Visit the country less visited | Riyadh - Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Tripoto
1st Jan 2017

Probably, the first question you'd be asking to yourself coming here is, why am I here? why will I want to go to Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the first place? Don't I have any better option than this? What's so special about here? I too had the same thoughts when I first came to know that I will be travelling here for nearly a month. But only thoughts and imaginations are free to judge and guide. No country is as bad as we all are told about or as the media casts and no country is as good as we all think or read.

One of my close friends once told me that you could always visit a place at least once. even hell is worth visiting once. By hell, I did not mean North Korea. It may be an exception :) Just kidding. When you see things through your own eyes, only then you are in true position to decide the differences. Does not the sand and the palm tree excite you to come, visit them? Do not you want to hear the songs of desert wind? We all were beginner once and the beginner's luck is now.

Photo of Visit the country less visited | Riyadh - Kingdom of Saudi Arabia 1/1 by roottraveller
Riyadh City Ariel view (Image Source : Google)
Day 1

December 31 2016, last day of year. The very next day was the new year, new resolution, new challenges and new opportunities. For me it was a new country, new land, new people and new language. I was at the IGI Airport New Delhi and was excited and nervous at the same time. I was sitting there at the corner of a chair and was watching outside. It was the time, I could hear the echo. The sky was being celebrated for the new born of a new year. I was alone there waiting for boarding announcement and so were the other passengers. It is the silence of the moments making us realize that things are not that bad as they look. A three year old girl was playing in front of me, trying her best to pick up a big ball. I kept myself busy watching her. Once in a while, she laughed looking at me. I had no options, so I did play with her for sometime. I was not alone any more. The next thing I remember was, I boarded the flight, fell asleep and woke up in a new land.

At IGI Airport T3 New Delhi 31st December 2016

Photo of Indira Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi, Delhi, India by roottraveller

It was an early morning. the wind was touching my skin, may be trying to welcome me. Though she was asking - what is an stranger doing in an strange land. One of the best things about desert is the morning and evening wind. Its not too hot nor too cold, though days are hotter normally. you will not find any better time to wander around except morning and the evening.

This ancient city was formed in the middle of desert but modern infrastructure and proper planning has kept the human life in comfort. Roads are wide and clean (mostly). Electricity is provided 24x7 throughout the year and very cheap. Supermarket have taken the place of traditional shops. Taxi is the new mode for transportation rather than traditional public bus. When you visit here, try your best not look like a foreigner, always try to look as a local. Remember, this is the key to avoid any unwanted attraction. Airport is 40 km away from the city but a new metro line is being constructed and soon will be ready for public use. I stayed in An Nuzhah area, which is not far from the famous Hayat Mall.

Caution: Photography is not allow publicly in Saudi Arabia. So, ask a local before clicking any picture. All the images are taken from Google.

Traffic

Traffic is smooth in most parts of the city but traffic rules are strict here. Taxis are available everywhere but If you are going to ride your own vehicle, you have to be careful. Most local people are rich and have their own cars. youngster ride cars not bikes, surprising right?. Expecting to see any bicycle on the road is no less than any dream. Through in old city area (i.e. Batha) you can spot one. Cameras are installed by roadside, so mind your speed limit when you pass by otherwise you may have to visit a police station and that might not be a healthy affair.

Taxi

Taxi in Riyadh, No public transport (Image Source : Google)

Photo of Riyadh, Riyadh Province, Saudi Arabia by roottraveller

Almost every taxi driver is Pakistani. Its good to have someone who knows you and your land, and can understand and speak your tongue. They are more excited to know about, what is going on in our country. I too got involved in a conversation with a cabby, asking him about recent state of affairs in Pakistan. They understand India and Pakistan better than the million of people living on each side of the border. A few minutes chat with them is worth remembering.

Water

Water is transported to city from the sea or other part of the country. It is first refined and then send through pipeline to the city. You can see the process on Youtube. Only packed water bottles are safe for drinking, so don't ever try to drink water from open source. There is rarely any shortage of water as per I come to know. Your meal is always added with a water bottle by default, so no worries.

Electricity

The city provide 24x7 electricity to all houses and business units. Surprisingly, electric wires are transported through underground that's make it safe. thus, Streets are more open and less crowded. As per locals, electricity is very cheap as compared to others household supply.

