Great news for women in Saudi Arabia who are under their husbands sponsorship, and previously unable to register online to apply for Saudi driving license. There has been a problem with so called “dependent iqama” holders to apply for the driving license conversion which requires an independent Absher account.

The update is that now the husband (sponsor) can login to the Saudi driving License Portal SDLP with his own absher account and then proceed to apply for the foreign license conversion for his wife. The SDLP is in Arabic but below in images are translated step by step guide how to go through this phase.

UPDATE: SDLP site is now available in English!

The rest of the steps how to get Saudi driving license for dependent iqama holders please follow these steps:

Saudi driving license application for women

**Please note this applies to women registered as their husbands dependents in the Absher system, with valid foreign driving license.

If you are a female expat in Saudi under your employers sponsorship or married to a Saudi then follow these steps: How to convert foreign license to Saudi license and you will be able to convert an existing, valid driving license from any foreign country to the Saudi one by first creaitng your own Absher account. Creating an independent Absher account is still not possible for the dependent iqama holders, but it’s now possible to aapply using your husbands absher.

Converting the license does not mean you need to give up or “surrender” your original, however it is needed to present at the Moroor once you are doing the short driving test.

To find out what you need to get done BEFORE registering at SDLP site you must follow the instructions on this post: Step by Step Guide How Expats Apply For Saudi Driving License

If you need to follow the guide in Arabic it is available here: How Saudi and expat women can convert foreign license to Saudi license

Here are the translated steps how to apply for dependents driving license conversion with husbands Absher account on site:

Leave father and grandfather name blank in case your name does not follow this way.

After registering online and booking appointment at your nearest Moroor office the steps are the same as in this guide: How to Apply for Saudi Driving License. Please read to find out more about the driving test and what to bring with you to the test.

Tip: If your city’s appointments are all booked, check your nearest cities and you can apply in any of them.

According to one expat family they went to Makkah Moroor and the traffic officer conducting the test had been very rude and not spoke English at all during the test, forcing the woman to fail her test since she did not understand his instructions. It might be a good idea to take a Arabic speaker with you to test just in case or demand a English speaking officer. But this is just one officer in one location, all others so far I’ve heard of are more friendly and helpful, such as the ones in Riyadh Rimal branch were when I went in June. read about the experience here: Getting our Saudi driving licenses 

Good luck everyone and please leave comments about your experiences to help others apply and any updates you know of!

Enjoy driving!

|pin this|tweet it|Share to facebook|Contact us
  • MariaJuly 19, 2018 - 1:01 pm

    I also got my license from Rimal Riyadh on 12th july and none of the instructors spoke english and i was the first one to go in the morning…yikes. Thankfully the other ladies translated instructions for me and he made another lady take the test before me so i understood what is needed, especially your post and pic of the track helped.

    So ladies plz beware and speak up if you dont understand. They are all helpful though.ReplyCancel

  • BobJuly 20, 2018 - 4:47 am

    Ok sounds good. I as a male took test passed but they still found a problem with my UK license….. eventually when sorted they said I had to do an advance test…. so making up it was cheaper to drive on the AA international license.ReplyCancel

  • alokaJuly 20, 2018 - 3:50 pm

    thanks for your detailed article , i checked my iqama , and i find it still valid , thanks again for your helpReplyCancel

  • TasneemJuly 20, 2018 - 10:56 pm

    Hi, I did sdlp step through my father’s absher account. but where do i upload the documents and where do i book appmnt (online or physical)? Much thanks to you for the update, highly appreciated!ReplyCancel

  • StarwberryJuly 22, 2018 - 12:32 pm

    Thnks for updating!! you got any idea why i am not able to get past the homepage?.. nothing happens when i try clicking the login button…ReplyCancel

    • AdeelJuly 23, 2018 - 2:31 pm

      I was facing the same problem, then i cleared the browsing history. then I logged back in and got through the website.ReplyCancel

  • Rubaina HayatJuly 23, 2018 - 10:54 am

    I am an expat on my fathers visa. I dont have a license from a foriegn country. Can i apply for a license with the same procedure you mentioned above?ReplyCancel

  • Deepa SenguptaJuly 23, 2018 - 11:29 am

    Thank you Blue Abaya for all the required info.
    Does the Practical test means the written test?
    Also, Is there anyone in Dammam / Khobar who has applied for license? Kindly help on the translation/medical/license center for Dammam / Khobar or nearby areas.ReplyCancel

