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SAUDI ARABIA

Saudi Arabia is a Middle Eastern country that occupies most of the Arabian peninsula. Saudi Arabia contains the Muslim holy cities of Mecca and Medina, to which all physically and financially able Muslims are required to make a pilgrimage at least once if possible. Non-Muslims are prohibited from entering these two cities per sharia law.

Riyadh is the capital and center of the Kingdom with old and ultra-modern architecture populating the city centre. Jeddah is a large metropolitan city on the Red Sea and the gateway to Mecca, the holiest city of Islam and Medina, the site of the Prophet's Mosque.

Despite the restrictions, there are a few destinations that are catered to non-Muslim tourists. Abha is a summer tourist mountain resort city in the southwest near the Yemeni border. Its high altitude makes it a popular summer getaway for Saudis. Taif is another moderate-sized mountain town and popular resort area. It is in the mountains near Mecca and was once used as the summer capital, letting the royal family get out of the much hotter Riyadh. There's Al Rudaf Park, south of Taif which has clumps of trees and beautiful weathered granite rocks, plus a small zoo. Ta'if also has a rose plantation. In April, fields are full of pink roses. They are harvested and distilled into Ta'if rose oil, a luxury item which has been used in famous perfumes including Chanel. Ta'if also has a Turkish Fort. This is near the Rock Carving Site and it is believe that Lawrence of Arabia fought here during World War I. Many other battles have taken place in the area, so there are graves of war dead nearby.

There are two UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the country, both inscribed in 2008. These are the Al-Hijr Archaeological Site in Hejaz and the At-Turaif District in Diriyah.

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