QassimCopyright: Richard Mortel/cc by 2.0/Flickr
QassimThe region of Al-Qassim is a land of palm trees and festivals, the fertile land plentiful agriculture, particularly dates — the cornerstone of the province's economy and culture. The yearly date festival, which takes place in the autumn, is a sight to behold. No matter the time of year, you are sure to find a festival underway. Rich in nature, heritage and handicrafts, Al-Qassim makes for a wonderful visit, whether you are looking for delicious fruit in the countryside or culture and shopping in the cities.
The RegionAl Qassim region, also known as Al Gassim, gets its name from the word Qassimah — a reference to the region's sand dunes from which the white saxaul trees grow. Located right in the very heart of the Arabian peninsula, Al-Qassim is very lush in comparison with the rest of the country, and as such it is the richest region and the agricultural centre of the Kingdom. It is often referred to as the "alimental basket" of Saudi Arabia. The region is home to more than eight million palm trees and is thus one of the world's largest producers of dates, as well as oranges, lemons and other fruit. Every autumn, thousands gather for the yearly date festival, where over 300,000 tons of dates are put on display and sold to eager and hungry visitors. The region's capital and largest city is Buraidah, where approximately half of the province's 1.4 million inhabitants reside. It is the financial and cultural centre of the region, and holds most of the points of interest for tourists, including interesting museums, green parks and excellent markets. Unaizah is the second city in the region and also provides plenty of attractions and entertainment for visitors. The cities' surrounding rural areas are also worth visiting for a peek into the fascinating world of desert agriculture.
Do & See
The Al-Qassim region is quite unique in Saudi Arabia for green areas and agricultural prowess. The areas around Buraidah and Unaizah have some fascinating places to visit. Explore farms, orchards, palm tree plantations and the world's largest camel market. But the cities and towns themselves also offer travellers plenty of museums, parks and interesting sights, as well as heaps of entertainment in the form of excellent eating and shopping.
Dining out is one of the favourite pastimes in Al-Qassim Province. The typical Saudi diet consists of a range of pulses such as rice, bulgur wheat, lentils, or chickpeas (hummus) served with grilled/barbecued meats like lamb or chicken, plus the obligatory pita bread. But you will also find plenty of fine international restaurants in the region offering a great selection of food for all tastes.
Escape the oppressive heat of the Qassim region by visiting one of the many modern and sleek cafes spread out throughout the city. They are a great way to relax and people watch while enjoying some hot coffee or tea, with high-quality beans and professional roasting and preparation. Most places also offer fantastic desserts and snacks.
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 cafes whilst indulging in a delicious mocktail (a mix of fresh fruit juices) or a strong cup of Arabic coffee.
Much of Saudi Arabia's social life revolves around shopping. It is very common for families to visit one of the many large shopping centres and spend the whole day browsing, enjoying some refreshments, and escaping the intense heat in the air-conditioned malls. But be sure to head to some of the smaller markets for more traditional and authentic shopping experiences, as well. The date market is an absolute must.