    • Rez25July 26, 2018 - 9:52 pm

      Thanks Laura for your help! I got mine in Dammam! Well in fact I went to Hofuf to do the test because no appointments available before september in Dammam. Translation done in Khobar driving school (small office on the left before the entry gate) and medical in Layla Onaizi Polyclinic (you need to go there with the medical form that you can get at the driving school and 2 ID pictures). Everything was pretty easy and got my driving licence in less than 1 hour (well + the 2 hours drive to reach Hofuf ;o). Good luck ladies for yours!ReplyCancel

  • Ayesha ismailJuly 24, 2018 - 10:09 am

    Your website is very useful please keep it up

  • ReginaJuly 26, 2018 - 5:51 pm

    Hi Laura, thanks for the update especially for dependent wives! Just to clarify as I was a little confused by the post – so my husband can apply for the conversion of my license through the SDLP – by logging in with his account details; but the rest of the procedures is the same as Saudi women getting licences? Thanks again! Will hope to be driving soon!ReplyCancel

  • ZareenaJuly 30, 2018 - 1:11 pm

    How do I apply for a licence if I don’t have a licence from my own country?ReplyCancel

  • AlejandraAugust 2, 2018 - 3:37 am

    Thanks for the update, you are the best!ReplyCancel

  • MominaAugust 2, 2018 - 7:55 am

    After obtaining the driver’s license, can I purchase a car and be the primary owner? Thanks!ReplyCancel

    • LauraAugust 2, 2018 - 12:23 pm

      yes you can as long as it´s not a 7 seater suv car.ReplyCancel

  • M MabsAugust 4, 2018 - 8:58 am

    The website does not respond and times out. Did anyone find a way to over this ?ReplyCancel

  • MaeAugust 5, 2018 - 10:03 am

    Thank you Ms Laura for your blog. I got my Saudi License already from Dammam Morror this week and they were all friendly.ReplyCancel

  • rawaa baydounAugust 5, 2018 - 6:28 pm

    Hi, I am Lebanese and I have a Lebanese driving license, what can I do to obtain the Saudi driving license? I tried several times to register in Absher site but still not responding. Thanks in advance.ReplyCancel

  • AmmarAugust 6, 2018 - 1:48 am

    Dear all can anyone help I applied for my wife’s licence
    And it shows the status “ waiting for document validator “

    I didn’t pay fee yet those who got their licence can they explain thisReplyCancel

ستقوم المملكة العربية السعودية برفع الحظر عن قيادة النساء في 24 يونيو 2018 ويجري الآن إصدار رخص القيادة السعودية للنساء. حصلت أول امرأة سعودية على تراخيصها هذا الثلاثاء من مكتب المرور.

وفي يوم الأربعاء، افتتحت المكاتب لجميع النساء اللاتي لديهم مواعيد لتحويل الرخص الأجنبية ومنها الحصول على رخصة القيادة السعودية. حصلت على رخصة قيادتي صباح يوم الأربعاء وأنا سعيدة للغاية ومتحمسة جداً! بعد استلام رخصتي، راسلني المئات من الناس لطلب النصيحة حول كيفية إكمال هذه العملية والتقديم على رخصة القيادة السعودية.

لقد كتبت كل ما أتذكره، فيما يتعلق بالإجراءات المتبعة في هذا المنشور. إذا ظهرت أي تطورات، فسأضيفها هنا. يرجى قراءة منشور المدونة حول استخدام مقاعد السيارة والتوعية بالسلامة في السيارات من مقالي السابق هنا: الأطفال هم كنوز وليس وسائد هوائية .أرجو أن مدونتي تجيب على الأسئلة التالية: كيف تقوم بتحويل رخصتك الحالية إلى رخصة قيادة سعودية؟ هل يمكن للوافدين الحصول على رخصة قيادة سعودية؟ كيفية الحصول على طلب رخصة قيادة سعودية للنساء الوافدات؟

تحويل رخصة أجنبية إلى الرخصة السعودية ممكنة للنساء من أي جنسية تحمل رخصة قيادة سارية المفعول.

لن تضطر إلى “التخلي” أو التنازل عن رخصتك الحالية للحصول على الرخصة السعودية

العملية مشابهة جدا لتلك التي يمر بها الرجال الأجانب للحصول على رخصة القيادة السعودية. يمكن لكل من النساء السعوديات اللواتي حصلن على رخصة من بلد أجنبي والمغتربين التقدم بطلب للحصول على رخصة قيادة سعودية بهذا الإجراء ذاته. بالنسبة للنساء اللاتي ليس لديهم تراخيص سارية المفعول (أو انتهت صلاحية الترخيص) أو لا يعرفون كيفية القيادة، سوف تحتاج للتسجيل لمدارس تعليم قيادة السيارات بالأول.

