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Take a flight to Taif with Qatar Airways and you’ll be visiting a city with more than a few nicknames. It’s known as the ‘summer capital’ of Saudi Arabia as visitors come here during the hotter months to escape the scorching heat and enjoy a more temperate climate alongside the lush greenery. That greenery gives rise to its other popular pseudonym: ‘the City of Roses’.
Amidst the old world architecture and the glittering glass of modern buildings, you’ll find stunning gardens with so many roses that it’s said you can smell the city on your approach. Flights to Taif can be bought from most international airports, giving you the chance to explore a city that plays home to fairy-tale palaces and an astounding 21st Century corniche road that winds down through the rugged cliffs to the coast.
As long as you’re good with heights, your trip to Taif really ought to take in a visit to the Al-Shafa Mountain. This is a popular spot for picnickers who want refreshing breezes and to enjoy the view from 2,500 metres above sea level. You’ll also find the small farming village of Al Shafa, where you can hire a camel if the walk seems a little too much for you.
Shubra Palace was once home to King Abdul-Aziz and probably shows some of the last remnants of old Taif. With latticework windows and interior marble from Italy, there are 155 rooms to explore in its more recent role as one of the most important museums in the Kingdom.
King Fahad’s Garden is another beautiful attraction, being a large, lush area of greenery, surrounding a lagoon. The lagoon is fed by a man-made waterfall, which only adds to the serenity of the scenery. However, there are places to eat very nearby, making it easy to spend a peaceful day there.
A mountain-top city in Saudi Arabia might not immediately be the place you think of for leisure activities but travel to Taif and you’ll be pleasantly surprised! Mountaineering is a popular pastime in the region, with challenges offered by various mountains including Al-Hada, Bani Saad, Thaqif and Bani Malik. However, if all that sounds a bit too much like hard work, you can reap the benefits of the view by taking the Al-Hada cable-car – there’s even a restaurant at the top.
Arabian horses are widely recognised as among the best in the world. A trip to Taif wouldn’t be complete without visiting the race track on Al-Hawiyah Road. There are races throughout the year with high-stake prizes, such as luxury cars, so be prepared to spend some money.
If your trip to Taif involves children, then you can’t do much better than spending a day at Taif Zoo. The zoo is quite luxurious, with well-maintained gardens and a stunning array of fascinating animals, including monkeys, reptiles, elephants and tigers.
If you want to know about Taif’s culture, its history and even its customs, then look no further than its food. With influences from India, Asia and Central Africa, the city’s cuisine is aromatic, yet can also be surprisingly simple. To get a true taste of Taif, hunt down one of the traditional restaurants or choose from the dishes offered by street vendors.
You can find anything from traditional snacks, such as tirmis – salted lupine beans – to full-blown meals, such as kuzi: spit-roasted lamb served on yoghurt that has been enriched with lamb fat and served with fragrant rice or Arab bread. In addition, if you’re a tea lover, Taif is something of a paradise. You can try anything from the musty, local brews to sweet mint tea and floral infusions.
The gate of the old Taif city now plays home to the Souk al-Balad; one of the city’s most famous souks. Amongst the network of stalls and shops, you can hunt down great bargains, such as pure rosewater, local honey, spices and even golden burqas. One part of the souk is dedicated to gold and here you’ll find local craftsmen ready to haggle with you over a piece of intricate jewellery or a wedding crown.
However, if you’d rather hunt out a more modern shopping environment, get down to Shahar Street, which is famed for its high-end boutiques and a shopping mall that has everything you could want, including nationally and internationally-branded goods.
Taif is a predominantly Muslim city and following a few simple observances will ensure your trip to Taif passes without incident.
Women should take care to dress modestly, keeping their legs, arms and chest covered. It’s also important to keep the head covered and not to wear anything tight or revealing. Showing the sole of your foot or shoe is considered ill-mannered and shaking hands is done with the right hand only.
Flights to Taif with Qatar Airways land at Taif Regional Airport. There are plenty of taxis available and good car-hire facilities.
Visa restrictions for entry into the country will depend on your country of origin, length of stay and whether your trip is for business or pleasure. So before you fly to Taif please check the visa and passport requirements.
Currency: Saudi Riyal (SAR)
Voltage: 127 / 220 V 60 Hz
Plugs: Type A / B / F / G
International dialing code: +966