The very heartland of Saudi Arabia
A fascinating land of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, beautiful landscapes and historic festivals
Hail sits almost geographically centrally within Saudi Arabia, squeezed between Mount Salma to the south and Mount Shammer to the north. Once the capital of the Arabian Desert, it was home to the famous poet Hatim Al Tai who wrote the story “One Thousand and One Nights” which we would know as Arabian nights. Now, as then, it is a popular stopping point on the pilgrimage to Mecca so it has an important place in the country’s history as well as being one of the most forward looking of the traditional towns. It is especially well known for the Hail International Rally, where all manner of vehicles race through the ancient desert. There is also the Desert Festival, a popular event which celebrates the history and culture of Hail.
At the centre of the city are 3 castles; A’arif Fort, Barzan Castle and Al Qishlab Castle which are well worth a visit. A’arif is most striking of the castles, perched on a cliff overlooking the city with breathtaking views to be enjoyed from the viewpoint. It is also a popular meeting point to see the firing of the iftar cannon which marks the end of the day’s fasting during Ramadan. The souq in the heart of the city is a great place to stroll around and admire the wonderfully fresh and fragrant produce on offer whilst the Haile flea market offers the chance to turn up some treasures from the vocal local market traders.
A visit to Hail offers a chance to explore the surrounding Al Nafud desert, a sea of majestic red sand and home to UNESCO World Heritage rock art sites which date back some 10,000 years. The sites of Jubbah at Jabal, Umm Sinman and Shuwaymis at Jabal Al Manior are some of the most significant petroglyphs in the world and reason to visit Hail on their own. A number of adventure companies also operate in the area, offering experiences such as dune drives, sand boarding and overnight camping in the desert.
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