Taif – Saudi Arabia Summer Resort City

After writing a post about Abha, I would be remiss if I did not write about Taif (as well as many other places too). Taif is located in the Western part of Saudi Arabia about an hour’s drive from Makkah. Although I have not yet spent significant time in Taif, we have driven through it several times on our way to Makkah. I like Taif because of its higher (and cooler) altitude as well as the majestic backdrop of mountains. Taif is a popular summertime vacation destination in the Kingdom.

Taif offers splendid views, hiking, cable cars as well as a number of rose farms one can visit and tour. When I say rose farms, these are not only farms with beautiful gardens of roses but also where rosewater and rose scented perfumes are made. In addition Taif is known for its production of grapes, pomegranates and honey. If the Kingdom were to ever allow wine, Taif would be an excellent location for a vineyard.

It Is also worth mentioning the archeological features of Taif too, of which there are many. Taif region is rich in archaeological sites that date back to pre-Islamic era. Pictures and writings found on a lot of monuments indicate their date and history. The most famous of these historical features was Souk (market) Okaz which played a distinguished role in the history of Arab poetry before Islam. The Souk was a forum for poetry debate in one of the richest era in the history of Arab literature and culture. Other important archaeological features in the city include many pre-Islamic fortifications, and Islamic mosques such as the Mosque of the Prophet’s Companion (peace be upon him) Abdullah Ibin Abass,The Mosque of Al-Koaa, The Mosque of Adas and The Mosque of Al-Sanousi. Taif also contains a number of historical palaces such as the Palace of Ismaiel, The Palace of Bahawat and The Palace of Shubra which were all built in the local construction style for which the western region of the Kingdom was famed. There are many archaeological embankments in the city of which we cite the Embankment of Wadi Ikrimah on which rocks were found some archaeological writings. This data is extracted from this link

During the summer months Arabian horse racing is moved from Riyadh to Taif. The opportunity to see the magnificent horses in action is yet another added attraction to a summertime visit to Taif. And being an animal lover, Taif is one of three places in the Kingdom established by the National Commission for Wildlife Conservation and Development dedicated to the study of endangered animals and plants and to their breeding in controlled conditions.

Places of Interest

Al Rudaf Park
Located south of Taif is a large natural park where clumps of tree lie scattered amidst magnificent weathered granite rocks. The site also has a small zoo.

Wadi Mitna
The Prophet Mohammed’s (peace be upon him) sanctuary in 662AD, first year of Hegira. Mohammed came here to gain support of the Hawazeen and the Tawfiq but was stoned by the tribes. He was later given sanctuary by his fellows in a small house now used as a mosque.

Al Shafa
A small village situated high upon the Sarawat Mountains, rich in agricultural products. The fruit gardens of Taif are located here. Great view for the camera buff and for those with an adventurous heart, try a camel ride.

Rock Carving Site
Located 40km north of Taif, this was the site of the largest and most well known of the pre-Islamic souqs or gathering places. The souq was a scene for annual social, political and commercial gatherings. It was also the location of competitive recitation of poetry and prose. The buildings remain, including prominent outlines of walls of basaltic stone.

Nature Reserve
Between Al Hada hospital and the Sheraton Hotel at the top of Al Hada mountain is a large nature preserve. Al Hada means tranquillity and this preserve of trees and plants offers a true respite. It is also good location to catch the sunset over the mountain.

Tailor’s Souk
For a real taste of old Taif, the Tailors Souk is a sandstone alleyway of ancient shops tucked between the town’s modern buildings.

Turkish Fort
The remains of the fort are located near the Rock Carvings; legend has it that Lawrence of Arabia fought here in 1917. Many battles have been fought there and many graves can be found.

The Local Scene

Shopping: If you know where to look, goes the saying, you will find everything you want. Knowing where to look requires some time, energy and patience. Shopping is excellent in Taif. The shops range from small general shops (souqs) to well-established boutiques and a department store. Shopping if fun and eventually you will e able to find everything to meet your needs. The best buys are electronic equipment, French perfume and gold jewellery. Shopkeepers are honest and in the “souq” bargaining is an artful skill. The traditional Bedouin Taif souqs are among the most famous in the Kingdom especially for collectors of Bedouin jewelry, carpets, etc.
The grocery stores are unique. There are many small grocery stores and three large supermarkets. The fruit and vegetable shop has beautiful, fresh products; again, bargaining is proper. Food prices are for fresh meats and vegetables are reasonable. They do carry a good range of canned frozen and meats and vegetables are reasonable. They do carry good range of imported canned frozen and packaged foods but prices are high on these items. Good bakeries are located throughout the city. Locally made bread is inexpensive and delicious.

