Backpacking in Saudi Arabia was a crazy adventure after being invited there in 2018 as part of representing Young Pioneer Tours at the Hotel Show. We started off exploring Jeddah and Old Town Jeddah before heading to check out the city of Taif for its annual Rose Festival and then we delved deeper into the backpacking adventures after working at the Hotel Show in Jeddah.
After Taif, we headed north to Ha’il where we toured Jubbah and some national park areas including Mashar National Park and Tawarun. When time was up in Ha’il, we boarded a train straight for Riyadh, the capital city. That was a really interesting train journey as although the train was modern, state of the art, fast etc., the organisation for tourism in Saudi Arabia is seriously shit! We were granted our tickets finally after the train’s leaving time (it waited for us) and they refused to let me board with a coffee! So I went back, snuck it intill my pocket and walked back in with it! But once we arrived in Riyadh, we were doing side trips to places such as Dir’ Aiyah, Ushaiqer, Shaqra and Sherpa, as well as Rabat and a Salt Lake. It was all pretty magical. It was time to tour Shaqra or Shagra! Wikipedia says Shaqraa with an extra “a”, my official tourist map of Saudi Arabia calls it Shaqra and this place wasn’t mentioned in any of my Lonely Planet books or my tour leaflets.
Getting to Shaqra, Saudi Arabia
We were here on a tour and went by bus. It was with Owadan Tourism who actually brought my camera to meet me on this day. A story for the future how I left my camera in the Mercure Hotel in Jeddah, was without it for about 5 days then got it back on the Shaqra tour! So we came by mini-bus and stopped at Rabat, Salt Lakes and a few other places on the way from Riyadh. The journey including stops took under 3 hours and was 190 kilometres north of Riyadh.
Sightseeing in Shaqra
Basically we did four things here, aside from eating cheeseburgers in the local equivalent of a DickMonalds!
The first thing we did was get a full guided tour of the museum, housed inside Alsubaii Heritage House. Shaqra is basically a walled city made of mud. The museum was at the entrance to the walled city so first we got a guided tour in English of every floor of the museum, three.
1.Alsubaii Heritage House – Guided Tour
I noted that the sockets and plus here were the large hat-trick pinned ones, the same as in South Africa.
To be honest, I got totally bored during this tour. It was basically them telling us what happend inside each room. If there had’ve been a bed, I’d have gone to sleep!! The highlight was the view from the top floor over the mud city of Shaqra.
2.Shaqra Old City Tour
After that, we toured the old city. I found that it was totally empty, we were the only tourists, the only people, everything was closed and it was well maintained. It reminded me of places like Mayan and Rayen in Iran. The good thing was we roamed here on our own accord free from boring speeches. Once we had seen the old city, museum, a mosque and had a cheeseburger it was good riddance Shaqra!
Like all cities in Saudi Arabia, Shaqra has mosques, we checked one of them out, it was on the other side of the old town.
4.Cheeseburger and Chips
As mentioned we headed to Shaqra’s equivalent of a DickMonald’s for a cheeseburger and chips – Kudu. I also icreamed it – chocolate flavour. Kudu restaurant was in a quiet shopping mall. It felt like the place had died – it was a ghost town and we saw nobody else!
Before we left the area there was a desert viewpoint, which was decent enough to see. After that, it was time to go. Goodbye Shaqra. We may never meet again.
How to Organise a trip to Shaqra
As Saudi Arabia continues to develop its tourist potential, there are still no tourist visas available. However, if like me you have a work event, a business opportunity or commerce, you can get a business visa. Once you have that, organise your trip with two of my partners, Young Pioneer Tours and Haya Tours:
Young Pioneer Tours
No. 2804 South Block Lijing Building, Caiwuwei, Jintang Road 48#, Guiyuan Street, Luohu District, Shenzhen City, 518000, CHINA
First Floor, Alia Plaza, Exit 6,
Cnr: Thumamah Road and Abi Bakr As-Siddiq Street,
Ar Rabi, Riyadh 13316
Kingdom Of Saudi Arabia
Email: [email protected]
Here are some videos from my time exploring Shaqra while backpacking in Saudi Arabia: