Riyadh’s blend of
medieval and millennial makes for a beguiling cultural union — one where Arabia’s
first roots can be traced, and where its bold future can be envisioned. The
city’s fascinating, centuries-old history can be found within its atmospheric
souqs, compelling museums, and ancient architecture, but it’s also a modern
metropolis, with glittering high-rises and a burgeoning contemporary art scene.
The winter months are an ideal time to visit Riyadh. Although average high
temperatures in the summer can reach 44 degrees C, the top temps in December
and January are in the low 20s.
Built in 1865 and
superbly preserved, Al Masmak Fortress is a vast clay and mud-brick citadel
that’s a favorite among tourists wanting to step back in time and explore Saudi’s
roots. In 1902, King Abdulaziz captured the fortress and took control of Riyadh
(his ancestral home) after having lived in Kuwait. From this fortress,
Abdulaziz Al Saud conquered and united the different kingdoms and provinces
that make up the Saudi nation as we know it today.
labyrinthine souqs to luxury malls and quirky boutiques, Riyadh sets the
standard for a destination shopping city. The city’s most famous market is the
Souq Al Zal, which remains as noisy and vibrant as when it first emerged in
1901. Everything from gold coins to quirky handicrafts and dusty antiques can
be found here, including traditional Saudi items such as dallah coffee pots and
mabkhara incense burners. For more modern shopping venues, choose from Riyadh
Park Mall, with an IMAX cinema and arcade under its palm trees and wave-like
glass roof; the open-air precinct The Zone, where stores and restaurants are
clustered around a main plaza; or the shops at the Kingdom Centre, which are
almost as impressive as the shiny skyscraper itself.
to have fun:
contemporary capital with a trip to the Riyadh Front, where deluxe shopping and
dining await, or step back in time with a trip to the 1,500-year-old Ushaiger
Heritage Village. Thrill-seekers will enjoy testing their skills at Doos
Karting or taking in the views from the Edge of the World.
Saudi cuisine in Riyadh’s Restaurants:
One of the best ways
to experience Riyadh’s cultural fusion is through its cuisine. Najd Village
combines the dining and heritage experiences, with faithfully re-created Najd
architecture and authentic recipes such as kabsa, jareesh and hashi. More
contemporary takes can be found at the sophisticated Takya, serving Saudi
fusion food inspired by the country’s regions, and Suhail, with its modern spin
on traditional Saudi favorites.