A wealth of natural wonders and historic sites make Tabuk the perfect Saudi tourist spot

Tabuk region is a popular destination during the summer months. (SPA)
Updated 10 July 2019

A wealth of natural wonders and historic sites make Tabuk the perfect Saudi tourist spot

  • Tabuk is nestled between the Red Sea, to the west, and Al-Nafud desert, to the east

TABUK: Tabuk region offers a wealth of tourist attractions that help to guarantee a rewarding visit. The varied geography of the area means that a wide range of natural wonders are within easy reach, including the Red Sea, expansive plains and majestic mountains, along with ancient historical landmarks.

The region also hosts a number of festivals, organized by the Saudi Commission of Tourism and National Heritage, and the climate is wonderful all year round, making it a particularly popular destination during the summer months.

Tabuk is nestled between the Red Sea, to the west, and Al-Nafud desert, to the east. Five of its governorates are on the coast: Haql, Dabba, Al-Wajh, Amlaj and Al-Bada. Tabuk City is one of the largest and most important cities in the northern region, with a heritage dating back to the 5th century BC. It has acquired a number nicknames, including “Tabuk of the Roses” and “Northern Gate.”

The region’s abundant water reserves mean that it is one of the Kingdom’s largest agricultural areas. In addition to wheat, fruit and vegetables, Tabuk is renowned for its roses, which are popular within the country and also exported.

Noteworthy heritage sites in the city include Al-Tawba Mosque and the nearby Tabuk Castle. The Prophet Muhammad set up camp at the latter during his Tabuk expedition. The ancient mosque was built by Umayyad Caliph Omar bin Abdul Aziz in the location where the Prophet prayed. Thanks to its historical significance the city’s impressive railway station, which covers 80,000 square meters, is also worth a visit, as is the nearby Tabuk Regional Museum.

Other regional landmarks include: the Shuaib caves (Maghair Shuaib), which date back to the days of the Nabateans; the Great Tabuk Mountains, which contain Thamud and Nabatean scriptures; the Haddaj well of Tayma, which is one of the most important wells in the Kingdom and dates back to the first millennium B.C.; Tayma Castle; King Abdul Aziz Castle; and Al-Hamra Palace.

In recent years, Tabuk has undergone an urban and cultural revival. New hotels have been built and the number of passengers arriving at the region’s new airport, which opened in 2011, has risen to an estimated 1.5 million a year.

Tabuk city is currently preparing for its Roses and Fruits Festival, the largest event in the region, with about half-a-million visitors expected, so this is the perfect time to plan a visit.

Saudis recall history’s greatest TV event: Apollo moon landing

Updated 20 July 2019

Saudis recall history’s greatest TV event: Apollo moon landing

  • The TV images beamed from 320,000km away in space left viewers astounded but happy
  • The TV coverage influenced thinking and attitudes in the Kingdom just like everywhere else

DUBAI: It was a sleepy afternoon in Saudi Arabia, just days before the end of the school vacation, and Saudis had their eyes glued to their TV sets as they waited for live coverage of the Apollo 11 moon landing.

Before July 20, 1969, the idea of a human walking on the moon was the stuff of science fiction. However, almost overnight, sci-fi had turned into reality with a live broadcast showing American astronaut Neil Armstrong’s dramatic descent onto the empty lunar landscape.

Between science fiction and science fact, the live coverage of the lunar landing amounted to an unusual fusion of news and entertainment.

Saudi TV technicians bring the first live images of Neil Armstrong’s 1969 moon landing to
viewers around the Kingdom. (Supplied photo)

The historic images — beamed back to Earth more than 320,000 km away — left Saudi viewers astounded and confused, but mostly elated to be witnessing such an epoch-making event.

The event was covered live on television and radio stations in Saudi Arabia. Most Saudis and residents living in the Kingdom watched it on Saudi channels 1 and 3, owned by Saudi Aramco.

Hessah Al-Sobaie, a housewife from Al-Dawadmi, recalled watching the moon landing from her grandparents’ backyard as an 11-year-old.

“It felt weird watching a human walk on the moon,” she told Arab News. “I remember the endless questions I asked as a child.”

While most people were aware that going to the moon was risky, many Saudis believed that such a journey was impossible and all but unthinkable.


1. NASA’s Apollo 11 mission control room in Houston has been restored to its 1969 condition and regular tours
will be conducted by the Johnson Space Center.

2. NASA ‘Science Live’ will have a special edition on July 23 on board the aircraft carrier that recovered the Apollo 11 capsule.

3. A summer moon festival and family street fair will be held in Wapakoneta, Ohio, from July 17-20.

4. Downtown Houston’s Discovery green will host a free public screening of the ‘Apollo 11’ documentary, with an appearance by NASA astronaut Steve Bowen.

5. Amateur radio operators will host a series of events on July 20-21.

6. The US Space and Rocket Center is staging a special ‘Rockets on Parade’ exhibition.

The Apollo 11 mission prompted discussions across the Middle East over the reality of what people saw on their TV screens. Some Saudi scholars found it hard to believe their eyes.

“I watched it, and I clearly remember each and every detail of the coverage,” Hayat Al-Bokhari, 68, a retired school principal in Jeddah, said.

“My father, Abdul, was 56 at the time. He said the landing was faked. He couldn’t believe or accept that a human could go to the moon.”

Khaled Almasud, 70, a retired university lecturer, was a student in the US state of Oregon at the time of the mission. “Americans were stunned and over the moon, happy with their national achievement. But many Saudis like me were either in denial or insisting on more proof.”

Since the beginning of the 1960s, King Faisal had been rapidly transforming Saudi Arabia, inviting foreign-trained experts to help build a modern country with world-class infrastructure.

Billie Tanner, now 90, lived in the Kingdom for many years with her husband, Larry, and their two children, Laurie and Scott, aged six and four. The family had just arrived in Saudi Arabia and headed to the Aramco compound in Ras Tanura in the Eastern Province.

A screengrab of video of the first lunar landing beamed toward Earth and shown on television worldwide. 

“We were going through a culture shock,” she told Arab News. “I wasn’t thinking of the moon landing, but we heard about it on the news from Dhahran.

“My kids tried to see the astronauts on the moon with their binoculars and said they could see them walking around.”

The Apollo 11 spaceflight has become a milestone in the annals of human history and science. Since 1969 space exploration has greatly expanded man’s knowledge of the universe, far beyond Earth’s limits.

The captivating live coverage of the moon landing inspired millions of people around the world, profoundly influencing their thinking and attitudes.

The people of Saudi Arabia were no exception.