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Stuart Messham
Airlines and routes, Blog, Entertainment, Food and drink, Shopping,
Since Heathrow began flying routes to Riyadh 55 years ago, the city has transformed from a rather remote tribal settlement to a thriving metropolis and one of the most affluent cities in the Middle East.

The city combines a wealth of rich culture and history with an opulent and luxurious retail scene, plenty of natural beauties to ogle outside of the city and bustling bazaars to explore within.

Attitudes are shifting in the city, too. There’s a younger, more modern vibe taking hold with DJ David Guetta recently preforming in the city to young Saudis with unbuttoned abayas and unbridled, progressive outlooks.

Whilst by no means transformed, Riyadh is moving from a hub for business travellers to an attractive destination for tourists with top-tier shopping and parks to desert trekking and museums.

During the summer months temperatures exceed 40ºC day and night, so you might want to avoid travelling from mid-May to end of September. Winter time is much cooler though, and if you’re planning on evening trips and camping in the desert, you’d do well to bring some warm clothes to keep you cosy.

Here’s three ways for you to rule the Riyadh roost…

Book at sunset for tremendous food and even better scenery.

Dine in a revolutionary revolving restaurant – in a giant sphere

Ideal for: Foodies and romantics

Ever wanted to dine in a spectacular golden sphere on top of one of the tallest buildings in the Arabian Peninsula?

Then you should make a reservation at The Globe: it’s located in the business district of the city; it was the first skyscraper ever built in the city; and it has a three-storey ball suspended on top of its 30 floors of office space (200m above ground level) that gives you 360-degree views of this stunning city while you eat.

The restaurant serves modern European cuisine that’s well-crafted and delicious. If you can pair it with a dazzling sunset by booking your table at the correct time, it really is a dining experience like no other.

With 170 stores, this is a truly enhanced retail mecca.

Shop at an indoor centre that truly means business

Ideal for: Brand lovers and bargain hunters

The Riyadh Gallery Mall is not just an indoor shopping centre, that’s far too trivial a description for something as vast and ostentatious. It’s more like an enhanced shopping mecca where you can spend, spend, spend, eat, then spend some more and realise you’ve only covered the first half of the first floor.

It has four floors and 170 stores in total, with 7 entrance gates and a 4-star hotel with 160 rooms., and it spans 154,740 sq metres. It has an artificial lake inside it, too. I mean, come on!

Suffice to say, for those who seek therapy through retail pursuits, thre's helluva lot of healing to be had here. Ker-ching.

Dune bashing really is as much fun as it sounds.

Go outside, discover endless valleys and bash some dunes

Ideal for: Outdoorsy types looking for adventure

When the temperature drops in Riyadh, locals diversify from more air-conditioned indoor pursuits to local parks and the famous of them is the King Abdullah Malaz Park (or KAMP) that stretches 318,000 square metres and hosts a number of cafeterias, restaurants, playgrounds and sports areas. (There’s a fee to enter, but that helps keep numbers down and makes it more manageable for families and tourists.)

If you’re looking for a little more expansive serenity, try the Jebel Fihrayn, a trek that traverses the Tuwaiq Escarpment for 56 miles from the city. You won’t get a phone signal out here, but on a bright winters day you will get horizons that seem as vast as the internet itself.

Also, 20 minutes form Riyadh, you can indulge in a spot of quad biking in the country’s famous Red Sand Dunes: feel free to haggle for the best rental price and dune-bash till your heart’s content. (Or your time’s up!)


Riyadh is now a favourite destination for tourists and you can see why.
Experience it via Heathrow with Emirates.