Once a walled, mud-brick way station along desert trading routes, Riyadh (meaning 'garden') is the Kingdom's political, financial and administrative capital and one of the wealthiest cities in the world. It also has a very Saudi subtext: nowhere are the contradictions of modern Saudi Arabia more evident than in Riyadh. Seen from afar, soaring, sparkling, stunning modern towers rise above the desert and shiny 4WDs throng modern highways. Up close, Riyadh is cautious and sober (certainly compared to Jeddah), not to mention conservative and deeply rooted in Saudi traditions. Throw in fine hotels and restaurants and some excellent sights, and it's a fascinating place to spend a few days.
10:00am-12:00pm : AJ Rajhi Grand Mosque
12:30pm-2:00pm : Kingdom Centre Tower
Towering above the skyline, Kingdom Centre Tower contains a shopping mall, a hotel, and residential apartments within its chromed exterior. Standing at 302.3 m (992 ft), the skyscraper also features a skybridge that boasts incomparable views over the city. Within the mall, shop for everything on your list from luxury fashion houses and international retailers. Take note that the second floor is for women only, and contains a spa and shopping facilities specifically geared toward female patrons. In addition to the many dining options in the mall, a restaurant situated on the building's top floor offers high-class French, Italian, and Japanese food.
2:30pm-4:30pm : AI Faisaliyah Centre
Shop, dine, and enjoy the panorama of Riyad at Al Faisaliyah Centre, a 267 m (876 ft) tall, 44-story commercial skyscraper. Designed to resemble a ballpoint pen, the building has a gilt ball near the top housing a classy restaurant. Three levels of high-end stores include local and international brands, featuring wide walkways and a reasonably priced food court. Many observation areas provide a sweeping view of the city, and the top floor houses a cigar lounge. Walk around and get a 360-view through the glass.
5:00pm-6:00pm : Masmak Fortress
Visit Masmak Fortress, a 19th-century fort, known for being the place where Ibn Saud, the founder of Saudi Arabia, reconquered Riyadh in 1902. The historic fortification was built out of clay and brick in 1865, and today houses a museum, a part of the King Abdulaziz Historical Center. Take a tour of the building, restored in the 1980s, and admire a collection of traditional costumes and relics. Keep your eyes peeled for part of a spear that was thrown during the raid and remains lodged in the gate today.
6:30pm-10:30pm : Medina
10:00am-12:00pm : Masjid AI Qiblatayn
Pay a visit to Masjid Al Qiblatayn, a Medina mosque known as the place where Muhammad changed the direction of prayer to Mecca. Until that point, worshipers used to face Jerusalem to conduct their prayers. One of the three oldest mosques in the world, it dates back to 623 CE and has been restored and renovated numerous times over the centuries. Take in the spiritual atmosphere and admire the pristine white walls of the building, a place of cultural and historic significance to Muslims from the very beginnings of Islam.
12:30pm-2:30pm : Masjid Quba
With its shining white minarets, Masjid Quba claims the title of the oldest mosque in the world. Built by the Prophet Muhammad following his escape from Mecca during the first year of the Hijri calendar, the mosque occupies a special place in the heart of Muslim devotees. Able to accommodate 20,000 worshippers, the mosque features four soaring minarets and 56 domes. Observe the faithful make their prayers underneath the suspended chandeliers. The complex has its own commercial center with 12 shops and dozens of restrooms.
3:00pm-5:00pm : AI Masjid an Nabawi
Built on the site of the Prophet Muhammad's second mosque after his move to the city in 622 CE, Al Masjid an Nabawi is one of the holiest sites in Islam and a major destination for religious pilgrimage. Originally an open-air structure that contained a house of worship, court, school, and community center, the mosque has expanded and now includes a vast marble courtyard, white walls enclosing massive prayer rooms, several spindly minarets, and a large green dome over the tomb of the Prophet. Dress modestly and look closely at the design details for secret symbols inserted by the architects.
