About Tourism in Saudi Arabia

A country where tourism is emerging...

​For centuries the Arabian desert was known only by Bedouins who lived there. Then when oil was discovered in 1938 the Bedouins moved away progressively from their harsh life to seek for better conditions in fleshly built modern cities. They brought with them the stories of their family and ancestors depicting the desert as a terrifying place to be absolutely avoided. On the same time expatriates from around the world started to arrive in the Kingdom but only few of them dared to face the difficult conditions that implied traveling through Saudi Arabia.

Some of the pioneers of the exploration of Saudi Arabia were among the first big wave of expatriates that were the employees of Saudi Arabian American Company (Saudi ARAMCO), the state-owned oil company of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and a fully integrated, global petroleum and chemicals enterprise. Some of these expatriates started to raise the awareness about the incredible richness of Saudi Arabia and have collected their knowledge of the Kingdom in a bi-monthly magazine named Aramco World which is a great source of information about Saudi Arabia.

... and that is investing in its incredible assets...

In April 2000 the Council of Ministers of the Kingdom through established the "Supreme Commission for Tourism" (SCT) whose name changed to "Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities" (SCTA) to become the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH) in 2015.

The main goal of creating the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH), from the very outset, was to pay greater attention to all aspects of the tourism sector in Saudi Arabia, in its organization, development, and promotion. SCTH always looked forward to strengthening the role of tourism sector and overcome barriers to its growth, based on the immense tourism potential enjoyed by the Kingdom. Its efforts include preservation of antiquities and activation of its contribution to the cultural and economic development.

The efforts of the SCTH were rewarded by UNESCO that listed several Saudi sites among the World Heritage:

  • Maddain Salih/Al-Hijr in 2008
  • Historical Diriyah in 2010
  • Historical Jeddah in 2014
  • Rock art in Jubbah and Shuwaymis in 2015
Nabatean tombs in Hegra / Maddain Saleh (photo: Florent Egal)

Nabatean tombs in Hegra / Maddain Saleh (photo: Florent Egal)

... but that is still not accessible to all travelers...

​Today with a extended network of roads throughout the country with many fuel stations, traveling in an air conditioned 4X4 with a navigation system is a much more comfortable experience than the harsh conditions endured by Bedouins on their camels less than a century ago. But driving off-road still requires strict security rules including proper equipment as the dangers of the desert haven't faded away with modern times.

Therefore it is highly discouraged to travelers novice to desert exploration to drive off-road, especially in the sand. Even if there are still many fascinating sites that are not reachable on tarmac, the Saudi Arabia Tourism Guide recommends to ask for the services of professional tours who can ensure satisfying level of safety.

... and is building its touristic infrastructures

There are so many wonderful sites in Saudi Arabia that it is simply impossible to built infrastructures for each of them at once. Thus, if the sites that are listed as UNESCO World Heritage benefit from new facilities and many sites are being restored throughout the Kingdom, there are still a great number of places that are still difficult to reach such as the Empty Quarter or don't have high standard hotels nearby. There are also wonderful sites that are not publicized like the Wadi Qaraqir in Tabuk Province. Reason why the best way to access the hidden treasure of Saudi Arabia is to rely on tour operators. The Saudi Arabia Tourism Guide has selected some that provide the highest standard of services of the country.

Wadi Qaraqir (photo: Florent Egal)

Wadi Qaraqir (photo: Florent Egal)



A country where tourism is emerging and that is investing in its fascinating assets but that is not accessible to all travelers and is building its touristic infrastructures (author: Florent Egal)

About the Author

My name is Florent Egal, I am a French national living in Riyadh since January 2010. After six years of exploration of Saudi Arabia I have decided to show with this website that KSA has much more to offer than the stereotype landscape of empty extends of sand dunes. I hope that after reading through these pages people will feel the same willingness and amazement than I have to discover this fascinating country