Going on a business trip can sometimes turn into an exhausting experience, when you find yourself running from the office to the hotel room, only to change clothes and head back to another conference. But business trips don’t need to be all work, if you allow yourself some time to explore the city you’ve landed in.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia holds a kind of magic that no other place can offer and Riyadh, its capital, even more. Even its name, which translates to gardens or meadows, sets the grounds for a one-of-a-kind experience. The city is a stunning combination of colossal modern buildings, historical sites and breathtaking gardens, making it an eclectic place to let yourself be mesmerized by. If you find yourself roaming the streets of Riyadh for your next business trip, this guide will help you elevate your voyage and come back with some fascinating memories to share with your friends and family.
The oldest area of the city is located near the center of Riyadh and holds the city’s main historical monuments. The district is home to the Masmak Fortress, built in the 19th century and was renovated at the beginning of the 1980s. After the renovation, some rooms of the fortress were turned into a museum that holds antique costumes, ammunition and agricultural artifacts. The fortress is made entirely out of clay and mud-brick, with four watchtowers and has a tremendous historical value for the Kingdom, as this was the location where the recapture of Riyadh took place, in the early 20th century. Make time for a stop at the Alsafat Square to grab a coffee and roam the streets of the old town.
Arabia’s tallest skyscraper is a 47-story building and it can definitely count as the city’s most luxurious destination, being home to top designer stores, cafes and restaurants. The building is located in the city’s business district, which is filled with modern buildings, elegant and luxurious hotels and shopping places. Atop the skyscraper, there is a 184 ft sky bridge, where you can get an impressive view over the city. The skyscraper holds an entire floor designated to women only, with spas, stores, beauty salons and high-class restaurants.
King Abdul Aziz Museum
The National Museum is a beautiful building, holding an exhibition that details the entire development of the city across the years. The ground floor holds an amazing fossil exhibition that takes you back to the prehistoric times, as well as exhibits marking the birth of Islam and the Nabatean Kingdom era. The upper floor holds an entire corridor portraying the life of Prophet Mohammed and other exhibits displaying the Kingdom’s like since its formation in 1932.
The Edge of the World
Located about 90 km from Riyadh, in the Acacia valley, is the infamous rock formation called the Edge of the World. The place is perfect for hitchhiking, making it possible to go either to the top, for a breathtaking view over Riyadh and the entire valley, or down to explore the valley. The rock formation is believed to have been the bottom of an ocean, about 50 million years ago, making it a perfect place to find fossils. The road to reach the Edge is quite difficult and can be travelled using a 4×4 vehicle. Even with such vehicle, the road can become quite rough and sandy so going there all by yourself may not be the best idea. The car should be equipped with shovels, tow strap and a spare tire and you should make sure the tank is full before leaving for the road. Even after such a difficult trip, reaching the top will surely be worth it, after all it’s not called The Edge of the World for nothing.
Riyadh’s famous market where the locals have come for generations to trade goods and return home with a few more Riyals that they came with. This is the best place to shop for souvenirs for your friends and family at home. The narrow passageways will make you feel entrapped in a forgotten world, with carpets, clothes and jewelry decorating the streets. To get a good deal, you might want to learn how to bargain, as most of the shops receive only cash and don’t have fixed prices. If you keep your eyes open, you might be stumbling upon some interesting old coins, stamps and postcards perfect for the treasure hunter in your life.
The Camel Festival
If you find yourself in the city during the Camel Festival, take the time to enjoy this one-of-a-kind experience. The festival holds a Miss Camel beauty contest, which has become its main attraction. The camels are judged based on different aspects, with several pageant categories they can participate in. The festival also holds a camel exhibition, called the Sanad expo, where you can even see the world’s tallest camel. Camel caravans are circling the festival and, if you are lucky enough to get a spot, you can enjoy a camel ride free of charge.
A few things to remember
Riyadh is a beautiful city, an immense business center filled with entire pages of history. Before roaming the streets in search of tourist attractions, keep in mind a few common rules that will grant you a beautiful experience. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has specific regulations and following them will not only keep you out of legal trouble, but also show you respect the city’s people and culture.
- Avoid wearing bright or provoking clothes. Women should wear long and loose dresses and men should not wear short pants or short sleeves.
- Locals have a strict alcohol policy and alcohol consumption is only allowed in some restaurants. Being seen in public, while under the influence of alcohol is a great sign of disrespect.
- Tips are a must in cafes and restaurants. While the amount varies, based on location, it should be somewhere around 10-15%.