The most distinctive aspect of Saudi Arabia is the rich Islamic heritage. The Kingdom boasts of being the birthplace of the religion and the calls to prayer mark every facet of daily life. There are five daily prayer times and all shops close for about forty minutes during these times. The religious make-up of Saudi Arabia claims to be 100% Muslim as it is required by law. Furthermore, the Kingdom contains the cities of Mecca and Medina which have Islamic significance and all able Muslims must make a pilgrimage here at some point in their lives. At first, these were the only travels to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia , but today tourism has risen to include other people groups.
The weather and climate experienced in Saudi Arabia varies by region. It is the largest country on the Arabian Peninsula, so in the southern region, summers escalate to 43 degrees Celsius (about 109 degrees Fahrenheit), while the winters in the northern region can experience temperatures below freezing. The landscape in Saudi Arabia is also diverse. A traveler can expect to see prairies, deserts, mountains, and dense forests. The Kingdom experiences very little precipitation.
Each region offers a different cultural experience. For a taste of Saudi Arabian history, visit the Masmak fortress in the Qasr Al-Hokm district of the Kingdom's capital of Riyadh . This fortress was captured in 1902 by King Abdulaziz. The city of Jeddah beckons visitors with its beauty and modern appeal. It contains several must-see gardens as well as a spectacularly large fountain. The capital of the Asir Province contains the capital of Abha. This city is uniquely marked by vibrantly painted houses and beautiful scenery, giving tourists a taste of Saudi Arabian culture.
Desert tours are popular diversions for both native Saudi Arabians as well as visitors. ATVs can be rented along the streets outside of the main cities. Travelers looking for scuba diving can be satisfied off of the coast of Jeddah in the Red Sea . Other forms of entertainment include amusement parks, usually found on the beaches, or camel-riding. Most hotels can provide direction for local attractions and tourist activities.
There are a few cultural precautions to be aware of before planning a trip to Saudi Arabia. Dress code for Saudi men usually includes trousers and short-sleeved shirts. Also, short hair is recommended because long-hair may be a reason to expel a man from a public location by the muttawa (Saudi police). Women are not allowed to be unaccompanied in public and should have a male guardian (usually a brother, husband, cousin, etc.). The dress code for women (including female visitors) includes a long black robe or abaya. Saudi women wear head scarves and although foreign women do not have to, it may help to avoid harassment.
It is also important to be aware of the Kingdom's photography policy. Do not take pictures of the government building. This action can be grounds for punishment. Furthermore, do not take pictures of Saudi men without their approval, and never take a picture of a Saudi woman.
Although there are some precautions for foreign travelers to Saudi Arabia , the Kingdom offers a unique cultural and religious experience. The snorkeling, architecture, and ancient historical settings provide wondrous sites for visitors.