Al Nakheel (Al Kurnaysh Road, Ash Shati, Jeddah 23413, Makkah Province) — located near the Jeddah Corniche, Al Nakheel captures the spirit of the city. Here, visitors can look out onto the Red Sea as they enjoy quality Levantine cuisine. The restaurant’s speciality is locally caught seafood, which is prepared on the grill and served with salad – pair it with generous portions of hot and cold meze. At Al Nakheel, you’ll also find some of the city’s best hummus, tabbouleh, shawarma and freshly grilled meat. The main restaurant is set inside a traditional Middle Eastern tent, with plenty of cozy, cushioned seating and large tables perfect for big groups. The interior is air-conditioned during the summer, and there is plenty of outdoor seating to enjoy during the cooler months.
Al-Rashid Mall (Firas Ibn Al Nudur St, Olaya, Al Khobar 31952) – this is a shopping mall located in the west of the Khobar city center (near Dammam, and not far from the road to Bahrain). In existence since 1995, the mall is located on the northern side of the King Abdullah Road opposite where it is joined by the King Khalid Road. Retailers there range from Cartier to TAG Heuer, Mexx, Burberry, Adidas, Tommy Hilfiger, and many others.
Abdul Raouf Khalil Museum (Al Madani, Al Andalud, Jeddah) — the nearly 2,500-year old history of the Jeddah area is showcased in this superb museum, which has exhibitions on everything from pre-Islamic history, though pre-modern civilizations, to the rich Islamic cultural heritage of the city. The complex also contains a mosque and the facade of an old castle. Admission: SR 50 per person. Hours: 8:00 am – 12:00 pm & 5:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Al-Balad (Jeddah) – this is one of the oldest neighborhoods of Jeddah. “Al Balad” simply means “the town” in Arabic, and was founded back in the 7th century AD (acting as the region’s sea port). Many of the streets and houses are still the same as ancient times, which makes this a “must see” for history buffs that are curious about Arabia’s past (which few know about).
Agave Café (Aster Tahlia, 8th floor, Prince Mohammed Bin Abdulaziz Street, Al Khalidiyah، Al Khalidiyyah, Jeddah 23421) – located on the eighth floor of an office building, patrons here have the option of smoking hookah, as well as dining on various local and international dishes, while taking in the views of the city and shoreline. Local diners come here in the late afternoon for the sunset. Dessert items like tiramusi along with coffee are also available.
Al Faisaliah Center (King Fahd Road, Riyadh) – this is a commercial skyscraper located in the business district of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. It is the fourth tallest building in Saudi Arabia after the Kingdom Centre, Burj Rafal and Abraj Al Bait.
Saudi Arabia first came into prominence since it’s the source of Islam (one of the world’s major religions). Mohamed (also spelled Muhammad), the prophet of Islam, was born in Mecca circa 570 AD, and started preaching in that town in 610 AD. After migrating to the Arabian town of Medina in 622 AD, he and his supporters united the tribes of the Arabian Peninsula under the banner of the Islamic faith (creating a single Arab Muslim religious entity in that country). Nearly 30 years after Mohamed died in 634 AD, the Rashidun Caliphs and their Umayyad successors gradually expanded the spread of Islam outside of Arabia. Over time, the Muslim armies defeated the (Turkey-based) Byzantine Empire, destroyed the Persian Empire, and later conquered huge areas (as far west as the Iberian Peninsula, and as far east as India).
Under the Islamic faith and its teachings under its holy book (the Koran), every able-bodied Muslim must make a pilgrimage to the holy Arabian city of Mecca (during the Islamic month of Dhu al-Hijjah) at least once in their life. The Masjid al-Haram (the Grand Mosque) in Mecca is where the Kaaba (Islam’s holiest site) is located, while the Masjid al-Nabawi (the Prophet’s Mosque) in Medina is where Mohamed’s tomb is located. Due to that religion’s teachings, followers of the Islamic faith (regardless of their geographic location) have been trekking to Mecca since the 7th century.
From the 1500s until the early 1900s, the Ottoman Empire had periodic control over the coastal areas of Arabia (both the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf coasts). During that time, the central part of Arabia was ruled by an emerging local dynasty called the Sauds – in alliance with the religious leader Muhammad ibn Abd-al-Wahhab (founder of the Wahhabi movement). Centered in the town of Riyadh, the Sauds’ bid for expansion into the coastal areas (especially the Red Sea coast) was periodically checked by the Ottoman forces. With encouragement from the British and French, Saudi and other Arab forces revolted against Ottoman rule during World War I. After World War I, the entire Arabian Peninsula was finally freed from Ottoman Empire, while the British and French divided up the rest of the Middle East (including French rule over Lebanon and Syria, and British control over Palestine (modern-day Israel), Iraq, Jordan and certain Persian Gulf areas like Bahrain, Kuwait and Qatar.
By 1930, the modern day Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was officially formed. Eight years later, vast reserves of oil were discovered along the country’s Persian Gulf areas. By the 1950s, Saudi Arabia became prosperous from its oil reserves. During the Arab-Israeli War in 1973, Saudi Arabia participated in a pan-Arab oil boycott against the U.S. and Netherlands (which drove up gasoline prices in USA to astronomical levels).
The 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran, which became a perceived threat against Saudi royal rule, helped drive that government into the U.S. sphere of influence. The political upheaval in Iran coincided with religious extremists seizing the Grand Mosque in Mecca that year. By the early 1980s, Arabia began buying sophisticated military equipment and other arms from U.S. The Saudi government’s relations with USA were reinforced after the Iraqi military (under then-Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein) invaded Kuwait in 1990.
Arabia played a pivotal role in the U.S.-led Gulf War against Iraq (known as “Desert Shield”), by letting U.S. set up military bases on its soil (which enabled American forces to not only repel Saddam’s forces, but to invade portions of Iraq itself). In the early 2010s, Arabia was shielded from the “Arab Spring” protests that took various North African & Middle Eastern governments by surprise (from Tunisia to Egypt to Bahrain in the Persian Gulf) – protests that toppled some of those governments. These days, Saudi Arabia’s continued role as a major oil power (which can lower or increase petroleum production) is followed by international investors worldwide, especially those concerned about a spike in prices to over US$100 a barrel. The U.S.’ recent use of oil exploration technologies (including fracking) has helped it become self-sufficient in oil in recent times, balancing global oil prices.
Since oil is Arabia’s main source of income, tourism has never been a priority for that government (apart from accommodating religious pilgrims visiting Mecca and other Islamic holy sites). In much part because of such visitor inflows, travel & tourism accounted for 9.4% of the country’s GDP. The Arabian government expects 22 million visitors by 2025.