Sunburn: The sun is extremely strong in Saudi Arabia throughout the year. Always protect yourself against the sun to prevent sunburn.

High altitude & low humidity: Al Hada is located in the Taif Mountains at an altitude of 6,000-Ft. (1,800 meters). At this altitude, oxygen is less readily available and new arrivals will normally feel somewhat short of breath, especially when exercising, climbing stairs or carrying heavy burdens.
These symptoms will subside spontaneously with acclimation in a few days. Decrease smoking, don’t overeat and drink plenty of fluids.

Taif-Jeddah Escarpment Road:

This spectacular escarpment is a beauty, which one never expects to encounter in this part of the world. It is a marvel of engineering. Breathtaking and majestic, the road rears 6,500 feet in 21 kilometers and 93 bends. However, beware this is a dangerous road to travel especially after sunset. You will travel this road on your way to Al Hada from Jeddah.
The people of the Taif region are hard working settled Bedouins who have become herders and farmers. The landscape is terraced for irrigating the fields, which are very productive. Much of what you find in the vegetable shops has been grown locally. Taif is famous for their pomegranates, roses and grapes.

Taif has a modern airport. There are frequent direct flights to Jeddah, Riyadh, and the Eastern Province. The second highest mountain in Saudi Arabia, Ibrahim Jebel is located near the Wadi Turabah 40km from Taif. This is an excellent spot for climbing, picnicking and camping.

A modern and magnificent network of roads connects Taif to Makkah Al-Mukaramah, Al-Madinah Al-Munawwarah and Riyadh. The most important of these roads are Taif-Riyadh and Taif-Makkah-Jeddah road which passes through the high Hada Mountains, and is one of the most outstanding achievements in the technology of road construction.

Main Attractions
Wahab Crater, Cable Car ride, Donkey and Camel Trail, Roses Factory, Vegetables and flower farm, Turkish Fort, Souq Okaz, Camel Market, Shobra Museum, Al Qua Mosque, Okaz Museum, The Ekrima Dam and Viewing Kakki and Al Katib Palaces.

Taif boasts a Sheraton, Intercontinental hotel as well as many other choices of hotels and/or furnished apartments

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58 Responses

  1. Wow – it looks really beautiful there! So many places to go but so little time! :roll:

  2. Thanks Carol! Taif looks like a beautiful place, and it’s nice to see something other than the dust here in Riyadh:)
    I hope I’ll get to go sometime!

  3. Taif is beautiful – I’ve only spent a short time there once when we drove up and stopped long enough for lunch before returning home. The drive up to Taif is lovely and the temperature really is much cooler.
    The landscape is such a contrast when you drive up from Makkah/Jeddah.

  4. Although Taif is close to Makkah it is a place where non-Muslims can travel and enjoy. It is definitely a must see in Saudi Arabia!

  5. One more beutiful place to put on my “List”.Thankyou!

  6. Ok so I’ll be the voice of oppostion I hated Taif when we visited. It was about 9 years ago so there is a possiblity things have changed. But I found it to be utterly dirty, the parks were beyond dirty and just plain old nasty. I was in total shock and horror to find out how disgusting women can be in a public toilet (your immaginiation will not do justice to what I saw). Other than views of mountains, there wasn’t much there. Shopping was small townish and would save my money for Jeddah shopping. The road to get there, that should be mentioned, talk about insane. You’ll find yourself praying every second that your not run off the road and over the edge down the mountain in a firey crash. Horrible.. I almost had a heart attack. Some places I’ll never return Taif is one of them. Sorry to be the downer but it should be said :)

  7. @Nzingha
    Yes, Taif obviously doesn’t compare to the bigger cities and is pretty small-townish.
    I didn’t do any shopping there so have no idea what the souqs/malls are like.
    However, the road going up to Taif is fantastic – you hardly feel you’re driving up into the mountains. So, I’d say a lot has probably changed since you last visited.

