a highway that ascends through the mountain range. Follow this highway and after completing your ascent look towards your left and you will see the colorful fruit market sitting on the outskirts of Taif. The fruit market is located about 150 kilometers from Jeddah.
4. Arabian Gazelle Spotting on Farasan Islands
Well, this is a road trip of a slightly different kind. It involves transporting your vehicle via a ferry to the mesmerizing Farasan Islands, which are located right in the center of the Red Sea, standing as a partial bridge between Africa and Asia.
The picturesque Farasan Islands are blessed with a diverse fauna, the most prized of them being the Arabian Gazelle. Farasan Islands are one of the last places on earth that the Arabian Gazelle survives. So roam around the archipelago’s isolated white-sand beaches, pristine marshes, sleepy villages and sand dunes in search of this rare breed of gazelle. They are quite difficult to spot, so you can be assured of it consuming a considerable amount of your time before you actually come across one.
To Get There: Head to Jizan preferably through the coastal Jeddah-Jizan Highway. After traveling a distance of about 800 kilometers from Jeddah, you will reach the city of Jizan. Once you enter Jizan, catch the King Fahd Road that will lead you to the Jizan Port. Once at the port collect a ferry ticket to Farasan Islands. The ferry runs twice daily, once in the morning and once in the afternoon. A trip on the ferry is free of charge; plus allows travelers to take their cars along with them. This one-hour ferry ride will take you straight to the mesmerizing Farasan Islands.
5. Desert Camping at Mudhaylif
The idea of camping in the desert conjures up exotic yet vague images of nylon zip-up tents with toasty sleeping bags, a glowing fire, bowls of soup, and storytelling in the middle of an open desert. Surrounded by coffee-colored dunes and flyblown Bedouin encampments Mudhaylif is one of the best places in the Kingdom for camping.
Mudhaylif is basically a small village that sits adjacent to the Jeddah-Jazan Highway. What makes camping at Mudhaylif feasible is that it is close to the highway in case of any emergencies, yet at the same time will allow you to experiencedesert camping to the fullest.
The desert around Mudhaylif is not a flat sand dune desert; it has bits of green splashed around and is extremely beautiful with vistas of vast emptiness. This is a place where you will realize the joy of observing the silent dancing of bright stars on a cloudless night sky.
To Get There: Head south from Jeddah using the Jeddah-Jizan Highway. After travelling a distance of 320 kilometers you will see signboards that read Mudhaylif. Follow the signboards and you will reach Mudhaylif. Once at Mudhaylif you can see the stunning desert surrounding the village on all sides. Pick a spot that you find feasible and set camp.
One of the first Saudi brands in the AC segment, Zamil Air Conditioners currently exports to more than 55 countries. The high volume of its sales is reflected in the number of units it produces, which stands at 900,000 per annum.
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It is amongst the largest homegrown quick service restaurant brands in the Middle East today. In recent years it has started expanding beyond the borders of the country and is operating in Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Egypt.
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One of the most well-known brands in the edible oils segment in Saudi Arabia, oils under the Afia brand are currently being sold in Egypt, Iran, Turkey, Jordan and across the GCC.
Arabian Oud is considered to be the largest brand in the world in the oriental perfumes segment. The perfumes are sold in France, UK, Malaysia, Poland and almost all countries of the Middle East under the company’s own retail outlets.
Starting with a single branch in Riyadh, the restaurant chain now has over 300 branches worldwide including Sudan, Jordan, Libya and in other GCC member states.
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A subsidiary of the Savola Group, Panda is the largest supermarket/hypermarket chain in the Kingdom today and has retail outlets in the UAE and Egypt.
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A chocolate lover’s dream, Chocoline has franchises in Qatar and Hong Kong.
Abeer Medical Group
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The group had humble beginnings, when it started with just a sole polyclinic. It soon witnessed rapid expansion, mostly in the form of takeovers of existing hospitals. Now it has hospitals even in Oman, Qatar and India. In addition to that the group is spearheading the development of an education city in India.
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The state-run telecommunications giant operates in Kuwait and Bahrain under the name “VIVA”.
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It is the largest private pharmaceutical company in Saudi Arabia today and is engaged in commercial operations in 25 countries.
One of the earliest juice brands to enter the market, the Al Rabie brand continues to thrive in the country. The varieties of product under Al Rabie are being exported to America, Mauritania, Libya, Egypt and Djibouti.
The largest vertically integrated dairy company in the world (the production and selling are merged), Al Marai’s products can be found across all GCC member states, Egypt and Jordan.
Saudi Bin Laden
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Though the past year may have not been the best for them domestically, they have played an integral role in spearheading some of the biggest construction projects in Saudi Arabia. They have operations ongoing or have taken part in many countries worldwide including Senegal, Syria, Egypt and other GCC member states. Moreover, they recently landed the Maldives airport contract.
Al Borg Laboratories
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The laboratories chain provides a number of clinical and diagnostic tests through its standalone laboratories in UAE, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait, Sudan and Ethiopia.
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Known more for its electronics rather than its books, Jarir Bookstore has expanded to Qatar, UAE and Kuwait.
El Seif Engineering Contracting Company
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The company has executed some of the most iconic projects in Saudi Arabia in the past. Of late, the company has ventured into foreign markets and has already been part of some megaprojects in the GCC including the Jewels Twin Towers project in Dubai Marina and the Silhouette Tower in Qatar.
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Its products are sold mainly in Africa and Asia in and about 20 countries. This is a big achievement considering the pharmaceutical brand launched only in 2000.
Though it was set up just over 20 years ago, the hospital chain has risen quickly to become one the largest private sector hospital chains in the Kingdom. It even has a hospital in the UAE and has plans for mega expansions.
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Petromin is one of the biggest success stories amongst Saudi companies engaged in exports. The company currently distributes its products, consisting mostly of lubricants, to over 35 countries across the world.
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In 1963, it obtained the first industrial license for manufacturing spring mattresses in the Kingdom. Since then it has continued to manufacture high quality products and holds a major chunk of the Middle Eastern market.
It originally started back in 1953 with its base in Makkah, importing carpets from Iran, India and Pakistan. In 1987, the company set up its factory in Jeddah and started to manufacture its own carpets. These carpets soon became popular in the Kingdom and the company started exporting Saudi-made carpets to many countries across the globe including America, Australia and various countries in Europe and the Middle East.
Saudi German Hospital Group
Since opening in 1988, the SGHGroup has become one of the highest recognized healthcare providers in the region. The hospital has chains around the Kingdom as well as abroad in the following countries: Yemen (Sana’a), UAE (Ajman, Sharjah, and Dubai), Egypt (Cairo and Alexandria), and Morocco (Casablanca and Mohammadia) .
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