Author Archives: Laura

Hello there! I'm Laura, the founder of Blue Abaya- the first travel blog in Saudi Arabia, established in 2010.  Travel has always been my passion- so far I've visited 75 countries and I'm always on the lookout for new adventures inside and outside of Saudi Arabia! Follow my adventures in Saudi and beyond on instagram:

One thing is for sure, there’s no shortage of incredible places to see in Saudi Arabia. In this list I selected some of the lesser known, hidden gems and extraordinary places to see in Saudi Arabia. It was actually very difficult to select only 20 places out of so many options!

Saudi Arabia is a vast country with versatile landscape and terrain, creating an endless array of places to see and off the beaten path places to explore! For more detailed travel information and how to visit these locations, follow Blue Abaya on Instagram here: Viking in Arabia

For this list I selected one natural location from every corner of the Saudi Kingdom from the North down to the South.  I included various different types of landscapes from sand dunes, canyons to mountains, forests, waterfalls and lakes to showcase the vast diversity that can be found in Saudi Arabia’s nature. The land of Arabia is diverse in history, culture, landscape flora and fauna. It’s full of hidden gems waiting to be explored! Take a look at all these lesser known places to see in Saudi Arabia!

  1. Habala, The Rope Village, Asir Province. The hanging village of Habala, built on a ledge in the the middle of a steep canyon, which was only accessible by climbing with ropes from the cliffs above. The village was inaccessible and the inhabitants were safe and self reliant in their mountain ” hanging village”. There is a cable car that operates in the summer months taking visitors down to the village.
    incredible must visit  Places to See in Saudi Arabia

    Incredible places to see in Saudi Arabia: Habala Rope Village, Asir Province. Photo: Laura Alho

  2. Turtle Bay, AlWajh. A sandy bay of crystal clear waters where juvenile turtles can be seen swimming in the shallow waters. Nearby seagrass forests and coral reef pinnacles provide a safe haven for the baby turtles.
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    A turtle swims by a boat in Turtle Bay, AlWajh. Photo: Laura Alho

  3. Seven Sisters Reef, Yanbu. One of the top dive sites along the 200km Saudi Red Sea coastline. The coral reefs are abundant with marine life and a great spot to encounter hammerhead sharks in Saudi Arabia.
    diving scuba yanbu saudi

    Seven Sisters reef in Yanbu. Photo: Yarob Bashrahil

  4. Rainbow Mountains, NEOM. A mountain range near Jabal Lawz where all colors of the rainbow appear in the landscape.

    Incredible places to see in Saudi Arabia, Rainbow colored mountains in Tabuk province. Photo: Laura Alho

  5. Springs of Moses, Maqna, NEOM. Natural springs in a palm tree oasis next to the Red Sea.12 natural springs that legend tells Moses found are located with a view to the Sinai peninsula in Egypt on the horizon.
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    Springs of Moses, NEOM. Photo by: Laura Alho

  6. Wadi Lajab, Jizan. Waterfalls, natural swimming pools hidden amongst a lush tropical surroundings in Jizan province. Wadi Lajab has water running through it year round.
    wadi lajab, saudi , swimming natural pools

    Lush and green Wadi Lajab, a hidden tropical haven in Jizan Province. Photo: Laura Alho

  7. Wild Iris Flower Fields, Tumair, Riyadh Province. A field of wild irises bloom here each spring. It’s a magical experience to watch them all open simultaneously at the same time each day. 

    Wild Iris flowers opening up in the filed in Tumayr. Photo by: Laura Alho

  8. Red Volcano, Hai’l Province. A volcanic crater surrounded by red sand dunes.

    The Red Volcano. Photo by: Laura Alho

  9. Al Naslaa Rock, Tayma. A petroglyph covered rock split in half with laser sharp precision, found in the middle of the desert.

    The Split Rock. Photo by: Saudi Archeology

  10. Cloud Park and Forest (Prince Sultan Park), al Namas, Asir Province. It’s always cloudy and misty at this park you can feel like you’re walking on top of the clouds.

    Sunset at Cloud Park, al Namas. Photo by: Laura Alho

  11. Valley of the Queens, Tabuk Province. Spectacular sandstone formations stand tall guarding the entrance of this valley near Wadi Disah. The sandstone pillars resemble the Queen of the chess game.
    eidotsenko@yahoo.combuk, neom, desert

    Valley of Queens, Tabuk. Photo: Laura Alho

  12. Yellow Lake, Al Asfar, Eastern province. A huge desert lake in the middle of golden sand dunes.

    The Yellow Lake. Photo by: Zaza Hardy

  13. Black and White Volcano, Madinah Province. Otherworldly scenery in Khaybar, the White volcanoes are located in the Harrat Khaybar lavafield. The unusual and rare white volcano craters are starkly contrasted by a stream of black lava creating a scene which could be from another planet.
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    Incredible places to see in Saudi Arabia: Black and White volcanoes, Khaybar. Photo: Laura Alho

  14. Dhee Ayn, The Marble Village, Al Baha Province. A 400 year year old stone village built on top of a marble hill, surrounded by a forest of palm trees and banana trees, the village’s name comes from the stream ( ayn) that runs through it year round.

    Dhee Ayn Marble Village. Photo by: Laura Alho

  15. Secret Lake, AlUla. Beautiful serene and secret spot hidden in the Shallal mountains of AlUla. The water is clear and clean for a cool dip in the hot summer months.
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    A gem hidden in the sandstone mountains of AlUla. Photo: Laura Alho

  16. Saudi Stonehenge, Al Jouf Province. Huge blocks of stone pillars stand side by side in a circular formation. The mysterious site dates back around 4000-5000 years but the purpose of the standing stone structures still remains a mystery.

    Rajajil, The Standing Stones. Al Jouf province. Photo: Laura Alho

  17.  The Open Library, Jabal Ikmah, AlUla. A canyon with more than 500 inscriptions from the Lihyan civilisation, dating back 3000 years located along the AlUla valley.
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    The Open Library of the Lihyan Kingdom, Jabal Ikmah in AlUla. Photo: Laura Alho

  18. The Gingerbread Village, Rijal Alma’a heritage village, Asir Province. One of the must-see places in Saudi Arabia. More than 600 stone houses form Rijal Alma village, built on the side of a hill in Asir province. The houses are painted colorfully inside by the women of the village, the art form is called Al Qatt Al Asiri, which is a UNESCO listed intangible heritage art form.
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    Rijal Alma village, also known as the Gingerbread village of Saudi Arabia. Photo: Laura Alho

  19. Hidden Oasis of Zulfi You would never expect to see these lakes and palm trees appearing like a mirage in the desert. The Zulfi desert oases are found in the middle of a vast sand dune desert. Some of the desert lakes have water year round but more appear after the winter rains which normally begin around November every year.
  20. Broken Heart Island, Tabuk Province. When viewed from Google earth, this deserted paradise island, together with the surrounding coral reef takes the shape of a broken heart. try to find it on google maps! The island is located within the Red Sea Development company’s protected area and at the time being cannot be visited by boat.

    Broken Heart Island, Red Sea project area . Photo: Laura Alho

Want to know about more amazing places to see in Saudi Arabia? Check out these 10 Amazing Places to Visit in Saudi Arabia 

Follow @blueabaya on instagram for more Saudi Arabia travel information and how to apply for a Saudi tourist e-visa.

Check out these beautiful places to see in Saudi Arabia that are not mentioned in this list: Wanderlust in Saudi Arabia 

Here’s an article I wrote about Saudi Tourism and the Economy for Internationale Politik magazine, the magazine for DGAP (Deutsche Gesellshaft fur Auswärtige Politik), German Society on Foreign Relations. IP is Germany’s leading foreign policy magazine that covers contemporary subjects from around the world. Their 03/2018 issue is about the Gulf States and the economy, and can be read online here: Wirtshaft Golfstaaten My Article “Ab in Die Wuste” can be found here. ( please note that it’s a premium content and to read full article the reader must pay the subscription fees). The online version is in German language but you can read a summary of the article below in English.

Saudi Tourism and Economy

Saudi Arabia is gearing up to become a future tourist destination for international travelers. Mega projects, new cities, archeological surveys and developing entertainment are ways that Saudi intends to boost its economy through tourism.

The Future of Saudi Tourism 

No Backpackers, souvenir shops or sounds of cameras clicking. Until very recently, Saudi Arabia has been a country infamously difficult for foreign visitors to enter on tourism purposes. Apart from religious tourism and business visits, visitors have not been able to enter Saudi Arabia in the traditional role of a tourist. For decades, only a few tour operators had special permission to bring in tour groups to Saudi Arabia, and those tourists were subject to various entry regulations and restrictions of movement.

In 2018, Saudi Arabia has revealed its plans to begin opening the country for international tourism. Will this ambitious plan succeed, and if so, what are they key factors to determine success?

Residents of the Gulf countries have been able to visit Saudi Arabia without the need for a visa but this is a small fraction of foreign visitors to the Kingdom. The majority of foreign visits to Saudi Arabia comes from the Hajj and Umrah visas, both of which allow entry to Muslims of all nationalities for a specific time period and area only. Hajj 2018 saw 1,75 million foreign pilgrims and a total of 2,3 million pilgrims performed Hajj in 2018. Umrah visitors during 2017 were a total of 19 million pilgrims visiting Mekkah and Madinah for religious tourism, of which 6,5 million pilgrims came from outside of Saudi Arabia.

While the numbers of religious tourism keep growing and the religious tourism industry is constantly being developed and new facilities are being built to ensure the pilgrims a more comfortable experience in Saudi Arabia, there is no doubt that opening the country to international tourism will boost its economy even further.

VISION 2030 and tourism

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman announced the Vision 2030 plan to diversify the Saudi economy and a large part of the vision is developing the tourism sector. The plan is to create new jobs and attract foreign investors to the tourism industry. The Vision 2030 has launched several New “mega projects” such as the future city NEOM and the Red Sea Project, aimed to make Saudi Arabia an international world class tourism destination in the future.

Opening Tourists visas

The implementation of opening up the country for foreign visitors is not a simple task. Since the country has remained closed from other types of tourism for so long, a sudden free access to a mass flow of tourists would not be feasible. In this sense a gradual step by step plan to open up the tourist’s access to the Kingdom would seem the best practice in Saudi Arabia’s case.

And this does indeed seem like the direction that the country is moving to. Rumors of the tourist visas opening in April 2018 were circulated and then in late September 2018, Saudi Arabia announced the opening of the tourist visa for visitors coming to the newly announced Diriyah E- prix in Riyadh. These e-visas are a quick and simple way for international visitors to gain access into the country. By opening the tourist visa for a specific event and time frame, the flow of the visitors will be easier to control in a sort of soft opening phase. This way it will be easier to prepare and plan ahead for opening the unrestricted tourist visas.

The New E-Visa- Easy Access into KSA by joining Events

A purchase of the formula-E ticket is required to apply for the e-visa online on the Sharek website, created for this visa application process. The formula E visa is valid for a duration of 14 days. So far it seems that there are no restrictions on who can obtain this visa in terms of age, nationality or gender, as earlier has been speculated might be the case. There is however a mention of restricting the area in which the tourists would be able to visit, but no further information on this can be found the website currently.

Attending sports events and festivals might be the first channels through which international visitors will be welcomed into the country, and tying up the visas to an obligatory ticket purchase is a guaranteed way to generate income from tourism.

The reason behind restricting the tourists to certain areas is most likely due to many of the more rural areas currently lacking the sufficient infrastructure and services to welcome a large amount of visitors. There are massive development projects going on all over Saudi Arabia to develop facilities, infrastructure and hospitality sector to welcome more visitors in the future. The capital Riyadh and the two large cities of Jeddah and Dammam however offer a good network of hotels and other facilities for the tourists and these areas are ready and able to host foreign tourists.

Saudi Arabia’s Potential to Attract Foreign Tourism

Saudi Arabia certainly has the potential to attract more visitors with its unique and diverse landscape, remarkable historical sites and colorful culture.

