Once a walled, mud-brick way station along desert trading routes, Riyadh (‘The Garden’) is Saudi’s political, financial and administrative capital and one of the wealthiest cities in the world. It also has a very Saudi subtext: nowhere are the contradictions of modern Saudi Arabia more evident than in Riyadh. Seen from afar, soaring, sparkling, stunning modern towers rise above the desert and modern highways. Up close, Riyadh is cautious and sober, not to mention conservative and deeply rooted in Saudi traditions. Throw in fine hotels and restaurants and some excellent sights, and it’s a fascinating place to spend a few days. How about some tips of things to do in Riyadh? Despite the strict rules and the conservative nature, Riyadh is a place that you will surely love. It has lots of things and places for both expats and locals to enjoy. There are different ways to explore this beautiful city.
- Masmak Fortress
Located in downtown Riyadh, is a castle made of clay and mud-brick that once played a significant role in the Kingdom’s history. It was where the recapture of Riyadh took place in 1902. Even today, Al Masmak Fort still plays a big part in the country’s tourism. This stunning architecture lets you re-live the memories of the years gone by as the old castle was turned into a museum.
It showcases a variety of antique guns, costumes, set-ups of a traditional Saudi house and exhibits of old photos of places and civilizations of the kingdom. Another good thing about this awesome place is that the entrance is FREE. But be sure to check the schedules first, as there is a separate visiting schedule for men and families.
2. Deerah Souk
After you get a dose of Saudi history, it’s time to do some bargaining at Deerah Souk. Souk is the Arabic word for market or bazaar. It is located just behind the Masmak Fort. This is the best place to buy souvenirs for your family and friends back home as there are lots of stalls to choose from and the price here is really cheap. Toys, ref magnets, keychains, scarfs, shawls, carpets, lanterns, scented oils, dress, make-ups, gold, accessories, spices… everything you need can be found in the souk. There is a separate area for each. Do not be shy to haggle!
3 Kingdom Centre
If you want to see Riyadh from up above, this is the best place to be. Located at the 99th floor of Kingdom Tower, the third tallest skyscraper in Riyadh, is a 56-meter sky bridge where you can have a panoramic view of the city. It takes two speedy lifts to take you to the top. Whether you come to visit it during the day or night, both offers a spectacular view. There are also shopping malls and restaurants at the ground floor. The Four Seasons Hotel Riyadh is also located at the Kingdom Center.
4. Quad Biking at the Red Sand Dunes
For a quick weekend getaway, head to the Red Sand Dunes. Rent an ATV, do some picnics or barbecue with the magnificent view of Tuwaiq Escarpment on the back drop. It’s better to go there in the morning or in the late afternoon when the sun’s heat is still bearable.
5. Edge of the World
Almost 90 km north of Riyadh hides this breathtaking rock formation. Located at the Acacia Valley and part of Tuwaiq Escarpment, this amazing place is a common trekking spot for expats. Standing on the edge of the cliff with the endless view of the valley below will really make you feel as if you are on the edge of the world. It is believed that this place was the bottom of an ocean some thousands of years ago.
7. How About a Food Trip ?
With a large percentage of expat population, Riyadh is surely the best place to try a wide array of cuisine. From Middle Eastern, Lebanese, Turkish, Indian, Pakistani, Asian, Italian, American and more, Riyadh will surely satisfy your craving appetite.
Here is a few list of some must try dishes and snacks in Riyadh.‘Kabsa’ is like the national food of Saudi. It is a rice meal with meat, vegetable and lots of spices. The best way to enjoy kabsa is by eating with your hands while the food is scattered on a plastic sheet just like boodle fight. Shawarma, do I need to say more? Broasted chicken is another favorite. It is usually served with fries, hummus, garlic sauce and flat bread. There is also a variety of fish and shrimp broasted for you to try. Another tasty dish that is worth a try is ‘foul and tamis’. Foul is a dish made from fava beans with vegetable oil and spices while tamis is the flat bread that you will dip in the foul.