Things To Do In Riyadh
Riyadh is a highly urbanized city filled with colorful celebrations and festivities. The Annual King's Cup Camel Race is one of the most prominent camel races; about 2000 young men from all over Saudi Arabia train and prepare in the specialty of camel riding and battle with one another for the coveted cup. An alternate and essential cultural event is the Janadriyah Festival which is usually celebrated during the month of February. This is the oldest and the most conventional celebration of Riyadh.
Riyadh occupies a wide region in the huge desert of the Arabian Peninsula. It has no permanent rivers or lakes, only “wadis” (valleys where rainwater is collected then drains away or dries out in the sun). Modern and luxury cars share the road with camels in the city. Many Bedouin families still live in tents made of animal skins and follow their traditional nomadic lives in the desert. Some have become farmers or goat herders, while others have chosen to work in the progressive city of Riyadh, one of the world’s leading producers of petroleum.
When To Go:
The winter months (November to March) are the perfect time to tour the city. The weather at this point is the most suitable consistent for travelers to explore this famous capital in the Middle East. The normal temperatures will range from a low of 46 degrees to a high of 77. Riyadh gets some measure of precipitation throughout winters with intermittent hailstorms.
Winter is likewise the top season for vacationers in light of the general ambience. This is the best time to go around the city, see the various destinations and participate in different activities like All Terrain Vehicle (ATV) riding in the sand dunes or exploring the Snow World Center, which is specially assembled particularly for individuals who haven't seen or experienced a snowy winter land.
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The summer months (May to September) are insufferably hot and dry with no hint of rain at all. The most extreme temperature throughout the day can even soar to over 120 degrees, and on most days the normal temperature stays at around 112. It is advisable to abstain from going all around the capital throughout the hot time of year, particularly during the months of July and August when the summer temperatures are merciless.
These are the things to do and attractions to visit when in the city of Riyadh.
Kingdom Centre Tower
The elegant Kingdom Center Tower is one of the major landmarks in the city center. The tallest building in the kingdom starts, on the lower floors, with a shopping mall that has many stores. At the top, there is an observation deck (Sky Bridge) that connects the two apexes or top towers of the building. Be careful not to venture into the floor reserved for women --- a member of the local Islamic religious police (Mutaween) will approach and warn you once you reach this special floor.
You need to take two elevators to reach the top portion of the tower. Elevator one is located in the first segment of the tower and you will need to stand in line to get into it. Be there after sunset because the cafe on top of the building provides stunning views of the city, with lights on all sides stretching beyond the horizon. The view from the 99th floor is a revelation, be sure not to miss it to take stunning pictures of the entire city.
Riyadh National Museum
The Riyadh National Museum serves as an excellent overview to learn about Saudi Arabia’s long history. Located within its premises is the previous residence of the king and the royal family, and a tour of the King Abdul-Aziz Historic Center can be paired with a visit to the museum. The chronology of events that helped form the early civilization of this kingdom is detailed and clearly explained, and you can learn the history of the Saudi Royal family, the Saud Dynasty who has reigned over much of the Arabian Peninsula since the late 1700’s.
The museum is very educational and a must for every visitor to the city. An audiovisual presentation is very helpful in recreating the scenes and images of Riyadh in the ancient times. It is located in the downtown area and very near the old village of Najid. The story of Islam, the Prophet Muhammad, the creation of the Holy Quran and other Islamic artifacts are also clearly presented here. The museum is quiet, orderly, and on ordinary weekdays there is not much congestion.
The Masmak Citadel is one of the oldest (built in 1865) and most interesting fortresses in Riyadh. In this huge fortress you can touch and understand the history of the kingdom. Externally, the dimensions are quite limited, but it is still very nice to visit and admire the sand-colored walls and wooden doors. However, a visit must be scheduled and booked in advance because the place is closed from midday prayer until 4:00 pm. It was recently restored and still retains its old-world charm. A huge green flag of Saudi Arabia welcomes every guest in front of the entrance. The fortress is well maintained and the structure is interesting to explore. Here, you will gain a better understanding of the political and historic past of Saudi Arabia.
Taking pictures is not allowed and this is very strictly enforced -- especially in the exhibit rooms that show the King and members of his family. It is very interesting to see the evolution of the city. The displays are neatly organized and have a nice archive of old and new photos. You will notice how skilled the Arabian artisans were when you see the intricately carved wooden doors. There is a room focused on showing various objects such as the evolution of clothing. The citadel succeeds in presenting a great overview of the history and factual information about Riyadh. The fort is not hard to locate. It is right in the historic city center, beside the Grand Mosque.
Al Faisaliyah Center
The Al Faisaliyah Center is an excellent shopping place with "a bit of everything". It is a huge building with restaurants, various local clothing stores, electronic gadget shops, gold jewelry, cafes and fast food centers, spa services and a modern gym. Aside from exploring the chic shopping center, it is advisable to climb the tower and have a 360-degree view of the capital’s magnificent skyline. The modern building has an imposing architecture and a nice view of the Kingdom Center Tower. The place is luxurious and a convenient for shopping: from famous brands to locally-made products and a wide selection of good food, you can find them all under one roof. If you are a discerning shopper and prefer the high-class and signature brands, you will definitely enjoy shopping at this modern building (constructed by the Bin Laden Company in the year 2000.)