Saudi Arabia is a vast country with plenty of beautiful landscape and opportunities to experience different types of tourism. The main landscape regions that have potential for developing tourism industry are the modern cityscapes of the large cities, different types of desert terrains, the Red Sea coasts beaches and underwater world, and the mountain areas of the South. A large quantity of historical sites from different ancient civilizations can be found in all regions of Saudi Arabia.

Developing National Tourism

One of the aims of the Vision 2030 is to develop the national tourism and attract more Saudis to stay in the country for their holidays. There is a huge flow of tourism and spending flowing into the neighboring countries and several measures have been taken to lessen this loss of potential income to the Kingdom. These measures have started to show a positive effect, the number of tourists from Saudi Arabia visiting Dubai in 2017 decreased by 7% to 1.53 million visits, however Saudi Arabia still remains in the top three source markets for Dubai tourism.

The drop in numbers of Saudis visiting Dubai could be explained by the increased efforts by Saudi Arabia to develop the entertainment sector and national heritage tourism.

Saudi Arabia’s General Entertainment Authority (GEA), launched in 2016, is a part of the Vision 2030 efforts to boost the local economy. Through its mission to “diversify and enrich entertainment experiences around the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia”, the GEA aims to organize, develop and lead the entertainment sector to provide exciting entertainment options in all regions of the country.

The projects launched by the GEA aim to keep the tourists inside the Kingdom, who would have in past years sought for these same entertainment opportunities, such as movie theatres and concerts, in other Gulf countries such as UAE, Bahrain and Kuwait.

Tourism coming in from GCC

The Gulf tourists visiting Saudi Arabia (apart from the religious tourism) have main interest in the heritage tourism and milder climate of Saudi Arabia. Abha and its surroundings are popular places for Gulf residents to visit in the summer months, due to its pleasant, mild climate and green scenery. During the winter months many of the Central areas in Saudi Arabia offer very cool climate which attracts the Gulf visitors. Another draw for the GCC market is Saudi Arabia’s large heritage festivals such as the Janadriyah Cultural Heritage festival, attracting over 3 million visitors annually, Souk Okaz and the King Abdulaziz Camel festival.

Tourism Mega Projects

Since the launching of the 2030 vision, several projects to develop the tourism and entertainment industry have been launched. The most ambitious project is NEOM, the future city. NEOM promises “The world’s most ambitious project: an entire new land, purpose built for a new way of living”.

Other mega projects evolve around the Red Sea coastline, the Red Sea Project and the most recent addition of mega projects, Amaala.

Qiddiyah is a project to build an entertainment city including a Six Flags amusement park on the outskirts of Riyadh.

Various projects to develop UNESCO sites such as the historical city of Al Balad in Jeddah and Turaif district in historical Diriyah are in progress. Once ready, At Turaif will become the largest open-air museum in the world.

All of the mega projects promise to create jobs and offer investment opportunities to foreign investors.

These projects are very much needed and once completed will offer a variety of options for both national and international tourists.

The Promise of Al Ula

Al Ula valley boasts an incredible array of historical, nature and heritage sites. Thanks to Al Ula’s location in a protected valley with plenty of water sources, this area was inhabited by different civilizations for thousands of years and was the hub for trade routes.

These civilizations have left their marks on the rocks of Al Ula, in the valleys and the forgotten cities. The desert landscape of the Ula valley is breath taking and otherworldly, something which cannot be found elsewhere in the world.

The Al Ula Royal Commission was established to help centralize the development of the entire area into one body.  The goal of Al Ula Royal Commission is to transform the area into one of the  world’s premiere destinations for history, nature and heritage. With France as the main partner in achieving the goals to transform Al Ula, the development projects a long term plan which will empower the local community and boost local economy.

Al Ula Royal Commission, established in 2017 is responsible for the survey of the Al Ula archaeological sites including Hegra ( Mada’in Saleh) The Lion’s Tombs (tombs of the Dedan Kingdom and the Ikhma library. These sites were closed from public visits in December 2017 and are estimated to reopen for tourism sometime in 2020’s. The archaeological survey is undertaken by several international teams of archaeologists to make sure everything in the area has been discovered, before building or developing the area further.

After the surveys have finished, the sites will be developed to handle a large number of international tourists. World class services and facilities will be built, in accordance to protecting the value of the sites and the surrounding nature.

Projects by Saudi Commission Tourism and Heritage

The SCTH, established in 2000 and headed by HRH Prince Sultan bin Salman, has been very active in the past years in developing the tourism sector through several different projects. The main goals are to develop heritage sites around Saudi Arabia, rehabilitation of archaeological sites and readying them for visitors, developing the hospitality sector and listing more sites as UNESCO World Heritage, bringing the total number of sites to 7. The SCTH works together with the National Transformation Program, which aims to provide the youth with more job opportunities and better the quality of life for everyone.

The real challenge might come from convincing the Saudis that opening tourism is a good idea in the long run. From the economic perspective it will bring an undeniable boost, but the concerns evolve around the ideologies that the more conservative part of the society fear tourism will bring along.

One of the main keys to the success of the tourism then, would be to involve the Saudi youth in tourism projects, training them in tourism and hospitality sector. A major role would be creating awareness of the available options for tourism in Saudi Arabia,  which many Saudis surprisingly are very unaware of. Boosting pride in national heritage sites, nature and interest in attending the culture festivals are ways to motivate and include the youth in this process.

Saudi Arabia’s ambitious plans to make the Kingdom a world-class tourism destination in 2030 all well on the way. Once completed, the development plans will offer a selection of “something for everyone” and Saudi Arabia has the potential to become one of the “must visit” places on earth.

Discover more about places to visit in Saudi Arabia here: Explore Arabia

Jeddah is just an 1,5 hour flight away from Riyadh making it the ideal weekend getaway destination in Saudi Arabia with all the cool things to do in Jeddah.

Sometimes we don’t have to travel far or abroad for a relaxing weekend getaway! Saudi Arabia offers many great destinations for families to choose for a staycation.

Jeddah has always been a favorite staycation destination of mine in Saudi Arabia because it offers so many fun activities. There are so many fun things to do in Jeddah and each trip we discover something new.  It´s easy to find flights to Jeddah on five different domestic airlines that fly to Jeddah daily from all major cities in Saudi Arabia. The best thing about Jeddah for me is definitely the Red Sea and all the leisure opportunities it offers to visitors.things to do in Jeddah with kids

I travel to Jeddah several times a year with my children for some much needed Vitamin Sea and always feel so energized from the ocean breeze and change of scenery. Sometimes a weekend trip to Jeddah feels like you’ve actually gone abroad, the landscape and local culture are so different from what we have in Riyadh.

I would say Jeddah is a must visit at least once for everyone living in Saudi Arabia! Whenever my mom visits Saudi Arabia (she’s visited us 8 times already!) I always take her to Jeddah for a weekend, because nothing beats the Red Sea breezes and the Jeddah vibe.things to do in Jeddah with kids

So what are the best things to do in Jeddah, especially if you’re traveling with kids? I’ve gathered a list of my favorite things to do in Jeddah with kids (and of course why not for adults too) for some ideas and travel inspiration! Jeddah has developed a lot during the past years and there’s constantly new things to do in Jeddah especially around the newly opened Jeddah Corniche area.

Things to Do in Jeddah

Visit the new Jeddah Waterfront and Corniche

A must see when in Jeddah is the new Jeddah Corniche and waterfront area. The new Jeddah Corniche has become a hot spot for families to spend time together ever since its opening in 2017. You’ll find a beautifully landscaped waterfront area with parks, recreation facilities, children’s playgrounds, fountains, beaches and cafes. The best way to explore the Corniche is on foot, so make sure you to stay closeby with walking distance to the best spots on the Corniche to avoid traffic, especially on weekend evenings. Check out where to stay on the Corniche at the end of this post.

things to do in Jeddah with kids things to do in Jeddah with kids

Al Balad

A visit to Jeddah is not complete without a visit to the historical city, Al Balad. A UNESCO listed heritage site, the area is best visited in the early mornings or in the late afternoon/ evenings. Learn about the history of Jeddah by visiting Naseef house and browse through the colorful souks. More things to do in Al Balad here: 10 Things to do in al Balad, Jeddah

things to do in jeddah

things to do in jeddah

Fakieh Aquarium

Located just on the Corniche, it’s very easy to walk to the aquarium and spend several hours learning about the colorful marine life that can be found in the Red Sea. The Jeddah aquarium is a perfect way to experience the underwater world of the Red sea without the need of getting wet! Kids will be in awe of all the different kinds of fish and corals and a walk through the ”fish tunnel” where visitors can watch sharks, turtles, rays and fish swim above them.

Day at the Beach 

There are some family friendly private beaches to visit for a day trip located in Jeddah’s North Obhur area. The whole family can swim together at Lafontaine beach, Coral Beach Resort, Salhia beach, Silver Sands beach, Fal beach, Sheraton, Oia, and La Plage beach. Women can swim in bikini and swimsuit on the private beaches. Most of these places do require a yearly membership but some allow day passes as well. For the best public beaches in Jeddah, the ones on the New Corniche area are safe with calm waters that allow for children and men to swim.

Another option is driving further up north to Durrat AlArous where you an rent a villa or apartment next to the beach. There’ a very nice Marina with restaurants and shops, you could hire a boat out for the day from Durrat.

things to do in Jeddah with kids

The most beautiful beach in Jeddah

Day out at Red Sea

Red Sea divers, Blue Reef divers, and many other dive operators can arrange boat trips for day trips out to the reefs for snorkeling, diving, fishing and swimming. This would be ideal for older children already comfortable in the water. The reefs outside of Jeddah are a great place to explore with kids, the colorful corals and the many different kinds of fish will keep kids entertained for a long time.Things to do in Jeddah- fishing at Red Sea

Things to do in Jeddah day out at Red Sea

Eating out

Jeddah has plenty of great family friendly restaurants, many of which can be found along the Corniche and in the Red Sea mall.  Papaya restaurant, which is right next to Souk Shatee, is located inside an indoor tropical garden with small fountains and daylight coming in from the glass roof. Recommended especially for breakfast and lunch time. For the evenings, try out the restaurants near the waterfront, for views out to the Red Sea restaurants next to New Corniche. A new beautiful outdoor place by the sea is restaurant Angelina.

For traditional Saudi food Hejazi style, head to Aseil restaurant or try The Social Kitchen, where you’ll be treated to one of the first Saudi female chef´s cuisines!

things to do in Jeddah

Restaurant Papaya in Jeddah

Corniche evening stroll

The new Jeddah corniche itself is lovely, clean and family friendly option to spend a relaxing evening. Numerous imaginative, safe playgrounds have been built along the Corniche and visitors can admire local Saudi artists works there too. You can stop by to watch fishermen fishing on the pier or have an ice cream in one of the many cafes on the Corniche. Don’t miss a visit to the JEDDAH-sign after sunset, the best place to take memorable shot of your Jeddah staycation!things to do in Jeddah

Bounce with whole family

If you fancy some indoor fun and physical activity to get the energy drained out of your kids, the biggest trampoline park in Jeddah, BOUNCE INC is the place to go.  They have lots of different activities like wall running and dodgeball and activities suitable for all ages plus a section dedicated just for women.

World’s tallest fountain

Many do not know that Jeddah is home to the tallest fountain in the world! The King Fahad fountain, Shooting sea water up to 300 meters high, is best viewed from the southern Corniche areas.

Al Shallal theme park

With an impressive artificial lake at its center, a planetarium, ice skating rink, boat rides, lots of rides for kids of different ages (and adults too) a day at Shallal theme park is highly recommend fun time for the whole family.

Al Tayibat Museum

The Tayyebat Museum for civilizations is an amazing museum which is built in Hejazi heritage village. It’s a great way to get a glimpse of the culture, architecture, traditional clothing and lifestyle of each region of Saudi Arabia.

things to do in Jeddah

Traditional Saudi clothing at Tayyibat civilizations museum in Jeddah

things to do in Jeddah

Red Sea Mall

Undoubtedly the best mall in Jeddah and located just minutes away from the new corniche area, Red Sea mall offers a variety of activities for kids, a vast selection of restaurants, and of course great shopping!

