Ta'if (pronounced "Taayef", also written as "Taif") is a city in the Mecca province of Saudi Arabia. With a population of 690,000 people (2020 estimate), it is the sixth most populous city in Saudi Arabia.
The city is at an elevation of 1,879 m (6,165 ft) and is therefore much cooler than any of the nearby larger cities: Mecca, Medina and Jeddah. Ta'if is a popular tourist destination both among Saudis and among the fairly large expatriate community in Jeddah. The nearby upmarket resort town of Al Hada is another popular destination.
Ta'if literally means 'circulated' or 'encircled' in Arabic. It is said that the name of the city comes from a wall that was built around the city in pre-Islamic times. Certainly the city existed in those times, before the 7th century CE.
There's no direct mention of Ta'if in the Qu'ran, but Sura 43:31 mentions two cities which scholars believe were Mecca and Ta'if. Ta'if does play a role in other Islamic writings. After Khadija, Muhammad's first wife. died in 619 CE, he made his way to Ta'if and tried to spread Islam in the city, but was rudely rejected by the city's chiefs, was pelted with rocks and stones, and was chased out of the city. Bloodied and seriously wounded, he was taken in by a gardener who nursed him back to health. After recovering, Muhammad realised he could no longer enter Mecca because his uncle, Abu Thalib, was no longer there to protect him.
In the years to follow, various battles left the city completely isolated and eventually, the inhabitants of the city were peacefully converted to Islam.
The Ottoman Empire dominated the city for several hundred years until World War I when the Hashemites (the family who traditionally ruled Mecca) led an Arab revolt against them.
In the 1920s, Ta'if was incorporated into Saudi Arabia by the ibn Saud family after a short battle. This was part of the process of founding modern-day Saudi Arabia. At the time Ta'if was a relatively small, unknown city. In the years to follow, the Saudi government has rapidly developed the city, and it is now a popular tourist destination among the Saudis.
In the 1930s, a treaty that established the boundary lines between Saudi Arabia and Yemen was signed here.
For more information entering the country, see the Saudi Arabia article.
|Note: Do not attempt travel to Ta'if via Mecca if you're a non-Muslim; under Saudi law non-Muslims are strictly forbidden to enter that city.|
Given Ta'if's highly mountainous geography, almost no highways pass through the city. The only exception is Highway 15, which connects Ta'if to Mecca. Approaching Ta'if, the scenery along it is breathtaking.
- If you're in Mecca and plan on driving to Ta'if, just go along Highway 15. You'll reach Ta'if in less than an hour.
Most people drive to Ta'if from Jeddah.
- One route is Highway 40 to Mecca, then Highway 15. The journey should take you two hours or a bit more depending on traffic conditions; expect Highway 40 to be completely jammed and packed during the Hajj. Bear in mind that this path will take through Mecca and under Saudi law, non-Muslims are not permitted to enter Mecca.
- The usual route from Jeddah for non-Muslims starts along highway 40. A few miles outside of Mecca, there is a cutoff referred to as the "Christian bypass", route 298. It is well marked and a police checkpoint to turn non-Muslims away from the holy city is visible a bit beyond it. Turn along this highway to connect to Highway 15 and reach Taif. Time on this route might be about three hours.
If you're not into long road trips, another convenient way to enter the city is by plane. If flying from Jeddah, you'll easily reach the city in less than 45 minutes. If coming from Riyadh, you'll reach the city in less than 90 minutes.
- 1 Ta'if International Airport (TIF IATA), ☏ +966 800 116 8888. The airport offers flights to Pakistan, Turkey, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and several major cities around Saudi Arabia. The airport has only one terminal and can accommodate some 550,000 people each year. There are plans to construct another terminal to accommodate pilgrims for the Hajj and Umrah, but due to COVID-19, work on the terminal has been delayed.
As of January 2022 Taif is not served by any railway networks. There is a plan to introduce a railway network in the city in the near future.
The Saudi Arabian Public Transport Company (SAPTCO) offers bus services to and from the city. A bus ride from Jeddah to Taif would normally take you three hours depending on traffic conditions. There are no VIP trips to the city, however.
There are many ways in which you can book a bus ride to Taif. You can do it at a SAPTCO branch, on the SAPTCO app (iOS, Android), or on the website. The bus fare can be between 50 - 200 SAR, but may change depending on a variety of factors. The SAPTCO app is only in Arabic.
- 2 SAPTCO Station (ابتكو محطة حافلات الطائف), Al Faisaliyyah, ☏ +966 12736 9664, Thaqafi@saptco.com.sa. SAPTCO station in Ta'if. You can use it to go to your next destination in Saudi Arabia.
