Riyadh’s Hidden Gems-The Diplomatic Quarter Gardens

Riyadh expatriates are always on the lookout for new and refreshing things to do on weekends.  There are many places in and around Riyadh which remain mostly unknown to the public, to find some of these ideas for weekend activities go to Blue Abaya’s Things To Do in Riyadh page.

One such ‘hidden gem location’ are The Diplomatic Quarter parks, which no doubt make up one of the most relaxing and serene places you can find within Riyadh’s city limits. Green, well-kept areas, amazing unique landscaping, lush gardens, open spaces to freely walk in, the sight and sound of water, children’s outdoor play areas, quiet and clean picnic areas, can all be found in the DQ, just a five minutes’ drive away from Riyadh’s center.

The following is my article on the Diplomatic Quarters parks written for Women’s Skills Bureau. In the guide you’ll find directions how to find one of the most beautiful and scenic gardens of Diplomatic Quarter, with plenty of activities for the little ones to enjoy as well.  For more activities and restaurants inside the diplomatic quarters, check out Blue abaya guide: 13 Things to Do in Riyadh’s Diplomatic Quarter
riyadh dq discover trail
Riyadh’s hidden gems-the Diplomatic Quarter gardens

 

The Diplomatic Quarters hosts some of the most beautiful, green landscape and fascinating architecture in Riyadh. The Diplomatic Quarters was built on the edge of Wadi Hanifa in the 1970’s as living quarters for diplomats and the embassy area. Today the “DQ” is like a Green Eden midst the harsh surrounding desert, its parks like a refuge from the pollution and noise of bustling Riyadh.

What many if not most expats miss from our home countries is being able to walk, those free open spaces and green scenery. All of these can be found in the Diplomatic Quarters gardens. The entire DQ is an abaya free zone and resident expats can often be seen in regular clothing here. Unlike the rest of Riyadh public parks, the DQ parks are well maintained and trash-free (well most of the time they are!).

There are over 30 parks, deemed gardens in the DQ, scattered over the different residential areas and along the walking track. The track is about 20 km long and runs around the entire perimeter of the DQ. Views from the walking trail down to the Wadi Hanifa valley and its hundreds of date palm trees are spectacular. The edge of the wadi itself resembles a canyon, creating a stark contrast with the sea of palm trees below. In the distance, the palaces and mosques of old Diriyah can be seen.  All that can be heard is the song of birds and the sound of a cooling breeze from the wadi.

The gardens were designed by a group of international landscape architects, their aim to preserve the natural environment using only native plants and natural materials. The seeds for the plants were gathered in the deserts and then planted in the gardens and all around the DQ area. The idea was to create a sustainable environment keeping in mind the natural flow of water and the existing formations in the landscape.

All of the plants that have been used in the DQ parks are endemic to the Arabian peninsula. Juniper, Acacia trees, Aloe Vera, Jasmine, Fig trees, Jujube trees, Prickly Pear cactus, and many others. The gardens have different flowers in bloom year round.

The gardens have been designed to have something for everyone. There are tranquil and serene areas for a more peaceful experience as well as children’s playgrounds, football fields, basketball courts and skating rinks to please the more active visitors.

 There are grass fields, fountains, picnic areas, pavilions, courtyards, benches, shaded walkways, private seating areas, beautiful fragrant flowers and interesting rock formations for the visitors to enjoy. Each park has a distinct theme in design and vegetation which makes discovering new parks interesting and rewarding.
What makes the parks even more relaxing is the presence of water. The countless fountains, water channels and waterfalls create a constant calming sound of running water. This is like music to the ears for Riyadh’s desert dwellers.  Every park has at least one
fountain and the larger ones have sections of the park completely dedicated to different kinds of fountains.
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 For families with children these gardens make for an enjoyable day out. Children of all ages will enjoy the playgrounds which have everything from swings, slides and suspension bridges to imaginative climbing gyms. The grass fields are perfect for running around and picnics. The largest parks have mosques adjacent to them and all parks have toilet facilities.

The best time to visit the gardens is in the mornings or late afternoons when lots of children come to the playgrounds. They’re open all day and everyday of the week and open to everyone, free of charge.

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Here are directions to the “Al Aarudh” garden, one of the largest in the Diplomatic Quarters with three different playground areas, two fountain areas, a grass field and mosque. Enter DQ from the North gate (access from Mecca rd.) immediately after entering you will see roundabout number 1. Go around it so that you take a left (the third exit) and continue on this street which goes into Hajar residential area. Drive on this street past the Indian and Guinean embassies on your right until you see the walls of the garden and shortly after the entrance to the park also on the right hand side. Park your car anywhere on the street.

