“What to do in Riyadh this summer?”
School’s out, temperatures are heating up, there are whispers of excitement in conversation circles of holiday plans with new and exotic places to visit, or those with growing excitement to visit home countries and families again, and Ramadan just around the corner. Yes, it is summertime in the Kingdom and for the expat woman that can mean a range of things, with completely different emotions.
My focus for this article is to concentrate on the expat woman who decided to spend her time in the Kingdom. There will be a variety of reasons why she will have chosen to stay over the summer. For some, they are new in the Kingdom, coming over to support their husbands and setting up a home base. Some will also be setting up the home base but also settling in their families. Some will be single, coming over to work; and some will have been here a while and simply decided to stay. So, we will have some ‘newbies’ and some ‘old hands’, all with different expectations of what the summer will bring for them. Of course, there are challenges in facing a summer in Riyadh is: the heat (temperatures within 40 – 50 degrees centigrade), restricted services during Ramadan and a feeling of isolation due to these restrictions.
Well, not all of us rush off for the summer break, and there are things to do, places to check out and activities to consider. You already have in this WSB July edition the article by Carolina Porta on “Things to do with the kids this summer”, so let us expand further, as not every man or woman here will have children with them. However, just bear in mind that during Ramadan (August) opening hours for all services (including supermarkets) are significantly reduced so you must check in advance to avoid disappointment and inconvenience but typically closed all morning, open for 1 – 2 hrs from noon or 1pm then closed until 7pm until 12midnight or 1pm. However, these times are rarely published and are subject to change at any given time.
During the summer months most compounds scale down their usual monthly activities. Monthly coffee mornings are now suspended until September and the usual outings and even the shopping bus schedule tend to be reduced to minimal services. However, the women who remain need to consider what alternative options they have.
Early morning on compounds you can:
Playtime with the children - Take the children to the compound park or playground activities (watch out for the slides as if they get too hot they will burn) – normally from 6am until 8am as it is cooler then. Off to the compound pool – around 8am until 11am. Back to the villa for some home-based activities such as colouring, cooking, reading or craft; followed by a movie and/or sleep time.
Some compounds inside air-conditioned facilities such as bowling alleys, skate parks, play rooms; this is a good time to utilise them.
DVD Club – for the kids you could get them together to chat about their favourite DVD and what and why they like it?
It is worth finding out who on your compound has children of similar ages to yours if so, you can consider doing some of these activities together. Put a notice up on the compound notice board and ask for women to make contact with you for some summer activities with the children.
For those women who are not here with children, put up a notice on the noticeboard, you can do a range of flyers:
Coffee morning - if you can’t host it in your villa, ask the compound manager if you can use the communal facilities. Ask the women to each bring something (so you can mitigate costs), but keep it simple, the purpose is to meet and talk with other women, refreshments should be kept light. You could suggest each woman take it in turns, say weekly, to hold a coffee morning session.
Card games – a range of game choices are available to do for this. If you are a little rusty, then check out the game rules on the internet, it’s that simple.
Share a craft – some women choose to get-together to do a common interest craft, it could be knitting, sewing, cooking, photography, piano/musical instrument playing; whatever takes your fancy.
Online studying – a lot of women choose this to keep their minds ticking beyond compound living. A few of you may decide to study something together so you can form a study group.
Book Club – you could run this monthly – come up with a book or any book from a selected author to discuss. Or, for the first one, you could keep it open for people to bring their own book of choice for discussion.
Off compound activities:
USERA (United States Embassy Recreation Association) – The Recreation Center is open for families to enjoy BBQs, swimming, tennis, softball & baseball, work out in the fitness centre or bring children to the playground area. The Recreation Center manages a summer camp from June – July (6 weeks).
For information on evening events hosted by USERA contact the USERA Gift Shop at 488 3800 ext 4640 – during July they are planning an Open Community Night and a Hawaiian Luau evening. Membership information is available by contacting them on email@example.com USERA Recreation Center Manager is Melissa Gulner
Private cookery lessons – Nurture me - making healthy choice an easy choice.
Sugar and diary free desserts – a step by step approach on how to make dessert you and your family will enjoy, using all natural ingredients.
Summer choices - now we can appreciate what this season has to offer us with its light, nourishing, cooling foods and dishes that we will help you learn to prepare.
