Saudi Arabia

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Saudi Arabia Desert

  • Saudi Arabia is a Middle Eastern country that occupies most of the Arabian Peninsula.
  • It has coastlines on the Indian Ocean, Persian Gulf and Red Sea.
  • Neighbouring countries include Jordan, Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, UAE, Oman and Yemen.
  • The capital of Saudi Arabia is Riyadh, which is also the largest city of the country.
  • The official language of Saudi Arabia is Arabic.
  • Saudi Arabia follows the system of ‘Absolute Monarchy’.
  • Islam is the dominant religion in Saudi Arabia.
  • There are no official churches in Saudi Arabia of any kind.
  • Saudi Arabia is the largest country in Middle East, in terms of area.
  • Saudi Arabia covers approximately four fifths of the area of the Arabian Peninsula, which can be described as a rectangular plateau gradually sloping eastwards till reaching sea level at the Arabian Gulf.
  • Saudi Arabia is the world’s single largest repository of petroleum, having about one third of the world reserves of petroleum. Because the oil is close to the surface, it can be retrieved inexpensively.


Photography is probably the easiest way for a visitor to inadvertently get into trouble. Do not take pictures of any government-related building (ministries, airports, military facilities etc) or any building that could possibly be one, or you risk being hauled off to jail for espionage. As Saudis place a high value on privacy, do not photograph any Saudi men without permission and do not even point your camera in the general direction of women, period.

Religious items for religions other than Islam, including Bibles, crucifixes and any religious literature, are technically forbidden.

Establishment Segregation
Banks -Separate branches for men and women, but when a  women’s section is not available at a branch, women are allowed in the male branch.
Coffeeshops -Mostly men only, although a few have family sections.
Hotels -Single women no longer require written permission to be allowed to check in, provided they have their own ID cards. Gyms, pools and spa are generally restricted to men only, but some female facilities are available.
Museums -Separate opening hours for families and men (“families” typically include single women).
Restaurants -Separate sections for families and men. The vast majority will allow single women into the family section.
Shopping malls -Allow all visitors, but often with evenings and weekends reserved for families and single women only.


  • Mecca is the birthplace of the Prophet Mohammad, while Medina is the place where he moved to, in 622 AD.
  • Abdul-Aziz bin Saud founded the ‘Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’, after capturing Al-Saud’s ancestral home of Riyadh, in 1902.
  • The ‘Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’ was declared in 1926, recognized in 1927 and unified in 1932.


    • Saudi Arabia houses Mecca and Medina, the two holiest places in Islam. This is why, it is also known as “The Land of The Two Holy Mosques”.
    • In Saudi Arabia, oil accounts for more than 90 percent of exports and nearly 75 percent of government revenues.
    • It is believed that the tomb of Eve is located in the Jeddah city of Saudi Arabia.
    • The ‘Cradle of Gold’, a mine situated around 200 miles from Jeddah, was once the greatest gold mine in the entire Africa and Middle East.
    • The Holy Mosque in Mecca served as the first place of worship for Muslims.
    • ARAMCO, a company in Saudi Arabia, is the largest producer of oil in the world.
    • The King Fahd Causeway that connects Saudi Arabia with Bahrain is 15.5 miles long and is one of the longest causeways in the world.
    • Prince Sultan Ibn Salman became the first Arab and first Muslim to travel in space, when he went aboard the space shuttle Discovery, in 1985.
    • The first university in Saudi Arabia was founded in 1957.

Avg. Costs

City Panorama

  • Prices are generally fairly expensive: figure on US$50/100/200 for budget, midrange and splurge-level daily travel costs.
  • Fast food meals invariably served with fries and Coke cost 10-20 SAR
  • Coke – 3 SAR
  • Cigarettes – 5 SAR
  • 3 Course meal – 50 SAR
  • Fast food meal – 14 SAR
  • Coffee – 5 SAR
  • Taxi per Km – 0.50 SAR
  • Bus Fare – 2.50 SAR


Click here to see The Economist’s Big Mac Index.  It is arguably the world’s most accurate financial indicator to be based on a fast-food item.