Where to stay in Jeddah:

For families traveling with kids the new North Corniche is a great option and  family friendly area to stay in Jeddah.  This is an ideal spot to be based because you can walk to the children’s playgrounds, beaches and parks from the hotel in a few minutes without having to worry about the traffic and parking hassles. At the Jeddah Corniche, you can watch the sun setting from your room and dine in the many different restaurants of the area within walking distance. Plenty of hotel chains are located along the Corniche.

Another great option for families is Om Shada suites, which is located in an ideal location near to airport. The new and clean apartments, furnished with Asir inspired decor, are located just off Madinah road, which makes it easy to drive up to North Obhur for a day at the beach and back to the city for the evening. Rooms are spacious, with living rooms, kitchen for self catering options, and they even have washing machines.

Interested in exploring Saudi Arabia further? Head to the Explore Arabia page for more destination in Saudi Arabia!

Find more Things to do in Jeddah here

There is a brand new highway which will connect Saudi Arabia and Oman by road. Once it’s open, the road from Saudi to Oman will cut driving time by half. The border crossing between Saudi Arabia and Oman has not opened yet, so in the meanwhile those planning to drive from Riyadh to Oman must drive through UAE. A road trip from Riyadh to Oman is certainly doable and worth the trip regardless of the longer drive time.

Now that women can drive in Saudi Arabia the possibilities for women to explore and travel more freely are open! A friend of mine recently drove herself (and her 3 kids!) alone from Riyadh to Muscat in Oman. She might have very well been the first lady ever to make this journey alone, but that I suppose we will never know for sure. What is certain is that Erica is a very brave lady and I’m really happy to share her Saudi road trip story with you.

I hope it will inspire other women to take on the roads and you’ll learn practical information about taking a car out of Saudi Arabia as a female driver. The drive from Riyadh to Muscat took her a total of 16 hours with one stop at Abu Dhabi overnight.

Erica’s tips for the road from Saudi to Oman


Road trip Riyadh- Muscat by Erica Zentner

I sms’d my father in the early hours of the morning. “Am I doing the right thing?” Following a goodbye meal with friends I had begun to question whether driving from Riyadh to Muscat alone with three quite young kids was going to be as mundane as I had previously thought. I ran through the risks I had considered and mitigated against;

Risk 1 – not being able to get through the border with a car in my husband’s name – I was now in possession of a letter form Muroor (Traffic department) allowing me to drive the car abroad and an Istimarah (vehicle ownership document) which listed me as either a driver or a co-owner of the vehicle, we didn’t at this point know which, nor was it material to us (picture and more on this process below).

Risk 2 – There is some sort of emergency and I’m in the desert alone with the kids – I mused this could happen to anyone, male or female, in any case I was to travel with a special power of attorney in English and Arabic in which was specifically listed, crossing borders with the children and taking medical decisions in the absence of the father. I added to that the points raised by my friends

Risk 3 getting run off the road by a male angry with the change in status quo and

Risk 4 running out of petrol or having a blow out.

I resolved to travel under the cover of night in a cap and masculine sunglasses, carry petrol and a tire jack. Now sleepy I received a final message from my father; ‘Do what your heart tells you.’

road from Saudi to Oman and drive time

A few days later at 3:30 a.m. I’m on the eastern ring road, with surprisingly chirpy children in the back carrying neither jack nor spare petrol (I guess my fear was tempered by the checks I did on the car at the garage) and mildly amused that I hadn’t in my planning realized that wearing a cap and sunglasses in the middle of night was a completely impractical idea. I am at this point, to anyone who looks into the car, clearly a woman, and excuse me if I reach the punch line too early – no one is batting an eyelid.

The sat nav directs us onto the Al Kharj Road, following which we bypass kharj stopping for petrol. From here it’s straight on until morning! Anyone who undertakes this drive should know that it’s quite important to fill up at most of the opportunities after Kharj.

I realize I have made my second error in planning as at this time in the morning the coffee shops are not yet open. Oh well, no matter, I can survive the journey on the three bags of snacks mandatory for any Saudi road trip. Second caution to those who are going to do the drive: know your body- it’s a long drive if you know you get fatigued then do share the driving with someone. My children are being delightful (the three of them doing this simultaneously makes this something of an auspicious day).

We are alternating singing children’s songs and pop songs with long bouts of silence looking out of the window. There are some fairly beautiful sights to see, the sun rising over the low foot hills of the desert, the large freight railway that runs parallel with the road for some way, the dairies and farms of Almarai which come one after another for miles seem simultaneously puzzling (for a vegan anyways) and awe inspiring (humans are incredible at organizing difficult things), the only other traffic on the road apart from occasional other private vehicles are the Almarai distribution trucks who drove more safely than many trucks I have seen in Europe.

There is plenty of time to think on this drive, I have been told by other expats who have driven it that it’s just sand the whole way – I wonder to myself whether they noticed the beauty in the sometimes gradual sometimes dramatic changes in the color of the sandy landscape. Later on there are many many camels, mostly chocolate brown ones, I see Qatari plated cars herding them alongside the roadside at one point we have to stop the car to let them cross. My kids love it. They are very visible from a long way away so weren’t really a hazard but I did notice sand drifts on the other side of the road and tractors pushing them back.

A little way before the border we make our last petrol stop there is a relatively clean ladies toilet at this penultimate petrol station.

Then we arrive at the border. It is not an exaggeration to say that the border officials are delighted to see us, at customs and immigration they all comment and some congratulate on the fact that I am driving alone. We cross into the UAE without a single hiccup where we find officials are similarly delighted especially the female customs officer who does our screening in the ladies section.

A side note: far from the capital cities of either nation some officials seemed to be more comfortable speaking in Arabic, do learn some of the useful words (passport, insurance, drivers license and the numbers etc.) It goes a long way and I find myself wondering a lot whether we would be as accepting in our home countries of people who arrived to stay for some time and limited themselves to learning the words required to order food only.

The road from Gweifat to Abu Dhabi is well serviced with petrol stations, there are some hotels on this road if you find yourself tired after the long drive through the desert. We broke up our drive in Abu Dhabi at just shy of 900km and 9,5 hours from our starting point. If you make it this far I suggest rest a night and then carry on driving until Oman, which is another adventure altogether! We crossed to Oman at the Mazyad border post, but Khat am Al Shiklah is better to cross at except if you want to head for Salalah.

The entire trip took me two days, 9.5 hours the first day and 6 hours the second (we had a slow border crossing and then an extra half hour to get to the border we should have crossed at.


-Letter allowing me to take the car out of KSA (this is uploaded on the absher system but only available to dependents who apply in person)

-Registration listing me as an authorised driver (this document was incredibly useful at the UAE and Oman side of the border to show I had some official standing with the vehicle)

-Special Power of attorney listing my children and their passport numbers signed by their dad (I didn’t need this but in my experience people are much more willing to act in unclear situations when they have the comfort of a piece of paper to rely on)

-Vehicle insurance card– adding GCC cover for a year before driving is a similar cost to one month at the border.

– Passports


-Medical cards

Process for getting listed on the Vehicle Registration Document

-go to muroor -take an Arabic speaker – car owner to write no objection in Arabic

-pay using the online system government payment system for a replacement card

-hand in old vehicle registration card collect new one

For international authorization – there is a small separate office which deals with this in the same complex, there are forms to be filled out and signed and the authorization is then signed by a senior police officer uploaded onto the system and a letter valid ONLY for six months is given. We did this first and this senior officer told us that we should do the in KSA authorization as well to avoid ambiguity in accident situations.


Erica is a yoga teacher in the Middle East, you can contact her by

Have you done an all- female road trip in Saudi Arabia? I would love to hear about it! please send me your road trip stories to email: contact ( at)

A Guide for expat and Saudi women how to get a Saudi driving license by converting your international license can be found here: Saudi Driving License for Women 

For more road trip stories from Saudi Arabia check these out: Road Trips KSA 

Great news for women in Saudi Arabia who are under their husbands or fathers sponsorship, and previously unable to register online to apply for Saudi driving license. There has been an issue with so called “dependent iqama” holders, in other words women who are under their fathers, husbands sponsorship to apply for the driving license conversion which requires an independent Absher account.

It is now possible for dependent iqama holders to register their own Absher account. You need a Saudi mobile to get verified. Register as new user here: absher portal

UPDATE for dependent iqama holders

Follow below steps to convert your foreign driving license to a Saudi one.
1- As an independent currently you can register your own Absher account
2- Activate your absher account through proper channels (Malls,Mobily.etc..)
2- login to Absher and take an appointment to replace your foreign driving license (last item from Traffic appointment menu)
3-prepare all requested documents and pay the fees.

4.take the test

UPDATE 2019: More driving schools and license conversion centers are opening around the country. Dependents can try to enroll in the courses provided by Driving Schools and through that try to get the Saudi Driver’s license.

The rest of the steps how to get Saudi driving license for dependent iqama holders please follow these steps:

Saudi driving license application for women

If you are a female expat in Saudi under your employers sponsorship or married to a Saudi then follow these steps: How to convert foreign license to Saudi license and you will be able to convert an existing, valid driving license from any foreign country to the Saudi one by first creating your own Absher account.

Converting the license does not mean you need to give up or “surrender” your original, however it is needed to present at the Moroor once you are doing the short driving test.

To find out what documents you need to get done BEFORE applying for license, you must follow the instructions on this post: Step by Step Guide How Expats Apply For Saudi Driving License

If you need to follow the guide in Arabic it is available here: How Saudi and expat women can convert foreign license to Saudi license

Tip: If your city’s appointments are all booked, check your nearest cities and you can apply in any of them.

Good luck everyone and please leave comments about your experiences to help others apply and any updates you know of!

Enjoy driving!

road trip saudi AlUla

ستقوم المملكة العربية السعودية برفع الحظر عن قيادة النساء في 24 يونيو 2018 ويجري الآن إصدار رخص القيادة السعودية للنساء. حصلت أول امرأة سعودية على تراخيصها هذا الثلاثاء من مكتب المرور.

وفي يوم الأربعاء، افتتحت المكاتب لجميع النساء اللاتي لديهم مواعيد لتحويل الرخص الأجنبية ومنها الحصول على رخصة القيادة السعودية. حصلت على رخصة قيادتي صباح يوم الأربعاء وأنا سعيدة للغاية ومتحمسة جداً! بعد استلام رخصتي، راسلني المئات من الناس لطلب النصيحة حول كيفية إكمال هذه العملية والتقديم على رخصة القيادة السعودية.

لقد كتبت كل ما أتذكره، فيما يتعلق بالإجراءات المتبعة في هذا المنشور. إذا ظهرت أي تطورات، فسأضيفها هنا. يرجى قراءة منشور المدونة حول استخدام مقاعد السيارة والتوعية بالسلامة في السيارات من مقالي السابق هنا: الأطفال هم كنوز وليس وسائد هوائية .أرجو أن مدونتي تجيب على الأسئلة التالية: كيف تقوم بتحويل رخصتك الحالية إلى رخصة قيادة سعودية؟ هل يمكن للوافدين الحصول على رخصة قيادة سعودية؟ كيفية الحصول على طلب رخصة قيادة سعودية للنساء الوافدات؟

تحويل رخصة أجنبية إلى الرخصة السعودية ممكنة للنساء من أي جنسية تحمل رخصة قيادة سارية المفعول.

لن تضطر إلى “التخلي” أو التنازل عن رخصتك الحالية للحصول على الرخصة السعودية

العملية مشابهة جدا لتلك التي يمر بها الرجال الأجانب للحصول على رخصة القيادة السعودية. يمكن لكل من النساء السعوديات اللواتي حصلن على رخصة من بلد أجنبي والمغتربين التقدم بطلب للحصول على رخصة قيادة سعودية بهذا الإجراء ذاته. بالنسبة للنساء اللاتي ليس لديهم تراخيص سارية المفعول (أو انتهت صلاحية الترخيص) أو لا يعرفون كيفية القيادة، سوف تحتاج للتسجيل لمدارس تعليم قيادة السيارات بالأول.