  8. Hmmm… baboon in reflection during Ramadan. :P

    On a seperate note, i should visit Taif if the chance to perform umrah arises. Taif is so near to Makkah yet the chance to visit Taif is never reachable.

    I noted that the local architecture looks somewhat close to their Yemeni counterparts and that the mountains surrounding Taif can be a source of inspiration or a welcome respite from all of the stress.

  9. There are 2 roads to Taif. The Mountain road which is only 2 lines with sharp turns and the desert road which is a regular wide highway. I prefer the mountain road it is a great driving experience with a fast decent into the turns. Just a joy if you have a sports car. I probably drove that 20 times when I lived in Saudi. Now if you’re not driving, it is a measurable ride.

    Taif as a city is just an average town with a few gardens, which is rare in Saudi. The weather is mild. However, the village of Hada (20 KM north) is really the place to spend time. We used to camp there a few times a year and enjoy the views of the mountains and the nice weather. You can buy fresh fruits from the growers. Hada sits at a mountain peak between Makkah and Taif and is one of the advantages of taking teh mountain road.

    Note I recognize the mountain views in the pictures. They are all seem to be from the Hada village, including the baboon. Also, if you ever go to Taif through the mountain road you may find the gray baboons by sitting by the road looking for free food. It makes for good for good pictures, but be careful the males do have 1.5″ fangs and can get aggressive at times.

  10. Nzingha – just make sure not to visit the mountainous areas of Pakistan if you do not like treacherous roads! (smile)

    I like Taif. I’ve not explored it as thoroughly as I hope to yet but I’ve liked what I’ve seen so far. And yes, it is just a short hop from Makkah that it is well worth a side trip.

    I saw American2Saudi’s incredible photos when she did the rose farm tours and they are a must see on my list.

    But most importantly I am trying to illustrate that Saudi Arabia is not only desert or for those the East and West coasts, the sea. There is a lot in between that merits exploring too!

  11. Ahhh the road to Taif. What shall we say about the road to Taif…
    Please forgive me dear husband – this is a story I must share. We once drove to Makkah from the Eastern Province, our Surburban broke down so we flew home. My husband returned alone to pick it up when it was ready. He took the the mountain road and his car got stuck at the top. He called me saying, “I think I’m going to die…these drivers are majnoon!” He was a wreck! The car then caught on fire but he did not want to get out because he thought he would get hit. The amazing part of this story is that after some time a tow truck came, driven by a man with one leg. My husband said that he doubts anybody else could have pulled him off that mountain and that the man had mad skills…lol! When he told me this I was picturing one of those horror movies in my head about peoples cars that break down in small towns and ‘interesting’ people are at the gas station (in this case the tow truck driver).
    The tow truck driver had the car repaired and sent it back to the Eastern Province via those multi car trucks and my husband caught a bus back.

  12. Wow…what an incredible story!

    I remember our 2006 trip from Makkah to Riyadh and we traveled via Taif. Oh my gosh, it was raining cats and dogs that night and we could barely see the road. We crawled along and what is normally a 1 to 1.5 hour drive from Makkah to Taif took 4 hours.

  13. I have been in Saudi for 6 years and this is the first time in years I have heard the expression ‘raining cats and dogs’! I got a visul of you on the road to Taif on a dark and scary night literally raining cats and dogs.

  14. (LOL)….. and at the time we were nervous, grumpy and just wishing the rain would stop….. now that we have been without rain for 17 months in Riyadh, how I would love to see such a downpour again…and maybe I’ll get a new kitten falling in my backyard too!

  15. So that’s why Arabia is so dry: If it rains cats and dogs… You knów cats and dogs are forbidden…

    Hmmm, defenitely no 8 on my list of ”three favorite places to visit in Saudi Arabia”. I’d love to see the rosefarms and buy rosewater, and beduin jewellery at the taif souqs!

    Ummadam: oooh, ”The Peculiar Little Town” horror stories give me the creeps! Perhaps I should take it off the list!

  16. I would love to go and see and smell the roses there. It must be lovely! It looks so much greener and cooler than Jeddah, especially this time of the year!!! Great photos.