Information is coming soon.


Masjid Quba in Medina

  • Realistically speaking, the biggest danger a visitor to Saudi Arabia faces is the lethal driving
  • While Saudi Arabia has one of the lowest crime rates in the world, a certain background level of non-violent opportunistic theft like pick pocketing and purse snatching does exist
  • Lock doors and keep valuables on you


Click here to see Canadian Government Travel Reports and Warnings on Travel Reports offer information on safety and security, local laws and customs, entry requirements, health conditions and other important travel issues.


Modern Skyscraper

  • Except for the south western province of Asir, Saudi Arabia has a desert climate with extremely high day-time temperatures and a sharp temperature drop at night
  • Average summer temperatures are around 45°C, but can be as high as 54°C
  • In the winter the temperature rarely drops below 0°C
  • In the spring and autumn the heat is temperate, temperatures average around 29°C
  • Annual rainfall is extremely low
  • The mountainous Asir region is influenced by the Indian Ocean monsoons, usually occurring between October and March
  • An average of 300mm. of rainfall occurs during this period, that is about 60% of the annual precipitation


Best time to visit:

Saudi Arabia has a desert climate. In seaside Jeddah it is warm for most of the year, though winter is probably the most pleasant time for a visit. Riyadh, which is inland, is hotter in summer and colder in winter, when occasional heavy rainstorms occur. Early spring and late autumn are lovely times to visit this desert capital. The Rub al Khali, or “Empty Quarter,” seldom receives rain, making Saudi Arabia one of the driest countries in the world.

Required clothing:

Lightweight, long-sleeved shirts and light trousers, sun hats, and sturdy shoes.

Places to See

Spice Market

Madain Saleh

  • A pre-Islamic archaeological site located in the Al-Ula sector, within the Al Madinah Region of Saudi Arabia
  • The site constitutes the kingdom’s southernmost and largest settlement after Petra, its capital

View Map




Masmak Fort

  • A clay and mud-brick fort, with four watch towers and thick walls, founded on stone blocks, lying in the center of Riyadh
  • This building played a major part in the kingdom’s history, as it was here that the recapture of Riyadh, led by Ibn Saud, occurred on January 14, 1902




Old Jeddah (Ottoman Buildings)

  • Old Jeddah is considered a cultural and tourist landmark
  • Surrounded by walls, Old Jeddah, had grown vertically through the ages and the dense blocks of houses, merchants palaces, mosques and minarets, had shaped it
  • Small yards and squares and narrow streets separate these dense blocks of buildings





  • A 5000-year-old ancient salt mine still in use
  • The camp was built in the 1940s by ARAMCO (now Saudi Aramco)
  • The Abqaiq compound itself had a population of approximately 1,950 in 2005, though the inclusion of the population outside the compound, brings this number closer to 30,000

View Map


Communication Etiquette:
• Men shake hands
– Good friends will handshake and kiss one another on each cheek
• Women will hug and kiss close friends
– Men and women would not generally greet each other in public
• They do not require as much personal space as many westerners
– They will stand close – you may feel violated

Business Etiquette:
• You will need a Saudi sponsor (wakeel) to enter the country
– The sponsor will act as the intermediary
– Will arrange appointments with the appropriate people
• They prefer to do work with the people that they know
– Great deal of time will be spent getting to know you
– Be patient
– Meetings will start after inquiries about health, and family
– Never ask about a Saudi’s wife
• In negotiation decisions will be made through several layers of approval
– Saudis tend to be tough negotiators
– Decisions are made by the highest ranking person
– Business is hierarchical
– Do not use high pressure sales tactics
• It is customary for most Saudis to wear long white thobes
– You will be expected to wear a suit
– To make a good impressions dress well
• Business cards are given to everyone you are meeting
– Having one side translated into Arabic is appreciated

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