Once a little more than a desert outpost, Riyadh is now one of the Middle East's fastest-growing cities, and there are plenty of activities in the Saudi capital to entertain eager expats. Westerners will need to adjust their social expectations, though, as local Sharia law forbids alcohol, nightclubs and bars.
But even with these restrictions, expats can find plenty to see and do in Riyadh. Here are a few of the most popular attractions and activities to enjoy in Riyadh.
Attractions in Riyadh
National Museum of Saudi Arabia
Forming part of the King Abdul Aziz Historical Centre, the National Museum is a local landmark that gives insight into the history of Saudi Arabia. Its eight exhibition halls contain captivating displays of Saudi culture in its past and present forms.
A grand structure, this fort made of clay and mud-brick was originally built in 1865. It was the site of the famous Battle of Riyadh in 1902, which ultimately was one of the most important battles leading up to the unification of Saudi Arabia decades later in 1932.
The Wadi Hanifa is a 75-mile (120km) valley that cuts through the city. Various public spaces have been developed along the valley. These make for ideal weekend barbecue and picnic locations. For the athletically inclined, there are also runs, cycling routes and hiking trails.
A burst of green against the desert backdrop, Salam Park features lush lawns, date trees and an artificial lake. Expats can go boating, have a leisurely lunch, or simply lie back in the shade while the kids entertain themselves on the playground. Several restaurants provide snacks, but packing a picnic basket and relaxing at the lakeside is highly recommended.
►For an overview of Saudi etiquette, see Culture Shock in Saudi Arabia
►Read more about Lifestyle in Riyadh
" 1. Cliched as it may seem, mall visits to get weekly groceries, is a nice way to see more faces as one tends to be cooped up at home to avoid the extreme weather. Most malls have activities for kids/a play area, bowling arena, VR games, etc.
2. Parks – Olaya, Ad Diriyah historical district, King Abdullah Park and many more
3. The National Museum of Saudi Arabia
4. Riyadh Season events (Nov, Dec, Jan) like the Winter Wonderland."
Read more about living in Riyadh in our interview with Indian expat Palavi.
Are you an expat living in Riyadh?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Riyadh. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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