Photograph by Hani Alzahrani
Photograph by Hani Alzahrani

Tips from travel influencers

Best historical sites to visit now

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If you’re planning your trip and searching for must-see historical places in Saudi, who better to ask than travel influencers who live there?

Nada Al Nahdi, who lives in Jeddah, and Hani Alzahrani, based in Al Baha, love to share their travel knowledge and experiences not just with tourists, but other Saudis, too.

“There are still so many places in Saudi Arabia that are undiscovered and unknown, even by Saudis themselves,” Alzahrani says. “Because of the pandemic, I couldn’t travel outside Saudi Arabia, so I’ve been exploring more of my own country, and I’ve been truly amazed at what I’ve seen.”

Here are five Saudi tourist spots that Al Nahdi and Alzahrani say are well worth visiting.

Mada’in Saleh

The archaeological site in AlUla, located in the northwest region of the country and also known as Hegra, was the top pick of both influencers, and for good reason.

Home to Saudi’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site, it’s the largest conserved site of Nabataean civilization outside of its sister city Petra, in Jordan. With 111 immaculately preserved tombs, it’s sometimes referred to as “the second Petra.”

“Mada’in Saleh’s breathtaking nature and rich history make it a destination that’s worth exploring for many days,” Alzahrani says.

“It’s just out-of-this-world beautiful, honestly, to see all of the carvings that have been there for thousands of years,” Al Nahdi says. “There are so many inscriptions, and tourism is so new there that you could stumble upon a discovery that no one has made.”

Dhee Ayn Village

This ancient village in Al Baha, in the southern region of Saudi, features cuboid buildings made of stone and slate built on a white marble outcrop. Below this “Marble Village” lies dense vegetation, fed by a freshwater spring (dhee ayn means “of spring”).

“This is near where I grew up, and it’s really remarkable to see,” Alzahrani says. “The way that these buildings were built, nobody builds this way anymore.”

The cooler climate in the south also makes it an ideal summertime destination, Alzahrani says. “The temperatures there are about half of what they are in the Saudi Arabian cities.”

 

Rijal Almaa

One of the most picturesque historical sites in Saudi is  Rijal Almaa, a heritage village located in the Aseer region in the southwestern part of the country.

Tourists have nicknamed the palaces made of natural stone, clay and wood “gingerbread houses,” Al Nahdi says. “The name Almaa comes from a family name, and there are still people from the Almaa family who are trying to preserve this village where their ancestors grew up.”

Diriyah

Both influencers say a visit to the capital city of Riyadh is not complete without seeing Diriyah, birthplace of the first Saudi state, and historical crossroads of pilgrims and traders. The ruins of At-Turaif were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2010, and the area is being restored to bring its historical legacy back to life.

Also in Riyadh, don’t miss the National Museum of Saudi Arabia, housed within striking modernist architecture and flower-wreathed gardens.

 

Jeddah’s Al Balad

If a visit to Jeddah is on your itinerary, take time to visit the historical district, known as Al Balad, “which is a very beautiful part of the city,” Al Nahdi says.

“Like any old town, there are narrow alleyways and very traditional stone houses, which people still live in today,” she adds, “and in recent years the Ministry of Culture has been working to preserve these locations.”

Jeddah’s historical district, which was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2014, is particularly engaging at night, and it also offers a range of street food options.

—Donna Behen is a health and lifestyle writer and editor who has previously written for The New York Times, Real Simple, Parents, Parade and more.