The birthplace of Islam, Saudi Arabia encompasses a vast expanse of arid desert and mountains. The second largest country in the Arab world (after Algeria), it covers some 2,150,000 square kilometres and is the only nation with coastlines on both the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf. Home to Mecca and Medina, the Kingdom is the spiritual caretaker of the two holiest shrines in the Islamic world, a role it takes very seriously. Staunchly traditional, the country’s citizens are required by law to be Muslims and it is one of the few places on earth that has a ‘religious’ police force.
But this is also a land with a vibrant cultural pedigree. Away from the glamour and glitter of its oil-rich modern cities, the country is strewn with World Heritage sites and remote mountain villages. Amongst the rock-hewn splendours of Madain Saleh you can find Nabatean treasures on a par with those at Petra, while the mud-brick ruins of Diriyah provide a fascinating insight into the origins of the Saud Dynasty. The mountains of the south-west are home to a surprising collection of traditional villages that still evoke echoes of the past, whilst the haunting ruins of Al Ula provide a chance to explore one of the most impressive ghost towns anywhere in the Middle East.
Enigmatic and intriguing, Saudi Arabia by its very nature is one of the last great adventures left to discover.