Top 12 Things Saudi Arabia Is Famous For - Updated 2024

saudi arabia is famous for
| 5 min read

The traditional, conservative, and holy land of Islam, Saudi Arabia, or the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, comprises the Arabian Peninsula and is located in western Asia. It is the second-largest sovereign state in the Arab world just after Algeria. The country is the epicenter of the Islamic faith. Many Muslims around the world come for the pilgrimage to Mecca wherein lies the holy Kaaba. It is where the prophet Muhammad was born. The country is also an Islamic state whereby the law of Sharia is practiced and where Wahhabism is dominant. Saudi Arabia is also known for its many oil reserves, but there are lots of other interesting things about the country. Planning a trip soon? For accommodation, you will find plenty of serviced apartments in Riyadh, the country’s capital city. For an indulgent stay, a villa rental in Riyadh is your best bet. For your upcoming vacation, scroll down to find a list of the top things Saudi Arabia is famous for.

1. Rub' al Khali

Rub al Khali 002
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Nepenthes used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Rub’ al Khali, often referred to as the “Empty Quarter,” is the largest continuous stretch of sand desert in the world, covering a vast expanse of approximately 650,000 square kilometers (250,966.40 square miles). This formidable desert sprawls across multiple countries in the Arabian Peninsula, including Saudi Arabia, which contains a significant portion of this immense desert within its borders.

The desert is characterized by towering sand dunes, some of which can reach up to 300 meters (984.25 feet), and it is known for its harsh and arid environment, with scorching temperatures and minimal vegetation. Despite its challenging conditions, Rub’ al Khali has long fascinated adventurers and explorers due to its otherworldly landscapes.

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2. Riyadh

The Kingdom Tower
Source: Photo by Flickr user Maher Najm used under PUBLIC DOMAIN

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia’s capital city, stands as a dynamic metropolis that embodies the nation’s rapid modernization and rich cultural heritage. This sprawling desert city is famous not only for being the political and economic hub of the country but also for its remarkable blend of tradition and progress. Riyadh boasts an impressive skyline with futuristic skyscrapers, such as Kingdom Tower or Jeddah Tower, reflecting the country’s ambition and growth in recent decades.

Yet, amid this modernity, the city cherishes its cultural roots with historical landmarks such as the Masmak Fortress and the National Museum, which offer a glimpse into Saudi Arabia’s rich history. Riyadh’s bustling souks, or markets, showcase traditional craftsmanship and vibrant street life. This harmonious coexistence of tradition and innovation makes Riyadh a captivating destination.

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3. Oil

Oil Field Pumpjack
Source: Photo by Flickr user Jonathan Cutrer used under CC BY 2.0

Are you wondering what product is Saudi Arabia famous for? The country is primarily known for its large oil reserves that are predominantly present in its eastern province. Saudi Arabia is known to possess about 17% of the world’s proven petroleum reserves. It has around one-fifth of the world’s total conventional oil reserves. Normally, the country is a leader in producing different grades of crude oil, notably Arabian heavy, Arabian medium, and Arabian light, and so on. It is estimated that there are still about 221 years of oil left in these reserves.

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4. Islam

Source: Photo by Flickr user Wall Boat used under CC0

The kingdom of Saudi Arabia is very much known for its devotion to their religion. Islam is known to be the state religion and hence its primary source of law is the Islamic Sharia, which is taken from the teachings of the Qur’an and the traditions of the Prophet. Interestingly, Islam first came to the country from Southeast Asia through Muslim traders and was further spread by the Sufi orders. Eventually, Wahhabism became pretty dominant across the country. Wahhabism encourages focus on the literal interpretation of the holy book Qur’an. It should be noted that about 85% of the population are Sunni Muslims and the remaining are Shia.

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5. Gold

Gold Chains
Source: Photo by Flickr user Adam used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Though Saudi Arabia is known for its plentiful oil reserves, there is also a gold mine in the Province of Al-Madinah, located at Mahd Al Thahab, which is locally known as the ‘cradle of Gold’. Dating back to 3000 BC, it was said that gold was mined here by King Solomon, and to this day, we can still see the abandoned gold mine left by the ancient miners.

Today, due to its high quality, availability, and affordability with only a 5% sales tax, gold is one of the most famous things to buy in Saudi Arabia. No surprise that the country witnesses a lot of foreigners and tourists flocking to buy gold products.

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6. Mecca

Holly Ka'ba
Source: Photo by Flickr user Camera Eye used under CC BY 2.0

Mecca is the birthplace of the prophet Muhammad and is home to the sacred Kaaba or ‘Makkah’ where many Muslims around the world come to perform the Hajj pilgrimage, which is normally considered as an obligatory rite in the religion of Islam. The Kaaba (House of God) was built several times throughout history and is popularly known as being built by Ibrahim (Abraham) and his son Ismail (Ishmael). The position of the Kaaba is also very crucial for Muslims as it shows the direction of prayer. Pilgrims perform the sacred ‘Tawaf’ whereby they circle the Kaaba seven times counterclockwise at the holy site. One thing to note is that Mecca is only reserved for Muslims.

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7. No drinking of alcohol

What drink problem?
Source: Photo by Flickr user Jase Curtis used under CC BY 2.0

Being a holy place of Islam, it has become obvious why it is prohibited to drink alcohol in Saudi Arabia. Tourists planning to visit the country should remember this since it can lead to some serious trouble. For instance, drinking alcohol could lead to hundreds of lashes, fines, and even deportation or imprisonment, as well. Even if you only drink a little alcohol but you are found tipsy, you run the risk of being arrested. It is true that Saudi Arabia is considered a very conservative country, which is why it is important to keep this in mind before traveling.

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8. Camels

Still More Camels!
Source: Photo by Flickr user upyernoz used under CC BY 2.0

Saudi Arabia is home to a large population of camels. Of an estimated number of 1.6 million camels living in the Arabian Peninsula, 53% can be found in Saudi Arabia. Camels have played a crucial role, both historically and culturally, in the lives of many Saudis. Primarily, camels have been used as the preferred mode of transport, especially in the arid deserts, but their meat and milk have also been used over centuries. The value of camels has seen a significant rise during the past years. If the camel is from a very unique species, it can cost up to 15 million SAR (almost 4 million USD).

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9. Al-Ardah

Donald Trump with ceremonial swordsmen on his arrival to Murabba Palace, May 2017
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user The White House used under PUBLIC DOMAIN

One of the cultural treats that you will get to see when traveling to Saudi Arabia is the folkloric dance Al-Ardah. Literally, the word Al-Ardah means ‘to show’ or ‘to parade’. And there is a very good reason why the dance is called that way. Originating from the central Nejd region, this tribal dance has been a cultural legacy for many years. It was performed mainly by males from the Nejd tribes before heading to war. In the present day, Al-Ardah is performed during weddings, celebrations, and of course at cultural events. The dance has been listed under UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage since 2015.

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10. Clothing

Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Mary Paulose used under CC BY 2.0

Being a very conservative country means that the clothing aspect is also taken into consideration. When visiting Saudi Arabia, tourists are encouraged to wear long clothes so as to respect the traditions of the country. Whatever the social status, locals in Saudi Arabia wear similar traditional clothes called a thawb (Arabic dress), covering the entire body except for the hands and face. The women sometimes wear a full-face veil called a burqa. During the summer men wear white thobes, while in winter they choose black.

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11. Dates

Dates on date palm
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user [Unknown] used under PUBLIC DOMAIN

Dates are predominantly considered a popular delicacy in the Middle Eastern country. One of the famous foods in Saudi Arabia, dates can grow easily in hot and dry climates. There is a religious reason why dates are so important. The fact that they are mentioned in the holy book 23 times makes them the ideal Ramadan staple. Dates are a very good source of fiber, potassium, and calcium. There are a variety of dates that are cultivated in Saudi Arabia, among which are the Ajwa, Sukari, and Saghai dates.

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12. Sidewalk skiing

Drift Car (233592189)
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Stephen Hill used under CC BY 2.0

Something you might encounter while in Saudi Arabia is drifting or sidewalk skiing, which involves balancing a car on its side while it is in motion. Only daredevils attempt this activity which has become a phenomenal craze in the country, especially among the youths. Please keep in mind that this stunt is dangerous so always keep a safe distance.

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The holy land of Saudi Arabia

Bustling with several tourist places, Saudi Arabia is a very intriguing country for many foreigners. It is very well-known for its many oil reserves and very conservative society. The country is also home to the Kaaba, where many Muslims around the world perform their religious obligation. These are just a few things you’ll discover about Saudi Arabia. We hope you learned something new from our list of the top things Saudi Arabia is famous for.

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Frequently asked questions about things Saudi Arabia is famous for

  • Which items of shopping are famous in Saudi Arabia?

    If you are holidaying in Saudi Arabia and would like to buy some of the popular items that the country is famous for, you can make purchases of gold and dates.

  • What are some famous buildings in Saudi Arabia?

    The country of Saudi Arabia is famous for several things, magnificent architecture being one of them. Its capital city, Riyadh, is famous for being the political and economic hub with several stunning buildings adorning the skyline, such as the modern Jeddah Tower or Kingdom Tower and the historic Masmak Fortress.

Any must-sees we missed? Tell us about them in the comments section or write a post here to help out fellow travelers!
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Heyleena is a passionate travel writer who enjoys writing travel articles for people who seek to explore new places in a more conscious way. From travel guides to recommended vacation rentals, get...Read more

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