 

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  • IldiFebruary 19, 2013 - 7:18 am

    Dear Laylah, this garden is beautiful! I love the flowers, especially the yellow-purple bush! What a peaceful park to go with family and hung up. What kind o birds are there, do you hear birds tweets too? :)

    As for your blog design, won’t you use the blue abaya pattern at right-left side? I loved it but realised they disappeared. The new navigation bar is very good, and many new links have been added, thanks! :D Take care!ReplyCancel

    • LaylaFebruary 19, 2013 - 12:55 pm

      The photos have been taken from various different gardens I think from at least 10 different ones that we like to go to.
      Down the wadi there are lots of birds (there’s a stream there)herons, have seen hawks and eagles, all sorts ducks (sorry don’t know names):)

      As for the design, for now it’s looking more simple because that was the vision of the designer. Maybe I will add the blue abaya pattern back someday because other people have been asking for it too :)ReplyCancel

      • MykSeptember 19, 2016 - 9:34 am

        Hi. Do we need special permit to go to these parks in DQ?
        Do they allow photoshoot sessions in there?
        Im looking for a place to have an engagement shoot. Any suggestions?
        Thanks.ReplyCancel

        • Arabian LauraSeptember 19, 2016 - 2:50 pm

          for security reasons I would not recommend doing a photoshoot in dq without a permit. There are embassies everywhere and national guard might have an issue with it.ReplyCancel

  • MiuFebruary 19, 2013 - 10:31 am

    It looks so beautiful!ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousFebruary 19, 2013 - 9:42 pm

    You really are an accomplished photographer. What kind of equipment do you use?

    I’m new to your blog, and find it all very fascinating.

    I’ve become semi-obsessed with Saudi the last month or so, after having read Siege of Mecca, a book about Juhayman. Just finished The Kingdom, and now reading Inside the Kingdom. Any books on life in Saudi you would recommend?

    Thanks!
    Glenn in CanadaReplyCancel

    • LaylaFebruary 20, 2013 - 12:41 pm

      Thank you so much Glenn I am flattered by your comment!
      I use a NikonD90.

      I would recommend the Land of the Invisible Women by Qanta Ahmed and the Burning Veil by Jean Grant for starters!
      Also the Girls of Riyadh might be worth reading, it’s a true and interesting story, but not that well written imho..ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousFebruary 20, 2013 - 3:11 pm

    In Riyadh for a few weeks…any suggestions as to what we should do?ReplyCancel

  • Carol-AnneFebruary 20, 2013 - 3:35 pm

    I totally agree with Glenn – your photos are stunning! Looking at them made me wonder how you learned to take such great shots. I would love to be good at photography but dont really think that I have the eye for it.ReplyCancel

    • LaylaFebruary 20, 2013 - 7:53 pm

      Thanks so much Carol-Anne! I guess I just learned by doing it for years, but I would love to take a course and learn more :)ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousFebruary 21, 2013 - 2:09 pm

    Hello Dear Writer

    I am glad to find your blog on the net.
    I am a european woman married with an arab man,living in muslim country (like you), so i like to read your posts, coz themes touch problems of my daily life.
    I would like to ask you (if you don’t mind), is that small girl on pics your daughter?:)
    We don’t have kids, but my husband said he want me to be pregnant this year, so i am wondering how will it look like: “mix”: white mother+ arab father. Kid looks more arabic or more white?
    I am afraid if kid will look to much arabic, i will not be able take him (or her) to my fatherland country, coz people will disturbe coz of “not white” colourskin:(
    I am sorry, my question doesnt touch the theme of post, but i wish you will answer, coz i have noone who i can ask (i dont work, almost all time stay inside house- go outside maybe 3 times per month, also dont see people, only my husband sisters, and they don’t speak englisch much).
    Anyway, your blog is very nice, and beaufifull pictures:)

    I am sorry coz of my englisch, its not so well, but i wish you will understand me.

