KSA Project

 Saudi Arabia had been on my mind for years, as a wish I never uttered. It came true this March. If you’re wondering how to get your visa, it all starts here.

From all the experiences we’ve had, I selected the ones that came closest to my heart. They come dearly recommended.


Around Jeddah

Eat at: Tofareya

It was recommended to us by a local young man; the food is good. Plus, the restaurant is nicely decorated.

Nando’s (Red Sea Mall)

I don’t like malls. At all. However, the food at this South African [you got to love the culinary journey while in the KSA!] restaurant (with Portuguese influences) is very tasty!

Suggestions: Try many cuisines; so many cultures meet in Jeddah! One of my favourite experiences was having dessert in a Yemeni restaurant.

Go for a treat: Medd Café & Roastery

Good cakes and coffee (roasted on the spot; I don’t usually drink coffee but I drank a lot in Saudi Arabia) in a nice décor, in the middle of it all [Al-Balad].

Walk in: Al-Balad

There are so many aspects to discover! Watch the people, play with the cats, closely look at the woodwork…

Al-Balad, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

Do: Have a picnic by the sea

Take food with you and a blanket, choose a place by the sea, and eat, local-style. Late afternoon is the best time to have a picnic!


Around Yanbu

Sleep at: الأراضي السبع

Very cosy and clean apartment in a tranquil area of Yanbu.

Eat at: سرايا ساره

Marcel loved this place for seafood! He chose a fish and they cooked it for him. It was delicious!

Grey House Lounge

My favourite restaurant in Yanbu. The dishes are Asian. I loved the welcome and the ambience!

Grey House Lounge, Yanbu, Saudi Arabia

Go for a treat: Divergent Café

Such a bright and friendly place! Wonderful coffees and yummy cookies.

Walk in: the Waterfront Park

It is great at night when the area gets lively! The sea looks so peaceful from here.

Yanbu Old Town

They were rebuilding it while we were there (and doing a great job)! It is a beautiful area of Yanbu, there is also a night bazaar, and the whole area is opening up.

Do: Swim at the public beach

Snorkelling may not be the thing here, but the entire experience is worth it. While you may see many ‘Swimming forbidden’ signs around Yanbu [they drove me crazy; I later found out that those beaches had no lifeguards… so, technically, you can swim anywhere], this beach next to the Marina is safe.

Rent a boat and go snorkelling

We paid SAR 550 for 2 hours (it was Marcel’s birthday) – and went inwards from the Marina. We had strong winds and currents and low visibility, but such a fun trip with a very kind gentleman. The colour of the sea is unbelievable!

Going snorkelling in Yanbu, Saudi Arabia


Around AlUla

Freebies: Elephant Rock

You can see it free of charge. Go up a hill a bit for a better perspective.

Elephant Rock, AlUla, Saudi Arabia

Oasis Heritage Trail

In the old times, locals would move here during summer (lower temperatures). Plus, they had the chance to grow vegetables here. These are still grown here. There are tours organised, but you can choose to walk on your own.

AlUla Oasis, Saudi Arabia

AlUla Old Town

Different from what you’d expect. Still, it is worth seeing. From the main parking lot on its side, you can take a free buggy to the Old Town and back.   

Mudbrick Workshop (and other activities found on the official AlUla website)

We loved it and made our mudbricks from scratch. The AlUla website is such a treasure – so many activities can be found and booked there! Many of them are free!

Mudbrick Workshop, AlUla, Saudi Arabia


You may think that you can drive on your own around Hegra, but there’s a fence. There’s also a tax and a waiting list (for the bus tour), so book ahead on the AlUla website. We met an Argentinean family while we were there, so we weren’t the only ones who misunderstood things.

Accommodation rates are exaggerated around AlUla. Conditions are mainly bad. Don’t stay for more than 1 night if you don’t need to.

Eat at: Pink Camel

The lunch experience in Saudi Arabia that I enjoyed most! There is a French twist there. The prices may be a bit higher, but the experience is worth it.

AlUla Fresh Food Market

Many locals suggested we’d go there. There’s a minibus taking guests there from the main parking lot on that side of AlUla. The prices are higher, but you are supporting the local producers. There are juices, sweets, vegetables, and savoury snacks for sale. You can have an entire meal (meat dishes are also served) there!  

Do: Attend a concert at Maraya

One of the most beautiful concert halls I’ve seen! We attended the concert of Seal there and it was extraordinary! The landscape of AlUla looks magical as seen from Maraya. Everything revolves around the mirrors the building is covered by. 'Maraya' stands for 'mirror' in Arabic.

Seal at Maraya, Saudi Arabia

Drive the road between AlUla and Umluj

It is very scenic. You’ll get to buy local products (dates, for instance) and see many camels.


Around Umluj

Sleep at: the apartment complex above Ahazej Café

Brand new, it was the best accommodation of our Saudi Arabia trip. We initially wanted to stay for two nights, but booked one more.

The apartment that we rented in Umluj, Saudi Arabia

Eat at: مطعم و كوفي ايلاند

Some of the best traditional meals that I tried in Saudi Arabia.

Best of Food

As an ovo-lacto-vegetarian, I found very good food here, served with a view. They are usually closed on Sundays.

Go for a treat: Ahazej Café

The cakes are made by local women, the pistachio latte is phenomenal, and the portions are large! My favourite café of the trip!

Ahazej Café, Umluj, Saudi Arabia

Do: Snorkel

Snorkelling in Umluj was one of the best snorkelling experiences in our lives! The Red Sea is glorious there – and I’ve counted at least 8 shades of blue. Read more about it here.  

Shop at قهوة الشيوخ

If you need last-minute gifts to take home, you can find many local products at this store in Umluj.


Other questions that you may have

What should women wear?

I asked my close Pakistani friend, who had travelled to Saudi Arabia, and she suggested long sleeves, long trousers and/or skirts, and a long cardigan on top. She also said that taking a shawl with me would be a good idea (even though wearing a hijab is not mandatory).


What is the beach etiquette?

I wore a long-sleeve UV protection blouse and neoprene shorts.

Marcel wore shorts.


Can unmarried couples share a hotel room?

Yes. You are a guest. There’s no pressure, especially if you’re from a different culture. The locals are very friendly and kind!


How to get from the airport downtown?

A taxi from the airport can be very expensive. If you’re on a tighter budget and haven’t rented a car (yet), also try placing an order through Uber and/or Bolt /even though I am not their fan/.


Is renting a car a good idea?

Yes! If you land in Jeddah, prebook it, rent it at the airport, or head to Saqr Quraish (where you’ll find many car rental companies!).

Distances are huge and taxis are pretty expensive in cities, even though gasoline is relatively cheap.

Renting a car can be expensive, but you can move freely around the country. Be careful while driving around large cities, where it can get hectic. Also, know the car rental company’s conditions. How many kilometres are there included?   


Which is the best treat when visiting Saudi Arabia?

Fruit juices! We found them in all the towns/cities on the coast and AlUla, too! As most restaurants and businesses, in general, are open in the morning (until noon – at least, this was our perception) and in the evening (after 5pm), a juice store was always a life-saver!


What are great local products to take home?

Dates, date cookies, Rani, Arabic coffee, dried rose petals, sumac, candies, an oud, and more.

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