الخطوة الأولى

أولاً، على المرأة فتح حسابها الخاص في أبشر على هذا الموقع: تسجيل حساب جديد لوزارة الداخلية

يمكنك بدلاً من ذلك الذهاب إلى أجهزة الخدمة الذاتية لأبشر التابعة لوزارة الداخلية التي تقع حول المدينة (في الرياض: رويال مول في الطابق العلوي)

من أجل فتح حسابك الخاص تحتاج إلى إدخال التفاصيل الخاصة بك، رقم الهوية أو الإقامة ورقم هاتفك المحمول الخاص بك.

نصيحة: تأكد من أنه عند إنشاء الحساب، يمكنك استخدام اسم مستخدم طويل بما يكفي ويحتوي على أحرف ورقم حتى يتم قبوله.

على سبيل المثال، لن يقبلوا اسم المستخدم” دعنانقود“ ولكن النظام سيقبل” دعنانقود٢”

لتنشيط حساب أبشر الخاص بك، فإنك تحتاج إلى التحقق من ذلك من خلال الخدمات المصرفية عبر الإنترنت أو الذهاب إلى أجهزة الصراف الآلي للبنوك الخاصة بك والقيام بذلك هناك.

لا تزال هناك تقارير تفيد بأن بعض السيدات الوافدات لم يكن باستطاعتهم على إنشاء حساب في أبشر لنفسهم، إذا كانا لا يزالان تحت رعاية الزوج غير السعودي، يتم سردها باعتبارها” تابعا”

تمكنت النساء المغتربات اللواتي لديهم بطاقات الإقامة تحت أرباب العمل وزوجات السعوديين على إنشاء حسابات أبشر حتى الآن. من الواضح، هذا الأمر ينتظر تغيره وتثبيته في النظام، ونأمل أن تتغير لصالح جميع النساء قريبا.

الخطوة الثانية:

بمجرد إنشاء حساب أبشر ، ستكون الخطوة التالية هي الانتقال إلى موقع بوابة رخصة القيادة السعودية على الويب:

الموقع في وقت كتابة هذه النشرة متاح فقط باللغة العربية لذا اطلب من صديق يتحدث اللغة العربية مساعدتك في ملء الاستمارات.

في موقع الويب ، ستقوم بإنشاء حساب وتحميل المستندات الخاصة بك. قبل القيام بذلك ، يجب أن يكون لديك بعض الوثائق جاهزة.

المستندات المطلوبة للتقديم الإلكتروني لطلب رخصة القيادة السعودية:

نسخة ممسوحة ضوئيا من هويتك

نسخة ممسوحة ضوئياً من رخصة القيادة الخاصة بك سارية المفعول

نسخة ممسوحة ضوئياً لترجمة رخصة القيادة (الأمامية والخلفية)

تقرير طبي

بمجرد أن يتم تحميل نسخة الترخيص والترجمة ، سيكون بإمكانك حجز موعد في مكتب المرور  للقيام باختبار القيادة وبصمات الأصابع. من الممكن حجز الموعد ولم تنتهي من إجراء الفحص الطبي بعد.  تبدو المواعيد في الوقت الحالي محجوزة بالكامل لأنها عطلة رمضان وعطلة لموظفي الحكومة

نصيحة: حاول الحجز في جميع مواقع مدينتك ، وجرّب أوقاتًا مختلفة أو حتى في مدينة أخرى! (إذا كنت حقا في عجلة من أمرك)

يجب معالجة دفع  قيمة الرخصة من خلال نظام سداد قبل موعدك. التكلفة هي   ٤٠٠ ريال سعودي  لرخصة مدتها ١٠ سنوات و لرخصة ٥ سنوات ستكون تكلفتها ٢٠٠ ريال سعودي.

كيفية الحصول على تقرير طبي للحصول على رخصة قيادة سعودية: يمكن عمل تقرير طبي في عيادات معينة فقط

–  PDFانظر على الرابط الموجود ببوابة رخصة القيادة السعودية وستحصل على ملف

الذي يعطيك أسماء وأرقام هواتف العيادات المحددة في منطقتك التي تقوم بإجراء فحوصات طبية لرخصة القيادة

هناك عيادتان في الرياض ذهبنا إليها أنا وصديقتي وكانت زيارة ناجحة.  خلال شهر رمضان ، كان الموظفون غائبين أثناء النهار أو غادروا مبكراً وكان علينا القيام بعدة رحلات للعثور على شخص ما لاستكمال التقارير الطبية

من المهم اختيار الشخص المسموح له بالدخول إلى نظام أبشر ليتمكن من إدخال تقريرك الطبي فمن الأفضل أن تذهب بعد الساعة ٩ مساءً (خلال شهر رمضان). العيادة مفتوحة خلال أيام العمل العادية بدءاً من ١٠ صباحا فصاعدا.

موقع العيادة التي ذهبت إليها لإجراء الفحص الطبي المطلوب لإخراج رخصة القيادة السعودية: مجمع صحة الدرعية الطبي على شارع عبد العزيز البرهان ، الخالدية، الرياض ١٣٧١٣

رقم الهاتف: 0155 486 011

الموقع في الرياض باستخدام خريطة قوقل:

ماذا يحدث في العيادة الطبية؟ من الضروري أن تكون مستنداتك جاهزة ، ويجب عليك طلب إجراء اختبار طبي يتعلق برخصة القيادة ودفع الرسوم (لقد دفعت حوالي 20 ريال سعودي بتأمين ، بدون تأمين ، 105 ريال سعودي). نصيحة: إذا كنت تكره اختبارات الدم ، فيجب أن يكون لديك شهادة تبين فصيلة الدم ونوعه. وإلا سيقومون بفحص الدم. ستنتظر في العيادة لتكشف عليك الممرضة التي ستقوم بإجراء فحوصات بسيطة للبصر (ارتد نظارات لها إذا كنت تفعل عادة أثناء القيادة). بعد الحصول على الموافقة على الفحص الطبي ، عليك الانتظار حتى يقوم الشخص في المكتب بإدخال التقارير الطبية في النظام.  تأكد من عدم الرحيل قبل أن تكون متأكدًا من أنه قد تم إدخاله وتأكدت من ذلك على الجوال باستقبال رسالة قصيرة. سوف يعطونك أيضا شهادة طبية مختومة.

كيفية الحصول على رخصة مترجمة:

ابحث عن خدمة ترجمة معتمدة في مدينتك. في الرياض يقوم هذا المكتب بترجمة جميع اللغات التي تكلف حوالي 100 ريال سعودي ومن الإنجليزية إلى العربية مقابل 40 ريالاً سعودياً

يقع بالقرب من مركز الملز للإسعاف، ٦٤٨٠ شارع الأمير فهد بن إبراهيم آل سعود ، الضباط ، الرياض ١٢٦٢٧

الموقع في الرياض باستخدام خريطة قوقل:

نصيحة: يمكنك إرسال صورة الرخصة الخاصة بك لترجمتها كصورة واتساب  ثم استلام الترجمة الجاهزة في اليوم التالي.

الخطوة الثالثة

بمجرد الانتهاء من جميع هذه الخطوات، يمكنك الذهاب إلى الموعد في محطة شرطة المرور، ذهبت إلى واحدة في منطقة الرمال في الرياض. إنه بعيد جدًا لذا تأكد من أن لديك متسعًا من الوقت للبحث عن الموقع قبل موعدك. سوف تتلقى رسالة نصية من الادارة العامة للمرور حول موعد اخراج رخصة القيادة مع التاريخ والوقت وموقع المكتب أيضا.

مكتب تقديرات المرور في حي الرمال

موقع المكتب على خريطة قوقل:


احضر معك:

رخصة قيادة أصلية

بطاقة الإقامة أو الهوية الوطنية

نسخ من جميع الوثائق المطلوبة

نظارات إذا كنت بحاجة للقيادة

(أحضرنا صور جوازات السفر فقط في حالة احتياجنا إليها ولكن لم تكن هناك حاجة إليها فإنهم يستخدمون نفس الصورة التي لديهم على النظام)

مدخل مكتب المرور:

في المكتب: قم بتسجيل الدخول عن طريق إعطاء رقم الهوية الخاص بك (الإقامة أو الهوية الوطنية) في مكتب التسجيل. سوف يبحثون عن موعدك ويعطوك رقمًا. عندما يتم الإعلان عن رقمك، ستقترب من المكتب وتقدم هويتك الأصلية ورخصة القيادة الأصلية. (ملاحظة: إنهم لا يقبلون نسخاً فوتوغرافية، يجب أن يكون لديك المستندات الأصلية. كما يجب ملاحظة: أنهم لا يحتفظون برخصتك الأصلية، كما توقع البعض. ستأخذها معك إلى المنزل). سوف يتحققون من جميع المستندات التي لقد تم تحميلها في النظام. لذا من المهم أن تكون المستندات المترجمة معك في حالة طلبها. يتم أخذ البصمة الخاصة بك.

ثم انتقل إلى منطقة انتظار الامتحانات القيادة العملية. هنا، سوف يشرحون لك الدورة وسوف تنتظر دورك

بمجرد اجتياز الامتحان بنجاح، تعود إلى التسجيل ويتم إعطاؤك رقمًا مرة أخرى. بمجرد استدعائك للمكتب، ستقوم بإعطاء بصمة إبهامك مرة أخرى وستوفر المعلومات الأساسية مثل لون شعرك ولون العين وعنوان المنزل (على الأقل قم بتزويد اسم الحي / المنطقة التي تعيش فيها)

لاحظ أن هذه هي المتطلبات الكاملة لتبدل رخصتك في المرور. من الممكن أن يُسمح لك بتخطي بعض هذه الخطوات في المستقبل إذا كنت تحمل رخصة قيادة من بلدان معينة. ومع ذلك، في مركز الاختبار لدينا، لم يعف أحد من أي جزء من هذه العملية. سيبدأن في أخذ البصمات وإدخال تفاصيل الرخصة الخاصة بك في النظام وبعد ذلك سوف تذهب لاختبار القيادة الخاصة بك.

الخطوة الرابعة

اختبار القيادة. يرجى ملاحظة هذه النصيحة خصيصا لفرع حي الرمال في الرياض. سمعت أن النساء اللواتي استطعن إكمال تحويل رخصة القيادة في مدن أخرى، لم يحتاجوا إلى إجراء اختبار قيادة، لذلك سيعتمد ذلك على الموقع الذي تختاره.

ملاحظة: أنصحك ألا تكون مثلي وأن تفقد نومك في الليل بسبب هذا الاختبار. الاختبار بسيط للغاية وكان الموظفون متعاونين جدًا وداعمين. أثناء اختبار القيادة، يجب عليك اتباع الدورة التدريبية التي تشمل أداء مهارتين: كيفية لف الدوار وركن السيارة بالمواقف الموازية. يجب أن تحصل على ٧٥٪.  السيارة لديها معدات أوتوماتيكية. سيعرضون لك خريطة توضح ما تحتاج إلى القيام به وما يجب القيام به في مسار اختبار القيادة. الدوران على المدارات والشوارع، كيفية لف الدوار، وركن السيارة بالمواقف الموازية (المفضلة لدى الجميع)، ثم في النهاية، إكمال مواقف متوازية (المفضلة للجميع). لا يدخل معلم القيادة السيارة معك، سيتبع سيارتك حتى يتمكن من تقييمك أثناء الاختبار. كان المقيم الذي حصلنا عليه متعاونا للغاية وواصل شرح ما يجب فعله بعد ذلك.

جميع الضباط كانوا في حالة معنوية جيدة، مبتسما، وكان الشخص الذي قام باختبارنا يتمتع بروح مرحة للغاية، وقال مازحا إن واحدة منا اجتازت الاختبار فقط! ولحسن الحظ نحن الاثنين نجحنا في الاختبار وبعد ذلك عدنا إلى المكتب الرئيسي.

الخطوة الخامسة الخطوة الأخيرة هي طباعة رخصة القيادة الفعلية. لذلك ستحصل على رخصة القيادة الجديدة الخاصة بك عندما تنتهي! هذا لم يستغرق ٥ دقائق.  إنه أفضل شعور بأن يكون هذا المستند بيدك، إنه أمر غير واقعي!