Equestrian Club of Riyadh
Most of the Arab people are very fond of horses, due to the fact that this animal has played a very important part in trade and travel to other lands since ancient times. The horse is still an efficient mode of transportation. They take care of their horses extremely well, and the Arabian thoroughbred is an important source of national pride. Here at the Equestrian Club of Riyadh, fine thoroughbred Arabian horses are kept under meticulous care and raced during weekends on a spacious race track. The King has a special seat and often spends a day out watching the races.
The best part of a visit here is that you can come down to the stable yard and meet the horses and their designated jockeys, take pictures or even have an autograph. This experience is one of the best along with the fun rides, the eat-all-you-can buffet service, and of course viewing the race from the top of the audience area. It is exciting, thrilling, and a one-of-a-kind heart-pounding activity that will definitely not keep you glued in your seat. A visit is indeed mandatory when in the city of Riyadh.
The Riyadh Zoo is a great place to stroll with the family, but avoid going there when the temperatures are too high because even the animals cannot bear going outside their cages due to the scorching heat. It is best to visit this attraction during the cold months. The place is ideal for children, they can play at the kid’s playground if they get tired of seeing the animals, or have some snacks at the adjacent park and garden area (ponds with swans, turtles, and koi fishes). The zoo is well maintained and very clean.
Near the park, there is a shop that sells souvenirs, postcards, and stuffed animal toys. There is a mini train ride that goes around the zoo/park with an English-speaking tour guide. An aviary section houses colorful Macaws, parrots and other species of birds. The monkeys never fail to amuse audiences with their playful ways -- they run around the mud hut cages and perform tricks along the edge of the rocks and in the trees. Spend a half-day when you tour this place, take lots of pictures, and learn about all the wild animals inside this famous zoological and botanical garden.
The Old Dir’aiyah is a wonderful place to see the relics and ruins of the former capital city. It is a place filled with great examples of the heritage of previous times. The old houses for the royal family of Saudi Arabia and some quaint villages are still standing here in the outskirts of Riyadh. Today they represent an important part of the history of the Arabian people and their rich traditions --including the value they place on tranquility and natural beauty.
There are plenty of old palaces which are being restored for tourism purposes and to educate the young people about how Riyadh use to look during the years that it was colonized by the Turks. The surrounding area is being developed and re-planted with palm and date trees to add shade and there is a small garden where people can walk around or relax after a tour of the ruins.
The Souk al-Thumairi, also known as the “Antique Market,” offers an interesting counterpoint to the high-class shopping centers in Riyadh and its prevalent expensive atmosphere. The souk is known for its diverse and wide variety of Arabic goods as well as how to promote them to curious tourists. Most of the sellers here speak good English and are well trained in how to haggle and bid for the most reasonable price.
The stalls in these narrow paths offer everything from prayer rugs to big carpets, brass-covered dallahs (coffee pots) glass hookahs, silver wares and gold jewelry, textiles and spices. Check out each shop and be sure to bargain well if you make a purchase in this famous souk.
Saqer-Aljazirah Aviation Museum
The Saqer-Aljazirah Aviation Museum is located in a suburban area and is both easy to reach and interesting to visit. This hangar and museum offers a historic roadmap of aircraft manufacturing and artifacts from the past. It is a small museum that houses war aircraft, fighter planes, official chartered planes and old helicopters.
Do not miss the film showing how these planes were useful during the war era (rescue operations and air force purposes). The flying machines are hanging, supported by a cable harness, to give the impression that they are still flying. All units are well maintained and there is even a small exhibition dedicated to the air force uniforms and missiles In addition, you will fine old articles and photographs that tell the history of aviation and engineering in Riyadh.
A visit to the Najd Village is a pleasant experience in Riyadh. Enjoy a sumptuous dinner at this quaint local community that is rich with the atmosphere and rituals of traditional Arabia. Among the things to do here is to take off your shoes and sit in a lotus position on some comfortable rugs surrounding a mat which will be your table. On it will be placed the various Arabian foods --all of which you must try using your your hands. After the usual Arabic coffee, the owner will offer and suggest that you try some camel cooked in various ways.
Dessert comes after this traditional gesture, and is usually a selection of sweet local apples cooked in honey. You can then tour around the homes in this village and see the water trickling from the manmade waterfall at the entrance gates. You might also enjoy seeing how they prepare the khbez (Arabic flat bread), or learning about the types of dishes and utensils they use to have a wonderful session of chai’ (Arabian tea) or qahwa (Arabic coffee). The service is excellent, the dishes are authentic, and learning a lot about Arabic culture while in Riyadh is very enlightening.