Riyadh Journals

Riyadh, the Saudi Capital

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A January 1985 trip to Riyadh by Overlander

Arabic Numbers Photo, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia More Photos
Quote: Riyadh is arguably the most bizarre capital on earth. Superficially, it is a vibrant, modern, 21st century city; scrape off this patina and one finds a place much more in keeping with the 15th century. The Islamic calendar says it is now the year 1422; it could be 1422 A.D.

Riyadh, the Saudi Capital

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Overview

Arabic Numbers Photo, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Quote:
Sights to see: First, there aren't many. The old Mismak Fort, the center of Riyadh before the Al-Saud made the town their headquarters, lay in ruin when we lived there, but it was fun to wander through the shell that had once been a sturdy redoubt against raiding tribesman - as long as you didn't step through a rotting palm wood plank or slip when an adobe block crumbled beneath your feet. The Water Tower, much venerated by modern Saudis and the "logo" of the city, is not impressive to the more jaded western eye. Old Dirriya, the "palace" of the Al-Saud, some 20 kms away from the center of town, is probably the most inter...Read More

Desert Camping

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Attraction

Desert Camping Photo, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Quote:
Saudi Entertainment Reality Check Riyadh, which is in the center of the Nejd, the most conservative region of the Kingdom, is a place where you have to "make" your own entertainment. There are no movie theaters, no bars, no night clubs, no theaters, and no concert halls. These traditional Western forms of entertainment exist only on certain compounds or inside the precincts of an embassy. If you don't have the right connections, then you're fresh out of luck. What to do? Desert Exploration One favorite activity of Westerners living in or visiting the Kingdom is to head out of town a few miles and into the desert surrounding the city. Assuming you have...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on November 25, 2001

Desert Camping
Outside of town
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Old Dir'aiyah

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Attraction

Old Dir'aiyah Photo, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Quote:
Old Dir'aiyah, located on the northwestern outskirts of Riyadh, is unquestionably the most interesting historical site in the area. Established in 1466 by an early ancestor of the Al-Saud, the Saudi ruling family, it was their stronghold until the early 20s when King Abdulaziz, king Fahad's father switched his headquarters to Riyadh. Gradually it fell into decay; it was not until 1974 when a decision was made to restore the ancestral home. Today, the visitor can wander through a maze of walls, houses, and palaces, some more diligently restored than others. Indeed, some have been, in my view, over-restored, to the point that adobe walls have been coated with a plastic resin that fairl...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on November 29, 2001

Old Dir'aiyah

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Gold Suq

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Attraction | "The Gold Suq and Other Markets"

Gold Suq Photo, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Quote:
In a city where most forms of entertainment are forbidden on theological grounds, shopping has been raised to a kind of art form, and you can get just about anything imaginable in Riyadh. Gold is one of the best purchases you can make -- and this is also true in the rest of the Gulf as well. You pay the going London spot price per ounce plus no more than 10% for workmanship. The savings are spectacular: I paid $85 for a pair of hoop earrings for my wife, who saw virtually identical ones in Minneapolis for almost $600! Tailors are also very cheap. If you have some time -- say 10 days -- take a favorite garment to a good tailor and ask him to copy it using the fabric you've...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on November 29, 2001

Gold Suq
Thumeiry Street
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

The Falconers' Meeting

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Story/Tip

Saudi Falconers Photo, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Quote:
One of my favorite pastimes in Riyadh was to wander down to the square in front of the main Friday mosque early on a Friday morning to chat with the Saudis who gathered there every week to show off their birds and exchange hunting stories. Whether this is still possible now that the entire downtown district of Riyadh has been torn down and rebuilt from scratch is doubtful.Be that as it may, when I lived there in the early to late 80s it was a great experience. As many as a couple dozen men with three times as many birds would be there. They would stick their wooden perches in the ground, tether the birds to them, and proudly show them off to anyone who happened by. The atmosphere was q...Read More

Dealing with Riyadh and Saudi Arabia

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Story/Tip

Closed for Prayer Photo, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Quote:
Living in -- or even visiting -- Riyadh requires patience, adaptability, and tolerance in roughly equal measure. If you don't possess them, don't even think about going even if for just a little while. The first thing you'll notice when you go out for the first time is the lack of women alone in public places, whether on the streets, in hospitals, in banks, in shops, supermarkets, or in the suqs. You see almost none. The reason for this is that according to the Qor'an, women must be "protected" at all times; in other words they must be accompanied by someone. Aside from going out with friends, the only males they can legally be seen with are brothers, sons, husbands, and fathe...Read More

Downtown Riyadh before Urban Rehab

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Story/Tip

The Bedu Suq Photo, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Quote:
An Introductory Caveat Central Riyadh, what could be termed the "downtown business district", was pretty much totally reconstructed after the Gulf War, in large measure because of the destruction caused by Yemeni shopowners who torched their stores after receiving the news that they would all be deported after Yemen had sided with the Iraqis. The alternative was to stand by while all their wares were confiscated by the Saudi authorities. Therefore, my description of the city I knew will probably not bear a lot of resemblance to what one sees today. That said, the few old "monuments" depicted in the photos below do -- apparently -- still exist. Batha -- Downtown ...Read More

About the Writer

Overlander

Overlander
Muscat, Oman

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