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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Hamam at a beach sounds even better! Table was perfect size for me, being 5’1
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.
Yes, it’s all in who you know here.. But each country’s embassy, or clubs (like USERA, ACR, and Women’s Bureau) outside the embassy, usually have a monthly schedule.
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.
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
Can expats do these activities outside Riyadh?
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.
|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???
Being that it’s a private group, you can contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. They’ll just ask for your passport number before giving you the weekly location.
Asking questions are actually pleasant thing if you are not understanding something fully, except this piece of writing gives good understanding even.
i’m egyptian and i have my wife here with me
can i goin any activity for another embassy or anything in diplomatic quarter
Yes, they’ll just ask to see ur passport or a copy upon entry.
thank you for the interesting suggestion
i was wondering about the Hamam, can male also go the place you have mentioned
That’s a great question.. I have no idea where men go to get it done. Since almost everywhere’s segregated, I saw Saudi mostly through a women’s point of view.
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.
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
Hi. Contact me –
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!
Hi! I am not sure how old their site is or when it’s been updated..but try connecting w/ someone on there? Good luck!
Thanks girl! That’s exactly what I’ve been looking for but I haven’t landed there yet! Much appreciated.
No prob! Enjoy your time there!