Explore Tabuk

Lush lands and ancient treasures

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The northwestern city of Tabuk has long been a resting point for Jordanian and Egyptian pilgrims, with a rich Bedouin culture that can be felt in Souq Twaheen, which still supplies patterned rugs and goat-hair tent covers for modern nomads. Today’s Tabuk marks the start of the Saudi coast, but is also a base for exploring wild beauty spots and the story of the Prophet Moses, who lived east of the city for a decade. It’s possible to visit the carved tombs of Maghaer Shuaib in the desert, or the Moses Spring near Maqna, where natural springs still flow under the date palms. Nearby is the stunning Tayeb Al Ism, a steep granite massif separated from the turquoise-fringed Gulf of Aqaba by only the road. For clear seas and sun-swept beaches, explore the charms of local coastal towns Haql and Sharma.

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tabuk castle

Tabuk castle

There are spectacular fortresses all around Tabuk, but this imposing castle in the center of town might be the oldest. Known to date from 1559, some claim there was a fortress here as early as 3,500BC. Inside its walls, two mosques are linked by courtyards, stairwells and watchtowers, and there’s a small museum detailing the history of the castle and the wider city — from the great explorers that visited, like Ibn Battuta, to the caravan of pilgrims who would stop to drink from its wells on their way to Makkah and Medina. 

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Al Disah Valley

At the crossroads of three valleys south of Tabuk, the wildly sculpted sandstone columns of Wadi Al Disah (Valley of the Palms) look like a mix between the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley in America. While much of the landscape is ochre desert, there are oases of pools, tall grasses and palm trees running through tall canyons, creating an otherworldly feeling, especially during glowing sunsets. It’s possible to hike through much of the valley, or visit on a 4WD drive tour.     

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Maghaer Shuaib

The Maghaer Shuaib seems to appear from nowhere in the reddish desert west of Tabuk — its elegantly carved facades and tombs built into the sandstone rocks recalling Petra in Jordan and Hegra at Al Ula. Having fled Egypt, Moses lived here a decade under the patronage of the Prophet Shuaib, who had been impressed by Moses’ chivalry and offered his daughter’s hand in marriage. Moses eventually returned to Egypt, but it’s easy to imagine that this beautiful place stayed with him.    

Where to stay: Opt for modern comfort at the Hilton Garden Inn, with its elegant outdoor pool, or at the popular Swiss Inn Tabuk. At the family friendly Holiday Inn, under-12s stay free.

 

Where to eat: Try Al Qriaj Al Tarithia for traditional cuisine in an historic space, Al Ketaishat for faster Saudi food, or Western Road Express for American-style burgers and steaks. Locals say Jandofly serves up some of the city’s best seafood. 

 

Rent a car: There are car rental companies dotted across Tabuk, especially on King Fahd Road, including Budget, Hanco and Avis.

 

Learn more: Amazing Tours’ pan-Saudi trips feature epic Wadi Al Disah, while tours with Shamal offer a day at magical Wadi Tayyib Ism. MyTrip’s journeys end with Tabuk Castle and its onsite museum. 

 

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