  17. [...] bookmarks tagged artful Taif – Saudi Arabia Summer Resort City saved by 3 others     MidnightHeir bookmarked on 09/05/08 | [...]

  18. My gosh…you’re right Aafke…so now the drought is explained! (LOL)

    Susie – You are so close… you must get your husband to take you and the family to Taif. It would be a great way to spend a Ramadan Thursday. Ask Mary Ann for directions and details on the rose farms!

  19. The way to get on in the world is to make people believe it’s to their advantage to help you.JeandeLaBruy%E8reJean de La Bruy?re, French author

  20. There are two ways to get to Taif by car. The super dangerous not-for-the-faint-of-heart Hada road, and the less mountainous, and less dangerous, Al Sail road. Hada road is the more scenic route as its wound around the majestic Sarwat mountains. If you can spare a moment from the crazy drivers the view is stunning, and if you look closely enough you can see the remains of the old foot path people used before cars. If you do not wish to test your driving mettle versus the treacherous mountain roads then there’s a convenient cable car service. The Hada road is being renovated at the moment and is has been closed for a couple of years now. Osama bin Ladin’s father was killed when his helicopter crashed while he was inspecting the building of this road some 40 years or so ago.

  21. I agree with you Saudi Jawa that the Hada road is so much more scenic and worth the drive as long as weather conditions cooperate.

  22. It looks very green , i thought it is only desert. Amazing!
    i am also married to lady from UAE , Planning to move to DUBAI.

  23. Beautiful shots…reminds me of Yemen as you ride from one mountain to the other- as long as you turn a blind eye to the garbage!

    My husbands tribe lives on a stretch of mountains about 6 hours south east of Sana’a in the governate of Ibb, Every time we drive up there I always feel I have to have an extra seat belt- one for my heart- that always threatens to leap out as we close in on the edges of the mountain (I can’t call them roads once you turn eastward away from Dhammar)

    But it is so very green there…when the rains come and (their variety is of cats, dogs, and bats!) The hail that crashes against the windows is deafening! And oh so very cold afterwards…with the fog and mist just hanging on to you…

    My soul gets a washing and a soothing up there… no shops, no restaurants, nothing just the eagles flying overhead…your thoughts are louder but you can let go of the tension and just breathe the cold thin air…a piece of heaven.

  24. Hi Rob – yes….Saudi Arabia tends to keep secret that it has A LOT more than oil, desert and sea! (smile)

    Inal – You summed it up so well in your last paragraph about the tranquility one immediately feels when getting away to a place like Taif or somewhere similar!

  25. Love the photos and not what I expected.

  26. Thanks, Onedia! Saudi Arabia has a lot of hidden surprises!

  27. Just found out that I’m getting transfered to Taif. Sounds like a beautiful place to visit……….but to live there?

  28. Although there are not as many expats in Taif like Riyadh for example, there is still a fair size expat community. Taif has its attractions and you will also be close to Jeddah which has a plethoria of activities.

    Good luck and welcome to the blog.

  29. I would love to go to this place and stay for an evening. I do not yet have driving license. Is the public transport good from Riyadh to this place or one has to hire a cab?

    Regards,

    Gopalan

  30. If you do not have a car, I would suggest flying from Riyadh to Jeddah (or even into Taif) and then having someone who can give you a tour of Taif collect you. It is well worth the lovely trip.

    FYI – the drive between Riyadh and Taif can be around 8-9 hours.

  31. irish brian

    hello everyone, i am being transferred from dubai (as project finished) to taif for a new project.

    Can someone give me an idea of life in taif for an expat….are their expat compound facilities…. even expats???? social scene

    any advice would be very much appreciated.

  32. I’ve never been to Taif. I really don’t know how it is like there. I could only imagine from Dubai to Taif there’s going to be a huge difference. You could probably contact one of the expats on this page:

    http://www.expatexchange.com/expat/index.cfm?frmid=289&dbname=ee&shared=N&forumid=0&tpcid=3322666

    here’s one who has been in Taif for 3 years:
    kenandlat@sbcglobal.net

    Wear your sunscreen, keep out of the sun, drink a lot of water, take advantage of winter, & good luck!

