On day 6 of our Saudi Arabia adventure we headed North from Jeddah and Taif to the city of Hail. Looking like the English word Hail, it is pronounced “Hi Eel” and commonly spelt Ha’il. We arrived after a bumpy internal flight from Jeddah. We flew with Nesma Airlines, which covers EgYPT and Saudi Arabia. It was part of our business trip with Young Pioneer Tours after attending the Hotel Show in Jeddah. It stands out as one of the best trips I have ever been on, despite the fact I’m 150+ countries into my journey.
Hail is a marvellous desert city crying out to be found. It is a desert based city which is also capital of the region named Hail. It is only 700 kilometres from the Jordan border. It is a lofty city, at 992 metres above sea level. It seems quite small yet hosts 400,000 people. Many families stay indoors and this might be the reason for the fact I felt it seemed smaller, but as a tourist – this is a superb city to backpack in. Within this unpromoted untouristic settlement you can uncover a Saudi Arabian desert life with a city twist. While reminders of my Iran and Jordan backpacking halcyon days came waking back, Hail also stood alone in its representation of Saudi Arabia.
If you backpack Hail, work your way through these 4 places. You and your group will be the only tourists. It’s brilliant, it’s absolutely brilliant.
1.Museum Called “I Found A Taste of the Past”
This little museum is a treat. It is inside a genuine family home. Each room in the museum is decorated with memorabilia and miscellany from the bygone days of yore. When our guide (who asked not to be named or photographed) took us round, it was intriguing how so many items were collected and not enclosed in cases. Most museums you couldn’t touch the items as they were in secure cases. Everything here was open.
On the tour inside this museum we are also given a tea and we have a good chat with our guide and we went into deep conversation. There were even old Saudi Arabia football shirts in one of the rooms. Entry is 20 Riyals ($5 USD).
2.King Fahd Mosque
You should aim to see at least one Mosque in every city you visit in Saudi Arabia. Hail boasts quite a few but the King Fahd Mosque is the main one. Try and visit it during the time of one of the 5 Call to Prayer times to see the hordes of locals heading in and hearing the prayer all over the city. Non-Muslims are not allowed to enter.
On the top of a mini mountain in the city of Hail, sits Airaf Castle. It’s one of the most important monuments in Hail. Our guide got the key and let us inside on a quiet Sunday morning. Of course there was nobody else here…
The Castle dates back to Al Ali family’s reign in the 12th Century and it sits and towers above the city offering great views. It is from this castle that a cannon sounds each day during Ramadan after sunset to alert the city that it is OK to eat now.
When I saw the Al Qishlah Fort in central Hail I was surprised that it was so new. It was closed for visitors for renovation during our trip but I managed to pick up a booklet on its history (these booklets and a city map were available at the Airef Castle entrance). The courtyard covers an area of around 14,000 metres squared.
Although Al Qishlah was closed, I was able to scale its exterior and gather information on its history. It was ordered in 1940 and built over the next three years. The entrances are gates which are decorated with gypsum floral and geometric motifs. I hope on your visit, it will be open and you can explore.
I picked up a brochure called “30 Things to Do in Hail!” However we managed around 10 of them, and a few of them were outside the city so I will cover those sights in separate posts! I included just 4 in this easy to understand list as if you are pushed for time – just tick off these 4. While based in Hail, we stayed at the Aronani Hotel, which had shit WiFi but clean rooms. Sadly I also cannot share with you the name of the tour guide and company as they asked not to be named, but my friend and travel buddy Marko Moudrak and my partners at Young Pioneer Tours can help you out for sure! We left Hail on an exciting train journey to Riyadh, the country’s capital – but even the train station was outside of Hail. Here are some more photos from my time in Hail, stay tuned to my site, Facebook and Instagram for more Hail stories.
Here are some videos from my time exploring Hail in Saudi Arabia: