There are a plethora of historic sites in Saudi, all awaiting your discovery. We will begin with the UNESCO World Heritage Sites, of which there are six. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization establishes its World Heritage Sites and works to protect them, and in the case of war, rebuild them. The preservation and protection of cultural and natural heritage also fall under the Saudi 2030 Vision program.

We will begin with the first Saudi site to make the UNESCO list, Mada’in Saleh—otherwise known as Hegra—located in the desert of AlUla. Those who have been to Petra in Jordan may find the site familiar; this is because both were built by the ancient Nabateans. Mada’in Saleh today contains 111 tombs, beautifully carved and featuring intricate inscriptions. These monumental tombs date back to the first century B.C.E. Since the site has only recently opened to tourists, it is truly a must-see destination.

Next to join the Saudi UNESCO list is the 15th-century city of Al Turaif in Diriyah. Al Turaif was the first capital city of Saudi and is not too far from Riyadh, the current capital. It features buildings constructed with adobe mud-brick which are typical of Nadji architecture—in fact, Al Turaif is one of the world’s largest mud-brick cities. The city was besieged and sacked by the Ottomans and as a result, many of the buildings are in ruins. There is currently a restoration taking place here under the auspices of the Diriyah Gate Development Authority and UNESCO.

Historic Jeddah was established in the 7th century A.D., and the port was a stopover for traders and pilgrims. Its Al Balad UNESCO site has eight doors to the Jeddah Wall and more than 10 ancient houses. The doors go back to ancient times and would be closed at night to protect all that remained inside. You can tour some of these houses and see for yourself what makes them historically significant. The Al Shafei Mosque is also worth a visit. Parts of the mosque date back 1,400 years but its minaret dates back only 850 years, as old mosques were built without minarets.

The Rock Art of the Al Hail region, in the northwest of the country, covers 10,000 years of Saudi history; historians believe the region has been inhabited since the Paleolithic period. There are two main components of the UNESCO site: Jabal Umm Sinman at Jubbah and Jabal al-Manjor and Raat at Shuwaymis. Both contain extraordinary petroglyphs featuring humans as well as animals such as horses and camels.

The ancient residents of the Al Ahsa region left behind many archaeological landmarks which made it the fifth Saudi location to join the UNESCO list. Mosques, palaces, and forts—they’re all here. The urban center of Al Hofuf features the Ibrahim Palace, an architectural masterpiece that has been painstakingly restored, and the 1,400-year-old Jawatha Mosque, believed to be the oldest mosque in eastern Arabia. Both are well worth a visit. Owing to its oasis, there are also hot and cold springs, gardens, canals, and 2.5 million date trees. The Al Ahsa Oasis is the world’s largest self-contained oasis—and is 6,000 years old!

The Hima Cultural Area, located in southwest Saudi, is one of the world’s largest rock art complexes. It is the latest Saudi UNESCO site, joining the list last year. Hima was on the ancient Arabian caravan route for those involved in trade and observing the Hajj. It contains more than 34 rock-art sites that depict plant and animal life over a period of 7,000 years. There are also inscriptions in many different scripts.

Aside from these UNESCO sites, there are plenty more historical offerings in Saudi. In the capital city of Riyadh, you can absorb Saudi heritage and culture at the National Museum—the Kingdom’s largest museum. More than 3,700 antiquities are displayed in eight galleries, covering more than 1,000 years of Arabian history.

The Al Masmak Fortress, built in 1865, has great historical significance. It was captured by King Abdulaziz Al Saud in 1902, and, after unifying the different provinces, he formed the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1932. The clay and mud-brick fortress is now a museum containing historical artifacts, artworks, maps, photographs, and audiovisual presentations.

The Bedouins first settled in the Ushaiger area more than 1,500 years ago. Today, the Ushaiger Heritage Village is filled with narrow lanes, mud houses, and thick palm groves—all harking back to an earlier era. There is also the Al Salem Museum, which contains a collection of artifacts and ceramics.

History abounds in Saudi and is awaiting your discovery. Central Holidays can assist you in finding travel packages that focus on historical locations and has a professional staff who can help ensure that your travel experience goes well beyond your expectations.