    Greetings for you:)

    JulietteReplyCancel

    • LaylaFebruary 21, 2013 - 8:27 pm

      Hi there Juliette!
      Well to answer your question, yes some of the pics you can see my daughter, she’s 22 months old now.
      My daughter looks a lot like me but has darker features like brown eyes and light brown hair. In Saudi people will say she’s very blonde and white, but then in Finland she’s not considered blond or white at all, but rather a brunette :) It’s all in the eyes of the beholder so to say.
      Some arab-white kids look more arab, others look more “international” ie not specifically have facial features typical to either of their parents home countries..ReplyCancel

    • AnonymousFebruary 22, 2013 - 5:28 am

      Don’t you think its more important for those people in your home country to worry about the baby’s health rather then what skin colour it will have?
      Im sure if your married to an arab that they will be expecting the baby to not be western looking at all.
      I think you shouldn’t worry about what people think because even if your baby is the whitest of white or the blackest of black they would still have something to talk about. There are bigger things in life to worry about then skin colour.
      #NoorReplyCancel

  • Jerry Mc KennaFebruary 21, 2013 - 3:48 pm

    I hadn’t realized until reading the entire article there was no trash in the pictures. Given how important cleaniness is to their religious practice, I never understand why I always see trash in Saudi photos.ReplyCancel

    • LaylaFebruary 21, 2013 - 8:30 pm

      These parks are a real exception in that regard Jerry. Sometimes on weekends when I see a large group of (sorry to say but mostly Saudi or Arab families) come to these park they leave behind masses of trash..literally trash the place. ugh. The workers clean up after them of course, but it seems as if westerners are the only ones who actually pick up trash and use the trash cans..it comes so naturally for us.
      More awareness is needed in this regard!ReplyCancel

  • ummahzyMarch 3, 2013 - 9:22 pm

    Sad to think that after looking at all the beautiful pictures in this post there are still people who worry about skin color. Sad to think that someone would think that photos of a child whose parents come from two different ethnic groups would be an indicator of how her children would look. Heredity is a funny thing. We don’t always get what other people get and we don’t always get what we wish for. I come from a multicultural society (and a multicultural family) but find that here in the kingdom my awareness of racism makes me hyper sensitive about skin color. When I find myself caught up that ignorance I think I’ll just take a stroll through Blue Abaya’s DQ garden post (or the gardens themselves) and remind myself of the beauty creation in all of its shades.ReplyCancel

  • LaylaMarch 4, 2013 - 8:44 am

    I have to agree with Noor and Ummahzy, there are much more important things to think about in this world.
    You will love your child no matter what color they are. If anyone has a problem with the “color” that’s their loss and feel sorry for them for their ignorance.

    I think mixed race children are always very beautiful and have unique features :)ReplyCancel

  • bDecember 5, 2013 - 11:07 pm

    But isnt it quite hard to get into dq

    Last time I tried on a weekend while scouting for an apartment I wasnt allowed in by the guards at the gates

    Any idea if there is a way around thatReplyCancel

    • LaylaDecember 6, 2013 - 1:46 pm

      weekends are harder, it’s hardest for single men and especially if you’re Arab, and most difficult for Saudis, sorry :( My tips: Speak english, go on weekday, if possible during daytime, say you’re going to your embassy.ReplyCancel

      • KalApril 12, 2014 - 2:44 pm

        Hi there,
        Just looking at these wonderful photos makes me wonder if there is a legal way to enjoy that place with my small family(2 yrs and 4 months sons). I mean a membership or such! like to get my family in any time with no hassle.Can we be members at the sports club?or do we have to be residents to get members in that club? Thank you LylaReplyCancel

        • LaylaApril 13, 2014 - 4:32 pm

          Hi there! You don’t have to be a resident to become a member, they have registration forms at the front desk. You can come into DQ without hassle when you just say you’re visitng your embassy during daytime hours. On other occasions you could say for example that you’re going to the spa (there’s two women only spas there alManahil and FOUR). Good luck and enjoy!ReplyCancel

  • ClarionMarch 2, 2014 - 7:24 pm

    Thanks Layla….loved that land…

    Much appreciate your grand work.

    Keep it up.

    You live in the Best land. Forget the myths!

