Welcome to Yanbu, a fascinating city located in the Al Madinah Province of western Saudi Arabia. Known for its oil refineries and petrochemical industry, Yanbu is a hub for expatriates from all over the world. With a population of 222,360 (2020 census), Yanbu has three primary sections – Yanbu Al-Bahr, Yanbu Al-Nakhl, and Yanbu Al-Sinaiya – as well as a major Red Sea port. Let’s dive into the history, geography, and culture of this unique city.
Yanbu’s history dates back at least 2,500 years when it was a staging point on the spice and incense route from Yemen to Egypt and the Mediterranean region. The Invasion of Dul Ashir took place in Yanbu two or three months after prophet Muhammad’s return from Buwat. Yanbu served as a supply and operational base for Arab and British forces fighting the Ottoman Empire during World War I. The city remained a small port town until 1975 when the Saudi government designated it as one of the country’s two new industrial centers, the other being Al Jubayl on the Persian Gulf. Extensive government and private development have taken place at the port and surrounding area, which is based on the petrochemical industry.
Divided into three primary sections, Yanbu is the second-largest Saudi Arabian city by the Red Sea, after Jeddah. Yanbu Al-Bahr, the most northern part of Yanbu, contains most of the population. Yanbu Al-Nakhal is a separate area, some 47 kilometers from the city, that has more than 20 villages such as Jabriyya, Suwaiq, Raihan, Mesharif, Ain-Ajlan, Madsos, Alnejil, and Talaat Nazah. Yanbu Al-Sinaiya (literally the industrial Yanbu) is the industrial city, established in 1975 by royal decree to create a Royal Commission to manage the effort to build a new modern city.
Yanbu has a hot desert climate (Köppen climate classification BWh) with very hot summer-like weather year-round. An important petroleum shipping terminal, Yanbu is home to three oil refineries, a plastics facility, and several other petrochemical plants. It is the country’s second port (after Jeddah) and serves as the main port for the holy city of Medina. Yanbu’s natural harbor is protected on both sides by wide coral reefs, making them excellent areas for diving. For higher education, the city has several universities and colleges, including the College of Computer Science & Engineering at Yanbu (CCSEY), which belongs to Taibah University, Yanbu Industrial College, and Yanbu University College.
Although the city is known for its industrial activities, it is now growing as a tourist destination. The beach is used for scuba-diving as well as swimming and relaxing in front of the white sandy shores. It has a very big beach called the China herbal park, which is approximately 4 km² in size. In 2020, Saudi Arabia’s tourism ministry decided to renovate T. E. Lawrence’s house in Yanbu, the British officer who captured the city during World War I. Yanbu has an international airport (code YNB) that was upgraded in 2009. A highway passes through Yanbu, linking Yanbu to Jeddah in the south, and to the northern parts of the kingdom as well as to neighboring countries like Syria and Jordan. Yanbu Commercial Port is one of the oldest sea ports along the Red Sea, connected to the holy cities, especially the one in Madinah. It also receives pilgrims.
We hope you enjoyed this brief tour of Yanbu, a city with a rich history, breathtaking landscapes, and a thriving petrochemical industry. Plan your trip and discover the hidden gems of Yanbu for yourself!