Riyadh is the capital city of The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It is one of the wealthiest cities in the world, having gone through massive development due to the oil boom. The city is known for being a world of contradictions – it is one of the most modernized cities, sprawling with skyscrapers and the most expensive hotels, but with most forms of entertainment completely banned, and locals and tourists requiring to follow strict rules and laws that are met with drastic or fatal punishments if not followed.
Riyadh is located in the center of the Arabian peninsula, situated on a large plateau. It has a very dry climate that can be intolerable in the summer, but it also has an underground water supply, which is one of the few natural fertile areas in the country.
How To Reach (Modes of Transportation)
It is important to note that Riyadh is very car-oriented and public transportation is very limited. Women are also not allowed to drive.
By Plane –
One of the most beautiful and developed airports in the world, the King Khaled Airport is the primary airport that serves Riyadh. Since the city is virtually very far from most destinations, visitors reach the city through air. The airport is located 35 km north of the city center.
By Train –
The train station is located in the middle of the city, with the most trips of 4 times a day to Damman via Al-Hofuf.
By Bus –
The Central Bus Terminal is located 17km from the city center, with the flat-fare minibuses the most common mode of public transport. However, it is mostly used by laborers and very difficult for visitors to find their places of destinations – stops aren’t posted and if they are, they are mostly in Arabic.
By Taxi –
The city center has an abundance of white taxis but are difficult to find in the outskirts or city limits. Drivers speak very little English or non at all. Single female tourists are allowed to ride taxis but most prefer to use cars provided by their hotel or by their company of employment. If they do ride a taxi, women must sit at the back.
When to Visit
The best season to visit Riyadh is during the winter season – from November to March. Riyadh experiences the most pleasant weather during these months, when temperatures are from 8-25 degrees Celsius. It’s not recommended to visit the city during its summer months of May to September as the weather is hot and dry and can be intolerable. Temperatures can reach up to 45 degree Celsius on any given day in the summer.
Culture (Fairs and Festivals) and Traditions
Riyadh International Book Fair –
Held at the Riyadh International Convention and Exhibition Center, over 600,000 books are on display and sold to its over 2 million visitors each year. Almost a thousand publishing houses and 400 exhibitors from around the world present their books, making the event one of the city’s largest cultural festivals.
Riyadh Motor Show –
Held annually in November, the Motor Show is a spectacle of the world’s latest and most luxurious cars on display. The best international car manufacturers present their latest and most exquisite productions, visited by over 85,000 visitors every year.
Janadriyadh Cultural Festival –
A 10-day festival held every February or March every year, it is a rich showcase of Saudi Arabia’s culture. The most looked forward to event by tourists is the treasure market of exotic and exquisite crafts made by local artisans.
Annual King’s Cup Camel Race –
One of the most popular camel races in the Kingdom, over 2000 boys who are specially trained in the art of camel riding converge in Riyadh to compete against each other.
Points of Interest (Places to Visit)
Masmak Fortress –
One of the most visited attractions of Riyadh, this living museum was the famous fort stormed by King Abdul Aziz in their reconquest of the city in 1902. Today, it is a museum consisting of watch towers, tall brick walls, an old mosque, a castle gate, and an architectural structure that defines how Saudi Arabia royalty lived in the early 20th century.
The National Museum –
This is the most visited site in Riyadh, covering over 3 hectares of exhibits, artifacts, documents, and video presentations of the country’s vast history.
Kingdom Centre –
The most stunning piece of modern architecture in the city, it contains a 3-story shopping mall with 1 floor designated for women. Winning the title of Skyscraper of the Year in 2002, it offers great views of the well-lit city at night.
There are many types of hotels in Riyadh that cater to budget, midrange, and luxury prices. However, it is best to book hotels in advance since a number of them do not accept non-Arabs. For budget accommodation, it is ideal for visitors to check the rooms first before checking in.