  33. @brian – I do not live in Taif so cannot share firsthand info…but to my understanding there is an expat community in Taif although not as large as either Jeddah or Riyadh. Fortunately Taif is also not far from Jeddah which has a large expat community and many activities going on.

  34. Hi! I am moving to Taif with my husband in January. Thanks for the nice photos and a reassuring article. My problem is that I can’t find any contact details for expat compounds in Taif. Does anyone know the cost of one-bedroom apartment in a compound in Taif? Any info/advice would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks!

    Slonik

  35. Welcome Slonik! I hope that one of the Saudi participants or an expat who has lived in Taif will respond to your query. i’ve only been there as a visitor so cannot address what kind of expat compounds are there. Does this mean you are responsible for identifying your own housing?

  36. Thanks American Bedu! Our contact in Taif suggested living outside the compound, but we think that a compound would be a better way to start our life there. It would be great to get some information about compounds there. So far we haven’t been able to find anything :/ Look forward to hearing from expats living in Taif!

  37. @Slonik,

    Have you and your family ever lived in Saudi Arabia before? Living outside the compound would give you greater exposure to culture and life in Saudi Arabia but also have you likely responsible for interacting with a landlord, negotiating rents and upkeep etc. You might need a better grasp of Arabic than if you were on a compound. And if you have problems with an off-compound residence you deal with the landlord to get repairs, etc. Whereas on a compound the compound management is responsible for any problems and life would likely resemble more of a western type environment with openness. I did write an early post about the pros and cons between compound living and not. I believe it was called Home Sweet Home.

  38. In a similar situation. I will be working in Taif in December for probably 3 years. I would prefer a well equiped western compound and advice? I should have been going to Dhahran where I have lived once before for 14 years so I know Saudi reasonably well but Taif is a bit of a mystery.

  39. @Dave,

    Welcome to the Blog. I believe there are some readers who are more familiar with Taif. And there is also a book which can be obtained through Jarir Bookstore called Taif: Eden of Arabia which I highly recommend. Although this book may not address day-to-day living as an expat, it does thoroughly illustrate the beauty and diversity of Taif and places to see and go.

  40. [...] September 2008 I wrote an article about Taif, Saudi Arabia.  I’ve been through Taif multiple times and the more I saw of Taif the more I was [...]

  41. Can anyone tell me the location of the rose farm? I went there 3 times, and it seem as if nobody knew where is the farm…. thank you..

  42. Hello, can anyone advise me about how is the life for a single women in Taif? i will soon be working in Taif, but i am quiet afraid as this will be my first job in middle east. I will be living in conpound provided by the firm, but rest how will be the life there? So can anyone please guide me about safety and dressing styles rules to be followed here. And also can a lady go for shopping alone there? Thanks a lot.

  43. Hi,
    I live in taif with my husband and my baby!! The life is difficult for a woman in taif in opposite to djedda!! There are many Mutawa!! If you go alone for shopping: cover your hair! For you ABAYA: choose a large black!! In wich compound do you live? I am french but I speak a little english and if you want to meet me! We have to find a new compound because the governer required we go in a secured compound for the next month!!
    Welcome in Taif and see you!!
    Aurelie

  44. i lived in taif for 2 years—–the drive up or down the escarpment road is truly insane !!!!!! i dreaded taking that 14 mile kamakazi trip…took it only because it is shorter—–you truly take your life in your own 2 hands——-arizing through the 4000 foot level-the severe humidity goes away—-thunderstorms in the mid-summer months are something to behold being so close to the sky—lightening hits atr like artillery hits—rocks blown into the air etc…a very unique experience–over all a laid back city——