يجب أن أقول إننا قد انبهرنا حقا بتنظيم الإعداد بالكامل. جميع الموظفين يعرفون بالضبط ما كانوا يفعلونه واتبعوا عملية واضحة. معظم الموظفين يتحدثون الإنجليزية. حاول فريق العمل المساعدة وكانوا ودودين طوال العملية. والمثير للدهشة، أن العديد من النساء لم يتقدمن بطلب الحصول على رخصة القيادة، ولكن الطلب سيصبح بالتأكيد شائعاً بمجرد أن يفهم الناس كيفية التقديم

آمل أن يساعدك هذا الدليل في التقدم بطلب للحصول على رخصة القيادة السعودية. إذا كان الأمر كذلك، يرجى مشاركتها مع أصدقائك من خلال ربطهم بهذه المنشورة، أو بالنقر على زر المشاركة بدلاً من نسخ النص أو التقاط لقطات الشاشة! هذا ليس عدلاً بالنسبة للكتاب الأصليين الذين يقضون العديد من الساعات والأيام في إعداد المنشورات

أرجو أن يقود الجميع بحرص ومتعة!

تحديث ٢٦ يونيو: يتم تحديث نظام أبشر، ويجب حل المشكلة المتعلقة ببطاقات الإقامة المتعلقة بالتابعين التي لم يتمكن من فتح حسابات فردية. الأمر يستدعي حل المشكلة في فترة زمنية قصيرة.


لسوء الحظ فإن الصورة التي يستخدمونها لرخصة القيادة الخاصة بك هي نفسها التي لديك بالفعل على الملف الخاص بك (الإقامة / الهوية) أقول للأسف لأن معظم الناس يكرهون عادة صور الإقامة الخاصة بهم :)

ملحوظة أخرى: ذكر الضابط المسؤول أن رخصة القيادة السعودية فقط هي التي ستقبل كوثيقة رسمية للقيادة للسيدات، لذا أوصي بتحويل رخصتك الدولية، فقط في حال وجودها.

ملاحظة ثالثة: هل لديك رخصة قيادة سعودية وجاهزة لبعض المغامرات؟ إلى أين تتجهي لرحلتك الأولى؟ للحصول على بعض الأفكار: اقرأ مشاركات المدونة المتعددةالموجودة على صفحتي.

Saudi Arabia lifted the ban on women driving on the 24th of June 2018 and Saudi driving licenses are now being issued to women. In this guide you will find the necessary info how to apply for the Saudi Driving license for women. The process explained here is valid for expat and Saudi women how to apply for Saudi driving license in the case the woman has a valid driving license issued by another country.

Starting Wednesday 21.5. 2018 Saudi Arabia’s Moroor traffic offices opened appointments for women to convert licenses to come and get their Saudi driving licenses. I got mine on the first morning and could not be more happy and excited about this! 

Read about our experience in getting the licenses here: Friends to hit road together as first western women to get their Saudi driving license 

After receiving my license many people (hundreds, literally) have messaged me online asking for advice how to complete this process and apply for the Saudi driving license. So I’ve written everything I can think of regarding the process in this post. If any developments surface, I’ll be adding them here.

Please read about using car seats and safety awareness in cars from my previous article here: Children are treasures not airbags 

I hope this post will answer the following questions: How to convert your existing license to a Saudi driving license? Can expats get a Saudi driver’s license? How to get the Saudi driving license application for expat women?

Converting a foreign license to the Saudi license is possible for women of any nationality with a valid driving license. You will not have to “give up” or surrender your existing license to get a Saudi license. The process is very similar to the one that foreign men go through to obtain the Saudi driving license. Both Saudi women who have obtained a license from a foreign country and expats can apply for the Saudi driving license with this same procedure.

There is a process you need to follow in order to convert the foreign license to the Saudi license. For the women who do not have valid licenses (license expired) or don’t know how to drive, you’ll need to enroll to the driving schools first. There might be a bit of a wait to the driving schools but it’s worth the wait and efforts- your life in Saudi will change for so much better!

road trip saudi AlUla

STEP ONE- how to apply for a Saudi Driving License for women 

First the woman has to open her own Absher account on this site: Ministry of Interior new account registration 

Alternatively you can go to one of the MOI Absher kiosks located around town ( in Riyadh Royal Mall upstairs has one)

In order to make your own absher you need to enter your details, ID number or iqama and your own mobile phone number. Note you also need a bank account. Tip: Make sure that when creating the account you use a username that is long enough and contains letters and a number for it to be accepted. For example they will not accept username “letsdrive” but the system will accept “letsdrive2”.

To activate your absher, you need to validate through online banking or go to  your banks ATM and do it there, this means you need to have a bank account.

Good news is that beginning form 2020 expats with dependent iqama status can also now open their own absher account and apply for the license conversion through it. 

STEP TWO- gather documents to apply 

Once you’ve created the Absher account, the next step is to go to the Saudi Driving License Portal website

UPDATE APRIL 2019: SDLP site is no longer in use. the procedure to book appointment is now through the Absher account directly. 

At Absher go to Electronic services- Click on appointments- click on traffic- click on book appointment.


-Scanned copy of Your ID

– Scanned copy of your valid driving license

– Scanned copy of translation of driving license ( both front and back)

-medical report

Once the license copy and translation have been uploaded, you will be able to book an appointment to Moroor traffic office to do your driving test and fingerprints. It’s possible to book the appointment and not have the medical done yet. The appointments at the moment seem to be quite fully booked as it’s Ramadan and Eid vacation for the government employees.

Tip: try to book in all locations of your city , try different times or even in another city! (If you’re really in a hurry ?)

The license payment has to be processed through SADAD before your appointment. The cost is 400 sar for 10 years license and 5 years license is 200 sar.


Medical report can be done at most medical clinics.

What happens at the medical clinic? Have your documents ready, ask for driving license medical testing and pay the fee ( I paid about 20 sar with insurance, without it’s 105 sar). Tip: if you hate blood tests then have with you a certificate which states your blood group and type. Otherwise they’ll draw blood to test for them.

At the clinic you’ll wait to see the female nurse who will perform simple eyesight checks (wear glasses for it if you normally do during driving). After receiving approval of medical checkup you’ll have to wait for the person in the office to enter the medicals into the system. Make sure not to leave before you’re certain they entered it and you’ve got the confirmation of the same on your mobile as SMS. They will also give you a stamped medical certificate.

HOW TO GET LICENSE TRANSLATED Search for certified translating service in your city.

There are plenty of official translators around Olaya street.

STEP THREE- go to Moroor to get your driving license converted to Saudi driving license

Once you’ve done all these steps you’re good to go for the appointment at Moroor. I went to the one at Rimal area in Riyadh. It’s very far so make sure you have plenty of time to search for location ahead of your appointment. You will receive a SMS from MOROOR about your driving license appointment, time and the map.

Moroor Rimal Saudi Driving license appointment MOROOR  Rimal Location google maps:


Bring with you:
-original license

-Iqama/ ID

-copies of all documents

-Glasses if you need for driving

(we brought passport pics just in case but they were not needed, they use the same iqama pic they have on the system)

Entrance to the Traffic Office< strong>Saudi driving license traffic office Rimal At the office:
sign in by giving your id number (iqama or National ID) at the registration desk. They will look up your appointment and give you a number.

– When your number is called, you will approach the desk and present your original id and original driver’s license. (Note: they do not accept photo copies, you must have the original documents. Also note: they do not keep your original license, as some have speculated. You will take it home with you.) They will verify all of the documents you have uploaded in the system. So do also have your translation with you in case they ask for it. Your thumbprint is taken.

– You then go to the practical driving exam waiting area. Here, they will explain the course to you and you will wait for your turn.

– Once you successfully pass the exam, you return to registration and are again given a number. Once called to the desk, you will give your thumbprint again and provide basic information such as your hair color, eye color, and home address (at minimum provide the name of the neighborhood/area you live in).

Note that these are the full requirements for exchanging your license at Muroor. It is possible that you will be allowed to skip some of these steps in the future if you hold a driver’s license from certain countries. However, at our testing center, no one was exempted from any part of this process.

They’ll start with fingerprinting and entering your license details into system. After this you will go to have your driving test.


STEP FOUR- Pass your driving exam 

Driving test. Please note this advice is specifically for the Riyadh Rimal branch. I’ve heard that women who did the conversion in other cities did not have to take a driving exam, so it will depend on the location it seems.

Tip: Don’t be like me and lose your night’s sleep over it. The test is very simple and all the staff was very supportive and helpful.

During the driving test, you will follow the course which includes performing 2 skills: the three point turn and parallel parking. You have to get 75% to pass. The car is with automatic gear.

Saudi driving license drive test  They will show you the map of what you need to drive and perform on the test track. A circle 8, 3 point turns and then in the end a parallel park (everyone’s favorite). The driving instructor does not enter the car with you, he will follow next to the car to evaluate the test and the one we had was very helpful and kept explaining what to do next.

Saudi driving license test drive track All of the officers were in good spirits, smiling and the one who did our test had a good sense of humor too, he first joked that only one of us had passed the test! Thankfully we both passed and then proceeded back to the main office.

Step five- congratulations on your Saudi driving license 

The last step is printing out the actual license. So you will get your brand new license in your hand when you’re done! This did not take more than 5 minutes. It’s the best feeling to have this document in your hand, I still kind of can’t believe it’s real!

I must say we were really impressed at how well organized the whole setup was. All the staff knew exactly what they were doing and followed clear process. Almost everyone spoke English, they were helpful and friendly throughout the process. Surprisingly not many women were there but it will surely pickup once people understand how the application process works.

I hope this guide helped you in applying for Saudi driving license. If so, please share it with your friends by linking to this post, or by clicking the share buttons instead of copy pasting my text or taking screenshots! This is not fair to the originals writers who spend many hours and days preparing them.

saudi driving license women conversion


Important Note:

This article is written based on a friend and myself experience from the first day they began issuing licenses in June 21st 2018. We worked very hard for to get appointments on the very first day, they actually canceled the appointments several times and there was a lot of confusion because everything was new and being set up from scratch.

We went through the entire process by ourselves, without any help from government officials or support of government employer, at a time no information was available ( especially in english) and to think there were not even medical centers who knew how to issue women’s driving test reports! 

Thanks to our perseverance and Finnish “sisu”, we managed to get the licenses that early. Once we were handed out new licenses the officer mentioned I was the first European in the system that day- this was totally unexpected but such a great reward for all that effort.

Since we had a hard time figuring out how to navigate this process, I wrote this guide to help other women get their licenses converted and get on the roads with that amazing feeling of freedom of movement which women in KSA have been waiting for long time to enjoy.

You may read about the experience in the following articles: 

The National: Friends to hit the road together as first western women to get their Saudi driving licences

Finnish News reported on YLE here:  Suomalaisnainen sai tiettävästi toisena länsimaisena naisena ajokortin Saudi-Arabiassa – bloggari Ylelle: Ajolupa alkaa juhannusviikonloppuna

Euronews: Finnish citizen ‘first European woman to get driving license’ in Saudi Arabia

Helsingin Sanomat: Suomalainen Laura Alho sai ajokortin Saudi-Arabiassa ensimmäisten naisten joukossa – aikoo hypätä auton rattiin heti, kun ajokielto kumotaan

 Gulf News: First European woman receives Saudi license

AlArabiyah English: Finnish Travel Writer and Founder of Blue Abaya Laura Alho has become the first European woman to receive the Saudi Driving license 


Happy & safe driving everyone!

Unfortunately the image they use for your driving license is the same one you have already on your file (iqama/ID) I say unfortunately because most people usually hate their iqama pics :)

 Got your Saudi driving license and ready for some adventures? Where to head for your first Saudi road trip? Some ideas here: Explore Arabia

Follow me on instagram for more Saudi travel road trip tips: Viking in Arabia 

road trip saudi woman driving

Post updated 08/ 2021

Mysterious, remote and undiscovered, Hegra, also known as Mada’in Saleh is one of the most significant archaeological sites in the Arabian Peninsula. 

The historic name of Mada’in Saleh is Hegra, or al-Hijr in Arabic. Madain Saleh is located in AlUla, in the Madinah Province of North West Arabia. Hegra is located some 300 kms North of Medina and 500 kms South from its sister city, Petra in Jordan, which served as the Nabateans capital city some 2 millenia ago. 

