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Introduction

Ta'if (pronounced "Taayef", also written Taif) is a city in western Saudi Arabia. It is in the mountains near Mecca and was once used as the summer capital, letting the royal family get out of the much hotter Riyadh.

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Sights and Activities

Al Rudaf Park, south of Taif, has clumps of trees lie and beautiful weathered granite rocks, plus a small zoo.
Wadi Mitna was Muhammad's refuge in 619 AD.
Ta'if rose plantation. In April, fields are full of pink roses. They are harvested and distilled into Ta'if rose oil, a luxury item which has been used in famous perfumes including Chanel.
Shubra Palace houses the local museum.
Rock Carving Site, 40 km north of Taif, is where there used to be a large souq (market) in ancient, pre-Islamic times.
Turkish Fort: This is near the Rock Carving Site, and it is believe that Lawrence of Arabia fought here during World War I. Many other battles have taken place in the area, so there are graves of war dead nearby.
Nature Reserve: This reserve is 2,100 meters above sea level, at the peak of Al Hada Mountain. This is a novelty in Saudi Arabia: A place of greenery, trees and shrubs, and also a great place to watch the sun set.
Al Shafa: A village in the mountains (2,200 to 2,500 metres above sea level), where many fruits are grown. Great views are to be had.

Located beside the Ramada Hotel, the newly opened cable car, which is the largest in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East, will show you the extremely fantastic scenery of Taif's Mountains. If you are lucky you will be able to see monkeys. These cable cars, located in Al Hada Region will cost you a notable amount of money. The cable cars drop you in Al Kar Tourist Village, which is mainly a water games center with swimming pools. The cable car will cost you 30 Riyals for an adult and 15 Riyals for kids. If you wish to take a return trip, you will pay double. You can have your own cable car for 150 Riyals one way and 300 Riyals for two way. Don't Forget Your Camera! Since 2011 the price is 90 Riyals flat, this includes to and fro cable car and waterpark.

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Events and Festivals

Milad al-Nabi

All Saudi Muslims celebrate the birthday of their Prophet, Mohammad, by elaborately decorating their homes and mosques. Children recite poems about the Prophet, while older Saudis tell stories about Mohammad’s life and accomplishments. Large feasts and street processions are among Milad al-Nabi’s other traditional activities. The date of Milad al-Nabi varies from year to year according to the Islamic calendar.

Unification of the Kingdom Day

The country’s only secular public holiday takes place each September 23 on the anniversary of Saudi Arabia’s 1932 founding. Although many Saudis still choose to quietly celebrate this formerly low-key holiday at home, growing numbers of young Saudis have chosen to express their national pride more overtly by singing, dancing, honking car horns, and waving Saudi flags.

Eid ul-Fitr

Like their Muslim counterparts in other nations, Saudis mark the final day of the fasting month of Ramadan with this three-day religious festival. Eid ul-Fitr begins with a small morning meal and quiet prayers, and continues with larger feasts and livelier celebrations among family and friends. Saudi children receive money and elaborately decorated gift bags from adults, several shopkeepers add free gifts to all purchases, and Saudi men secretly leave large bags of food on strangers’ doorsteps during this festive time of year.

Eid al-Adha

This important Muslim festival lasts four days and marks the moment when Ibrahim was willing to sacrifice Ismael, his son, for Allah. Today, most Saudi families celebrate Eid al-Adha by dressing up in their finest clothing, saying special prayers, and slaughtering lambs to share their meat with everyone.

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Getting There

From Jeddah, take the highway toward Mecca and turn off onto the "Christian Bypass" just before the holy city. This leads to an interesting road of switchbacks up an escarpment and on to Ta'if.

Ta’if Regional Airport (TIF IATA) is located some 15-20km north-east of the city. Domestic flights are available to Abha, Dammam, Jazan, Jeddah, Medina, Nejran, Riyadh and Tabuk on Saudi. Flights to Cairo are available on Nile Air and Nesma Airlines, while Nile Air also offer flights to Alexandria.

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Eat

Try to eat Saudi's own Kabsa or Bukhari Rice. The signature dish of Taif is "Seleeg," a sort of large-grain rice and milk pudding. However, be careful because hygiene in some restaurants is not satisfactory. Don't miss The Tazaj fast food chain.

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Drink

As with the rest of Saudi Arabia, alcohol is strictly prohibited. You can drink Saudi champagne (alcohol free) from any coffee shop.

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Sleep

Intercontinental Taif

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Keep Connected

Internet

Internet cafes abound in major Saudi cities, and many shopping malls feature a gaming parlor or two. Rates are around SR5/hour.

While Internet in Saudi Arabia is cordoned off by a filter, it aims primarily at pornography, non-Islamic religious and domestic political sites in Arabic, and (from the traveller's point of view) is nowhere near as strict as, say, China's. Google, Skype, Wikipedia, all major webmail providers etc. are all accessible.

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

The three mobile operators in Saudi, incumbent Al Jawal, Emirati rival Mobily and Kuwaiti newcomer Zain (Vodafone Network) are fiercely competitive, with good coverage (in populated areas) and good pricing. A starter pack with prepaid SIM and talktime starts from about SR 75, and you can sign up in most any larger mobile shop (bring your passport). Local calls are under SR 0.5/minute, while calls overseas are around or less than SR 2/min.

And yes, you can bring in your own phone: despite grumblings from the clerics, both camera phones and multimedia messaging (MMS) are now legal.

Post

Saudi Post has a good network of post offices around the country, but offices are closed Thursday and Friday. Stamps for postcards to anywhere in the world cost SR4. The bigger problem is actually finding postcards, as the mutawwa periodically crack down on the celebration of non-Islamic holidays like Valentine's Day, Christmas or even birthdays, causing all cards of any sort to disappear from bookstores! Your best bet is thus gift shops in major hotels. Mail coming in to the country from overseas is notoriously unreliable. Stories abound of things arriving months after they were sent or never arriving at all. There are branches of DHL, FedEx and UPS operating throughout the kingdom, so a good rule of thumb is to have anything important sent through those channels.

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This is version 3. Last edited at 14:35 on Oct 1, 19 by Utrecht. 1 article links to this page.

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