THE BEAUTIFUL GEM IS WAITING TO BE REVEALED
“I met lot of great people in Saudi Arabia and I would like to see them again. And I would love to spend more time in the desert and in the mountains. I felt really at home there.”
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the pearl of Western Asia, the beautiful land of beduins, brave warriors, golden sand that is melting on ancient sun. The county that I want to visit so badly and to merge with its deep and mesmerising personality and culture. It has been always so distant and remote but with the tourism that is slowly on rise and with the possibility to be available for globetrotters, the princess of dunes and palaces is finally ready to welcome all of us, wanderers and wonderers through the mystery of life.
When I was a little girl, I was amazed by “One Thousand and one nights” edition. Those colours, dresses, delicious tastes of Islamic culture…..the sound of freedom and peace, the philosophy of war and love. All in once and once in all. I know that I promised myself to never give up on visiting islamic heritage, trying to imagine that I walk on the surface of the richest tales ever. Whenever I hear the music of those lands, I think I am closer to my dream, to jump into my own One Thousand and one night story, or at least to reedit one.
With Saudi Arabia miracle, I know I would do that…because my heart is somehow there, beating and calling me to join the adventure of discovering this amazing country with all its pearls around. You need to start somewhere and you will probably pick up Jeddah or Riyadh, to open your itinerary schedule and to collect your memories. The only problem is that Saudi Arabia is a huge territory and if you want to see all important sites, you need time, flexibility and devotion. What does it mean ? We talk about the 13th largest country in the world and the 2nd in the Arab world. There is about 95% of land that is considered ad desert or semidesert but still this queen of sands is offering wonderful oasis, mountains, flowing rivers and breathtaking canyons. Its portray is unforgetable and worth of every step into the unknown.
My friend who is a resident of Jeddah suggested me to never escape the opportunity to see Wadi al Disah or Al Disah Valley since Wadi in Arabic language means Valley or river bed. On the first sight, you would think you are in Grand Canyon because of the sand landscape and the whole settings of the ancient monuments merged with rare palm and exotic desert plants. The perfect moment to catch the alluring glow of those formations is to be there for a sunset. Keep in mind that this valley is one of 6 stunning valleys in Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, known to be home of more than 2000 volcanos. This one is located in the region of Tabuk, in the Mohammed bin Salman Natural Reserve, about 115 km from the cute Red Sea town of Duba.
The most exciting part of this valley is a fact that you have a feeling you are lost somewhere on Mars. The old formations speak about previous Nabatean civilisations and if you compare with Jordanian Petra or American Grand Canyon, you would think you discovered your own El-Dorado. It is not overcrowded, sterile and touristically abused, it is still pure, sacred and amazing.
My second choice would be Hegra. Who would ever miss to see the beauty of 131 enigmatic mausoleums that are connecting modern and ancient times through the secret history of Nabateans. This is some kind of Saudi version of Petra but more exciting and exotic, since it is still not known to greedy tourism industry. The question is for how long it will be safe from mass tourism.
Did you know that Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has a rich coral reef that is almost compared to the underwater beauty of Maldives? Umluj is untouched natural aquarium, with marine biology four times as many as you will find in the Caribbean. All of us who share love for nature and wildlife, we can come here and stay forever since those turquoise water, pulsing underwater life and diversity of Red Sea creatures make you love this coastal town even more. It is like a paradise. The sand is so gentle, soft and beige and you think you fly even when you walk. The all year perfect weather let you pick up any time to come and enjoy the vacation, without being disturbed with typical holiday resorts. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia keeps on tranquility due to the religious reasons but that is exactly what makes a lot for wildlife, migratory birds, marine biology and coral reef. I know I want to be there.
My next station is Jeddah, because I must see Al Balad, the most beautiful old city of all Gulf monarchies. This is a vibrant town that is a mixture between merchant history of Saudi Arabia, religious herritatege and modern touch. Jeddah is very unique city, that has its own style of life. Just to think about all those Silversands beaches and palms around, you would think you are lost somewhere in California. However, the Floating Mosque is definitely something that must be seen. It is the hight valued iconic art of modern islamic architecture, known as Masjid Al Rahmah and Fatima al Zahra Mosque. To the visitors, the mosque almost looks like it is floating above the water but the view is spectacular almost as the inside design of the building too.
If you are around Riyadh, please do not miss the Egde of the world or Jebel Fihrayn, the another universe of never-ending rock settings and hiking trails into the desert of ancient caravan roads and lost camels. You can live your own Arabic folktale, searching for a magic carpet so you can reach the desert city of Diriyah or Marbel Village. The both are specific and authentic since they open the book of advanced Saudi history and tradition. Wherever you look at, you can see the touch of religion, local beduins culture and thrilling modern islamic way of life. It is a successful mix of all elements but you need to be careful, respectful and interested to trace the line of this ancient civilisation. The holy cities of Mecca and Medina are closed for non-Muslims due to the religious background but I believe that should be respected as it is. There are so many other interesting places to visit and experience, especially comparing Jeddah and Riyadh, since the first one is liberal while the second one is more conservative. The good thing to note is that foreign women are no longer required to wear an abaya (robe) by law but I believe it should be taken into consideration and not standing out, when not necessary.
I am not afraid to visit the mesmerising Saudi Arabia and to find myself again in love with magic carpets, Aladdin lamps, sunset in deserts and hidden caves of archaic civilisations. This land has much more to offer: new perspective of the natural gems, underwater diversity and intact wildlife and the pulse of urban culture that is developing on islamic rules and rise of pro-western mood. I believe it is aright time to visit this great country and to show that those people are friendly and that they wear sunshine in their pockets. Above all, they are ready to accept us and show us the raw and oriental glory of their wonderful land, among oasis and deserts.
Welcome to Saudi Arabia. مرحبا بكم في المملكة العربية السعودية