The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is known as a conservative Muslim country. It is the spiritual center of Islam and where the sacred city of Medina can be found. Tens of thousands of religious pilgrims are granted special religious visas each year. It is a country that keeps its traditions, culture and religious heritage intact. Saudi Arabia was closed to 'outsiders' for centuries and is just becoming a vacation destination for many westerners. The heart of the Middle East, its association with Islam, oil, and terrorism has long discouraged leisure travel. Those brave who will 'risk' the realm are in for a real treat. Madain Saleh is Saudi's little Petra (Jordon), one of the most exquisite and epic sites of the Middle East. The Nabataeans, who sculpted the astounding city of Jordon, made this their second home. The stone-carved temples and tombs in a setting of sweeping sand and amazing rock formations are unequaled and meant to be treasured. Travel to the Empty Quarter to gaze upon the largest sea of sand in the world, with dunes the size of ocean liners! Amazingly, the Arabian Oryx resides on this vast sea; you can only hope to catch a glimpse of this native species and its singular beauty. In the far southern region of the country, visit Najran, an ancient resting place for the caravans that traveled the desert. Palm plantations and oases house mud-brick forts used for shelter from sand storms. On the coast, visit Jeddah, one of the most liberal cities in the realm, according to some of its most conservative kinsmen. Beautiful coral houses, formerly the homes of the most 'moneyed' merchants, are amazing to behold, as is the Red Sea reef, ranking among one of the most undamaged and impressive in the world.
Getting to Saudi Arabia is easy! Just about every major airline from every major country offers flights to Saudi Arabia. Business travelers are the most common passengers, though the tourist trade is slowly growing as Saudi Arabia relaxes travel restrictions and improves relations with the countries of the world. Saudi Arabia has four international airports. In Dammam, you will fly into Kin Fahd International. Jeddah is home to the King Abdulaziz International Airport and Riyadh to King Khalid International. Finally, the city of Medina is home to Prince Mohammed Bin Abdulaziz Airport.
The Kingdom of Saud Arabia is known as a conservative Muslim country. Saudi Arabia connects Africa and mainland Asia. It is the spiritual center of Islam and where the sacred city of Medina can be found tens of thousands of religious pilgrims are granted special religious visas each year. Another reason why people visit Saudi Arabia is because of its richness in oil which is why they sponsor business trips from different countries. It is a country that keeps its traditions, culture and religious heritage intact. The cities are characterized by modern architecture such as the Al Faisaliah golden geodesic dome which is one of the tallest building in the region.
Saudi Arabia also has six fairly large regional airports that accept commercial traffic. Abha, Jizan, Ha'il, Tabuk and Ta'if all house airports named after their respective cities, while Buraidah has Qassim Regional Airport. 16 domestic airports make travel between destinations much easier than setting out across the sands on a camel-and much safer too.
Saudi Arabia currently has three domestic airlines operating within the country. Nas Air, based in Riyadh, is the first low-cost domestic carrier to operate in Saudi Arabia, commencing operations in February, 2007. Sama Airlines is also a low-cost airline based out of King Fahad International in Dammam. Finally, Saudi Arabian Airlines is the national domestic carrier. Based in Jeddah it services both domestic and internationally scheduled flights.
Due to its tourism being in its infancy, fares tend to 'jump' around, so do your online research. Airlines tend to get a break on fuel when flying to and from here, for obvious reasons, so reasonable fares are not unusual. Take advantage of the low-cost domestic air carriers within the region and consider flying into an international airport that services one of these domestic carriers. This could result in much lower fares to your destination of choice. As is usual, booking online or through a trusted travel agent will net you the lowest fares. Also be aware of the religious holidays of the region. Arriving during these holy times will always result in higher fares and may also find many of the sites closed.
Saudi Arabia is a country still to be explored thoroughly by tourists. You will not find long lines or the crush of people that you will find in the hot spots around the world. Do your research on what is considered appropriate behavior and wardrobe by visitors and comply with the best of your ability. Take a step, or walk a mile, in the shoes of the native peoples of this country to really appreciate this always spectacular and oftentimes harsh landscape.
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