الخطوة الأولى

أولاً، على المرأة فتح حسابها الخاص في أبشر على هذا الموقع: تسجيل حساب جديد لوزارة الداخلية

يمكنك بدلاً من ذلك الذهاب إلى أجهزة الخدمة الذاتية لأبشر التابعة لوزارة الداخلية التي تقع حول المدينة (في الرياض: رويال مول في الطابق العلوي)

من أجل فتح حسابك الخاص تحتاج إلى إدخال التفاصيل الخاصة بك، رقم الهوية أو الإقامة ورقم هاتفك المحمول الخاص بك.

نصيحة: تأكد من أنه عند إنشاء الحساب، يمكنك استخدام اسم مستخدم طويل بما يكفي ويحتوي على أحرف ورقم حتى يتم قبوله.

على سبيل المثال، لن يقبلوا اسم المستخدم” دعنانقود“ ولكن النظام سيقبل” دعنانقود٢”

لتنشيط حساب أبشر الخاص بك، فإنك تحتاج إلى التحقق من ذلك من خلال الخدمات المصرفية عبر الإنترنت أو الذهاب إلى أجهزة الصراف الآلي للبنوك الخاصة بك والقيام بذلك هناك.

لا تزال هناك تقارير تفيد بأن بعض السيدات الوافدات لم يكن باستطاعتهم على إنشاء حساب في أبشر لنفسهم، إذا كانا لا يزالان تحت رعاية الزوج غير السعودي، يتم سردها باعتبارها” تابعا”

تمكنت النساء المغتربات اللواتي لديهم بطاقات الإقامة تحت أرباب العمل وزوجات السعوديين على إنشاء حسابات أبشر حتى الآن. من الواضح، هذا الأمر ينتظر تغيره وتثبيته في النظام، ونأمل أن تتغير لصالح جميع النساء قريبا.

الخطوة الثانية:

بمجرد إنشاء حساب أبشر ، ستكون الخطوة التالية هي الانتقال إلى موقع بوابة رخصة القيادة السعودية على الويب:

الموقع في وقت كتابة هذه النشرة متاح فقط باللغة العربية لذا اطلب من صديق يتحدث اللغة العربية مساعدتك في ملء الاستمارات.

في موقع الويب ، ستقوم بإنشاء حساب وتحميل المستندات الخاصة بك. قبل القيام بذلك ، يجب أن يكون لديك بعض الوثائق جاهزة.

المستندات المطلوبة للتقديم الإلكتروني لطلب رخصة القيادة السعودية:

نسخة ممسوحة ضوئيا من هويتك

نسخة ممسوحة ضوئياً من رخصة القيادة الخاصة بك سارية المفعول

نسخة ممسوحة ضوئياً لترجمة رخصة القيادة (الأمامية والخلفية)

تقرير طبي

بمجرد أن يتم تحميل نسخة الترخيص والترجمة ، سيكون بإمكانك حجز موعد في مكتب المرور  للقيام باختبار القيادة وبصمات الأصابع. من الممكن حجز الموعد ولم تنتهي من إجراء الفحص الطبي بعد.  تبدو المواعيد في الوقت الحالي محجوزة بالكامل لأنها عطلة رمضان وعطلة لموظفي الحكومة

نصيحة: حاول الحجز في جميع مواقع مدينتك ، وجرّب أوقاتًا مختلفة أو حتى في مدينة أخرى! (إذا كنت حقا في عجلة من أمرك)

يجب معالجة دفع  قيمة الرخصة من خلال نظام سداد قبل موعدك. التكلفة هي   ٤٠٠ ريال سعودي  لرخصة مدتها ١٠ سنوات و لرخصة ٥ سنوات ستكون تكلفتها ٢٠٠ ريال سعودي.