Rain

Waiting for Rain :)

Photo of Visit the country less visited | Riyadh - Kingdom of Saudi Arabia by roottraveller

It rains here, sometime in season but most of the months are dry and hot. I can't explain my insane expectation, when I was here, I had always been praying for it to rain, at least for few hours only. I wanted to see the wet desert and smell the freshness of years old history it had contain in its heart. Gods are cruel :(. It didn't rain.

Houses

Street view of Houses in Riyadh (Image Source : Google)

Photo of Visit the country less visited | Riyadh - Kingdom of Saudi Arabia by roottraveller

Most family houses don't have more than 3 floors. This may be because of hot weather and traditional design. It was January and I could feel the heat in midday. Lower ground keeps the house cool and help to maintain internal temperature. Though many multi stone building has been constructed and few was under construction in the olaya street, the main business street.

Tree

Palm Tree (Image Source : www.jeddah-blog.com)

Photo of Visit the country less visited | Riyadh - Kingdom of Saudi Arabia by roottraveller

Tree?? This is a serious problem here. I'm from a country where tree and greenery are part of my daily life. Now all of sudden you were here but no tree. I was hunting for the places where I could find some. There are few parks in the city but most of them allow entry for family only. Palm trees are all that you can see. They give you food and dates and had helped local survived for years. Now they need our help to survive.

City

Street Near my Hotel (Image Source : www.holdinn.com)

Photo of Visit the country less visited | Riyadh - Kingdom of Saudi Arabia by roottraveller

Many commercial and business unites are in the new developed area of the city. Though this city persist its ancient culture, Batha is a local market where you can see it. In most part of the new city, supermarket is centre for grocery and other household supplied but still in the old part, south of the city, resides the old heard of the city and its culture. Here roads are narrow and streets are crowed with people. You cannot know Saudi, its people and its history without knowing this part.

Food

McDonalds, KFC, burger King, Pizza Hut, Subway, Starbucks, Hardee's/Carl's Jr., Little Caesars etc. major international food brands are here. Smoking is limited and drinking is totally banned. Alcohol, nightclubs, cinemas, theatres, playing music in public and mingling with unrelated people of the opposite sex all banned by law.

The national dish is the Kabsa (orange/red coloured rice with lamb or chicken with strong essence and spices, but not chilli). It is similar to the Indian Biryani but not quite the same. I loved the taste, it was different. when you are here you can't afford to miss it. Major restaurants serve kabsa with different rice and flavour. Shwarma (doner kebab) is widely available option too. SAR15 is enough for getting a shwarma for single person.

Kabsa with fried chicken (Image Source : Google)

Photo of Visit the country less visited | Riyadh - Kingdom of Saudi Arabia by roottraveller

Language

Arabic is local language. Due to a large population from Hindi speaking region(India, Pakistan, Bhutan and Bangladesh), Hindi is secondary language. Only educated people understand English and sometimes it become problem to find one.

What to buy

Brown Dates (Image Source : Google)

Photo of Visit the country less visited | Riyadh - Kingdom of Saudi Arabia by roottraveller

Dates are your first and foremost choice. Locally grown dates of high quality are widely available. you will find a large variety of dates in local shops as well as in supermarket. Carpets are a favourite purchase, most of these coming from Iran. Gold prices are cheap in Saudi Arabia, and bargaining is a norm in most small to medium sized store. So investing a small amount would not be a bad idea. Perfume is another attraction. Based on my experience, people here are addicted to perfume and buy a lot of it. If you don't find anything interesting then you can always go for clothing or Batha market. As women and young girls all required to wear an abaya (a long and loose black robe) whenever they step outside, surprisingly major shops are committed to female attire in malls as compared to male. You would be surprised to see the variety and modernity in clothing option available for female. Its not any less than that of western.

Batha - Must Visit Market

Street in Batha Market (Image Source : Google)

Photo of Batha, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia by roottraveller

Its the old Riyadh city. This part is more crowded and has narrow roads. Traffic may be an issue but that depends on time of the day. Generally evening or early morning is best time to come here. It is always better to have a local companion if possible because he knows the street better. A hotel staff, who was from Nepal, promised to join me but unfortunately he got some urgent work. I was all by my self and Google maps was my only companion. There is a popular internet saying - Don't take Google maps too seriously. well, I did and landed in the wrong market in Batha :P. I had planned to reach Indian and Pakistani market and now I was in Saudi old market. But everything happens for a reason. I got to know the city and its people from more closely now. I tasted some local food here. One of these looked like idlis of south India but was bigger in size. It was served with - green chatni, pickels and some other mixture of mustered with salt and local spice. the taste was superb.

