Saudi Arabia travel guide
Saudi Arabia is an enormous country that covers most of the strategic Arabian Peninsula between the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf. It has very large swaths of barren desert with most of the fields that grow food being heavily irrigated. They used to be poor nomadic Bedouins but with their new found wealth from oil, they now have health care, housing and education. Most people now live in the cities rather than the old rural or nomadic life.
Riyadh is the capital but nearby is Darriyah which was the old capital until destroyed by the Turks. Instead of rebuilding, they just moved the capital but there is still a lot to see in Darriyah.
Saudi Arabia has two of the holiest Islamic cities – Mecca and Medina. It is one of the five pillars of Islam that once in your life time you make the Hajj or pilgrimage during the holy month to the city of Mecca, the birthplace of Mohammed. Every year 2 million people do just that. The sight of them gathering and praying at the Ka,aba, the holiest shrine is amazing. You must understand that only Muslims are allowed the privilege of entering the cities of Mecca and Medina during the holy month.
Medina is the second holiest city of Islam. Mohammed moved to Medina for several years teaching school before he returned to Mecca. Part of the Hajj is to visit Medina as well as Mecca.
Saudi Arabia is a fairly strict Muslim country allowing no drinking liquor or going to the theatre. It has just recently been proposed that women be allowed to drive a car. It is forbidden for women to move around without a male escort and most women have their heads covered at the minimum. Women are sometimes allowed into the mosques. Make sure you check with your guide but do go as they are spectacularly decorated with tile and sometimes jewels.
There are many internationals that live there and work in the oil fields. Families are allowed to go as well but must live in foreign housing that is walled off from the rest of the country.
It is a fascinating country if you can figure out how to make your way around.