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Though it might take the backseat to the more popular destination in the region, like Riyadh, Jeddah or the nearby Bahrain and Qatar, Dammam still has plenty to offer, not least in the stunning desert scenery that surrounds the city. The city itself also offers fantastic shopping opportunities and an increasing number of high-end international restaurants, making it a great place for business and pleasure. There is also a surprising amount of parks and green spaces where visitors and locals alike can find tranquility and enjoy the evening breeze. The Dammam metropolitan area is actually a conglomeration of three cities: Dammam, Dhahran and Khobar, and also includes nearby areas such as Tarout Island. Tourists tend to prefer the Khobar area, as its seaside location, abundance of pedestrian walkways and amenities make it generally more pleasant than its neighbours, the Corniche being the highlight of the area. Restrictions on women (in terms of wearing a hijab) tend to be more relaxed there, as well.
While the Dammam area offers many interesting and beautiful historical and cultural sights and museums (and be sure not to miss great monuments like the Tarout Castle), the city's wonderful outdoor life is what makes it stand out as a destination. With tons of parks and green spaces, it is a city to experience out in the open, when the sometimes stifling weather permits. Walk along the Corniche and breathe in the fresh sea air to understand what the city is all about.
There are plenty of places in Dammam to enjoy some of the typical foods of the country and region, and favourites like shawarmas and falafel. But the city also offers an impressive selection of fine-dining options and international restaurants, and you are sure to find whatever kind of food tickles your fancy.
Though traditionally preferring tea, Saudis have increasingly been embracing coffee and coffee culture. Dammam is now home to many Western style cafes and coffee houses, and visitors will not lack for inviting places to relax, kick back, escape from the oppressive heat and enjoy a delicious cup off fine roast coffee.
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 cafés whilst indulging in a delicious mocktail (a mix of fresh fruit juices) or strong Arabic coffee.
Shoppers will rejoice in Dammam. With its perfect combination of old-style markets and modern shopping centres, there's nothing a determined visitor can't find. From luxury items and brand name stores to handmade crafts and traditional garments and souvenirs, Dammam is one of the country's prime retail centres.
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