Saudi Arabia also known as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is the largest country in the Arabian Peninsula geographically located in Western Asia. The most common knowledge about Saudi Arabia is that it is the birthplace of Islam and home to Islam’s two holiest mosques in Mecca and Madinah. People often believe Saudi Arabia exists predominantly to serve as a land for pilgrimage, thus, making it a least favourite place to visit for a vacation or holiday. This might be rightly so, as unlike the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia does not focus its resources on tourism rather it focuses on preserving Islam’s rich heritage. But like the neighbouring country of Jordan, Saudi Arabia is rich with history and deep culture that is sure to make anyone and everyone curious.
This is the sentiment that is echoed by a local Saudi Arabian native, Ahlam. To begin our conversation about the beautiful and historically rich country of Saudi Arabia, I asked her to tell us something generic about Saudi Arabia, to which she replied, “What I can say is that it is not only my country, it is a piece of paradise for everyone. Saudi Arabia has two religious cities, Mecca and Al-Madinah, which makes my country the centre of Islam for Muslims and for those curious about the religion”. When probed further to discuss something that is generally not known in the public about Saudi Arabia, she said, “People in Saudi Arabia are not all as rich as many people believe. Saudi Arabia is very similar to any other country with the rich and poor people co-existing in the same environment. Another point to mention is that Saudi Arabians love and respect other religions and we are far from the war-loving and war-driven people being portrayed in the Western media”. These are two important facts raised by Ahlam, as Saudi Arabia is known chiefly for its oil industry and for its petroleum dependent economy, so naturally, people assume that its GDP is very high and the wealth gap and economic inequality between the rich and poor people is very low. The other interesting fact that was raised by Ahlam is the stereotypical and biased coverage of news by the Western media, where Arabs are typically classified and othered as people that are war-loving, which we all know isn’t always the case.
To continue to discuss her beloved country of Saudi Arabia, Ahlam goes on to mention that her favourite memory of/from Saudi Arabia was from her childhood, and as a current Masters student from the University of Ottawa here in Canada, it is certain that she is at least an ocean away from home, literally. Lastly, to round off our conversation on Saudi Arabia, I asked her to provide travel recommendations for future visitors of Saudi Arabia. To which, she responds, “Personally I think Mecca is the most attractive place in Saudi Arabia and I strongly recommend visiting The Grand Mosque which houses the Ka’aba. If you are also interested or curious about the educational facilities in Saudi Arabia, you should also visit the city of Thuwal, which is a big educational driven city with one of the largest universities in the Middle East”.
With all these being said, Saudi Arabia is a country that should be on everyone’s list of “Places to visit in the world” for those with a genuine interest and curiosity for history, deep culture and religion.
IMAGE CREDIT: Aljazi