There are three things that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is best known for in the West: black gold, Mecca, and Islam.
Because of its rather extreme religious orientation, Saudi Arabia has somewhat been avoided as a travel destination, except by Muslims wishing to go on a Mecca pilgrimage.
But for those who dare enter this land of Ali Baba and genies and magic lamps, Saudi Arabia has riches and wonders to show.
Saudi Arabia beckons to travelers with the romantic attraction of its surreal deserts, wandering nomads, and grandiose mosques. Here you will find the Empty Quarter, or the Rub’ al Khali, a gigantic desert where you will find not just some of the world’s largest sand dunes but also the Arabian oryx, an almost mythical-looking brilliant-white antelope with long graceful horns. This animal had been extinct in the wild in the 1970s but has fortunately been saved in private reserves and restored to the wild in the 1980s. It is currently under Vulnerable status.
Those who wish to dive into the desert can rent an ATV and go dune bashing in the Arabian sands. Families can go camel riding, or they can visit some of the world’s largest indoor amusement parks. Women will have a great time shopping for gold jewelry if they have good bargaining skills. Perfume and carpets are popular things to buy here as well. You could even go scuba diving in the Red Sea coast.
The oil boom brought much prosperity to Saudi Arabia. This has resulted in the influx of foreign experts to the kingdom. Therefore, while Arabic is the language most widely spoken by the locals, English and other foreign languages abound as well.
For all the scary stories being told about Saudi Arabia, it is unlikely that you will get in trouble in the country as long as you behave with proper decorum – although the definition of “proper decorum” in Saudi Arabia may be a little more restrictive than you are used to. Men and women alike should cover up. The standard for foreign men is long-sleeved shirts and long trousers; women are expected to cover up even more. While the headscarf is optional, women may find it helpful in preventing unwanted male attention.
It is unadvisable for single women to walk around Saudi Arabia without a male family member. It is even more unadvisable for women to walk around with a male person who is not their family member.
Alcoholic beverages are banned. Do not take pictures of government buildings or people. Do not play music in public. Do not display religious items that are not Islamic in nature.
Like any other country you visit, it is wise to read up on the details of Saudi Arabia’s culture before you visit. Also check updated travel advisories on the region.
For those bringing in electronic gadgets such as laptops and mobile phones to Saudi Arabia, we aware that electricity runs on 127 Volts. Outlets can generally accept plugs with two flat blades, plugs with two round pins, and plugs with two parallel flat pins and a flat ground pin.