world map

Saudi Arabia

In the country of the Forbidden City

date of entry 18/02/2005
mileage 454,471

capital Riad

area 2.149.690 km²

population 28.436.752

GDP 577,5 Bill. US-Dollar

official language Arabic

Saudi Arabia has little in the way of conventional tourism. Millions of people visit the desert state every year on pilgrimages to the holy Muslim sites of Mecca and Medina, but getting a tourist visa is not easy. Gunther and Christine managed to get transit visas on several occasions. There were many restrictions to contend with in this authoritarian country: As a woman, Christine was not even allowed to buy a Coke at a petrol station. And of course the forbidden city of Mecca was out of the question for Western visitors.
  • Inside, Gunther and Christine were left alone to admire the huge vaulted ceilings. "There was no one else there all day," recalls Gunther.
    9  of  9
  • Over the past ten years, strings of office blocks have been built in the capital, Riyadh.
    1  of  9
  • The best known is the Kingdom Center, Saudi Arabia’s tallest skyscraper at 302 metres.
    2  of  9
  • Oil-rich Damman has an American feel. Aramco, the world’s biggest oil production company, has its headquarters in neighbouring Dhahran.
    3  of  9
  • Graffiti on a statue depicting Saudi Arabia’s coat of arms
    4  of  9
  • Gunther and Christine spent most of their time in the desert outside the big cities
    5  of  9
  • Where they found dromedaries roaming free
    6  of  9
  • Gunther remembers them as "shy and goodnatured".
    7  of  9
  • The imposing Nabatean tombs of Medan Salih, in the north-west of the country, are hewn from huge red sandstone cliffs
    8  of  9
  • Video: Saudi Arabia: the hidden land