Welcome to Riyadh, the birthplace of modern Saudi Arabia, where old-world charm meets 21st-century vision. Riyadh translates to “the Gardens,” a reference to the area’s past that dates to the 14th century, when the land was revered for its fertile soil, many canals and trees. Once a walled, mud-brick way station along desert trading routes,

Riyadh (meaning 'garden') from afar is a picture of soaring modern towers rising up above the surrounding desert. Up close, it can appear cautious and sober and feels more conservative than other Saudi cities like Jeddah. But the winds of change sweeping the nation are also affecting the capital.

The city’s unofficial motto is “Jeddah ghair,” or “Jeddah’s different.” Today, Jeddah is Saudi Arabia’s buzzing cosmopolitan hub, home to gleaming hotels and big-ticket events like the Red Sea International Film Festival, which takes place in late winter. The city’s heart is still intact in Al Balad, the magical historical quarter that has undergone a renaissance in recent years. And the Red Sea is still central to it all — for trade, for diving among pristine reefs, and for fishing for Jeddah’s legendary seafood.

AlUla, The World's Masterpiece, is one of the oldest cities in the Arabian Peninsula and home to Hegra, a UNESCO World Heritage site. A land rich in historical, geological, and geographical significance, this ancient city, once at the crossroads of The Silk Road and The Incense Route, has only recently been re-discovered by the world.

You can enjoy some of the best diving in Saudi Arabia in the warm, rich waters off Yanbu, and a handful of dive centers in the city cater to underwater adventurers.

Popular sites include Seven Sisters, best-known for its hammerhead sharks, though tiger sharks and tuna are often seen around the walls of coral too; Abu Galawa, a paradise island surrounded by coral grottoes, sharks and schools of barracuda; and the wreck of the SS Iona, now a beautiful living reef.

Prefer to stay above water? Head to Yanbu Waterfront for fishing and bird-watching — it’s a great place to introduce young travelers to wildlife observation. Join locals eating Red Sea-caught fish while overlooking the water. Discover the nearby glowing lanes of the recently restored Souq Al Lail (night market), originally open late to serve fishermen. Local dates and green mulkhiah leaves are among the produce sold.