Saudi Arabia's 6 UNESCO Heritage Sites

Saudi Arabia's 6 UNESCO Heritage Sites

Six national gems that have become international treasures
06 April 23

Saudi Arabia boasts a wealth of culture and more than a handful of historical places of significance. It's no surprise that a number of these iconic locations and landmarks have earned international acclaim.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, better known as UNESCO, is an international agency devoted to protecting and promoting unique and culturally significant locations around the world.

Saudi Arabia has six such designated sites.

The nation’s rich cultural heritage is recognised through the significant cultural value associated with having declared UNESCO sites.

Let’s take a look:

Officially confirmed as a UNESCO Heritage Site in 2018, the Al-Ahsa Oasis has long been locally recognised. Dating back to the Neolithic Era, this little piece of paradise is located in the Eastern province of Saudi Arabia. Boasting a host of springs, wells, canals, and massive palm groves, the area is now, according to the Guinness World Records is considered the largest oasis in the world. The majority of the plants, crops and trees in the oasis are irrigated by approximately sixty natural springs.

Al-Ahsa Oasis

Al Turaif District

The Al Turaif District is a location where stunning Najdi architectural style takes center stage. Located in Ad-Diriyah, this area was the first home of the Saudi royal family and was named the Kingdom’s first capital city. Settlements such as stone buildings and palaces from the 15th century are still visible to this day, and those interested have studied the architectural techniques and materials used in the erection of these buildings.

The most recent addition to Saudi’s UNESCO sites is the Hima Cultural Area, it was recognised in 2021. Located along the ancient caravan routes of Saudi Arabia, this site contains a well-preserved collection of rock art. The rock drawings date back to a time as far back as 7000 and 1000 BC. The images depict hunting scenes, as well as imagery of wildlife, plants, flowers, and illustrations of how people lived back then. Many research centers in the Kingdom and abroad are carrying out studies on the art to try to gain some insights into human evolution from that ancient time.

Hima Cultural Area

Historic Jeddah

This site belongs to the heart of a city that was once a main port for trading routes. Located on the shore of the Red Sea, the blue shutters are an unmissable motif of the city, and the charming little streets tell the stories of thousands of travelers that have once crossed these paths. Historic Jeddah is one of the most beautiful, still-preserved areas in the kingdom. Also known as Old City Jeddah or Al-Balad, the area can be accessible by tourists and visitors. Be sure to check out the old souks for some good, old bargaining!

Madain Salih is more commonly known as Hegra, was awarded the title of UNESCO Heritage Site in 2008, and is a historic archeological site built by an ancient king, Aretas IV Philopatris. This area was made the second capital in his kingdom of Nabataean after Petra, Jordan. The site also features writing and drawing dating back to pre-Nabataean period. Now this is a sight to behold. Located in a desert landscape and dating back to the 1st century BC, this exquisite historic site is a monumental tomb with beautiful scripture craved on the façade.

Madain Salih

Rock Art in the Hail Region

These pieces of rock art have existed for over 10,000 years. The rock art in the Hail area is essentially a storybook carved into stone portraying anthropological scenes and stories. The main two sites in the Hail region which contain the rock art are Jabal Umm Sinman at Jubbah and the Jabals of Almajor and Raat. Besides the intricate type of petroglyphs these rocks feature, historians specifically note that this type of art was drawn using very interesting and unique techniques, such as stone hammers.