Riyadh City Guide
Riyadh is the largest city and the capital of Saudi Arabia. Located in the middle of the Arabian Peninsula with a population of five million in the city itself, it is divided into 15 municipal districts and is the home of the Princess Nora Bint Abdulrahman University the largest all-female university in the world. Riyadh gets extremely hot in summer, but the winter months do cool down. Before it became an Islamic city it was known as Hajr. It later broke up into settlements and estates. After the 1940s, it went from being an isolated town to a well-known city in the Middle East.
A popular Saudi Arabian annual holiday is Ramadan, a Muslim holiday for strict fasting from sunrise to sunset, prayer, and cleansing the body. Ramadan is a month-long period around July 20 to August 18. During this time expatriates are not expected to follow the Ramadan rules, but to be mindful of this holiday, and to respect the Muslim rules and practices. It is not recommended to visit during this time as most businesses close early, and the rules are very strict.
Riyadh displays a range of architectural styles in its buildings and there are a number of beautiful mosques. The Saudi Arabians can venture out in the neighborhoods, but foreigners or non-Saudis have to stay in security compounds. The compounds have swimming pools, fitness gyms, homes, and the residents are encouraged to join events, and take part in outings. Most people in the compounds speak English, but it is good to know how to speak some of the common Arabic phrases and greetings, as this is the main language in Saudi Arabia. It’s not unusual for people in the compounds to cook large meals and invite friends over.
The women of Saudi Arabia wear an abaya, a black long dress that covers them from head to toe. Nobody can wear shorts. In the compounds, woman, can wear what they want, but when leaving the compounds or going out amongst other Saudi Arabians the dress code has to be observed and of course women are not allowed to drive.
In Saudi Arabia, Muslims pray five times a day and businesses close for 30 minutes a day. For visitors, the beautiful scenery of Saudi Arabia will have them wanting to get out and explore, to talk with locals, and see more of what Saudi Arabia has to offer.
What to see and do
There are many different events and things to explore in Riyadh. Shopping is big in the city. Shop at Granada Center, Salam Park, Shopping Hayat Mall, or Salam Mall. Although local women are covered from head to toe, they still shop for sunglasses, and jewelry. The cost of living is considered low in Saudi Arabia. Cable services, Internet access and cell phones are all available.
Riyadh has an interesting history and culture. It is recommended that tourists visit the museum, Kingdom Centre Tower, and the biggest mosques in Riyadh, the most famous being the Al Raghi Grand Mosque. Old Dir’ Aiyah is another historical place.
How to get there and how to get around
Saudi Railways Organization has passenger trains that operate daily. Mostly a car-oriented city, you can rent a car to get around or hire a driver to get around if you are a women. It is recommended to hire a driver or take a taxi to get around in the city if you are not confident with local roads, driving practices and traffic laws.
What to eat and drink
Riyadh has many traditional cuisines, and the city has food inspired by the expatriates from both East and West. There are healthy foods such as dates, breads, and marquoq, a mix of dough, meat, and vegetables. The Riyadh diet consists of mainly wheat, wheat flour, brown flour, vegetables, and meat. Top a cuisine off with Arabic coffee, which of course is very popular here among Saudis and visitors alike.
A popular dessert is kleeja, which is a cookie, and macaroons. If visiting a bakery in Riyadh, there are a variety of cupcakes, ice cream, and cookies to choose from.
Where to stay
Expat life in Riyadh is exciting no matter whether you live in or outside of compound homes. Riyadh offers accommodation, recreation, and homes to fit your budget. Want to live in a private neighborhood, or a community where socializing is commonplace? Whether searching for cheap sleeps or luxury rentals, let World Escape help you find you next place to stay.