1. Mecca and Medina are two of the most holy cities of Islam. Non-Muslims are not allowed to step foot on these holy grounds.

2. The Rub’ al Khali, or the Empty Quarter, is one of the driest places on earth. This desert, which is 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) long and 500 kilometers (310 miles) wide, occupies a large portion of Saudi Arabia.

3. It is strictly forbidden to carry and drink alcoholic beverages in Saudi Arabia.

4. Homosexuality and the rampant display of non-Muslim religious beliefs are both considered punishable crimes in Saudi Arabia.

5. Saudi Arabia is the only place on earth where beheading, amputation of hands and limbs, and stoning are not illegal.

6. Sex segregation is commonplace in Saudi Arabia. Single women – whether local or foreign – are never allowed to be accompanied by a male stranger.

7. In Saudi Arabia, a liter of potable water is more expensive than a liter of oil.

8. Saudi tradition carries great respect for the privacy of all. Never, never point your camera on women. You can take pictures of males, but only with their permission.

9. Until 2006, taking pictures of government buildings, palaces and airports was also forbidden. Until today, you can still get in trouble with the civilians – and even with some of the policemen who are unaware of the law revision – if you go around shooting pictures in plain sight.

10. The graceful Arabian oryx was once listed as “extinct in the wild” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN). After it was re-introduced in the remote deserts of Saudi Arabia, the antelope was again re-classified as “vulnerable,” making it one of the few animals in the world whose population has increased after nearly disappearing forever.

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