Capital of Saudi Arab and one of the larger cities of Middle East, the city was capital to Saudi Arab from the year 1932, but remained the second preferred to Jeddah till 1970s. The city started to be built with the money earned from Oil boom and today it is a virtual oasis of concrete and glass.
As Saudi Arab does not encourage tourists in the country, no tourist visa is given. To get inside the country you are needed to have a sponsorship from an individual or organisation to get a business visa. There are few places of tourist interest in the city. If you are visiting the city for the business purposes, exploring the city can be a good option.
What to do
Not much is there to do or see in the city. Excursions around and inside the city are the most potent option and that should be engaged in first. Riyadh is a good place to enjoy Saudi food and there are plenty of restaurants where you can enjoy it. Shopping can be another good option if it is a passion for it.
City at a Glance
|Area||1,600 Sq Km|
Riyadh was founded by Abdul Aziz bin Abdul Rahman Al Saud (Ibn Saud) in the early part of the 20th century. The city became capital of Saudi Arabia in 1932, but could not achieve the status that Jeddah was enjoying. This was the time when most of the foreign embassies and many other government departments were located in Jeddah only. By 1955, all the ministries and government offices were relocated to Riyadh and by a royal decree; the status of Riyadh was increased to mayoralty from municipality. The oil boom of 1970s and 80s led to extraordinary growth of the city, which is continued till now.
Weather and Best Season to Visit
The climate of Riyadh is Arid and it is hot most of the time in the year with little or no rain. Best time to visit is from November to February when the climate is mild. Thunderstorm can occur at the evenings and that makes the evenings cool.
Riyadh does not have monuments and other attractions like some other capital cities of Middle East because of its relatively new origin. Whatever has remained from the past is well preserved.
Al Bathaa is the heart of the city and also the oldest part. Most of the tourist needs are fulfilled here as it is home to the most facilities like bus stand, shopping area, post office, and banks.
Originally formed in 1957, the zoo has been renovated recently. Though, not of much interest to the foreigners, it is a popular leisure centre in the city.
The fortress was built around 1865; it has been renovated and made attractive to the tourists coming in. The traditional Diwan (sitting room of the king), which has been reconstructed recently, is a major attraction.
The museum in Riyadh is located near Al Bathaa and showcases the chapters from the history of the city. You can also ask for permits to visit all other museum in the country apart from eastern region from this museum.
Al Thumairi Gate
This is one of the nine gates in the city, before the city walls were torn down in 1950. A new gate has been constructed just across the road.
This is the seat of government and the place where most of the offices and foreign embassies are located. It is also the place where major conference and conventions are organised.
Ruins of Dir'aiyah are situated around 30 km north of the city and the most popular archaeological site in the country. It is a place where the first capital of Saudi Arab was founded in 1446 and destroyed in 1818.
There is a camel market situated at a distance of around 30 km out of the city. It is the largest camel market in Middle East and a fascinating site.
Large shopping complexes selling commodities of every hue, colour, and need are located in the main market areas of the city.
WHERE TO STAY
Riyadh is a modern city and prosperous one and there are many good hotels to choose from. Most of the hotels are big budget, but economical tourist hostels and some inexpensive hotels are also present though services are going to be affected accordingly.
WHERE TO EAT
There are good restaurants at every corner in the city and certainly some of the best are present in the hotels of the city only. Meal is costly, but the range of cuisine is certainly international. Pitta breat, chickpeas, cracked wheat, kultra (meat on skewers), and kebab are some of the famous dishes that this city has on offer for you. All alcoholic beverages are strictly prohibited.
Air Travel Resources
Saudi Arabian Airlines connect Riyadh with many international and domestic destinations. Services are generally on time and provide good level of comfort. King Khalid International Airport is located at a distance of around 35 km from Riyadh and you can get Airport Coaches, hired taxis, or service taxis to reach your destination from the airport.
Land And Water
Saudi Arabia has a very good road network that connects Riyadh with almost all the cities in the country. National bus service SAPTCO and service taxis have services to almost all the centres in the country and they are cheap. International driving licenses are also valid in Saudi Arab. There is only one railway track running in Saudi Arab from Riyad to Dammam covering a distance of 570 km. There are three important highways that pass through Riyadh and connect it with Dammam, Sedi, and Taif.