In this comprehensive guide you can read in detail about Hegra and its history, learn in depth knowledge about the different designs of Nabataean tombs and fascinating areas that can be found in Saudi Arabia’s mysterious desert city.

Guide to tombs in Hegra AlUla

Hegra, AlUla. Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO World Heritage site


Historically, Hegra had a lucrative position in the desert with an underground water supply that permitted agriculture, which in turn made it one of several indispensable stops along the incense trade route from Yemen to the Levant. This strategic location brought a certain wealth to its inhabitants, and with it, a number of passing kingdoms and civilisations since early history. It began in the 3rd millennium BCE with the tribe of Thamud, infamous in Islam for rejecting the calls to worship the one and only God by their prophet Saleh. It is from this very prophet that Hegra’s modern name, Mada’in Saleh which means “Cities” of Saleh, was derived.

The Dedanites and Lihyanites were other tribes who settled in the area in the 6th – 4th centuries BCE, followed by the Nabataeans in the 1st century BCE. The latter made Hegra their second capital city in case their main capital, Petra in today’s Jordan, was threatened by the Romans. Hegra’s golden age thus ensued and for the next century, while the city flourished, its inhabitants carved rock-cut tombs similar in style to those found in Petra.

The Roman threat did finally materialise in 106 CE when the entire Nabataean kingdom and its civilisation, including Hegra, were usurped by the Roman Empire. The city’s decline, however, had already begun when, in 70 CE, King Rabbel II transferred the Nabataean capital from Petra to Bosra in modern day Syria, rather than Hegra. Although Hegra continued to exist for at least another century after the Roman takeover, it later mysteriously disappeared from history, only leaving behind its many magnificent rock-cut tombs as a reminder of a glorious civilisation.

These tombs, coupled with a fun desert adventure and visits to the many other historical sites in nearby al-Ula, make Madain Saleh the most remarkable place to visit in all of Arabia. Its importance has led the UNESCO finally to list it as a World Heritage Site in 2008.

The vast area of Mada’in Saleh (Jan 2011)


The Hegra archaeological site covers a vast area and is located about 30 min drive from AlUla city. It is entered by car from the north next to the Ottoman-period Hijaz Railway station, and both entrances join an unpaved road that loops around the whole site, making a few detours along the way. The ruins of the town of Hegra itself, where the Nabataean inhabitants once lived, is located at the centre of the site, but is currently under excavation in two distinct fenced-off areas. Visitors need to book tickets to Hegra online or at the AlUla ticket offices in town. it’s best to book early on high season ( Decpember – March). By purchasing the ticket the visitor gets a full tour of Hegra UNESCO World heritage site in tour buses. Please note you may not not enter Hegra without a ticket and there is no parking spaces at the site, cars should be left in the city and the bus will transport tourists to Hegra for their tours. 

At Hegra, nearly all of the visible ruins are in the form of rock-cut tombs, 131 in total, carved mostly in the first century CE, but only 86 come with a monumental façade. Though a few are isolated, these tombs were typically carved in clusters around the perimeters of large rock outcrops scattered around the site.

They are divided into seven areas (A to G), plus one additional mountain (Jabal Ithlib) used for religious rituals. In addition, there are more than 100 ancient Nabataean wells spread out across the site, and the dismantled Hijaz Railway Station, the aforementioned late Ottoman-period construction associated with Lawrence of Arabia.

The most famous tomb and iconic symbol of Hegra is the tomb of Lihyan son of Kuzaa, “Qasr Al Farid”, also known as the  “the lonely Palace”. Photo: Laura Alho

At first glance, the tombs in Hegra may all appear to be the same, but upon a closer look, the variety in styles and sizes becomes noticeable. The smallest carved façade is tomb N°3 (Jebel al-Mahjar Group), measuring under 3 by 2 metres, while the largest finished façade is Tomb of Lihyan son of Kuza ( also known as Qasr al-Farid) (N°110), measuring nearly 22 by 14 metres.

Some of the differences in architectural styles are quite obvious, but others require a sharp eye and some basic understanding of architecture to distinguish between them. With the exception of the signature Nabatean column capitals, Hegra’s funerary architecture exhibits strong borrowings from nearby civilisations, including features from Egyptian, Assyrian, and Hellenistic styles, and anyone who has visited Petra in Jordan would immediately recognise the similarities in architecture.

The signature Nabataean capital on Tomb N°93, Jebel Khraymat (Oct 2017)

The signature Nabataean capital on Tomb N°93, Jebel Khraymat (Oct 2017)

There are eight main stylistic categories in Hegra:

#1 Hegra Simple burial chamber:

This type of tomb is a simple burial chamber devoid of any ornamentation. It was used by poorer inhabitants of Hegra who could not afford more lavish tombs. There are over 40 such tombs in Hegra.

Simple Burial Chamber, Tomb N°106, as-Saneh Group (Jan 2011)

Simple Burial Chamber, Tomb N°106, as-Saneh Group (Jan 2011)

#2 Hegra Single Row of Merlons:

This style is the simplest of the monumental façades in Hegra. It consists primarily of a single row of merlons at the top of the façade, but some additional decorative features may be used in some cases. These may be in the form of two large pilasters to support the row of merlons, a pediment and pilasters to frame the entrance, or statues above the doorway to honour a deity. Twelve tombs in Hegra are attributed to this style.

Single Row of Merlons Style, Tomb N°37 (Lion Tomb), al-Bint Group (Oct 2017)

Single Row of Merlons Style, Tomb N°37 (Lion Tomb), al-Bint Group (Oct 2017)

#3 Hegra Arched tomb:

Only one tomb in Hegra follows this style, Tomb N°92. It is a small façade consisting of a single arch over the doorway resting on two pilasters and topped by three urns.

The Arched Style, Tomb N°92, Jebel Khraymat (Jan 2011)

The Arched Style, Tomb N°92, Jebel Khraymat (Jan 2011)

Arched style tomb in Madain Saleh. Photo: Laura Alho

#4 Hegra Double Row of Merlons style:

This style consists of a double row of merlons at the top of the façade. Other features, such as pilasters, or face sculptures are added in some cases. In total, 14 tombs in Hegra follow this style.

Double Row of Merlons Style, Tomb N°75, Jebel Khraymat (Jan 2011)

Double Row of Merlons Style, Tomb N°75, Jebel Khraymat (Jan 2011)

#5 Hegra Half-Merlons style:

Eight tombs were carved in this rather simple style. It consists of two large half-merlons arranged symmetrically at the top of the façade, resting over an Egyptian-style cornice. No pilasters or other entablature is used, but in some cases, the entrance may be framed. The half-merlons at the top create a five-step design that is the signature feature of most Nabataean tombs. Some speculate that the five steps – never more, never less – represent the five major Nabatean deities, including Dúshara.

Half Merlon Style, Tomb N°10, Jebel al-Mahjar (Jan 2011)

Half Merlon Style, Tomb N°10, Jebel al-Mahjar (Jan 2011)

#6 Hegra Proto-Hegra 1 Style:

This is the first of three styles that are the trademark of grand tomb façades in Hegra and is the most widely used. It is crowned by two large symmetric half-merlons surmounted on an Egyptian style cornice and an architrave resting on two large pilasters, often with Nabataean capitals. The doorway may at times be framed by an aedicule consisting of a triangular or arched pediment. In total, 24 façades in Hegra follow this style.

Proto Hegra 1 Style, Tomb N°113, Jebel al-Ahmar (Jan 2011)

Proto Hegra 1 Style, Tomb N°113, Jebel al-Ahmar (Jan 2011)

#7 Hegra Proto-Hegra 2 Style:

It is nearly identical to Proto-Hegra 1 style, except for one minor detail. The entablature below the large half-merlons is wider, consisting of an Egyptian-style cornice, an undecorated frieze and an architrave. The frieze is the extra feature in Proto-Hegra 2. Twelve façades in total were carved in this style.

Proto Hegra 2 Style, Tomb N°42, al-Bint Group (Oct 2017)

Proto Hegra 2 Style, Tomb N°42, al-Bint Group (Oct 2017)

#8 The Hegra Style:

This is the ultimate design in Hegra, thus dubbed the Hegra Style. It is similar to the two Proto-Hegra styles, except that it includes a second entablature above the two pilasters flanking the façade. The grandest tombs in Hegra follow this style, including several in Qasr al-Bint Group (e.g. N°21, N°22, and N°44) and Qasr al-Farid (N°110). The latter, though, is unique in that its façade contains four pilasters instead of two. In total, 14 tombs follow this style, though not all of them are particularly large.

The Hegra Style, Tomb N°20, al-Bint Group (Oct 2017)

The Hegra Style, Tomb N°20, al-Bint Group (Oct 2017)

As many as 38 of the tombs in Hegra contain a dedicatory plaque with carved inscriptions in the Nabataean alphabet, a precursor to Arabic. These inscriptions are legal in nature and often state the date the tomb was completed, the name of its sculptor and the family or person to whom it belonged, and sometimes also describe the punishment or requirement for anyone else who uses the tomb.


Hegra’s plaques date the tombs to the period between 1 BCE and 75 CE, usually stated as the year of the reign of a specific king. They have shed important light on the life and practices of Nabataeans in general and brought to life the cosmopolitan nature of Hegra’s population, and have thus been tremendously valued by archaeologists, in particular because Petra (in Jordan) by comparison has only one such inscription! Many of the other façades in Hegra contain a space for a plaque but no inscription, which led some archaeologists to believe that wooden tablets with inscriptions may have been inserted in that space.

Nabataean Inscription on Tomb N°93, Jebel Khraymat (Jan 2011)

Nabataean Inscription on Tomb N°93, Jebel Khraymat (Jan 2011)

As-Saneh Tomb group

Upon entering Madain Saleh from the southern entrance, one first encounters a group of tombs known as as-Saneh Group, numbered 102 to 108 and designated as Area G. It consists of only seven tombs across two rock outcrops flanking the unpaved road: the first has a single tomb with a large carved façade, known as Qasr as-Saneh (N°102), which gave the group its name, while the second contains the rest of the tombs in the form of simple unadorned burial chambers.

The façade of Qasr as-Saneh is one of the largest in Hegra, carved in the Hegra style, which consists of two symmetrical half-merlons over an Egyptian-style cornice and an entablature resting on two pilasters with Nabataean capitals. The entrance is framed by a triangular pediment on two pilasters, but lacks any statues or figures, and above it is an inscription dating the tomb to the 17th year of the reign of the Nabataean King Aretas IV Philopatris, thought to correspond to 8 CE. It also states that it was carved by the mason, Abd’haretat ibn Abd’obodat, for Malkion ibn Hephaestion and his family, whose name suggests a Hellenistic origin (ibn = son of).

Qasr as-Saneh, Tomb N°102 (Jan 2011)

Qasr as-Saneh, Tomb N°102 (Jan 2011)

East of as-Saneh Group, just south, south-east of the ancient urban centre of Hegra, Areas C and D are often grouped together. Area C is a single rock outcrop, known as Jebel al-Ahmar, with 19 tombs numbered 112 to 130 around its entire perimeter. Jebel al-Ahmar translates to the Red Mountain named so because of the faint red hues of its rocks. Its proximity to the residential settlement of Hegra meant it was a well-utilised necropolis with nearly all styles of tombs represented, but many badly eroded.

The most remarkable of these tombs are the twin tombs N°112 and N°113, carved on the southern side of the rock outcrop. They are very well preserved, except for the bottom part, which was probably eroded in flash floods over the centuries. Both tombs follow the Proto-Hegra 1 style, but differ slightly in the decoration above the doorway: N°112 on the left has three urns above the triangular pediment, while the slightly smaller Tomb N°113 has an eagle flanked by two urns. Although both façades have a space for a plaque, there is no inscription on either one. Some archaeologists believe a wooden inscription plaque may have been inserted in the space upon completion, but no traces remain.

