Tabuk: Queen of Saudi tourism

Travel Nilanjan Hajra
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tourism
Wadi Disah, also known as Wadi Qaraqir, is a 15 kilometer long canyon running through the Jebel Qaraqir, a sandstone massif lying about 80 kilometers south of the city of Tabuk in Saudi Arabia. Photo : Dreamstime

Looking for a new hotspot of tourism in West Asia beyond the usual names such as Isfahan, Shiraz, Petra, Jerusalem, Baghdad, Beirut, Dubai and a few others? Have you heard of a city called Tabouk? Very likely not. Well, it’s the name of a major city and a province, aka Region, in northwestern Saudi Arabia. And it has to offer such a varied bouquet that it can easily called the queen of Saudi tourism. It has the azure sea offering stunning sunsets, hundreds of acres of dazzling roses, beautiful oases, vast golden orange orchards and historic monuments. Surprisingly much of it remains fresh to be discovered by enchanted tourists.

Tourism in Saudi Arabia

You can call it a new-found treasure, tourism in Saudi Arabia that is. Of course, it’s been a historic land, with a society with historic culture, architecture, art and literature for millennia. And nature has given it its share of bounties. Surprisingly, however, at least in modern times it has never been a major tourist destination until as recently as 2019.

In that year Saudi Arabia opened its door to international tourism by introducing a tourist-friendly e-visa programme. Citizens of 49 countries can take advantage of the tourism boosting programme. You can apply online. With the requisite documents you are likely to get the visa within 30 minutes. The evisa offers multiple entry over a year, and allows staying in the country up to 90 days.

Tourism around Tabuk 

Once you have the visa, you can directly fly into Tabuk International airport. Or, you may fly only two hours from the national capital Riyadh. Once you reach the city, it really depends on your taste as to what kind of tourism you want to explore. There’s much on offer.

The small town of Haql, for example is right on the Gulf of Acaba. December to February are the best months for beach tourism here. It has a beautiful white-sand beach, where you can easily idle away your day, watching the sea and the distant mountains of the Sinai Peninsula. The reefs here are pristine and bustle with diverse flora and fauna. The town also offers wonderful opportunities of diving sports to enthusiasts.

If you are a history buff, the too Tabuk can offer you a lot. Visit Wadi Dam and the region west of Tabuk to see stunning rock-art at hundreds of sites, dating from the paleolithic period to Islamic times. The Tabuk Castle is one of the major attractions of historical tourism in the region.

It was first built in 3500 BCE, and has been restored several times till the mid-seventeenth century. It has two floors. On the first floor is a courtyard, a mosque and a few rooms. A flight of stairs leads to the watch towers meant for guards. Tabuk region has several other historical monuments as well.

Beckoning tourists every year

These apart, the orange orchards and rose farms of the Tabuk region adds a fragrant and colourful dimension to tourism in Tabuk. The Saudi government of late has encouraged the vast rose farm owners to open their gardens to tourists. Each year some 20 million roses are exported from the region. Tourism in very few places in West Asia offers the breathtaking experience of standing in the middle of a sea of standing roses, overwhelmed with their fragrance and colour.