5:30pm-6:00pm : Koran Museum
10:00am-12:00pm : Jannatul Baqi
12:30pm-4:00pm : Mount Uhud
The largest mountain in Medina and a major pilgrimage site, Mount Uhud commemorates the famous battle between Muslim and Meccan forces in 625 CE. Climb a small hill to observe the site of the battlefield, and see the burial places of the Prophet Muhammad's 50 companions who perished, most notably his uncle Hamza. A mosque also stands on site. The mount rises 1,077 m (3,533 ft) and bears a large painted inscription of the word "Allah" in Arabic on its slope.
5:00pm-5:30pm : Masjid AI Ghamamah
6:30pm-9:30pm : Jeddah
10:00am-12:00pm : Jeddah Corniche
Take a stroll along the Red Sea at Jeddah Corniche, a developed coastal area stretching for some 30 km (18 mi). Go for an invigorating jog or bike ride on the seaside stretch, or relax on one of the benches and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere. An array of cafes, eateries, and picnic spots cater to locals and tourists in this area, while the corniche remains a very popular place to barbecue or take a sunset stroll.
12:30pm-1:00pm : King Fahd's Foundation
Fed by saltwater from the Red Sea, King Fahd's Fountain represents one of the tallest fountains in the world, shooting into the sky a single plume of water. Visible across Jeddah, the fountain was completed in 1985, donated to the city by King Fahd. The iconic landmark is visible from many vantage points, but remains most impressive when viewed from the shoreline. Head to the water's edge and see the sheer force of the single fountain jet, lit up as the sun goes down for that picture-perfect moment.
1:30pm-5:00pm : Fakieh Aquarium
Saudi Arabia’s only marine-life exhibit, Fakieh Aquarium introduces you to diverse aquatic dwellers, many of whom are native to the Red Sea. Children will enjoy watching the seal and dolphin shows, while the spacious tanks offer prime observing of more than 200 species of fish, including sharks, seahorses, stingrays, sea turtles, and even a seadragon. A cafe and restaurant are available within the complex, boasting a scenic view of the Red Sea coast.
5:30pm-6:00pm : Jeddah Flagpole
Admire Jeddah Flagpole, which, as the name suggests, has since 2014 held the world record for the world’s tallest flagpole. A flag of Saudi Arabia sits perched on top of the gargantuan, 170 m (558 ft) tall steel pole, which weighs 500 tons and towers over King Abdullah Square. Equally impressive, the massive flag boasts almost 50 m (162 ft) in length and weighs a reported 570 kg (1,260 lb).
10:30am-1:30pm : Red Sea Mall
Escape the heat and browse the stores of Red Sea Mall, one of the largest in Jeddah. Step into the curved-glass building, opened in 2008, and check out the array of local and international brands. You can find a large variety of restaurants and cafes within, as well as a spacious supermarket and children's play area. The popular mall can get crowded on weekends, so be prepared to wait for a parking spot or a table at the food court.
2:0pm-3:00pm : AI Rahama Mosque>
Visit Jeddah's Al Rahma Mosque, known for leaving the impression of floating on the water's surface. Situated on the city's corniche on the Red Sea coast, the mosque appears to be floating at high tide. Strolling by the waterfront you can admire the striking building, designed in a traditional Islamic architectural style with modern elements. Illuminated with vibrant colors at night and boasting a scenic sea location, it provides a great backdrop for some postcard-like photos.
4:00pm-6:00pm : AI-Balad>
The historic heart of Jeddah, Al-Balad is a World Heritage Site and charming maze of 7th-century architecture. Formerly the center of the city, the district contains lively piazzas, historic merchant houses, winding lanes, and ornate mosques. Find yourself a locally made bargain at one of the souks before stopping at a cozy eatery for some gems of traditional cuisine. To immerse yourself fully in the region's history, hook up a local guide.