Tombs N°112 and N°113, Jebel al-Ahmar (Jan 2011)

Tombs N°112 and N°113, Jabal AlAhmar, Hegra in AlUla (Jan 2011)

 Tomb of Lihyan Son of Kuza 

Area D is further south and covers a large area with only three isolated tombs, N°109 – N°111. Among them is the tomb commonly known by the name Qasr al-Farid (the “lone” or “unique” palace, Tomb N°110), Hegra’s most iconic tomb. It is a single tomb carved in its own rock outcrop, hence its name, and measures about 22 by 14 metres, making it the largest (nearly) finished tomb in Mada’in Saleh. 

The façade is crowned by two symmetrical half-merlons surmounting an Egyptian-style cornice, below which is an entablature resting on four pilasters with Nabataean-style capitals. A triangular pediment, resting on two pilasters and topped by a single griffin statue, frames the entrance, above which is a plaque with a short Nabataean inscription stating that this tomb was carved for bani Lahin ibn Quza (i.e. the family of Lihyan, son of Kuza).

The style of this tomb is known to archaeologists as the Hegra style, but Qasr al-Farid is again unique in that it is the only one with four large pilasters decorating the façade. The tomb was never actually finished, as seen in the very bottom of the façade, and is thought to have never actually been used as a burial chamber.

Visitors admiring Qasr al-Farid, Tomb N°110 (Oct 2017)

Visitors admiring Qasr al-Farid, Tomb N°110 (Oct 2017)

Qasr al Farid, the Lonely Palace of Madain Saleh

“Qasr al Farid”, the Lonely Palace of Hegra, a tomb carved for Lihyan, Son of Kuza. Photo: Laura Alho

Jabal AlBanat, Hegra AlUla 

Al-Bint Group outcrop.

North-east of the urban centre of ancient Hegra lies al-Bint outcrop, another cluster containing 31 tombs, numbered 17 to 46 and designated as Area B. Twenty-nine of these tombs are carved around a single large hill, while two simple unadorned burial chambers are located in their own tiny detached outcrop. Some of the grandest tombs in Hegra are found in this group, which also has the largest number of Nabataean inscriptions.

The name of the group was derived from tomb N°24, Jabal AlBanat (no relation to its namesake free-standing temple in Petra). It is one of the smallest in the series of grand façades in this group and follows the Proto-Hegra 2 design. The triangular pediment above the doorway is richly decorated and topped by an eagle statue and two urns. The inscription is very legal in nature and, unusually, continues inside the tomb stating that it was commissioned by Abd’Obodat ibn Aribos for himself and his daughter, Wa’ilat, and her descendants. The mention of his daughter (i.e. bint) is likely what earned this tomb its name.

The inscription leaves specific instructions, almost like a will, from Abd’Obodat to his daughter and her offspring, forbidding them from selling or transferring ownership of the tomb, even though it belonged to them in perpetuity. It also states that if Abd’Obodat’s brother, Huru, died in Hegra, that he should be allowed to be buried in this tomb.

This inscription is one of two that mention Hegra in name, written as Hijr, the Arabic equivalent (the other is Tomb N°100). Aftah ibn Abd’Obodat is the mason who carved this tomb in the 44th year of the reign of King Aretas IV, equivalent to 35 CE.

Qasr al-Bint, Tomb N°24 (Oct 2017)

Jabal AlBanat, Tomb N°24 (Oct 2017)

Other remarkable tombs in al-Bint Group include the Doctor’s Tomb (N°44), carved for Kahlan ibn Wa’lan, the doctor, and his descendants, and the Lion Tomb (N°37), a small one with two feline sculptures with curly tails above its doorway (are they lions or leopards?). Tomb N°39 is the oldest dated tomb in Hegra, carved in 1 BCE for Kamkam bint Wa’ilat and her daughter Kulaybat and it has an arched pediment and eagle bas-relief above the entrance.

The Lion Tomb, N°37, al-Bint Group (Jan 2011)

The Lion Tomb, N°37, al-Bint Group (Jan 2011)

Tomb N°39, the oldest dated tomb in Hegra, al-Bint Group (Jan 2011)

Tomb N°39, the oldest dated tomb in Hegra, al-Bint Group (Jan 2011)

The Doctor’s Tomb, N°44, al-Bint Group (Jan 2011)

The Doctor’s Tomb, N°44, al-Bint Group (Jan 2011)

Had the civilization at Madain Saleh lasted longer, then al-Bint Group would have boasted the largest tomb in the city, appropriately nicknamed the Unfinished Tomb (No°46). It would have measured 28 metres in height, but only part of the top step down motif (two half merlons) was completed, which clearly illustrates that Nabataeans carved their tombs from top to bottom, and is only visible from a distance. An inscription near ground level, just below the unfinished façade, states that this space had been acquired by Rabibel, a Nabataean governor, proving that a process of acquisition was necessary before a tomb was created for a particular person or family.

The Unfinished Tomb N°46 towering above Tomb N°17, al-Bint Group (Jan 2011)

The Unfinished Tomb N°46 towering above Tomb N°17, al-Bint Group (Jan 2011)

Jebel Ithlib (The Nabatean Holy Mountain)

East of al-Bint Group lies Jebel Ithlib with its most unusual rock formations. For the Nabataean inhabitants of Hegra in the 1st century CE, it was the centre of much of their sacred religious rituals. On its northern side is a rock-cut assembly hall, known as al-Diwan, carved next to the sacred Siq, a natural crevice in the rock used for religious processions, similar but much smaller in scale than the Siq in Petra. Along the walls of the Siq are several carved cult niches for statues of deities, and at the other end of the Siq lies the Sanctuary, a natural basin with the remains of a Nabataean temple used for religious ceremonies and a water canal that channelled water into a cistern.

A small number of other religious sites have been discovered around Jebel Ithlib, including steles, altars, assembly halls and Greek and Nabataean inscriptions, but much more is thought to lie buried in the sand waiting to be discovered. For those with time and energy, a short hike up the slopes surrounding the basin offers a rewarding view over the whole of Hegra.

Jebel Ithlib (Jan 2011)

Jebel Ithlib (Jan 2011)

The Diwan and the Siq (Oct 2017)

The Diwan and the Siq (Oct 2017)

Carved niche on the wall of the Siq (Oct 2017)

Carved niche on the wall of the Siq (Oct 2017)

Jebel al Mahjar ( Quarry Mountain)

West of al-Diwan and just north of the ancient urban centre of Hegra is another cluster of tombs known as Jebel al-Mahjar (Quarry Mountain), designated as Group A. Fourteen tombs are attributed to this group, numbered 1-14, and spread across three rock outcrops. An ancient well is also located in the vicinity of this mountain, and the top of its main rock outcrop has the remains of a Nabataean sacred high place. This group also boasts the tomb with the smallest façade in Hegra, N°3, measuring only 3 metres in height.

Only a handful of the tombs in Jebel al-Mahjar come with inscriptions. One of the more interesting ones is N°9, known as the Taymanite’s Tomb, which has as many as 53 burial niches, more than any other tomb and is one of three tombs in Hegra with two inscriptions, one on the façade and the other inside. The façade is moderate in size and was carved in the signature Hegra style, but is devoid of any sculptural or floral ornamentation. It is raised well above ground level and comes with a small platform in front of the entrance, plus a couple of exterior burial niches as well.

The façade inscription states that the tomb was carved in the 13th year of the reign of King Aretas IV (5 CE) for Hawshab ibn Nafi, a Taymanite (i.e. from the city of Tayma) and his extended family, many of whom are named. It also warns of severe punishment for anyone else who attempts to use, buy or sell the tomb. The interior inscription is shorter but marks the exact niches where the bodies of Hawshab and his two sons, Abdalga and Habbu, were placed.

The Taymanite’s Tomb, N°9 in Jebel al-Mahjar (Jan 2011)

The Taymanite’s Tomb, N°9 in Jebel al-Mahjar (Jan 2011)

Jabal AlKhuraymat

The eastern rock outcrop of Jabal Khuraymat contains three tombs. One on the northern side and two adjacent ones on the western side, numbered 12, 13 and 14, respectively, but only Tomb N°12 contains an inscription. Written in the Nabataean language, it states that the tomb belonged to Shubayt ibn Aliyu, the Jew, his wife Amira and their children, and that it was carved in the 3rd year of the reign of King Malichus II, equivalent to 43 CE. This inscription is interesting because it demonstrates that Hegra was a pluralistic society with prominent Jews, along with Greek or Hellinistic families as some other tomb inscriptions have indicated.

Tombs N°13 and N°14, Jebel al-Mahjar (Jan 2011)

Tombs N°13 and N°14, Jebel al-Mahjar (Jan 2011)

West of the urban centre of Hegra is the most extensive group of tombs in the archaeological site, known as Jebel Khraymat. It contains 53 tombs, numbered 48-101 and is split into Areas E and F. Tomb N°64 is known as the Centurion’s Tomb. The geographic location, prone to winds and flash floods, has caused severe erosion in many of the tombs in this area, and N°64 was no exception.

It was designed in the Proto-Hegra 1 style, but much of the lower façade was completely destroyed. The inscription above the doorway has survived with some damage and is very legal in nature specifying ownership and fine for unauthorised use. It also states that this tomb was carved by the mason, Aftah, for the Centurion, Sa’dallah ibn Zabda, and his extended family and warns that the tomb is protected by the gods Dúshara and Manat. The existence of the title Centurion shows clear Roman influence on Hegra’s military regime. Unfortunately, the tomb’s exact date of completion is damaged, but occurred under the reign of the Nabataean King Aretas IV Philopatris, who ruled from 9BC to 40 CE.

The Centurion’s Tomb, N°64, Jebel Khraymat (Jan 2011)

The Centurion’s Tomb, N°64, Jebel Khraymat (Jan 2011)

Nearby is another fairly damaged façade, Tomb N°66, known as the Prefect’s Tomb. However, its inscription has survived well and states that it was carved by the mason, Aftah ibn Abd’Obodat, for Matiyu, son of Euphronius the Prefect, and his extended family, whose title and name suggest a military profession and possible Hellenistic origin. The tomb is dated to the 48th year of the reign of Aretas IV Philopatris, which is equivalent to 40 CE.

The Prefect’s Tomb, N°66, Jebel Khraymat (Jan 2011)

The Prefect’s Tomb, N°66, Jebel Khraymat (Jan 2011)

Jabal Khuraymat’s crown jewel, however, is Tomb N°100, the largest in this group and its most richly decorated. Although it was carved in the signature Hegra Style, a few additional features distinguish it from the rest. It is the only façade with carvings in the attic space between the Egyptian-style cornice and the entablature below, consisting of four decorative Nabataean column capitals. The aedicular frame around the doorway is also richly decorated with a row of carved rosettes below its pediment and two griffin statues flanking it.

The left hand statue is the only one in Hegra that has astonishingly retained its head, avoiding the decapitation that befell all other statues in Hegra in the post-pagan period. The inscription dates it to the 24th year of the reign of King Malichus II (64 CE) and states that it belongs to the family of Tarsu ibn Taym.

Tomb N°100, Jebel Khraymat (Oct 2017)

Tomb N°100, Jabal Khuraymat (Oct 2017)

The Griffin with its head, Tomb N°100, Jebel Khraymat (Oct 2017)

The Griffin with its head, Tomb N°100, Jebel Khuraymat (Oct 2017)


To complete the tour of the site, one must visit the Madain Saleh railway station. It was one of numerous stops along the defunct Hijaz Railway, which was laid out in 1900 under the Ottoman Empire to link Medina with Damascus and ultimately Constantinople, thus significantly cutting pilgrims’ travel time during the important Haj season.

Plans had been made to extend it all the way to Mecca, but the strategically important railway was blown up by T.E. Lawrence and his Arab allies during WWI in an effort to weaken Ottoman control over the Hijaz region (western Arabia). With the breakup of the Ottoman Empire by colonial powers following the war, the railway was never repaired and its tracks and stations remain a relic of a bygone era. Here in Hegra, the red-tiled station and adjacent buildings, including a fortress, are one of the attractions of the visit with the station now turned into a museum exhibiting the old locomotive cars.