كيفية الحصول على تقرير طبي للحصول على رخصة قيادة سعودية: يمكن عمل تقرير طبي في عيادات معينة فقط

–  PDFانظر على الرابط الموجود ببوابة رخصة القيادة السعودية وستحصل على ملف

الذي يعطيك أسماء وأرقام هواتف العيادات المحددة في منطقتك التي تقوم بإجراء فحوصات طبية لرخصة القيادة

هناك عيادتان في الرياض ذهبنا إليها أنا وصديقتي وكانت زيارة ناجحة.  خلال شهر رمضان ، كان الموظفون غائبين أثناء النهار أو غادروا مبكراً وكان علينا القيام بعدة رحلات للعثور على شخص ما لاستكمال التقارير الطبية

من المهم اختيار الشخص المسموح له بالدخول إلى نظام أبشر ليتمكن من إدخال تقريرك الطبي فمن الأفضل أن تذهب بعد الساعة ٩ مساءً (خلال شهر رمضان). العيادة مفتوحة خلال أيام العمل العادية بدءاً من ١٠ صباحا فصاعدا.

موقع العيادة التي ذهبت إليها لإجراء الفحص الطبي المطلوب لإخراج رخصة القيادة السعودية: مجمع صحة الدرعية الطبي على شارع عبد العزيز البرهان ، الخالدية، الرياض ١٣٧١٣

رقم الهاتف: 0155 486 011

الموقع في الرياض باستخدام خريطة قوقل:

ماذا يحدث في العيادة الطبية؟ من الضروري أن تكون مستنداتك جاهزة ، ويجب عليك طلب إجراء اختبار طبي يتعلق برخصة القيادة ودفع الرسوم (لقد دفعت حوالي 20 ريال سعودي بتأمين ، بدون تأمين ، 105 ريال سعودي). نصيحة: إذا كنت تكره اختبارات الدم ، فيجب أن يكون لديك شهادة تبين فصيلة الدم ونوعه. وإلا سيقومون بفحص الدم. ستنتظر في العيادة لتكشف عليك الممرضة التي ستقوم بإجراء فحوصات بسيطة للبصر (ارتد نظارات لها إذا كنت تفعل عادة أثناء القيادة). بعد الحصول على الموافقة على الفحص الطبي ، عليك الانتظار حتى يقوم الشخص في المكتب بإدخال التقارير الطبية في النظام.  تأكد من عدم الرحيل قبل أن تكون متأكدًا من أنه قد تم إدخاله وتأكدت من ذلك على الجوال باستقبال رسالة قصيرة. سوف يعطونك أيضا شهادة طبية مختومة.

كيفية الحصول على رخصة مترجمة:

ابحث عن خدمة ترجمة معتمدة في مدينتك. في الرياض يقوم هذا المكتب بترجمة جميع اللغات التي تكلف حوالي 100 ريال سعودي ومن الإنجليزية إلى العربية مقابل 40 ريالاً سعودياً

يقع بالقرب من مركز الملز للإسعاف، ٦٤٨٠ شارع الأمير فهد بن إبراهيم آل سعود ، الضباط ، الرياض ١٢٦٢٧

الموقع في الرياض باستخدام خريطة قوقل:

نصيحة: يمكنك إرسال صورة الرخصة الخاصة بك لترجمتها كصورة واتساب  ثم استلام الترجمة الجاهزة في اليوم التالي.

الخطوة الثالثة

بمجرد الانتهاء من جميع هذه الخطوات، يمكنك الذهاب إلى الموعد في محطة شرطة المرور، ذهبت إلى واحدة في منطقة الرمال في الرياض. إنه بعيد جدًا لذا تأكد من أن لديك متسعًا من الوقت للبحث عن الموقع قبل موعدك. سوف تتلقى رسالة نصية من الادارة العامة للمرور حول موعد اخراج رخصة القيادة مع التاريخ والوقت وموقع المكتب أيضا.

مكتب تقديرات المرور في حي الرمال

موقع المكتب على خريطة قوقل:


احضر معك:

رخصة قيادة أصلية

بطاقة الإقامة أو الهوية الوطنية

نسخ من جميع الوثائق المطلوبة

نظارات إذا كنت بحاجة للقيادة

(أحضرنا صور جوازات السفر فقط في حالة احتياجنا إليها ولكن لم تكن هناك حاجة إليها فإنهم يستخدمون نفس الصورة التي لديهم على النظام)

مدخل مكتب المرور:

في المكتب: قم بتسجيل الدخول عن طريق إعطاء رقم الهوية الخاص بك (الإقامة أو الهوية الوطنية) في مكتب التسجيل. سوف يبحثون عن موعدك ويعطوك رقمًا. عندما يتم الإعلان عن رقمك، ستقترب من المكتب وتقدم هويتك الأصلية ورخصة القيادة الأصلية. (ملاحظة: إنهم لا يقبلون نسخاً فوتوغرافية، يجب أن يكون لديك المستندات الأصلية. كما يجب ملاحظة: أنهم لا يحتفظون برخصتك الأصلية، كما توقع البعض. ستأخذها معك إلى المنزل). سوف يتحققون من جميع المستندات التي لقد تم تحميلها في النظام. لذا من المهم أن تكون المستندات المترجمة معك في حالة طلبها. يتم أخذ البصمة الخاصة بك.

