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Just getting to Taif is a thrill. Visitors travel along a winding road through the mountains — passing fruit markets, rose farms and deep valleys along the way — before reaching the plateau upon which sits Taif. Often referred to as the City of Roses, Taif is known for the famously fragrant flowers that grow in the surrounding wadis and mountains. It’s also known as Saudi’s unofficial summer capital. Because of its altitude, Taif is a cool escape from the heat. And while the roses bloom in April, the city really blossoms in August, when the Souq Okaz cultural festival and the Crown Prince Camel Festival are in full swing.

When in Taif, go and explore

Al Hada Mountain

High above the valley that runs toward Makkah, Al Hada is home to playful baboons, rose fields and natural vastness. A serpentine road sweeps elegantly down the mountainside, as do ancient zig-zagging camel trails. As the sun sets and locals gather at lookout points, the rows of mountains on the horizon fade into a grayish ombré. Saudi’s longest cable car runs between the mountaintop and the wadi floor, where there’s a water park and toboggan slide at the Hijazi-style Al Kar Tourist Village.

Taif Central Market

Taif’s central market is a labyrinth of narrow alleys, which snake through sand-colored buildings to peaceful plazas. Laid out in themed areas, there are sections devoted to rich local honey, perfume (especially rose water and oil), Islamic clothing and jewelry. Street jewelers with blow torches work on silver rings inlaid with Yemini agate, while nearby shops sell elaborate pieces made of gold mined near Medina. And purveyors of ghee milk, oud, decorative swords and healing herbs are always on hand.

Taif's Rose Fields

Every year, the air in Taif fills with the sweet scent of the city’s famous 30-petal damask roses in bloom. More than 900 rose farms produce well over 300 million flowers, which are harvested to produce the world’s most expensive rose oil, or attar. See the entire operation firsthand with a guided visit to one of the city’s rose factories, or head to Taif’s central market to browse and buy rose-scented oil, water, fragrance and soaps.