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Nestled between Mount Shammer to the north and Mount Salma to the south, the city of Hail was once the capital of all the Arabian Desert and home to legends like Hatim Al Tai, the Arabian poet whose altruism earned him spots in stories like “One Thousand and One Nights” (also known as “Arabian Nights”). Today it’s the capital of the north-central region of Saudi Arabia bearing the same name and a popular stop during the pilgrimage to Makkah. The city of Hail is also known for hosting international events, including a Desert Festival celebrating the area’s culture and the Hail International Rally, where rally cars, quads and motorcycles race through the Nafud Desert and through Hail, Baqaa, Al Ghazalah and the village of Umm Al Qulban. If you’re seeking a dose of history, culture and adventure, set your sights on Hail.

When in Hail, go and explore

Explore Al Nafud Desert

Sitting on the edge of Al Nafud Desert, no trip to Hail would be complete without a visit to these majestic red sands. The Hail region is home to rock art now classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Discover traces of what life was like more than 10,000 years ago through the inscriptions and petroglyphs just outside of Hail in Jubbah at Jabal Umm Sinman and Shuwaymis at Jabal Al Manjor. Adventure seekers might also enjoy camping, dune bashing or sand surfing in the sands right outside the city.

Castle Hop

If you see three castles, you’ve made it to the center of the city. A’arif Fort, Barzan Castle and Al Qishlah Castle are each worth stopping by, but if you have to pick only one, look up. Perched atop a peak, A’arif Fort is the oldest of the three and offers the best viewpoint over the city. A’arif has also been used as the meeting place to view the Ramadan moon and fire the iftar cannon to signal an end to the day’s fasting.

Souq and Market Shopping

Also directly in the center of town, the Hail Souq sells fruits, vegetables and the kingdom’s favorite — dates — as well as handmade crafts such as clay pots and woven mats. For those seeking souvenirs, this traditional souq should be on your itinerary. Alternatively, head east of the city’s center to search for hidden treasures at the Hail Flea Market — one of the kingdom’s last proper flea markets.