Pakistani Market in Batha (Image Source : Google)

Photo of Visit the country less visited | Riyadh - Kingdom of Saudi Arabia by roottraveller

After wandering for nearly half an hour I finally reached the place. They call it - Indian market/Pakistani market/Bhutani market/ Nepali market and other so but it does not matter. People from different countries have given name to this place based of their own country. I think it contains a shadow of all. Centuries ago these countries were part of same empire and here they are again, mixed with one another. I felt so comfortable for the first time in this unknown land. I was home and English was no longer a primary language for communication. Maximum part of goods are imported from these country so you can always buy them in your home country. I was not here to buy stuff, I was here to buy the warmth of the people, who have lived here for decade, their knowledge and wisdom. I also got an opportunity to talk to few people in the midway. The old one will always surprise you with their knowledge and understanding of matter. I roamed though the narrow street for hours till my legs gave up. It was late night, I had some street food and left to find a cab to return my hotel. I was tired but happy. The wind was again touching my face with her cold hands, may be now she knew that I was no longer a stranger to this strange land.

Kingdom Tower Centre and Al Faisaliah Mall

Inside View of Kingdom Tower Centre (Image Source : Google)

Photo of Visit the country less visited | Riyadh - Kingdom of Saudi Arabia by roottraveller

Kingdom tower is famous of its stunning piece of modern architecture and Sky Bridge. This 99 floor building have first 2 floors dedicated for shopping, an underground food court and rest luxurious hotel. If you are here you should not miss Sky Bridge. A High-speed elevators fly you at 180km/h to the 99th-floor Sky Bridge, from where the views are breathtaking (you’re allowed to take photos from up here). There is no time limit, so spend some quality time watching the vast horizon, the city and sunset. Photography is allowed here.

Al Faisaliah Tower (Image Source : Google)

Photo of Kingdom Centre, Al Urubah Road, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia by roottraveller

Al Faisaliah Mall 44 floors contain a five-star deluxe hotel and four exclusive restaurants, offices, apartments, the Sky shopping mall and a fabulous viewing platform. Food court on the third floor is among the best in the Kingdom as they say. I got a chance to meet a guy from Nepal at one of the Chinese shop. He was very nice and after knowing that I am from India, he added cold drink as complementary to my order ;). I also visited the kitchen and met the staff members who are basically from south India and Nepal.

At Sky Bridge 99th floor Kingdom tower (Photography Allow here )

Photo of Al Faisaliah Mall, Olaya Street, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia by roottraveller

Hayat Mall

Outside View Hayat Mall (Image Source : Google)

Photo of Hayat Mall, King Abdul Aziz Road, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia by roottraveller

Hayat Mall is located in a highly populated area which experiences a large commercial and architectural activity and is main shopping area for most of the residents of Riyadh. You will be surprised to see great collections of the biggest and most famous International brands store here.

Riyadh Gallery Mall

Water park inside Riyadh Gallery Mall (Image Source : Google)

Photo of Riyadh Gallery Simit Sarayi, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia by roottraveller

This three level shopping mall is one of the most popular malls in Riyadh. With a small waterfall inside along with other small trees and plants, having a cup of coffee here is memory for life time. Though its a bit noisy here, the sound of fresh water touches your soul and the cafe music sweeps through your mind.

National Museum of Saudi Arabia

Inside National Museum Photography Allow :)

Photo of National Museum of Saudi Arabia, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia by roottraveller

Undoubtedly this is a top sight in Riyadh. This museum is equiped with the latest technology and its galleries covering Arabian history, culture and art. Everything is available in both English and Arabic language. There are mini-theatres at one corner. After spending hours in the museum, this is best spot to sit, relax and watch a documentary. I could probably spend an entire day sitting here. Photography is allowed inside the museum.

King Abdullah Park

Inside King Abdullah Park (Image Source : Google)

Photo of King Abdullah Road, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia by roottraveller

This is one of the popular and widely known park in Riyadh city but only families are allowed. Situated in the middle of the city, It attracts lots of people in the evening time.

Edited By - Ankit Agrawal

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