The Tabuk Province stretches along the northwest of Saudi, with the Red Sea to its west and Jordan to its north. It has an area of 146,072 kilometers (90,765 miles) and, as of 2018, had a population of 930,507. Its capital is the city of Tabuk, located in the northwest corner of Saudi, close to the Jordanian border. Tabuk city’s population accounts for two-thirds of the population of the province.
Both the province and the city have a wealth of places to intrigue and entertain visitors.
Hejaz Railway Station
Those who have read the book or seen the movie Lawrence of Arabia may be familiar with the Hejaz Railway. Completed in 1908, it was supposed to transport pilgrims traveling from Damascus to the Hajj city of Mecca—a journey that could take 40 days by caravan. It only got as far as Medina before World War I and the fall of the Ottoman Empire led to its demise. One of the stops along its route is Tabuk, and the station is now a museum where you can see artifacts, photographs, and manuscripts. There is also a restored railway engine, freight car, and carriages.
Located right in the center of town, this castle dates back to 1559 and is now one of Tabuk city’s most popular landmarks. It spans two floors and features two mosques (one on each floor), as well as courtyards, watchtowers, and a small museum detailing the castle and Tabuk city. Ibn Battuta, the Islamic Marco Polo, visited here on his travels.
Al Tawba Mosque
It is said that in the 7th century, the Prophet Muhammad spent 20 days at a location near a running spring. Preparing for a battle that did not come to pass, he remained there. While he was praying, Surah At Tawba—the ninth chapter of the Quran—was revealed to him. Hence the name of the mosque and its significance in Tabuk. It was originally built with traditional materials such as bricks, mud, and palm tree trunks, but was reconstructed in the 17th and early 20th centuries. It features a minaret, a traditional arched entryway, and an enormous prayer hall.
Visiting Saudi souqs is a great way to get a true sense of the local culture and find souvenirs. Tabuk has two: the Tabuk Souq and Souq Twaheen. The Tabuk Souq is a cluster of hundreds of shops selling sports items, gold jewelry, traditional dresses, carpets, local handicrafts, and much more. If you work up an appetite here, there are vendors selling street food. Souq Twaheen, located in Tabuk’s old quarter, is where the Bedouin community sells and buys its wares. Here, you can find items such as camel saddles, goat hair tent covers, patterned rugs, cushions, gas camp stoves, and canvas cooler bags.
Wadi Al Disah
A wadi is a low, dry valley, typically in the Middle East or North Africa. The Tabuk region has two wadis worth mentioning here. The Wadi Al Disah—with Al Disah meaning the “valley of palm trees”—is primarily located in the Prince Mohammed bin Salman Nature Reserve. Often described as one of the most beautiful natural landscapes in Saudi, it attracts many who are looking to get out of the more urban areas. Here, you can find cliffs, streams, and waterfalls. There are even signs of ancient residents—the Thamuds left rock carvings and the Nabateans built settlements here. Wildlife such as gazelles, ibexes, and falcons make their home here, and there are plants and trees that are unique to the region. Visitors can enjoy hiking and camping, but it is a good idea to bring water and snacks as there are no facilities near the valley to supply those things.
Wadi Tayyib Al Ism
Wadi Tayyib Al Ism is another of Tabuk’s natural wonders. This valley is located in the midst of mountains, but it is also on the Gulf of Aqaba—the road leading to the valley runs past the gulf’s beaches. Two enormous granite massifs stand at the entrance, and a pedestrian bridge leads you inside. It’s a 5-kilometer (3-mile) hike to the other side; if you plan to make your way through the valley, it’s best to have provisions with you. It’s worthy of note that the wadi is also known as the “Valley of Moses,” as he is said to have spent ten years in exile nearby after fleeing Egypt.
Umluj consists of 104 islands that form an archipelago on the Red Sea. It has been called the “Maldives of Saudi Arabia,” due to its beautiful islands with clear turquoise waters and white sand beaches. In addition to spending time on the beach, you can take a boat ride through the islands; see shipwrecks, coral reefs, and marine life while scuba diving or snorkeling; or spot cranes, flamingoes, and kingfishers, and more while birdwatching. There is no lack of worthwhile activities in Umluj.
If you travel to the Tabuk region, there will be all kinds of different locales to explore. Whether you are interested in history, shopping, exploring, or relaxing, you will be rewarded here.