TaifCopyright: Osama Ahmed Mansour/Shutterstock.com
TaifRose fragrance fills the air in Taif, a scenic Saudi town whose fertile lands are dotted with abundant rose and fruit orchards. Nestled amidst the Shafa Mountain range not far from Mecca, Taif historically used to be a major commercial hub for countries of the Arabian Peninsula but has now transformed into a popular summer holiday destination with well-developed infrastructure, magnificent natural beauty, and a mild climate, in pleasant contrast to much of the country.
The CityThe Saudi summertime favorite of Ta'if is located at a distance form the beaches and humid waterside areas of the country up in the mountains, at an elevation of 1700 meters above sea level (some areas reach up to 5000m). During the summer months, the town's population doubles and the king himself, along with the Saudi government, relocate here for this hottest time of the year. Ta'if is a city of historic significance which attracts visitors with its archaeological sites as much as its natural beauty. The city is known for its numerous rose fields and rose processing factories - the tradition of rose water and oils production started over a century back and is still going strong. The town is not only known for its roses - grapes, figs, pears, peaches, watermelons (and more) are all grown here organically and are available for purchase in the local souks and markets. Ta'if is home to the Al-Massara International Equestrian Center (one of the most renowned in the country) where horse races and "pageants" are held frequently, drawing visitors from all over the nearby areas.
Do & See
Ta'if's number one attraction is, perhaps, its natural beauty. No visit to the area is complete without exploring the Shafa Mountains and taking a ride on the cable car - one of the most ambitious projects of the kind on the entire peninsula. Some of the most scenic areas full of parks, gardens and fruit farms include Al-Hada and Al-Shifa, conveniently connected to each other via a two-way road. The town of Ta'if holds a few interesting locations, such as the famous Shubra Palace, historic Turkish Fort, informative National Museum and cultural Souk Okaz.
Ta'if is not particularly known for its restaurant scene, but there are quite a few local eateries scattered throughout the town. Grains such as wheat or rice and meats such as chicken or lamb constitute the bulk of Saudi cuisine (pork is normally not served in the country, as its consumption is forbidden by Islam). Yoghurt is often used in local cooking, and dates constitute a dessert staple. The signature dish to try when in Ta'if is a local variety of rice and milk pudding called "seleeg".
There are a few cafes throughout the city, with Western-style cafés and coffee houses gaining increasing popularity. Ta'if boasts a number of local and international chains, as well as individual establishments.
Bars & Nightlife
The cultural environment in Saudi Arabia is highly conservative. Religious law forbids the sale or consumption of alcohol throughout Saudi Arabia, so there are no bars or nightclubs. Instead, evening social activities are centred on shopping or dining out in one of the city’s many restaurants or cafés whilst indulging in a delicious mocktail (a mix of fresh fruit juices) or a strong cup of Arabic coffee.
While Souk Okaz is more of a cultural experience, most great bargains are to be had at Souk Al-Balad, where everything from handicrafts to spices to silver and gold items are on sale. Ta'if offers shopping opportunities to fit any taste, including modern shopping malls, individual boutiques and busy markets. Do not miss Shahar Street - the local shopping street lined with fixed-price stores.