first time in riyadh

  • Many individuals may find themselves in Riyadh for a short time such as a weekend whether he or she is in the Kingdom for short term business, visiting Riyadh in order to see the capital city or maybe came to attend a conference. It would be a shame to be in Riyadh and not make an effort to see some of its sites and highlights.But where does one start? What are the “do not miss sites of Riyadh?”
    I’m putting together my own recommendations and I’ve no doubt readers familiar with Riyadh may add to this list. However after giving careful thought and consideration, here are some sites I think one should see to discover the rich heritage, culture and history of the capital city:


  • Cityscape of Riyadh: Riyadh is divided into 15 branch municipalities, in addition to the Diplomatic Quarter. Each branch municipality in turn contains several districts, though some districts are divided between more than one branch municipality.The branch municipalities are Al-Shemaysi, Irqah, Al-Ma’athar, Al-Olayya, Al-Aziziyya, Al-Malaz, Al-Selayy, Nemar, Al-Neseem, Al-Shifa, Al-’Urayja, Al-Bat’ha, Al-Ha’ir, Al-Rawdha, and Al-Shimal (“the North”). Although the Riyadh Development Authority conducts projects in Dir’iyyah, administratively, Al-Diriyah is a separate city outside of the Riyadh Municipality and is the seat of its own governorate.


  • National Museum: The National Museum as its name indicates gives one an excellent overview of the history and noteworthy sites of Saudi Arabia. If one can only visit one place while in Riyadh, the National Museum is the place. It is “one stop shopping.” I had also written an earlier post on my observations when I first visited the National Museum. Visiting the museum made a lasting impression on me teaching me about the history, traditions and culture of Saudi Arabia both past and present during my short visit to this museum. The museum is very well organized and structured. However anyone should check before just deciding to go to the museum as there are separate hours for men, women and families.


  • Al Mismak Castle: This is next door to the National Museum so easy to visit in conjunction with the museum. The castle is representative of the march and battles which led to the formation of Saudi Arabia as it is known today. The castle is well preservered and provides authentic glimpses into the life and history at the beginning of Saudi Arabia. Again, like the National Museum one should check on the hours due to the differing visiting times for men, woman and families. Admission to the castle is free of charge.


  • City of Old Ad’Diriyah: This is a short taxi ride heading out of Riyadh and is the founding home of the Al Saud family. The ruins remain although the area is slowly being renovated. It is a popular location for outdoor picnics and one can walk freely among the ruins. There are no separate timings for men, women and families.
    Deira: Deira is a traditional souk located in walking distance of the National Museum and Mismak Castle. It is also in the same location as the infamous “Chop Chop Square” also known as “Clocktower Square” where public executions may be held. In Deira, everything is negotiable and here is where one can examine and purchase Saudi oud, spices, daggers, carpets, traditional dress and much much more!


  • Camel Souk: Naturally when one thinks of Saudi Arabia it is to include oil, magic carpets, beudoins, desert, falcons and CAMELS! One of the world’s largest camel souks is located in Northern Riyadh. Any taxi driver or hotel concierge should know how to instruct/take one to this fascinating souk. Camels are brought from all over the Kingdom where they are bartered, sold and traded. And one will quickly realize that camels DO NOT come in one size and color but that there are many variations. There are no separate timings for men, women and families.