  45. I was in Taif in 1980 for 3 months working at the air base. I went to jeddah a couple of time in a Suburban. On one trip out of Jeddah, the fan belt broke and damaged the fan clutch. We had a replacement belt. We decided to go without a fan up the mountain, so long as we kept up the speed. Taking the hairpin turns at 25 mph to keep airflow through the radiator was nuts. We were glad it was in Dec at night.
    One trip in Jeddah, it had just rained hard. The highway into the city had no rain drains, and the curbs were high keeping the water contained. Tom was driving. He said, “Watch this.” Seconds later, a Chevy Impala went past us at over 100 mph. He hit the standing water on the road sending spray over 20 feet into air air. He then had no brakes. His brake lights came on with no slowing down as he sped through a red light at the next intersection. We were the only cars on the road. Then Tom said, “They like to see spray.” I wondered if this was how all Saudis drive. I do know that at intersecions, they treat the traffic lights as drag start lights. You can see them drag race from nearly every light, kind of like kids did when I was young, in the 50s and 60s. Maybe that’s why God gave them the camel.
    I saw many other sights that shows that the Saudis shouldn’t have all that money, like the $7 billion summer palace in Taif for the king, while the poor are kept in a shanty compound.
    Crazy place.

  46. [...] for Wildlife Conservation and Development (NCWCD).  Captive breeding of Oryx at the NWRC in Taif have enabled the restoration of the species in the Kingdom: a first reintroduction took place in [...]

  47. WOW , i’m so glad that you almost know everything about taif , I could say better than me ( smile ) , i’m frome taif ,
    Beautiful photos also , and nice to know
    you .
    Best Regards ,,

  48. Taif is a beautiful place, I have worked at King Fahd Air Base early in 1993-98. Have visited many places of Taif, e.g. Shafa hills, Hada Hils and many others. I like this city very much. People are very nice having great sense of hospitality.
    Alas! I do not not have e- mail of any of my ex- colleague of 14 Sqdn of above Air Base. If anyone can help me to find out e-mail of Saeed Al Qahtani, Raid Ahmad etc.I will be greateful. Thanks. Akhu o Kum Fi Deen. Mahmood Khokher

  49. does anyone know the name and address of the special hospital for TUBERCULOSIS teatment in Taif?? i wish to get in touch with a patient there; Hilverbeek@yahoo.ca Thanks

  50. Thanks for all the informative posts. Am on my way there soon and will receive a housing allowance. What is a reasonable price for a basic one bedroom apartment inc electricity, cable or Sat TV and Internet? Regards Louis

  51. Lovely place to visit – Taif. Cooler than Jeddah and rest of places in Summer . The Hada road is not very dangerous, but must be careful . It is definitely shorter route than the SAIL Kabir road. I have been to Taif many times via HADA and SAIL roads. Jeddah to Taif is nearly 2 hour drive ,slowing down at checkpoints and Gas Stations.
    Nice trail and now safety is implemented, so no worries. Make a trip to taif and njoy the cool breeze and the nice Black tea after dinner watching NAT GEO in one of the ISTRAHAS( Guest Houses).
    Nice Hospitable atmosphere.
    Njoy Cable Cars , and green parks and the Barbeque by the Mountains .
    Watch the Mountain Baboons eat Bananas which the Visitors feed .

    Cheers
    Mohammed Michael

  52. I want to know , where the vegetables and flowers farm ? We need information to go there …

  53. I just visited Taif two weeks ago and found it to be a wonderful place to visit. The winding road was driven skillfully by our driver. He remarked that it is a much wider, better designed road than years ago. The scenery was breathtaking. We took the tram which is a great way to see the valleys and mountains, along with the baboons. We also fed the baboons on our drive out. The was the highlight of the trip for me. There were lots of babies suckling on their mothers, along with the males who would gently take the food from our hands. There were cats and dogs living among the baboons. I would advise anyone to go to Taif there are so many things to see.

  54. Hello evrybody,
    I’m french and i will go with my familly to Taïf in july(2012).
    I’m looking for information and if a french community existe in te place.
    Thanks by advance for all this awsers.
    Armand.

  55. Colin – you mean in July 2013??? Perhaps you wont find any french community but there are a some speaking french here. Arabic is the language for communicating any thing but ofcourse you can always use the sign language. People are quite friendly and its a nice place to visit. In June and July it gets a bit crowded, being the only summer resort in Mecca. So it is obvious that the accomodations also get a bit expensive in the peak season. Although they are quite easy to find. If you like mountains and parks then Taif is the place. Please let me know if u need to know anything else in particular.

  56. I was wondering if there’s a list of all the expat and ‘other’ compounds in Taif. We’re looking for a place for my family. We have 2 small kids(3 and 6).
    Thank you for any help out there.

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