Expats to Riyadh often ask ‘What is there to do in Riyadh. Here’s a few things we have done to date:
Visit the Car Junk Yard
Obviously a man’s haven, unless you’re a female car wreck fanatic, the car junk yard is an area to the south of Riyadh where all the beaten up cars go. They’re pulled to pieces and you can buy parts. Given the huge number of accidents in this city, you can bet this place is huge. We found some really old classics – a Studebaker and Thunderbird – that just need someone with TLC, time and know how to do them up. Hubster was tempted, but common sense (when exactly will you have time for this?) got the better of him, so the classics were left for another day.
Later in the afternoon or early evening for obvious thermal reasons is best. Where can you go? Outside the city, almost anywhere! Just drive off the side of the road in a spot that looks picnikable. That’s what we’ve done.
There are green areas in the city where you can picnic, places like Salam Park (see below). I have figured out that my definition of ‘green area’ differs greatly from the local meaning. I’m talking ‘Kiwi forest, lush grass’ green. I may be plum out of luck looking for that in Saudi Arabia, but being an optimist, am ever hopeful.
We found a fast flowing stream on our way back from the Car Junk Yard. It’s fast flowing, dirty as, with it’s origins unknown (to Mr Noor our Riyadh encyclopaedia), but full of things that jumped and made plopping sounds on landing – I’m presuming fish of some description. It’s obviously a popular picnic spot with the locals because Mr Whippy was in situ and it wasn’t even dinner time. (I have since discovered it is called the Riyadh River).
|The boys looking for fish|
|Given up on the fish. Now throwing stones.|
|Riyadh’s Mr Whippy|
Wadi Hanifah is a nice place to visit. We’ve been a couple of times on the bike and taken the pre-requisite picnic. It’s surprising how much cooler the air temperature is in the Wadi – we noticed it immediately.
Wadi Hanifah, according to our map, is located along the western perimeter of Riyadh city and there are a number of entrances to it. There are picnic spots all along the Wadi and a walkway. We’ve come across joggers, walkers, fellow picnickers and casual cyclists. Now that the temperatures are more bearable people are heading outdoors. To date we have visited the more northern parts of Wadi Hanifah. There is some spectacular housing up on the hill and, near Dariyah, some ruins can be seen from the road.
The wadi road has speed bumps all the way along which makes it a slow ride but on a nice morning, there’s no need to hurry.
|Glenn’s pride and joy|
Visit the Riyadh Zoo
Having visited a few of the pet shops in Riyadh and seen fully grown, porcupines, hyenas and monkeys caged for sale, and knowing how the ‘lower class’ humans are regarded in this country, I admit we were wary about the local zoo. But, we were pleasantly surprised. The Riyadh Zoo is not what I would describe as first class, but the animals seem well cared for, and the enclosures were clean and quite spacious.
The white tigers are huge, so is the rhino. I don’t recall seeing any camels, but then ‘duh!’ a trip to the desert or Camel Market will find plenty of those. If you go to the zoo take a picnic, there’s sufficient room to spread a blanket and the ‘restaurant’ wasn’t much to speak of when we went.
There’s a phenonemon at this zoo that could only happen in Saudi Arabia. We were somewhat annoyed at the children throwing water bottles into the seal pool, but then realized they were trying to get the seals to play with them which, eventually, they did.
We watched as orangutans took empty chip packets, fill them with water and tipped it on the ground for cooling. Where did the chip packs come from? Thrown in by the ape spectators of course!
The chimpanzee was the most entertainment. He’d sit on the rocks near the mass of peering humans and wait for things to be thrown in, and he wasn’t disappointed. Full water bottles were sent his way, and he’d unscrew the tops, drink them and turf the bottle. Juice boxes landed in his hands, and he took the straw, popped the top and drained it before ripping open the box to lick out the dregs.
At most zoo’s there are ‘Please don’t feed the animals’ signs everywhere. We have no idea if throwing food to the critters is an allowed activity in the Riyadh Zoo or if, this being Saudi, people just do what they please – I’m guessing the latter.