5 Best Hangout Spots in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Ever been to a country that has no movie theaters, clubs, or bars? This is Saudi Arabia!  With about 9 out of 10 workers in this country being expats, we must creatively find ways to have fun. If you happen to make it to the capital city of Riyadh, here’s some tips to make this city feel a little more like home…

1) Hike w/ the Hash

Most major cities around the world have Hash House Harriers (HHH), a group of hikers that get together and explore the local terrain. What makes Hashing in Saudi so special, is the differing landscapes of the desert.  With the permission of authorities, it gives foreigners-only the opportunity to mingle freely, sans abaya (black cloak women wear), and build valuable contacts to make life in Riyadh much easier.  The best part is stumbling across unique finds, like desert diamonds, hieroglyphics, or desert roses.  To seal the memory, end your hike next to a campfire, feet in sand, watching the sunset.

*Locations: Changes weekly.
*Price: 10 SAR/week.

2) Hamam at Direm Beauty Center

Basically, during Hamam, an old lady gives you the best bath of your life! You can find everyone from soon-to-be Saudi brides to curious expats getting this treatment done. It can be compared to the body scrubs of Turkey or the jjimjilbangs of South Korea. The entire treatment is done in a wet sauna, where the woman slathers you with mixtures of soap, oil, and mud.  After she removes a layer of your DNA, you may find that you are a shade and a pound lighter. It’s an interesting experience that has you walking away with skin so soft and clean, as if you were just born yesterday.

*Location: Take Exit 5 at China Mart/Carrefour. Make a U-Turn. Then get onto the service road (be careful not to enter the highway on the right). Direm International Instititute de Beaute is a white building on the right.
*Price: 130 SAR

3) Eat at Najd Village

If you want to experience what ancient Saudi Arabia was like, you must visit this restaurant! When you first walk in, the stone walls encase you like an old fortress. Simple rarities here, like the rich color patterns found in the painted doors, gold Arabic antiques, and plush green grass, are a joy to see.  Every group is  given a private eating room with wrap-around floor seating. The meal is started off with the traditional Saudi dates and tea. And then you are served huge dishes that meant to be shared. Here’s one of your few chances to try camel!.. Don’t forget your camera. This restaurant is a unique experience that you may want to capture.

*Directions: On the corner of King Abdullah Rd and Abo Baker Rd. Across from Prince Sultan University
*Prices: range from 10 – 135 SAR

4) “Visit another country” at the Diplomatic Quarters

Similar to compounds, but on a grander scale, the Diplomatic Quarters is an expat’s road to freedom. These mini international neighborhoods are neutral grounds, where foreigners can do various activities that may not be available on the outside. Often, different embassies will throw a festival for any given holiday, have outdoor movie showings, or BBQ’s. For runners who are confined to the “dreadmill”, the greenery of trails is a dreamland.

This picture is from the blog – Shards of China, by Nicholas Kellingley. If you enjoyed it you can find more material here at http://shardsofchina.wordpress.com and you can also follow him on Twitter – @ShardsofChina

5) Shop and Eat at Al Faisaliya Tower

If you’re looking for a fancy night out on the town, you must pay a visit to The Globe restaurant at the top of Al Faisaliya Tower.  Here you can taste a variety of European meals, High Tea, and deserts, at a table that overlooks all of Riyadh. If this doesn’t fit your tastes, step over to Il Terrazo restaurant, an all-you-can eat Brazilian barbeque. This open-air, but misted, restaurant plays music (which is absent in most public places) and is a mixed gender zone. Once the sun sets, step out onto the observation deck for a 360 degree view of the city, with the desert in the background. Then walk off the food, in the expansive mall below.

*Directions: Major landmark on King Fahd Rd and Olaya St.
*Prices: 100 – 200 SAR for The Globe
200 SAR for Il Terrazo

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22 thoughts on “5 Best Hangout Spots in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

  1. Thanks I like the suggestions just in case I’m there some day. I had my first Hamam at Sunset Beach spa in Khobar. I liked it but she didn’t go to town scrubbing. I guess I expected that. The table was also too short for 5’11” me. Oh well, maybe next time.

  2. This is so interesting! I met a woman in Vietnam who’s a nurse there, she told me that all the embassy bashes are really something….. lots of dres up balls & such. I was almost a little jealous since in the UAE we don’t have some many fancy organized activities for the expats. At least not in Al Ain.

      • hi!…cantstandheat, my name is Ray and currently here in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia??? are you familiar with the place??? can you refer any clubs inside American Community/Compound or a place to hangout with no restrictions between gender??? can I bring a female&male friends??? They said I need an invitation, how can I avail that??? thx.

      • Hi Ray.
        Besides a few of the locations that I listed in this entry, most ppl simply meet inside of compounds. Try to make connections, usually with contractors and nurses.. and perhaps you’ll get an invite in. In the ones I’ve been on so far, there aren’t any clubs. But the residents often threw BBQ/pool parties. Good luck

    • I have personally not been to other cities.. but from what I hear, each part of Saudi is different. You could be in Najran countryside, and have absolutely nothing to do because of the absence of taxis. Dammam and Khobar, you are close to the beach and may be more likely to be placed on a compound. Jeddah, on the west coast, is a port city that is quite liberal. So there are a lot more international influences. Taif, is green and mountainous. So that would probably make for good hiking.

  3. |Hey, I would just like to know more about the Hash, because it sounds really interesting and i would love to experience that in Riyadh, since i didnt know anything like that exists, can you please let me know how i can join the next hash event???

  4. i’m egyptian and i have my wife here with me
    can i goin any activity for another embassy or anything in diplomatic quarter

  5. Hi cantstandtheheat1
    thank you for the interesting suggestion
    i was wondering about the Hamam, can male also go the place you have mentioned

  6. Hi, I was wondering if anyone may be able to help me. I have recently moved over to Riyadh and I am looking for other expats to hang out with or compounds. I have heard the DQ is a great place to meet people but before I decided to take a taxi over to the DQ I would like to know a little more about the DQ. BTW I am a UK citizen and from London.

    Any help would be greatly appreciative.

    Chris.

    • It’s only a good place if there’s an event going on, or you have connections there. DQ is basically like a neighborhood of embassies. So, rolling through on a random day, you may not find anything going on. A better way to meet folks would to go hiking with the Hash

  7. Hi cantstandtheheat-

    I’m headed to Riyadh in September and hoping to hook up with the hash. I tried the email you listed in a previous comment, but it no longer works! I’m wondering if you have any updated contact info for them? I know it’s been a while. Thanks for a great list of ideas/activities!

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