Sunday, December 29, 2013

Driving into Riyadh - A Desert Oasis

Once the plane started flying over Saudi Arabia, from my window all I could see were smatterings of development and roads criss-crossing the desert landscape. Unfortunately, I couldn't take a picture because I was in the middle seat but I did get the chance to see the tip of the Sinai Peninsula along the way! 

When we arrived at the King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh, all we could see were miles and miles of dusty, rocky, and barren terrain. It seemed like the airport was very far away from the city and for awhile there was nothing to see but the green trees lining the highway which starkly opposed the dusty, brown landscape. Suddenly, the city appeared in the distance along with a profusion of construction projects on either side of the road. We were then surrounded by a lot of traffic leading into the city. The cars ranged from incredibly expensive-looking sports vehicles to beat up and disheveled buses and vans. Of course all the drivers were males, but I saw men wearing everything from traditional Khaliji clothing to things like graphic t-shirts and jeans. I also saw what looked like foreign Muslim pilgrims wearing the all-white Ihram garments (I'll have a post on traditional Saudi clothing and Hajj clothing later!). A lot of the cars had blacked out windows for what I assume is women's privacy in the back seats. 

You can sort of see what looks like Al-Faisaliyah Center in the distance. 

Eventually the empty landscape filled up with more and more construction until we were surrounded by residential and commercial districts that sprawled up out of the desert. There was no part of the city that I could see without some sort of construction. Even what seemed like the center of Riyadh, the most developed part of the city with several skyscrapers, was still being built up. We drove past Al-Faisaliyah Center and Kingdom Centre which are two of the most impressive structures in the city. The buildings of Riyadh are a beautiful mix of modern and traditional Islamic architecture. There are also many shopping centers that line the highway, even more than in certain parts of America believe it or not (It seems like shopping is a major Saudi pastime).

I posted a second time for today because I realized that I didn't discuss Riyadh's urban landscape in my previous post. I hope you get a sense of what the city looks like from this post and I'm sure that I'll have better descriptions and photos in the next two days! 

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