Saudi Arabia (SA)
- Continent: Asia
- Area: 2,240,000 km²
- Population: 26,417,600
- Capital city: Riyadh
- ISO code: SA
- National language: Arabic
- International dialing code: +966
- Currency: Saudi Riyal
- License plate number: KSA
- Alternative spelling: Saudi-Arabien
- Flight routes from Saudi Arabia: 3150
- Flight routes to Saudi Arabia: 2848
- Popular airports: Jeddah (JED), Riyadh (RUH), Dammam (DMM), Gassim (ELQ), Abha (AHB), Hofuf Al Ahsa (HOF), Medina (MED), Gurayat (URY), Taif (TIF), Bisha (BHH)
- Large cities: Riyadh, Jeddah, Mecca, Sulţānah, Dammam, Ta'if, Tabuk, Buraidah, Khamis Mushait, Hofuf, Al Mubarraz, Najran, Jubail, Abha, Yanbu` al Baḩr
- Airlines based in Saudi Arabia: Saudi Arabian Airlines, Flynas, Flyadeal, Sama Airlines
Saudi Arabia travel guide (Asia)
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a country in the Middle East on the Arabian Peninsula. The country is located between the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf and borders on Jordan, Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Yemen.
Geography: Saudi Arabia takes up a large part of the Arabian Peninsula and consists to mainly of an elongated high plateau of desert and volcano stone. In the southwest is the Asir mountain range and in the west on the border to the Persian Gulf, marshes and dried up salt areas determine the overall picture of the landscape. In the southern part of the country the desert area of Rub-al Chali is prevalent.
Mountains and rivers: the highest m0ountain in the country is the Jabal Sawda and has an altitude of 3,133 metres (10, 278 ft). Apart from dried up river beds (Wadis) there are no rivers in Saudi Arabia. There is nevertheless sufficient water provision for the population, as the government built deep wells and seawater desalination plants at great expense to counteract the lack of water.
Climate and best time to travel: there is a hot dry desert climate on the Arabian Peninsula throughout the year. Daily temperature fluctuations are extreme in the interior of the country. Daytime temperatures may reach 45°C, whilst nighttime temperatures can fall to as low as freezing point. The rare and only light rain falls between the months of November and April and is then warmly welcomed by the local inhabitants.
Language and communication: the official and national language is Arabic. Only tradesmen and those involved in business tend to speak foreign languages.
Health and vaccinations: vaccination against hepatitis A, typhoid, diphtheria, polio and tetanus is recommended. Long clothing should be worn to provide protection against mosquitoes and other insects, and a locally purchased insect repellent should also be used. Please consult your GP for effective anti-malaria medication before travelling. Medical care is very good in all larger cities. Visitors are advised to take out a comprehensive medical and travel insurance that covers repatriation costs. A first aid kit should be packed and fruit and vegetables peeled or boiled before being eaten.
Entry requirements: Travellers to Saudi Arabia always need a visa. Visas can be obtained from visa agencies accredited to the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia. Please contact the Saudi representation in the UK for application details. Holders of passports with an Israeli stamp may be refused entry. All women must be met by their spouse on arrival; women travelling alone may experience delays. Some countries necessitate documentary evidence of parental responsibility before allowing lone parents to enter the country. Those intending to travel with children should contact the Saudi representation in the UK.
Arrival and onward journey: there are three international airports in Saudi Arabia and the national carrier Saudi Arabian Airlines (SV) provides good connections, often going non-stop to many European cities. In Saudi Arabia, this airline is also by far the best means of transport, as it flies to almost all major cities. Other airlines offering flights to Saudi Arabia are KLM (KL) or Air France (AF).
Capital city: the capital of Saudi Arabia is Riyadh, meaning „the gardens”. Riyadh is a million metropolis where about 20 % of the entire Saudi population lives. The city is 611 metres above sea level and is surrounded by the desert. The only sights to speak of are the two highest buildings Al Faisaliah and Al Mamlaka that are 267 and 302 m high respectively and overlook the numerous bazaars of the city.
Places of interest: the most holy city of Islam, Makkah al-Mukararrama (Mecca), is located in the Asyr mountains on the Arabian Peninsula. The third largest city in Saudi Arabia is the annual destination for Muslim pilgrims from all over the world. It lies embedded between two mountain chains about 75 km east of the Red Sea. The city was the birthplace of the prophet Mohamad and the Al- Masjid al-Haram mosque houses the Kaaba, which is the most important destination in the life of a Muslim. The Kaaba, derived from the Arabic word for cube, is the most important and holiest site of the Islamic faith and is regarded as the house of God. Seven minarets that were built by Sultan Murat IV in 1630 AD, who also let the black stone be integrated in the building, surround it. The stone, which Abraham is alleged to have received from the archangel Gabriel, had already been a holy site for many believers of different faiths in pre-Islamic times. Non-Muslims are not permitted to enter Mecca, and any attempt to do so is met with draconian penalties. There is a special Christian bypass for vehicles that must be used in order to drive around the holy city.
The second most important city in Islam, Medina, is also in Saudi Arabia. The Islamic era and the spread of Islam had its beginnings in the city of Medina. The city of the Prophet is also the place where the Koran was compiled and the Ummah, the first community, originated. The first mosque, the Masjid Quba was also built here and is considered the fourth most holy Muslim site. Al-Madina was also the seat of the first Islamic state and from here the endeavour began to spread the word of Allah over the world. The most important sight is the Al-Masjid an-Nabawi, translated: the Prophets mosque. It is the second most important mosque in Islam and is situated in the place where the prophets house stood and where he also later died. It is a sacred and breathtaking example of Islamic architecture and entering the mosque is, again, only permitted to members of the Muslim faith.
The antique rock burial site of Madaín Salih between Medina and Haíl in the north of the country is also worth visiting. The ruins contain rock inscriptions that are 2000 years old dating back to Aramaic and Thamud times. These are well preserved due to the favourable dry climate. The rock formations that have been formed by the weather are also impressive. These remind the visitor of human and animal forms.
Religion: Sunnite Islam is the state religion in Saudi Arabia with a total of 99% of the population professing to this religion.
Major Cities and accommodation: Riyadh is the largest city in the country with a population of 5 million; other large cities include Jiddah, Mekka, Medina, Dammam und Taif.