The Ottoman Fortress with Jebel Ithlib in the background (Oct 2017)

The Ottoman Fortress also known as Hegra fort with Jebel Ithlib in the background (Oct 2017)

  • Routes d’Arabie, archéologie et histoire du Royaume d’arabie saoudite (published by Somogy and Louvre)
  • The Nabataean Tomb Inscriptions of Mada’in Salih, by John F. Healey (Oxford University Press)
  • Discover more amazing places in Saudi Arabia: Explore KSA
  • Experience AlUla

This is a guest post by @zauravoyages, a traveler and writer hailing from Saudi Arabia with a passion for architecture, history and world heritage. All images @copyright zauracvoyages unless otherwise mentioned. Follow him on Instagram here: zauracvoyages

Hegra AlUla’s UNESCO heritage site is open to visitors year- round. Only visitors with tickets will be allowed to enter on guided tours.  For more information about visiting AlUla and Hegra go to

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More places to visit in Saudi Arabia here: Ten Amazing Places to Visit in Saudi-Arabia

I’ve been looking for a place to recycle waste in Riyadh for a long time. Probably one of the most frequently asked questions I get from readers are “where to recycle clothes, old appliances, glass, metal, batteries etc”.

I must admit, one of the most shocking things for me in transitioning to life from Finland to Saudi Arabia was the lack of recycling practices. Coming from a Scandinavian country, where we recycle almost everything (by law!) I felt like a criminal throwing glass jars and metal cans into the trash bin along with all the other rubbish. Recycling becomes a part of life when you are used to it from an early age, and recycling doesn’t really take that much of an extra effort. So the people who are already used to the system and mindset or materials being reused for other purposes feel guilt when they have to throw away everything in the same bin.

The problem that many people face in Riyadh has been where to take all these glass, plastic, paper and metal products for recycling? Where to donate all this old clothing to? How about old furniture and appliances?  I was most shocked to find out that even batteries are regularly thrown in the same garbage dump.

I was so happy to hear about a recycling place in Riyadh where we can take all this problematic and toxic waste and everything can be dropped off in one place. Recycle center map location at the end of this post!

The use of plastic in Saudi Arabia is extremely worrisome. Whenever I go out to the beautiful desert and other amazing places that can be found in Saudi Arabia, I see what kind of detrimental effect humans and their obsession for plastic bags, water bottles and plastic cutlery does to nature.

Recycling in Saudi has always been close to my heart and I’ve written about it previously in this article: Recycling the Saudi Values and this list of  Ten Ways to recycle in KSA

Thumamah desert fence January 2018. Photo: Laura Alho

Trash collected from Farasan Island beach April 2017. Photo: Laura Alho

One of my pet peeves is going to the supermarket, pharmacy or a baqala (small convenience store), where every single small thing you buy will be placed in one plastic bag. Why? Why is there a need to put a tiny box of medicine for example, into a plastic bag? When I can just put it in my pocket, or handbag or carry it in my hand!

The use of plastic bags in Saudi Arabia is totally out of control.

The country is drowning in plastic.

Habala village September 2017. Photo: Laura Alho

Sadly, going to the desert nearby Riyadh often means having to mingle with a bunch of left behind picnics, plastic bags and bottles. Same goes for the public beaches around Jeddah and Gizan, and the valleys, national parks and the beautiful forests in Asir. Pretty much anything within a 50 km radius from a city is going to look like a garbage yard due to those very same plastic bags we are forced to use everyday, and which people with complete disregard to nature throw onto the ground.

Sometimes large trash cans are provided in some areas, but they’re not emptied at all, or not often enough. Weather conditions and animals cause the trash to fly out of the garbage cans out into the nature. Other animals will come and spread trash around further. The large yellow trash cans we can see in many places have no lids, so all the birds and cats can just jump in and take the trash outside and it spreads around, even if humans tried to do the right thing and dispose of their waste in them.

Plastic bags bags should be BANNED in Saudi Arabia, like they already have in several places around the world. The plastic bags can be replaced by cloth bags, paper bags, or reusable bags.

Hidden Canyon in Riyadh September 2017. Photo: Laura Alho

An example of the plastic madness from everyday life in Riyadh: When you go to a grocery store the have baggers who are actually TRAINED TO WASTE PLASTIC. I know a lot of people reading this from outside KSA will not believe anything so absurd could be the norm in the year 2018 but it’s true. Yes, the bagger is instructed to use a mass load of bags for a just a couple of grocery items. Go to any grocery chain in Saudi Arabia and you’ll find the same problem, the baggers never fill the bags up, unless the customer specifically asks and insists otherwise. This has got to change!!!

For example if the customer buys a bottle of milk, a shampoo, a loaf of bread and some bananas, instead of using ONE single bag to pack all of them, these would be placed in five bags, double one for the bananas.

Every single time I go to the grocery store I face the same issue that I have to go and instruct the bagger to fill the bags up and stop wasting so much plastic. They give me weird looks but I still do it, because it’s really the least I can do if I don’t have a reusable bag with me. Sometimes they won’t understand and that’s when I just take the bags and start filling them up myself, I’ve also taught this to my children and they will advise and help the baggers each time. It’s definitely not the norm to do this and most people seem to have no idea why I wouldn’t want all those plastic bags.

An even better option would be to always remember to have your own reusable shopping bag for packing groceries. Although I’ve noticed that the baggers will not know how to use the reusable bags, unless instructed. They first try to place the items in the plastic bags then place all those inside the reusable bag! You can’t make these things up!

Everyone can start making small changes life, DAILY. Everyone can do it. REFUSE to take that plastic bag. Get a reusable bag for groceries. Tell the bagger to use less plastic. Refuse that straw, you don’t really need it. Take your glass, batteries and metal waste to recycle unit. Most people have drivers, give the recyclable items to the driver once a week and he takes them. No extra effort needed. When taking laundry out, refuse all the extra metal hangers and plastic wraps.

Read this post for 10 ways to recycle in Saudi Arabia. 

When you’re at the park, don’t litter. Call people out for littering. Honestly this really does help.

Pick up trash left by other people, be an example.

Show an example to your kids by teaching them how to recycle and pick up after themselves from a very early age. Insist that the kids school begin teaching recycling and respecting nature as part of the curriculum. There are hundreds of ways every single person reading this can help.

Are YOU doing something?

To be fair there are many environmental awareness campaigns in Saudi Arabia, more and more each year. So there definitely has been a positive change from what I’ve seen in the 10 years time I’ve been in Saudi Arabia. Things which have the most dire impact on the nature, such as the use of plastic bags and water bottles needs regulations and laws set to be effective.

Plastic bags in Saudi Arabia’s stores should either be

A) banned altogether and alternatives taken into use or

B) customers have to pay for their bags and this will greatly reduce the amount being used.

My main reason for this post was originally to share the location of the center where you can recycle in Riyadh that I found out about recently. As usual when speaking about matters close to my heart, I got carried away about how the environment is not being protected enough in Saudi. I do this because I genuinely care and I want things to change. It’s something I’m passionate about and can talk about on and on. Without these things being addressed and talked about, things will not change. This is my second home country and my children are half Saudi, I want them to be able to live in a clean safe environment in the future and for future generations to be able to enjoy Saudi Arabia’s nature the same way we can now.

Location of Recycle Center in Riyadh

I was so excited to find this recycling place in Riyadh where they will accept multiple things at one location. Instead of having to go around the town to multiple different locations to try to recycle waste and in the process spend several hours stuck in traffic, there is one place in the city center that we can now take it all to.

UPDATE 2018 November: After publishing this post the center got so much traffic they could not handle all the materials being brought to them and had to remove the collecting bins.

They no longer accept anything other than clothing and furniture for charity.

If you have information about a recycle center in Riyadh which takes different materials in one place please let me know in the comments!

They can also come to your house to fetch larger items such as furniture and old appliances. So this is fantastic news indeed! It’s not the same as we have in Finland but this is absolutely better than nothing and a great start!

Here is the location on google maps of the center for recycle in Riyadh:

It’s open daily from 9 am to 11pm. Fridays after Jumah prayer.

Recycle center in Riyadh

Recycling place in Riyadh.

If you know of a similar place to recycle in Jeddah, Khobar, Abha, Dammam, Qassim and any city on KSA, please leave the info in the comments to help others to find these locations.

Please also leave in the comments social media handles for Environmental awareness campaigns, charities that accept donated clothing and any other related information that will benefit everyone.

Thank you!

Recycle in Riyadh

Recycle in Riyadh

Some of you may already know that I’ve been making Saudi souvenirs as wall calendars for several years now, five consecutive years in fact! I love compiling and designing the calendars using imagery from my travels around Saudi Arabia, despite it being a huge hassle every year to produce and print them.

The hardest part is choosing ONLY 12 beautiful places in Saudi Arabia (from hundreds of options) and then from those 12 locations, having to select just one or two images to showcase the location in the best possible way. It takes me about three months to finish the entire calendar design because I want the result to be perfect. I try to include something from each region of KSA and showcase the surprising diversity in landscape, culture and colors of Saudi Arabia.

The calendars make the ideal Saudi souvenirs to take back home to show the beauty of Saudi Arabia in a compact and affordable package. They would also make great gifts to visiting foreign friends. For more Saudi inspired gifts check out my Instagram: Inspired by Arabia

For this years calendar cover design I chose to feature al Qatt al Asiri, the traditional wall paintings of Asir region. These wall murals are done entirely by the women of Asir who have mastered this art form for centuries.

I was thrilled to hear that Qatt al Asiri was selected as intangible heritage by UNESCO in 2018 so the choice was perfect to celebrate this recognition! More al Qatt alasiri art can be found inside the calendar.

Other Saudi Arabia UNESCO sites (already listed or tentative) featured in this calendar: At Turaif district, Madain Saleh, Al Balad, Dhee Ayn village, Rijal Alma’a village and Hejaz railway.

So where can you get one of these wall calendars?

I’ve selected some of the best places in Riyadh, Khobar and Jeddah that you definitely should pay a visit to, even if you don’t get a calendar or other Saudi souvenirs :)

Perfect Saudi souvenirs-Wall calendars



Haya Tours office

Salwa is a wealth of information and visiting her office at Alia plaza you can book tours and grab a calendar as a souvenir!


Draft Store Centria mall second floor

This shop is addictive, each time I go there I find new cool things and gift ideas. You will be compelled to grab something every time you visit! Magic Kingdom wall calendars can be found there too as well as many other items you could take home as Saudi souvenirs and gifts from the region. Find them on instagram: @draftthoughts

Open all day 10am -11pm (no break in between ??)

The Blossom Tree Bustan Village compound

Lovely concept store inside Bustan compound. Accessories and home decor, Saudi souvenir ideas. They stock the Inspired by Arabia canvas at Blossom tree.



A must visit place when in Jeddah- they select the best home bakeries, local designers and producers so you are guaranteed for a treat. Have coffee and shop for the perfect gifts in a beautiful instagram-worthy environment! They also host events and concerts at Crate- stay up to date on instagram: @crateksa

Al Khobar

Desert Designs

The go-to place for Saudi souvenirs in Eastern Province. Magic Kingdom wall calendars, Saudi doors pillows, phone covers from the Inspired by Arabia brand are available there too.

For more souvenir ideas from Saudi Arabia check out Susie’s post: Souvenirs from Saudi 

Online stores:


Lulu publisher (U.S.A & Canada)

Lulu is a print on demand site and they will produce and ship the calendar to you worldwide, shop online here: Magic Kingdom Wall Calendar 2018 


Calendar Sponsor

Special thank you to calendar sponsor al Nakhla residential compound! Al Nakhla compound won the title of Best Luxury Residential compound in Saudi Arabia 2017, and once you visit this compound you will no doubt see why! It’s like stepping into a luxury holiday resort, except that people actually live there!

A very family oriented compound, with daycare, kids playgrounds, plenty of different pools ( 23 pools!), safe places for kids to ride bikes, skate and play.  I’ve tried their open air buffet at the Majdool restaurant by the gorgeous pool. I’d highly recommended to try it out as an alternative to the five star hotel buffets for a more relaxed atmosphere.

Al Nakhla’s recreation office is well known for hosting some of the best events in Riyadh, and they allow visitors to attend! The best way to stay up to date with al Nakhla events is to follow their social media channels: Instagram and Facebook page.  Visit their website for more compound info: Al Nakhla Residential Resort