    I was there for 8 yrs….miss much about it.ReplyCancel

  • Kiran KalamApril 29, 2014 - 7:30 am

    How can a trip be arranged to DQ? Where is it located?ReplyCancel

  • […] Quarter Despite the heat the parks in DQ are much cooler because they all have lots of greenery and shade, fountains and many are situated on […]ReplyCancel

  • VeronikaJune 9, 2014 - 2:36 pm

    Is it possible to take there our dog for a walk? Thank youReplyCancel

    • LaylaJune 10, 2014 - 12:19 am

      Yes for sure! There are lots of dogs in the dq and you can see them especially in the afternoons and evenings. I let our dog off the leash in the larger parks when there’s nobody around, another good area is the palm tree park next to equestrian club!ReplyCancel

  • […] The DQ was originally built to accommodate the all the foreign embassy staff and diplomats, but nowadays anyone can live there in one of the many residential areas. The DQ is so large it’s almost like a small town right next to Riyadh. The diplomatic quarters can easily be reached from the city center within 10 minutes by following the Ouroba rd to its end. Once you’re inside, it feels like any normal neighborhood anywhere in the world, lush and green and peaceful. You will forget you’re in Riyadh and it’s such a refreshing change to the concrete jungle. Check out this post for more info on the diplomatic quarter parks and gardens. […]ReplyCancel

  • BardoSeptember 15, 2014 - 1:20 am

    I will be traveling to Riyadh soon and staying at the Ritz Carlton Hotel. I am single, white,older Canadian female and wish to explore the parks here in the DQ area during my short stay. Is it difficult to enter and pass security as a Canadian visitor? Also must I wear an abaya once inside the DQ? Also is mixed company allowed in this area?ReplyCancel

    • LaylaSeptember 15, 2014 - 3:29 am

      you should have no problem entering especially during the daytime, when I come in alone with taxi they never give me any problems, most of the time I don’t even have to open the window they just wave me by.o the other hand when we enter husband kids and all, thye almost always stop us and ask where we’re going. If they do ask when I’m alone I just say im going home. You could say that too :) trust me , nobody will ever check and they don’t even know how to speak english more than that usually. From what I’ve been told over 10,000 people live in dq and even more come to work, so there is simply no way to check everything. Frankly they just don’t like to allow Saudis in, male or females. and other arabs are another no go for some reason.
      after you enter it doesn’t matter what you wear or who you walk around with, nobody will disturb you. Some women walk around in shorts and tank tops but if you want to be more culturally appropriate then I recommend long sleeve t shirt and skirt or trousers for example :) have fun!ReplyCancel

  • Saudi Life Series volume 1September 20, 2014 - 4:25 am

    […] God we live close by to some of the most beautiful parks you can imagine, with streams of water that cool and kids and the dog can play in. It’s a blessing, and at […]ReplyCancel

  • Simon RNovember 14, 2014 - 12:34 am

    I am due to take a post in Riyadh soon and been told that DC is a best place to live in Riyadh. Where can I find a estate agent or broker who can find me a apartment in DQ? If I live in DQ do I get a access pass or badge for my car for hassle free access.ReplyCancel

  • MikeFebruary 28, 2015 - 11:34 am

    Hi i’v been in Riyadh for the pass 4 months now, it’s an amazing new experience, i’m just finally getting around alone and exploring more, i’m just came across your site from a friend suggesting i check it out, i like it it’s informative and i’ll be using it as a resource till i leave,..keep up the great work!

    MikeReplyCancel

    • LaylaMarch 3, 2015 - 2:08 pm

      thank you Mike! Hope you enjoy your time in Riyadh!ReplyCancel

  • Riyadh To Do Guide » Blue AbayaMarch 10, 2015 - 4:20 pm

    […] is one in Almultaka center, Yibreen spa, Almanahil inside DQ (diplomatic quarters)to name a few. There’s also a walking/ running track that goes around the DQ. If you want to start golfing there are many good places to get started and have lessons like the […]ReplyCancel

  • fatimaJanuary 7, 2016 - 10:58 am

    Hi,

    I have a question.. Is it big problem if my husband is Saudi {im from Europe} and we want to go there? we are sometimes going there to embassy and some embassy events and till now nobody ever stopped us or asked why we coming. But we never been in park…we want to walk our dog, we plan to buy this week alaskan malamute and even we have garden i want him be socialized with other dogs and people, because sure he will travel with us to Europe or Canada to my parents. So just want be sure that in the park people and security will be fine with that my husband is Saudi.ReplyCancel

  • […] 8. Desert Walks with expats **UPDATE as of June 2014 the Hash House Harriers desert walks have officially been cancelled until further notice. You can always enjoy the walking track at Diplomatic Quarter instead. Walk, run or cycle around the 20 km long path. (ladies can join and don’t need abaya!) More info on how to do that here.  […]ReplyCancel

  • DawnOctober 8, 2016 - 8:02 pm

    I’ve been trying for ages to find out the name for the bush with yellow and pink flower on
    If you have any idea I’d been so grateful
    Your pic are beautifulReplyCancel

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