Due to the city's mountainous geography, the best way to get around the city quickly is by car. With an area of 800km², it should take you a couple of hours to cover the whole city.
If you are considering renting a car during your stay in the city, here are a few companies to choose from. As with any service, do your due diligence and research, and do check if your drivers license is valid in Saudi Arabia.
- 3 Theeb, Ta'if International Airport. Car rental service. You can rent a car from the Theeb stall in the Ta'if airport.
- 4 Alwefaq, Ta'if International Airport, ☏ +966 9200 02909. Car rental service. You can rent a car from the Alwefaq stall in the Ta'if airport. Prices are somewhat reasonable, but they can charge as high as 2000-3000 SAR if you intend to rent out an SUV or a luxury car.
- 5 Hanco, Ta'if International Airport. Car rental service. You can rent a car from the Hanco stall in the Ta'if airport.
Uber is fully operational in Ta'if. You can hail an Uber at the airport without any hesitation. It's a convenient option if you want to cover the whole city quickly, or if you do not feel too comfortable driving on Saudi roads.
If you are in the main city center, a lot of attractions are within walking distance. Since the climate is not too extreme, Ta'if provides a good outlet for long-distance walks, especially during the summers.
Ta'if has been often been called the "best summer destination" in Saudi Arabia. Indeed, this couldn't be any more right because there are a plethora of things to see and do in Ta'if.
- 1 Souk Okaz. Was once the largest and best known open-air market in the Islamic world. Now hosts multiple events such as poetry recital competitions, arts and crafts exhibitions, and so on.
- 2 Abdullah Al-Suleiman Palace. An abandoned, historical palace.
- 3 Al-Kateb House. A historical building that includes a number of Islamic decorations and Roman pillars.
- Al-Waht and Al-Waheit. A pre-Islamic archaelogical site located in the west of Taif.
- 4 Bab Alrea. A triple-arched gate to the old city.
One of Ta'if's biggest exports is rose oil, and it forms an important part of the city's economy and identity. Every spring, the city blooms up with red and pink roses, and more than 300 million roses are cultivated by almost 900 rose plantations each year.
- 5 Al Gadhi Rose Factory. The largest rose oil factory in the city (and probably the whole of Saudi Arabia), it has been run and owned by the Al-Gadhi family for more than a hundred years. The factory is hugely popular among Emirati people; some of them buy the oil by the liter. The Yemeni corner in Masjid Al-Haram in Mecca is scented with Al Gadhi rose oil. $430 (1,600 SAR) for a 12-gram bottle.
Ta'if is sometimes referred to as the "City of Roses" (Arabic:مدينة الورود). The rose oil produced in Ta'if is of top quality; even luxury brands such as Givenchy and Jimmy Choo commonly use it to make their perfumes. Some of the many perfume vendors in the Cairo bazaar will claim their oil comes from Ta'if, but such claims are often dubious.
Shiraz in Iran is also sometimes called the "City of Roses" and also has many gorgeous blossoms in season. However it does not rival Ta'if as a center of rose oil production.
Ta'if is home to numerous dams, mostly because of the fact that the city is home to many wadis (valleys).
- 6 Ikrima Dam. A dam situated in the Wadi Leh valley. You can take a stroll here if you wish.
- Al-Salmaqi Dam (سد السملقي). One of the historical dams in the city.
Ta'if has plenty of museums that can allow you to learn more about Saudi history.
- 1 Sharif Museum, ☏ +966 55 570 0008. A privately owned museum featuring a vast collection of artifacts from all over. You can even take part in auctions here.
- 2 Shubra Palace. A former royal residence, built in 1858, now a museum.
- 3 Asalat Al-Madi Museum (متحف أصالة الماضي). A privately owned museum that offers the visitor a chance to study and learn more about the history of the Hejaz region.
With such vast mountainous landscapes, why not do something to appreciate how beautiful Ta'if's scenery is?
- 4 Al Kar Tourist Village (قرية الكر السياحية), ☏ +966 9200 22757. Hop on a cable car and feast your eyes on the fantastic scenery of Ta'if! The cable car network is said to be the largest network in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East. You can rent out a cable car for yourself, or you can share with others. Whatever you prefer.
Parks and recreation
Ta'if has a plethora of parks and recreational facilities. The most popular parks in the city are as follows:
- 5 Saiysad National Park. A national park characterised by lush forests and rivers, a rarity in Saudi Arabia.
