The port of Yanbu, just a few hours’ drive west of Medina, is really two distinct cities: the new city to the south, with its oil refineries and plants, and the old town to the north, an ancient spice route staging post where T.E. Lawrence lived in a typical Hijazi building between 1915 and 1916. Many of the attractions are found in the historical area around the harbor, which comes alive at night, with locals eating Red Sea-caught fish overlooking the water. Nearby are the glowing lanes of the recently restored Souq Al Layl night market, originally open late to serve local fishermen, where local dates and green mulkhiah leaves are just a few of the traditional products.
To the northeast of the city, Radwa Mount is a colossal icon, its jagged peaks and curious reddish color inspiring many Arabic poets through the years, including Hassan Ibn Thabit, one of the sahaba, or companions of the Prophet Muhammad. At 2,282 meters, Radwa is the highest point in the Al Nakhil range, known for its honey and wild nature, with wolves, lynx and ibex roaming the landscape. There are regular tours from Yanbu to explore this place of poetic beauty.
Surrounded by evocatively crumbling coral-stone buildings, the home where Lawrence of Arabia once lived has been restored as a museum to the English officer’s remarkable story. A young Lawrence lived here in 1915 and 1916, with views out to the Red Sea, before heading north to take part in the Arab Revolt. Until its renovation, locals had left the house to decay, fearing it was haunted. Today, it is a place to soak in the story of a complex man who changed the Arab world forever.
Some of the best diving in Saudi Arabia can be found in the warm, rich waters off Yanbu, with a handful of dive centers in the city catering to underwater adventurers. Popular sites include Seven Sisters, best-known for its hammerhead sharks but where tiger sharks and tuna are often seen around the walls of coral; Abu Galawa, a paradise island surrounded by coral grottoes, sharks and schools of barracuda; and the wreck of the SS Iona ship, now a beautiful living reef.
Where to stay: Choose from the five-star Mövenpick Hotel, with its stunning lagoon pool; the slick, business-friendly Novotel close to the corniche; the motel-style Holiday Inn, with its striking desert architecture; or the brisk and modern Ibis.
Where to eat: For fast food, Patch Burger does quality American-style burgers, while Al Zaeem is a classic Saudi fried chicken joint. Yanbu’s famous seafood is best eaten at Al Marsah and the Najil Arab Family Restaurant.
Where to have fun: Enjoy al fresco fun in the landscaped gardens and fountains of Yanbu Lake Park, or take a sunset stroll along the palm-lined waterfront of the city’s corniche. See the city’s heritage brought to life at Radwa Museum, and downtown, in the beguiling streets, souqs and buildings of the old district.
Learn more: Yanbu is a top destination for serious divers. The Saudi Dive Center provides both PADI training and diving tours of the reefs and wrecks in the crystalline waters around the city. Amazing Tours can support with a bespoke itinerary.
Yanbu’s well-developed coast, scenic lake, and historic area (that houses a building where Lawrence of Arabia stayed!) make it the perfect destination for a leisurely weekend jaunt.
If there is one place that brings people together, it's the dinner table. And on this particular occasion, we're talking about the Yanbu spread.
Discover Yanbu’s parks and public spaces that are perfect for summer picnics and refreshing walks.
While the relatively small port city began significant development as an industrial powerhouse in the 1970s.
The city of Yanbu has a deep connection to the ancient spice trade route in the Red Sea. For years, it was a pitstop for merchants travelling along the caravan route between Egypt, Jordan and Jeddah.
The northeastern city of Tabuk has long been a resting point for Jordanian and Egyptian pilgrims, with a rich Bedouin culture that can be felt in the bustling Souq Twaheen, which still supplies patterned rugs and goat-hair tent covers for modern nomads.