The Kingdom’s cosmopolitan capital city
A unique city at the heart of Saudi Arabia’s drive to modernise the country without abandoning its unique and ancient history and culture
Saudi Arabia’s cosmopolitan sits in the heart of the country, offering access to a whole range of destinations and experiences for those starting their visit here. It is a wonderfully contrasting city, with sleek, modern skyscrapers overlooking the city’s old quarters and wide motorways intersecting the ancient buildings of the city. Home to some of the most elegant and exclusive boutiques and shops in the world, it is also packed with bustling souqs that have a wonderfully traditional feel to them. Indeed, Riyadh perhaps best encapsulates what the Saudi Arabia of today is all about – a rapidly modernising city but one that stays true to its ancient and important traditions.
The best-known of the souqs is Souq Al Zal, which dates back to 1901 and remains as vibrant and important today as it was back then. It is a great spot to spend some time strolling around, taking in the amazing fragrance if the spices, the colours of the fabrics on offer and the buzzing atmosphere the traders and shoppers bring. Friday evenings see the Harai auction where the rarest and most sought-after goods are sold by the traders.
The Saudi National Museum is home to artefacts dating back some 3,700 years and chart both Arabic and Saudi history, making it a must-do experience for visitors looking to learn more about the rich history of the region. Close by the Al Masmak Fortress is a monument to the 1865 battle that gave rise to the birth of Riyadh and has an amazing array of photographs and documents that date back to this time.
Culture vultures will be able to enjoy both modern and ancient art, with the Mono Gallery hosting an amazing array of modern pieces, whilst the Noqtah Studio is better for those wanting to see some more traditional, culturally orientated pieces. The increasing appeal of western culture, especially in the cities, means that Riyadh is home to an amazing array of shops from top international brands, as well as superb restaurants and cafes to sample local, regional and international cuisine.
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