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Comprehensive handbook to Saudi Arabia’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites

While the Seven Wonders of the World are renowned, Saudi Arabia has recently added seven remarkable UNESCO World Heritage Sites to its repertoire. Discover 4 of them. While the Great Wall of China, the Taj Mahal, and Stonehenge are undoubtedly worth a visit, these UNESCO World Heritage sites in Saudi Arabia offer a unique experience. Consider including them in your upcoming Saudi staycation or add them to your must-see list if you’re planning a visit to the Kingdom.

Saudi Arabia’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites span thousands of years, showcasing its rich historical legacy. Furthermore, Saudi Arabia boasts a UNESCO Natural Heritage Site, in addition to six Cultural UNESCO Heritage Sites. Are you prepared to embark on a journey of discovery? It’s time to delve into history firsthand. Here is your comprehensive guide to Saudi Arabia’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Al Ahsa Oasis, Hofuf

Springs, channels, water sources, and an astounding 2.3 million date palm trees collectively render Al Ahsa as the largest oasis on the planet. This UNESCO World Heritage Site in Saudi Arabia boasts evidence of continuous human habitation dating all the way back to the Neolithic era. While exploring the region, visitors can encounter the remnants of fortresses and mosques. Al Ahsa Oasis showcases breathtaking landscapes, ranging from rolling sand dunes to vibrant greenery, which played a pivotal role in the trade route and served as a crucial resting point for pilgrims en route to Makkah. It stood out as one of the few regions in Saudi Arabia where rice cultivation thrived. This prosperous area earned its place on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Saudi Arabia in 2018.

Hegra, AlUla

Egypt boasts the Pyramids of Giza, Jordan boasts Petra, and Saudi Arabia is home to Hegra. Hegra, also known as Al Hijr and Madain Saleh, holds the distinction of being Saudi Arabia’s inaugural UNESCO World Heritage Site, a recognition bestowed upon it in 2008. Situated within AlUla, one of the historic oases in the northwestern Madinah province of Saudi Arabia, Hegra boasts an exceptionally rich history that traces its origins to the first century BCE, when it played a vital role in a bustling trade and travel route.

Today, this remarkable site has been transformed into an open-air museum, inviting visitors to marvel at more than 110 meticulously preserved tombs and ancient rock art, all while delving deeper into its captivating history through guided tours. Explorers can embark on vintage Land Rover excursions to further immerse themselves in the wonders of this UNESCO World Heritage Site, and they can also expand their knowledge at the visitor’s center, making it a must-visit attraction among Saudi Arabia’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Turaif, Riyadh

Diriyah, affectionately known as the “Jewel of Saudi Arabia,” is home to Turaif, an area steeped in historical significance. Originally serving as the capital of Saudi Arabia and the seat of power for the Al Saud family, this historic district was established in the 15th century. However, it was during the 18th and 19th centuries that it truly blossomed into a center of political and religious importance. With a rich and storied past, Diriyah was once the residence of Imam Mohammed bin Saud, the founding figure of the first Saudi state. In recognition of its cultural heritage, Diriyah was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2010.

Today, you have the opportunity to explore this UNESCO World Heritage Site in Saudi Arabia through a guided tour, which can be seamlessly incorporated into your visit to Bujairi Terrace, an adjacent dining area within the Diriyah complex. This experience provides valuable insights into the historical way of life in Saudi Arabia, allowing you to pause and appreciate the ancient Najdi architectural marvels that characterize the region. The architectural style typically features two-story houses built around a central courtyard, and the area boasts a maze of well-preserved mud houses and narrow alleyways. As you ascend to the highest points, you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking views of modern Riyadh, offering a striking contrast to Diriyah’s historical charm.

Historic Jeddah, Gate to Makkah, Jeddah

One of the most renowned attractions and equally beloved districts among locals in Jeddah is Al Balad, making it quite fitting that it earned recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Saudi Arabia back in 2015. Currently, it stands as the sole UNESCO site in this Red Sea city. Also referred to as “Historical Jeddah” and the “Entrance to Makkah,” this area boasts residential neighborhoods, vibrant markets, cultural festivities, and it entices both residents and tourists to explore its intricate labyrinthine streets. For centuries, dating back to the 7th century AD, it has served as a prominent harbor along the trading routes of the Indian Ocean. Positioned on the eastern coastline of the Red Sea, it continues to be a favored path for traders and pilgrims. True to its name, it serves as the primary gateway to Makkah.


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