Regions in Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia is administratively divided into 13 provinces (mintaqah), but the traditional divisions of the country are more useful to get an overview.
Southwestern highlands with a temperate climate and strong Yemeni influence.
- Eastern Province
Includes the Gulf Coast, the centre of Saudi oil production
On the Red Sea coast, site of Mecca, Medina, Jeddah and home to trade and commerce.
The central highlands centred in Riyadh, home of the Sauds and the most conservative part of the country.
Rarely visited, home of the Nabataean ruins of Madain Saleh.
Cities in Saudi Arabia
- Riyadh – the capital and “dead centre” of the Kingdom
- Abha – a summer-tourist mountain town in the southwest near the Yemeni border
- Dhahran – home of Saudi Aramco, the world’s largest oil company
- Jeddah (Jiddah) – a large metropolis on the Red Sea and the gateway to Makkah and Madinah
- Jubail – the largest industrial city in the Kingdom
- Mecca (Makkah) – the holiest city of Islam
- Medina (Madinah) – the site of the Prophet’s mosque
- Najran – a Yemeni town with a remarkable fortress
- Taif – a medium-sized mountain town and popular holiday destination
Expect significant variations in the English spelling of place names in timetables and even street signs: Al Wajh and Wedjh are the same place. In particular, Q/G, E/I and E/A are freely interchanged (Qassim/Gassim, Mecca/Makkah, Jeddah/Jiddah), H/A sometimes swap places (Al-Ahsa/Al-Hasa) and the definite article al- can be added or omitted (Medina/Almadinah, Riyadh/Arriyadh).
Other destinations in Saudi Arabia
- Empty Quarter (Rub’ al Khali) – one of the largest sand deserts on earth
- Hajj – the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca
- Madain Saleh – ruined city of the Nabataeans, similar to Petra