The saying goes that there are only two seasons in Saudi Arabia and they are: Hot weather and cold weather. I’ve come to realize there are in fact four different periods in the year which could be defined as seasons, although very different to the ones I’m used to back in my home country Finland.
Before I moved to Saudi-Arabia I assumed the weather in Riyadh would mostly be hot and dry all year round without much variation. To my surprise when I first arrived in Riyadh it was late January and the weather felt much colder than I had expected. regardless, as a hardy Finn, I bravely joined the other Finnish nurses at the compound pool for some sunbathing and swimming.
We soon learned that despite the weather being hot (in our opinion around +23c is full-blown summer), the pool water was absolutely freezing. That didn’t deter us from enjoying this ‘summer weather’ in our bikinis though. At the same time Saudis were all bundled up in their winter coats on the other side of the compound walls. I created a graphic about this funny cultural difference, check it out here: Saudi and the Finns-The Ultimate Weather Extremes Survivors.
So what are the four seasons of the ‘Magical Kingdom’ of Saudi Arabia? The following seasons would be more typical in Riyadh and the Central regions as opposed to Jeddah, Jazan or the Eastern province coastal cities, where the climate is very humid year round.
The cold, rainy season (winter)
Characteristics for this season are the “cold” weather ranging anywhere between near zero Celsius in the mornings to +20c during the day. There might be heavy showers or occasional light rain but typically they won’t last more than a few days at a time. it must be mentioned that when it gets cold in the driest of dry desert climate, it just feels somehow much more chilly than the same would feel in more humid climates. The cold wind seems to penetrate all the way to the bones and to the core. Brrrr!
Sometimes rain pours down for days which forms temporary lakes and streams in the desert. Flash floods can be a really big problem and can cause real life threatening danger situations if you’re caught in one. Believe it or not there are dams in the desert to help control the water masses.
Even the cities will flood as the drainage systems are not sufficient enough to handle the sudden downpours. Jeddah is notorious for serious flooding whenever the rainy season begins. The drainage/sewage system was not designed to handle the masses of water and this coastal city of Saudi Arabia becomes like the Middle-East’s Venice during this season.
This is a great time to visit the desert which will be blooming with flowers and green scenery after the rains. The cold weather begins usually around late November lasting until February.
The sandstorm season (spring)
This is the worst time of the year to be in Saudi Arabia, especially the cities surrounded by the desert. Sandstorm season starts around February to March lasting until May or even June during a bad year. During this time Saudi-Arabia is ridden with sandstorms ranging in severity from the mild “dusty and hazy days” to moderate or severe with zero visibility and fierce winds.
A peculiar weather phenomenon I found out exists only through living in Saudi Arabia, is that sandstorms sometimes pair up with thunderstorms. When this occurs the weather is typically very windy, blowing the dust around high up into the atmosphere which can trigger clouds to rain or even hail, followed by lightning and thunder.
The weirdest part about this combo is how the rain actually becomes mixed with the dust in the air, resulting in mud falling down from the skies. This type of rain covers everything it lands on with a thick, gooey layer of mud. I like to call this weather phenomenon “mudding” because it describes so well how dreadful it is. The temperatures during this season start rising slowly, eventually reaching about +40c.
The hot season (summer)
From around May up until October the mercury normally doesn’t drop below +40c. This season is when most people want to leave the country. The dry heat might rise up to +50c degrees in the worst months and typically the nights will not bring much relief to the scorching heat. Check out this post to find out what happens when summer has arrived in Saudi Arabia.
The mild, clear season (fall)
This is my favorite season, although unfortunately it doesn’t last very long. During the Saudi “autumn” the weather is picture perfect from around October to around mid December. There are typically very clear skies with no sandstorms or dust blowing around and the temperatures hover around a lovely +25- +30c. This time of year also beautiful sunsets and clouds can be spotted. Reminds me of weather on a perfect Finnish summer day but in Finland we would be lucky to have this kind of weather more than a few days in a year! Therefore this is the best time to head out and enjoy the beauty of the desert.
Stay tuned for some incredibly beautiful scenery you wouldn’t believe exists in the Saudi Arabian desert in Blue Abaya’s next post. Make sure you’ve subscribed to updates via email with the form below!
view from the Edge of the World Saudi Arabia