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Masjid al-Haram

Masjid al-Haram, the world's
largest mosque in Mecca.

A vast sea of sand (and oil), Saudi Arabia is the birthplace of Islam and today is bounded by Jordan, Iraq and Kuwait to the north, Qatar to the east, the United Arab Emirates and Oman to the southeast, and by Yemen to the south.

With travel warnings issued by most Western governments in recent years, Saudi Arabia's recent decision to fling open its doors to foreign tourists has been welcomed in the travel industry.

However, there's still a big caveat about traveling to Saudi Arabia.

With an equally recent record of human rights violations (along with accucations of high-profile political assassinations) Saudi Arabia remains a travel destination that leaves a number of Western travelers wary. And, that's for a few other more practical reasons.

While female tourists no longer required to wear the all-covering abaya robe, Saudi Arabia continues to forbid alcohol and enforces a strict social code. Littering, spitting, playing music during prayer times, taking photographs of people without permission, and more taboos may result in sometimes hefty fines from local authorities.

Add to that traditionally restrictive travel rules set by the Saudi government -- and a booked guided tour becomes a necessity for visiting major attractions safely and conveniently.

Below, check out top travel sites with expert knowledge of the country and its culture, art & history, along with pictures, video clips and photo presentations of what awaits in Saudi Arabia:

More about Saudi Arabia tourism around the Web:

Saudi Arabia travel guide - Wikitravel entry with 'been there' advice on what to see, recommended restaurants, overview of travel restrictions and obtaining visas, how to stay safe and practical travel & safety tips.

Saudi Arabia Travel Information - Here's the Lonely Planet guide with information on top attractions including Mecca, Habalah and more with maps & travel photos, related links.

Mecca - Learn more about the center of the Islamic world in stunning photos and an engaging narrative on its history, with additional notes on the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Jeddah.

Madain Saleh - The 'must see' attraction of any visit to Saudi Arabia, check out photos and background information on the more than 100 ancient tombs and dwellings carved into the sandstone mountainside.

also see in Holidays & Observances -> Eid ul-Adha & The Hajj

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