City - Taif
Taif is a summer resort town located about one hour from Makkah and two hours from Jeddah, in the Hejaz mountains of western Saudi Arabia. It has a pleasant climate—similar to that of Phoenix, but without the hot summers—and abundant attractions, including archeological monuments and sites, historic Bedouin souqs, rose farms, quaint pink palaces, and unique winding roads. Taif is a great place to shop for electronic equipment, French perfume, and gold jewelry. In addition to its authentic markets, it has many small grocery stores where one can buy local produce—including delicious pomegranates and grapes—and three large supermarkets. During the summer months, there is Arabian horse racing in Taif, and, just east of Taif, in Wadi Layyah, there are camel races.
Among Taif’s many attractions are the Al Rudaf Park, where trees coexist with magnificent weathered granite rocks, Al Shafa, a small village high up in the Sarawat Mountains, where one can visit fruit gardens and go for camel rides, the Wahab Crater, and the cable car rides. There is a large nature preserve at the top of Al Hada Mountain, which contains many endangered species and plants. Also to be seen are the rock carvings just north of Taif, the remains of a Turkish Fort where Lawrence of Arabia is said to have fought, the Prophet Mohammed’s sanctuary, Wadi Mitna (dating back to 662 AD), and Tailor’s Souk, a sandstone alley way of ancient shops. There are two museums: the Shobra Museum and the Okaz Museum. Ibrahim Jebel, the second highest mountain in Saudi Arabia, is a great place for climbing, picnicking, and camping.
Taif has a modern airport, with frequent direct flights to Jeddah, Riyadh, and the Eastern Province. The Taif-Jeddah Escarpment Road is a marvel of engineering, and the scenery alongside it is spectacular, but the driving is dangerous, especially after sunset; so caution is advised.
In terms of housing, there are furnished apartments available in Taif. As in all Saudi Arabian cities, liquor is not allowed, and pork cannot be eaten. As far as dress, women must wear the abaya, a long black overgarment, and men cannot wear shorts. Also, visitors must take some precautions in order to adjust to the city’s high altitude: cut down on smoking, don’t overeat, and drink plenty of fluids.
Taif has one university, and there are many schools looking for ESL teachers. This is a city with much to offer the western educator: a mild climate, beautiful scenery, and real enjoyment for those interested in Saudi Arabian history, architecture and archaeology.