- 6 Al Shafa Mountain Park. A village in the mountains (2,200 - 2,500 meters above sea level). One way to experience views that you may not otherwise see in large parts of Saudi Arabia.
- 7 Al Rudaf Park. A highly popular spot with visitors throughout the year. The main attraction of the park is a huge lake that covers an area of 13,000 sqm.
- 8 Samnan and Samnin Park (منتزه سمنان وسمينين). A park situated in the Wadi Leh valley.
- 9 Green Mountain Resort (منتزة الجبل الأخضر), Alhada Rd, C44, ☏ +966 55 570 8888. An expansive theme park with multiple amenities for children.
- 10 Al Shalal Park, Al Amir Sultan, Alkhaldia. An expansive theme park with multiple amenities for children. Often considered to be one of the most important recreational places in all of Saudi Arabia.
- 11 King Abdullah Park. A sprawling park that was opened in 2013. It covers an area of 150,000sqm and is among one of the most visited places in Saudi Arabia.
Some of the best known local markets are as follows.
- 1 Al Balad Market, Central District, 4895. One of the largest commercial markets in the city. You can find products like clothes, shoes, perfumery stores, fabrics, handicrafts, and jewelry.
- 2 Bab Alhazm. A part of the historical city of Ta'if, you can tour around the old area market, where you can buy some handicrafts and souvenirs.
The most well-known shopping malls are as follows.
- 3 Jouri Mall, ☏ +966 9200 00262. An upscale shopping mall in the city centre.
- 4 Taif's Heart Mall, ☏ +966 9200 03987. The largest mall in Ta'if, situated in the city centre.
- 5 Alangari Mall.
- 1 Koshary Albashawat, ☏ +966 5300 89565, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- 2 Buffalo Wings & Rings, ☏ +966 12 760 2000. A branch of the Buffalo Wings & Rings restaurant.
- 3 Vitamin Palace.
- 4 The Hat, ☏ +966 55 711 2421, email@example.com. Fast food restaurant with two branches in the city.
- 5 Queen Taste, ☏ +966 53 530 0382. Pastry parlour.
- 6 Bohoo, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- 7 Nile Gate Restaurant, ☏ +966127488702. Egyptian restaurant.
As Saudi Arabia is governed by a strict interpretation of Sharia Law, alcohol is illegal throughout the country; see Saudi_Arabia#Alcohol.
Ta'if was once the country's best-known wine region, and still produces fine grapes.
True to its reputation as a popular tourist destination, there are numerous hotels in the city.
- 1 Awaliv International Hotel, ☏ +966 920003987, email@example.com. Upscale 4-star hotel. A single room costs 550 SAR.
- 2 Swiss Spirit Hotel & Suites Taif, ☏ +966 12 737 7774. Spacious and comfy hotel.
- 3 Intercontinental Taif, Airport Rd, Alqayam Al Asfal, ☏ +966-12-7505050. One of the main landmarks in Ta'if and the most well-known 5-star hotel in the city. Very close to the regional airport, although it is quite far from the city centre.
- 4 Velar Inn Hotel (فندق فيلار إن). Luxurious 5-star hotel.
- 5 Boudl Taif, ☏ +966920000666. Upscale 4-star hotel.
- See also: Saudi_Arabia#Stay_safe
Ta'if is an extremely safe city. You're unlikely to face any major dangers. As Ta'if is a popular destination among Saudis, people go to great lengths to keep the city safe.
The various safety tips found in the Saudi Arabia article will come in handy. You should try to refer to it often so that your visit can be hassle-free.
- See also: Saudi_Arabia#Respect
The various respect tips in the Saudi Arabia article will come in handy. Try to refer to it often so that your visit can be hassle-free.
Consider buying some rose oil. Arabs consider it a gift of high respect and gifting it to the locals can leave a lasting impression on them.
The four mobile operators in Saudi Arabia, incumbent Al Jawal, Emirati rival Mobily , Kuwaiti Zain (Vodafone Network) and STC newcomer Jawwy are fiercely competitive, with good coverage (in populated areas) and good prices.
You should be able to get a prepaid SMS at major airports, or at local shops nearby.
If you plan on spending some time in the Mecca Province, consider visiting the following cities. The cities are served by Highway 15 and you can reach them in less than an hour.
- Mecca — Islam's holiest city. Non-Muslims are not allowed to enter.
- Medina — Islam's second holiest city. Non-Muslims are allowed to enter, but they're disallowed from entering certain areas.
- Jeddah — the second largest city in Saudi Arabia.