Saudi Arabia has a desert climate, which means it’s very hot in summer all over the country. (Think: high temperatures averaging above 40 degrees C for several months in a row.)
With temperatures sometimes topping 48 degrees C during the summer, Makkah is known to be the hottest city in Saudi Arabia.
Being a desert climate, rain is scarce and usually concentrated from November through April.
Yes; in fact, a big storm that traveled across Europe in early 2020 led to snowfall in the desert near Tabuk, about 190 kilometers northwest of the Red Sea. But even absent such meteorological events, snow is not uncommon in Saudi, particularly in the mountains of the northern regions.
November is considered by many to be the best month for swimming and sunbathing in the Arabian Gulf, along the east coast. Over in the Red Sea, from Jeddah south along the west coast, these activities can be enjoyed from November to March because the sea and the air are warm even in winter.
Riyadh, the capital, is located in the center of the country, at 600 meters above sea level. From December to February, the weather is mild. In summer, it almost never rains, and the temperatures are very high, around 44 degrees C — although the relative humidity is low. “I was there in December, and it was incredibly hot during the day, despite a gentle breeze. But we went to the desert at night, and it was really chilly. We put on light down jackets and drank copious amounts of tea to keep warm!” reports Hande Oynar, an American writer who worked in Riyadh.
Situated on the Red Sea in the central west coast, Jeddah is a very sunny city. Between June and August, expect highs around 39 degrees C and humid air.
Makkah, which sits about 275 meters above sea level, is even hotter than Jeddah, especially in summer, when highs are normally around 43 degrees C. And it is a particularly sunny city, with as many as 3,400 hours of sunshine per year. Like Riyadh, Medina is 600 meters above sea level, but it’s milder than the capital in winter.
For destinations in the north, such as Tabuk, bring warm clothes, such as a down jacket, hat, scarf and gloves. Consider also packing a raincoat or an umbrella. Along the Arabian Gulf, you’ll need a mix of lighter clothing for day and warmer clothing for evening. For the Red Sea coast north of Jeddah, pack lightweight clothes for day and a warmer layer for evening; to the south along the coast, all you’ll need is a scarf for the breeze and possibly a sweatshirt for the evening.
For Makkah, Riyadh and the coasts of the Arabian Gulf and the Red Sea, pack lightweight clothing that is long and preferably made of natural fabric, such as cotton or linen, plus a sweatshirt and scarf for air-conditioned areas. For the western mountains, pack lightweight clothes for day, a sun hat or desert turban, and a sweatshirt or sweater for evening, as well as hiking shoes. Farther south in the mountains, add a raincoat or an umbrella.
Want more tips on appropriate clothing? Get ready for your trip by learning more about Saudi clothing conventions!