The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is one of the most well-known Middle-Eastern countries in the world for it is home to two of the most sacred Islamic cities: Mecca and Medina. The birthplace of Prophet Muhammad and the home of Islam, Saudi Arabia remains a common tourist destination in spite of the US travel warnings. We encourage each and every one of you to decide for yourself whether Saudi Arabia is for you or not and to not form opinions based on what you hear. Keep an open mind and if your heart wishes to visit the Kingdom, do not hold back.
This is important mostly when you are visiting large cities like Riyadh or Jeddah. The problem here is that most cab drivers do not use their available metres. What this means is that if you are not a good haggler, you might end up paying triple prices. Make sure you agree upon a price prior to the trip and if you can, make the drivers start their metres. If they disagree, feel free to walk away – this is the general rule of thumb when trading does not seem to go your way. As we have always said, chances are that the merchants (or drivers in this case) will stop you and politely offer you a more reasonable price. Stand your ground and they will think that you know what you are doing, even if you are a first-timer (wink). Oh, and most cab drivers do not speak English so make sure you make them understand where you are trying to get via landmarks (streets and numbers do not help).
Without a question, the Saudi Arabian people are some of the most hospitable people in the world (not to mention friendly and inviting). This is only amplified by the Muslim need for each house to be provided with a guest room called a Majlis (directly translated as “a place for sitting” as in “council”). Official guests are welcomed there and provided for plentifully. Additionally, whenever you ask around, people will be friendly and they will do their best to make you understand what they are trying to say (if you do not dabble in Arabic, of course).
This is an unfortunate fact but it is true: people are not used to throwing their rubbish into trash cans. What this inadvertently brings about is an abundance of trash no matter where you look. Things are improving, that is correct, but we encourage all tourists NOT to adhere to this local custom. Cast your trash into designated bins and strive to keep the planet as clean as possible.
In the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, life stops 5 times a day for prayers. This may seem queer to an outsider but we recommend that you patiently and politely wait it out each time. No matter where the people might be and what they may be doing, they will halt their current doings and bow to the might of Allah. What’s interesting about it is that prayer times vary each day because they are oriented after the Sun. This means that most people keep track of the matter via mobile applications. This is possible now since over 70% of the population walk around with smartphones in their pockets.
Well, here is a fact that will startle you: fuel is cheaper than drinking water (if you compare them litre-by-litre). This is due to the flourishing oil industry of the Kingdom. Getting around on four wheels thus becomes effortless and this is the main reason why you will see so many jeeps (they consume a lot but you can pay for it). Since distances can get large and taxis are not always agreeable, we recommend that you rent a car and go fill that tank without a worry (wink)!
It is not uncommon for Saudi Arabia to experience the sweat-inducing end of the heat spectrum. Temperatures as high as 50 degrees Celsius have been recorded and 45 is just a casual number there. If you know yourself to be intolerant to such celestial castigation, make sure you carry around sufficient drinking water and wear white clothes. Just remember the aforementioned fact about the price of drinking water.
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Make sure you check out our other articles pertaining to Muslim countries. We especially recommend that you take a thorough look at our “11 Things to Know Before Travelling to Muslim Countries.”
Did you enjoy our list? What experiences have you had in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and what impressions have they left on you? Hit the comment section below and tell us all about your experiences. And do check back for some exciting updates from time to time (wink)!