Welcome to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia!
Riyadh has been a place of relative mystery to western tourists, as for many years the city has essentially only played host to visitors on business. Saudi Arabia’s capital is starting to open more and more to the tourists arriving slowly but surely to Riyadh Airport. The city is trying to promote itself as an international destination for travelers the world over.
Despite the fact the city remains pretty traditional, there are a few super interesting sights to behold in the city, and a worldwide local knows that sometimes you have to dig a little to know where the good stuff is. Riyadh is not short of interesting things to experience, and this insider’s guide will see you through.
Worldwide Local Tip: Although Riyadh is one of the safest cities in the world, it’s not without its problems either. You’ll feel safe in the hotels in Riyadh, but security is very tight in the city. Although westerners are welcome and most people understand English, it’s advisable that you should respect Islamic rules. At all times, women at the very least, carry a headscarf. Also, be warned that it’s one of the places in the world where homosexuality is unwelcome.
Enjoy Nature around Riyadh
Riyadh and Saudi Arabia are full of natural beauty that definitely is underrated among travelers of the world. Head to one of the most picturesque places in the entire world, known aptly as “the edge of the world.” Known locally as the Jebel Fihrayn, this escarpment is located just outside the city through a desert drive. The area is a bit of a hike so bring some good shoes, and for those experienced hikers out there, there are options for varying degrees of difficulty. Once you reach the edge of the massive cliffs, the trek will be more than rewarding, as you’ll be standing at a view of a massive valley that stretches seemingly forever over the horizon.
Worldwide Local Tip: Tours to the area are offered, but the best time to go is during the winter months, in the morning when the Riyadh weather is not so hot and oppressive. Most signals don’t work, so make sure to prepare ahead of time and pack a lot of water and again, it’s best to go with some sort of guide.
Visit Riyadh’s Classic Past
Though Riyadh’s bustling streets and glass skyscrapers are a wealth of culture and history, and a worldwide local knows to get a feel for a new place you need to understand the history of the people. Take a step back in time and discover the Saudi Arabia that was once just a little village. In 1902 King Adbul Aziz ibn Saud raised an army and stormed his ancestral home, Al Masmak Fortress. He seized it from a rival clan and it was from this location that he took over Riyadh and united the tribes of Arabia forming Saudi Arabia. Al Masmak Fortress remained a royal palace until In 1938. In 1995, the fortress was made into a huge museum where people can learn about the battle and view paintings and artifacts, from the legendary moment in Saudi history.
Worldwide Local Tip: The large and bustling Deira Souk is one of the most popular bazaars in Riyadh. Offering some amazing Arabic themed souvenirs and goods, you can find almost anything there, so if you’re visiting the fortress, make sure to make a stop here. English is spoken by most shopkeepers and haggling is necessary.
Get a Bird’s-Eye View
Riyadh is a place where extravagance is commonly seen throughout the city. Those with wealth certainly like to flaunt it. If you’re looking to get one of the best views in the city, head to the beautiful and massive Al Faisaliah Center. The commercial skyscraper is located right in the heart of the city and is the embodiment of Saudi Arabia’s love for the finer things in life. The building is the fourth largest in the country and has an enormous glass ball that seems to dangle from the top. Head up there for some of the best views in the city.
Worldwide Local Tip: If you’re feeling like enjoying the “dangling ball” part of the building has one of the best restaurants in Riyadh serving European cuisine. The Globe restaurant offers a 360-degree view from the glass interior and is sure to be a meal you won’t ever forget.
Enjoy Your Stay
Riyadh might be a traditional and conservative place, but a worldwide local knows that isn’t a reason to write it off. There’s untouched beauty, wealth of culture, and history. This city is a bustling metropolis to explore, making Riyadh anything but boring.