Ihsan Walker – Holistic nutritionist, cook and health advisor call 0504536884 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Preparation courses for expectant mothers – a range of courses will be available during the summer from Labor and Birth workshops to Breastfeeding Essentials on offer with this healthcare specialist. Contact: Indigo.Yoga.Studio@gmail.com or Sayeedawalker@gmail.com
Art classes – To those staying in Riyadh this summer with young children aged 6 – 12, fun art classes are being run in English from July at the Art & Skills Institute in Takhassussi (near Euromarche). Contact Ranyah Seraj on email@example.com or 0555266807 / 1 2011 549
Summer Art Camp – Jungle Safari, Takhassussi Road (facing Euromarche)
Starts on Saturday 25 June until Wednesday 27 July – daily from 11am until 4pm five days a week
Ages: girls – 6 – 12yrs and boys – 6 – 10yrs SR 500 per week including lunch. Call to book: 011549 – 0552717758
Horse riding – Dirab Equestrian Center – this is also a golf course – tel: +966 1 498 0018
Beauty Services – Rhonda’s Salon – With salons on King Fahad National Guard Hospital MCS compound and they operate home services from Saturdays to Tuesdays – Pedicure, manicure, hair services, make-up, and massage. All enquiries call Ms Wynly Panlilio - +966 1 252 0088 ext 44831 e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Summer special deals at Sheraton Riyadh Hotel – located at Olaya Junction of King Fahad and King Abdullah Road, the Sheraton are offering a month of specials:
Ramadan special breakfast or Sahour – Club Room
50% discount on weekends – all rooms
30% discount on Wednesday & Thursday night – Al Bustan Restaurant
Summer special deals - valid from 1 July until 31 July 2011
Club room specials – valid from 1 July until 10 September 2011
Contact us on +966 1 454 3300 ext 8868 / 8840 email: email@example.com
Shopping Malls with amusement/kids parks - Quite a few in Riyadh, but you will need to check their opening times as it was not clear to us at the time of publishing this article:
Panorama Mall, located at the crossroads of Takhassusi Street and Tahlia Street – The mall includes 193 commercial and service shops whose activities and services cover all what the shoppers need. It features a parking area that can accommodate 2,080 cars. There are also a hypermarket, various restaurants and has a large children’s amusement park which gets very busy. They also have a party room for rent for children’s birthday parties. Call: +966 1 491 4400
Panorama Mall – Has recently opened up a Ladies Section which is on the first floor in the Mall and consists of a range of shops, beauty services, Ladies gym and My Gym, which is Just for kids – call: +966 1 281 4870
Riyadh Gallery – located on King Fahd Street. Riyadh Gallery is one of the most popular shopping malls in Riyadh and has a harmonized mix of international trade marks. The ground floor contains everything that a family needs such as clothes, shoes, jewellery, watches and so on. It also includes 2 supermarkets as well as 4 Mega stores. The first floor includes hyper panda. The second floor includes a large area for restaurants in addition to Games City. Tel: +966 1 207 8111
Sahara Mall – located on King Abdullah Street, this center consists of 63 stores offering various products, such as clothing, shoes, watches, and accessories. There are some fast-food restaurants, a café, as well as a children's entertainment center. This Mall also has the Café Céramique where you can create your own work of art, it could not be easier! Your piece can be as ambitious or as restrained as you desire. Once you’ve decided to start on your project, simply choose the piece you wish to paint from the hundreds of stunning bisque designs, which are displayed all over the Café. They also consider parties at your home or compound. The center has its own parking lot, and is for families only – tel: +966 1 225 0783
Granada Mall – located on the E. Ring Rd - Ghernata District. The Mall occupies an area of 460 thousand square meters, Granada center is considered as one of the largest shopping centers in Riyadh. It offers a parking garage that can include more than four thousand cars. It also features more than 230 different stores, a hypermarket and more than 33 coffee shops and fast food restaurants. It has 16 entrance gates from different sides. There is also a large children’s amusement park within the center. Tel: +966 253 4990
Golf – Riyadh is well endowed with golf courses and most offer special learner concessions and ladies lessons. Most but not all have driving ranges.
9 hole – Arizona Golf Resort (part of an expat compound) tel: +966 1 248 4444 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
9 hole – Intercontinental Hotel - tel: +966 404 2222
18 hole – Riyadh Greens Golf Course - tel: +966 592315787
18 hole – Dirab Golf Course - tel: +966 1 498 0018
Theatrical, Health & Fitness – Al Manahil, Riyadh – Recreation Center for kids located in the diplomatic area of Riyadh. It is known for its theatrical activities in which children can participate and showcase their talent. Besides this, there is swimming, tennis and karate. There is also a shop and special meals for children. They offer a range of fitness classes for women. Normal hours are 9am until 9pm - hours during Ramadan are reduced.
Yibreen Spa – located off Takhassussi Street (map is available on their website www.yibreenspa.com). Known as the place to relax and rejuvenate both the mind and the body, in the most tranquil and serene setting. offers a range of services covering Spa, Salon and Fitness together with membership packages. Yibreen is closed during July, but re-opens in August with special Ramadan hours.
Tel: +966 1 441 1115 email: Yibreen@yibreenspa.com
For all new-comers to the Kingdom, yes it will be hot, yes, during Ramadan services will be significantly reduced during the day, and yes, a vast amount of expat migrate; but, this is an ideal opportunity for you to take your time to settle into Riyadh, your accommodation, your district. You can book a car for a few hours (compound car or a taxi) negotiate a fixed price and just drive around the city to familiarize yourself with what’s what and where things are. Ask the driver to show you a range of places where woman usually attend or places of interest. If you are on a compound, there will be reduced shopping buses, take some trips, get to know the other women, make an effort to introduce yourself. Join some of the expat blog sites, there are a few really good ones – check them out on the internet, make friends on there, share your interests. Build up your camping supplies in preparation for the camp outs after summer as these are great fun and a whole new experience in Riyadh; it will probably take a few months to gradually collate everything you need. Use the summer to prepare yourself. Join your compound gym or your local gym, there are many in Riyadh – get out and about – it’s OK, it is safe enough to do that just remember your abaya, your head scarf and the rules of the Kingdom. Most of all enjoy Riyadh and your time here in the Kingdom; one could say Riyadh is like an onion, there are many layers, as you unpeel it not everything is as you first assume, take the time to get to know your environment, the culture and the community.
Written by Maxine Smith – British
Women's Skills Bureau (www.wsb-ksa.com)