Things To Do In the Kingdom
Riyadh has shopping malls that would rival any mall that you have seen in Canada, except maybe the West Edmonton Mall. What makes shopping in Riyadh even more interesting is heading down to the different 'souks' in the older sections of Riyadh. You can go to the gold, carpet, brass, vegetable, meat and camel souks just to name a few. If shopping is your thing, you will have no problems in Riyadh. Ladies, don't forget to wear your Abaya or the Muttawa, (religious police) will hassle you. They may even tell you to cover your hair, as per Islamic Culture.
2. Eating and Restaurants:
Another favorite past time of many Canadians is eating out. Again, like the shopping, Riyadh has all of the same fast food places as we have here in Canada. And they have some very nice places to eat Chinese, Korean, Thai, Turkish and 'western' foods as well. However, don't expect ham or bacon on your egg McMuffin as pork products are not sold in Saudi Arabia, again, according to Islamic laws. Don't expect the beer and wine list either as alcohol is also prohibited. Restaurants are segregated into 2 sections, one for males only, and the other for families and single women. Groups of people are usually allowed in the family sections. You single guys and girls wanting to go out on a dinner date need to be careful. You can chance it and eat in the family section, however, if the Mutawa spot you could be in big trouble. Unless you are married or related, dinner dates are not allowed, (but go on just the same for the braver couples).
3. Sporting Activities:
My passion for softball, (slow pitch) was kept in check by joining and playing in the Riyadh Softball Association. There were men's and women's teams. The playing field, called Patriot Park, was affiliated with the American Embassy in Riyadh. Technically, once you passed through the gates and heavy security, you were on U.S. soil. The playing field, while having no grass at all, was in excellent shape. We played twice per year, a spring and winter session. It is too hot to play in the summer. As well, spectators and fans were always welcome, and if you tried hard enough, you just may smell the aroma of bacon coming from the dugout restaurant for those great hamburgers that were made there.
Other sports that expats enjoyed playing were golf and scuba diving. Diving in the Red Sea is truly a thing that you will never forget. I highly recommend diving, lots of fun. Little league baseball was also available for the youngsters in the crowd. Long distance running clubs such as the HASH are also another good place to meet people. I also enjoyed taking my mountain bike out to the desert on the weekends and biking around. However, take plenty of water with you, wear lots of sunscreen and watch out for those wild dogs, they are mean beasts!
Saudi Arabia is quite close to Europe, Asia, the Africa and the Far East. If you like to travel and want to see the world, this is the place to launch your vacation from. Most companies in Saudi Arabia offer generous amounts of holiday time, so you can take two or three big trips a year. As well, where I worked at KFSH & RC, the hospital offered monthly trips to different and interesting places in and around Saudi Arabia, as well as to neighboring Arab countries. One of the places you will want to visit, on a long weekend perhaps, is Dubai, which is part of the United Arab Emirates. The hotel pictured below is the Burj Al-Arab, the only 7 star hotel in the world, and it is also the tallest hotel in the world. Only suites are available, and if you have a spare $10,000, you can stay there for one night. It is a magnificent building to look at as it is located in the middle of the water, close to shore though. You can arrive at the hotel by helicopter, or drive in by Rolls Royce. Dubai is a must visit as it has great beaches, shopping and restaurants where you will receive the beer and wine list.
4. Embassy Parties:
The Diplomatic Quarter, located just on the outskirts of Riyadh, houses all of the main embassies of the world. Besides offering services such as visa's and other diplomatic services, the embassies are also known for very nice social gatherings and parties. If you are lucky enough to know someone who has access to the Canadian or U.S. embassy, then you maybe able to attend some great bashes. Some of the other embassies which are nice to attend include the British and Australian Embassies.
The Burg Al-Arab Hotel in Dubai, Spectacular.
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