6:30pm-8:00pm : Mecca>
10:00am-11:30am : Mount Arafat
Mount Arafat also known by its Arabic name Jabal Arafat, and by its other Arabic name, Jabal ar-Rahmah is a granodiorite hill about 20 km (12 mi) southeast of Mecca in the Makkah Province of Saudi Arabia. The mountain is approximately 70 m (230 ft) in height. Its highest point sits at an elevation of 454 m (1,490 feet). According to some Islamic traditions, the hill is the place where the Prophet Muhammad stood and delivered the Farewell Sermon, also known as the Khutbat al-Wada', to his companions (sahaba) who had accompanied him for the Hajj towards the end of his life. Some Muslims also believe that Mount Arafat is the place where Adam and Eve (Hawa) reunited on Earth after falling from Heaven, believing the mountain to be the place where they were forgiven, hence giving it the name Jabal ar-Rahmah, meaning 'Mountain of Mercy'. A pillar is erected on top of the mountain to show where this event is believed to have taken place. The mountain is especially important during the Hajj, with the 9th day of the Islamic month of Dhu al-Hijjah, also known as the Day of 'Arafah after the mountain itself, being the day when Hajj pilgrims leave Mina for Arafat; this day is considered to be the most important day of the Hajj. The khutbah (sermon) is delivered and Zuhr and Asr prayers are prayed together in the valley. The pilgrims spend the whole day on the mountain invoking Allah to forgive their sins.
12:00pm-1:30pm : AI- Bait Towers
Offering convenient access to many shopping and dining options, Abraj Al-Bait Towers represent a gargantuan skyscraper complex that contains one of the world's tallest buildings. Built by King Abdullah as part of a project to modernize the city skyline, the tower complex was completed in 2011. Overlooking the enormous Great Mosque compound, the building's central tower features the largest clock face in the world and is home to a high-end hotel. Visit the mall inside for all your shopping and dining needs.
2:00pm-4:00pm : Kaaba
The Kaaba 'The Cube', Arabic pronunciation: [kaÊ•.bah]), also spelled Ka'bah or Kabah, sometimes referred to as al-KaÊ¿bah al-Musharrafah and is the qibla for Muslims around the world when performing salah. The Kaaba is believed by Muslims to have been rebuilt several times throughout history, most famously by Ibrahim (Abraham) and his son Ismail (Ishmael), when he returned to the valley of Mecca several years after leaving his wife Hajar (Hagar) and Ismail there upon Allah's command. Circling the Kaaba seven times counterclockwise, known as Tawaf, is an obligatory rite for the completion of the Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages. The area around the Kaaba on which pilgrims circumambulate is called the Mataaf.
4:30pm-6:00pm : Makkah Clock Tower Museum
Makkah, the center of the Islamic World, holds an extraordinary place in the heart of Muslims. Makkah Clock Royal Tower, A Fairmont Hotel, is honored to be part of this amazing spiritual community and is committed to providing the most pleasant, comfortable and serene experience to visitors of the Holy City. Makkah Clock Royal Tower, A Fairmont Hotel, is the focal tower of the Abraj Al Bait complex, part of the King Abdul Aziz Endowment Project, and is conveniently located a short walking distance from Al Masjid Al Haram. The 76-story hotel is the tallest concrete building in the world, and showcases spectacular views of the Holy Kaaba, Al Masjid Al Haram and the city of Makkah. Also among its outstanding features is a 40-meter Royal Clock, visible from 17 kilometers at night, which announces daily prayer.
10:00am-12:00pm : Masjid Taneem
Pay a visit to Masjid Taneem, a mosque near Mecca where pilgrims come to perform a cleansing ritual and don official attire before visiting the most sacred mosque in the world. The mosque is often visited by Muslims who live in Mecca, but want to perform the "Umrah" (a “minor pilgrimage”) to the holy site. Besides performing the pilgrimage ritual, you can also visit this mosque for regular prayer, or just to take in the spiritual atmosphere.
12:30pm-4:30pm : Jabal al-Nour
Follow the footsteps of Muhammad and climb Jabal al-Nour, a 642 m (2,106 ft) tall mountain overlooking Mecca, where it is believed the prophet received his first revelation. Climb to the sacred cave where Muhammad used to meditate, and enjoy the scenic views of Mecca from the top of the towering mountain. Bring plenty of water and suitable footwear if you decide to brave the challenging, two-hour ascent.
5:30pm-11:30pm : Riyadh