Thought of primarily as a business destination, the history and culture of Riyadh never ceases to be a draw for tourists.
1. Kingdom Tower
For a dizzying, top-of-the-world feeling, a visit to the Sky Bridge at the Kingdom Centre is a must to enjoy the 360-degree panoramic view of the city. It’s definitely worth it, especially if you go before dusk and catch the sunset. It’s mesmerizing to watch the city light up.
Built at the crossroads of King Fahad Expressway, Olaya Road and Orouba Road, The Kingdom Centre contains a shopping mall, offices, the Regus Business Centre, business suites, luxurious residential apartments, the Four Seasons Hotel and a number of fine restaurants. This glittering icon has truly transformed the Riyadh’s Skyline.
2. Murabba Palace
Check out the original Rolls-Royce presented to King Abdul Aziz by Sir Winston Churchill as well as his personal elevator, which was the first of its kind to be installed in the country. This 7,000 sqm two-storied palace contains interesting memorabilia.
While the ground floor has storerooms, officers’ quarters and a reception room, the first floor houses the royal office, the king’s two formal majlis (sitting rooms) and public waiting rooms.
3. Masmak Fortress
This mud-brick fort in one of the oldest parts of Riyadh is of great historical significance. The palace gate, also known as the palm tree gate, is made of palm and tamarisk trunks with an opening at the center called the skylight. There’s a cylindrical watchtower at each of the four corners of the AI Masmak Castle and a square watch tower at its center the overlooks the palace through the upper balcony. Traditional costumes and handicrafts are displayed in the fort. However, do avoid visiting on Fridays as it’s adjacent to Dirah Square, where executions often take place.
Located in the northwestern outskirts of Riyadh, Al-Diriyah was the original home of the Saudi royal family. In the 18th and early 19th centuries, its political and religious importance increased when it became the capital of the First Saudi State as well as the epicenter of the Wahhabi reform. Historical structures worth a visit include the Salwa Palace, the Saad bin Saud Palace, the At-Turaif Bath House, and the Imam Muhammad bin Saud Mosque.
5. National Museum
It’s essential to visit the National Museum to get a feel of the Heritage of the city. Built to augment the country’s educational and cultural progress, it showcases geological, religious, archaeological, and architectural exhibits.
The museum consists of eight main galleries, which chart the different ages since the creation of the universe from prehistoric times to early photo-Islamic era to the arrival of Prophet Muhammad and Islamic civilization.
6. Al-Faisaliyah Center
Designed by British architect Sir Norman Foster, Al-Faisaliyah Tower was the city’s first skyscraper. It houses a five-star hotel, four exclusive restaurants, offices, apartments, and the Sky Shopping Mall.
Based on the design of a ballpoint pen, four corner beams join at the top of a golden glass globe inside which is a plush revolving European restaurant. In the cigar lounge, guests can enjoy light meals, the World’s finest cigars and spectacular views of the city.
Riyadh is a shopper’s paradise and caters to all tastes and budgets. In fact, if you’re an avowed shopaholic, book yourself into a hotel that’s close to one of the main shopping districts. From lavish shopping centers that showcase the best brands to traditional and quaint souks, Riyadh offers everything. Souk-al Thumairi, in Riyadh’s fourth quarter, is a must-visit. It specializes in all kinds of traditional Arabic ware. For exotic materials and textiles, visit Batha Souk.
8. Eating Out
If you’re looking for traditional Arabic cuisine, head straight to a Najd Village outlet, each of which houses a traditional mud house. The decor includes tables of spices, dates hanging from the ceiling and antiques, Najd Village specializes in old-fashioned cuisine.Mataziz (boneless lamb cooked with vegetables and small round bread) is a must-have. Other recommended dishes include moqalqal, lamb and chicken kabsa, goursan and marqooq.
9. Gaming and Entertainment
For your dose of family fun, you can visit any of the theme parks here. The Al-Thumama Entertainment Village offers a range of activities including bumping cars, bike, and electronic games.
With several nice eateries including an ice cream parlor, coffee shop, and a small market, it caters to all age groups. Only families can visit it though. The Al-Hokair Land Theme Park and the Al-Hamrah Entertainment Village are also worth a visit.
10. Riyadh Zoo
Bang in the middle of the city, spread over 161,000 sqm is the Riyadh National Zoo. Home to tapirs, seals, leopards, kangaroos, llamas, griffon vultures, lions, hyenas and gazelles, its perfect for a day out with children and grandchildren.
Children will love the little train that chugs through it and taking it is a good idea as the train will spare your feet the ordeal of covering the entire park by foot. Please check if the entire family is allowed as earlier children could only be accompanied by one parent.
You can take a flight to Riyadh from Mumbai or Delhi.
The Riyadh Marriott Hotel (www.marriott.com) stands majestically in the center of the city’s corporate, financial, and government agencies.
For More Information
Log on to www.arriyadh.com/english.