ثم انتقل إلى منطقة انتظار الامتحانات القيادة العملية. هنا، سوف يشرحون لك الدورة وسوف تنتظر دورك

بمجرد اجتياز الامتحان بنجاح، تعود إلى التسجيل ويتم إعطاؤك رقمًا مرة أخرى. بمجرد استدعائك للمكتب، ستقوم بإعطاء بصمة إبهامك مرة أخرى وستوفر المعلومات الأساسية مثل لون شعرك ولون العين وعنوان المنزل (على الأقل قم بتزويد اسم الحي / المنطقة التي تعيش فيها)

لاحظ أن هذه هي المتطلبات الكاملة لتبدل رخصتك في المرور. من الممكن أن يُسمح لك بتخطي بعض هذه الخطوات في المستقبل إذا كنت تحمل رخصة قيادة من بلدان معينة. ومع ذلك، في مركز الاختبار لدينا، لم يعف أحد من أي جزء من هذه العملية. سيبدأن في أخذ البصمات وإدخال تفاصيل الرخصة الخاصة بك في النظام وبعد ذلك سوف تذهب لاختبار القيادة الخاصة بك.

الخطوة الرابعة

اختبار القيادة. يرجى ملاحظة هذه النصيحة خصيصا لفرع حي الرمال في الرياض. سمعت أن النساء اللواتي استطعن إكمال تحويل رخصة القيادة في مدن أخرى، لم يحتاجوا إلى إجراء اختبار قيادة، لذلك سيعتمد ذلك على الموقع الذي تختاره.

ملاحظة: أنصحك ألا تكون مثلي وأن تفقد نومك في الليل بسبب هذا الاختبار. الاختبار بسيط للغاية وكان الموظفون متعاونين جدًا وداعمين. أثناء اختبار القيادة، يجب عليك اتباع الدورة التدريبية التي تشمل أداء مهارتين: كيفية لف الدوار وركن السيارة بالمواقف الموازية. يجب أن تحصل على ٧٥٪.  السيارة لديها معدات أوتوماتيكية. سيعرضون لك خريطة توضح ما تحتاج إلى القيام به وما يجب القيام به في مسار اختبار القيادة. الدوران على المدارات والشوارع، كيفية لف الدوار، وركن السيارة بالمواقف الموازية (المفضلة لدى الجميع)، ثم في النهاية، إكمال مواقف متوازية (المفضلة للجميع). لا يدخل معلم القيادة السيارة معك، سيتبع سيارتك حتى يتمكن من تقييمك أثناء الاختبار. كان المقيم الذي حصلنا عليه متعاونا للغاية وواصل شرح ما يجب فعله بعد ذلك.

جميع الضباط كانوا في حالة معنوية جيدة، مبتسما، وكان الشخص الذي قام باختبارنا يتمتع بروح مرحة للغاية، وقال مازحا إن واحدة منا اجتازت الاختبار فقط! ولحسن الحظ نحن الاثنين نجحنا في الاختبار وبعد ذلك عدنا إلى المكتب الرئيسي.

الخطوة الخامسة الخطوة الأخيرة هي طباعة رخصة القيادة الفعلية. لذلك ستحصل على رخصة القيادة الجديدة الخاصة بك عندما تنتهي! هذا لم يستغرق ٥ دقائق.  إنه أفضل شعور بأن يكون هذا المستند بيدك، إنه أمر غير واقعي!

يجب أن أقول إننا قد انبهرنا حقا بتنظيم الإعداد بالكامل. جميع الموظفين يعرفون بالضبط ما كانوا يفعلونه واتبعوا عملية واضحة. معظم الموظفين يتحدثون الإنجليزية. حاول فريق العمل المساعدة وكانوا ودودين طوال العملية. والمثير للدهشة، أن العديد من النساء لم يتقدمن بطلب الحصول على رخصة القيادة، ولكن الطلب سيصبح بالتأكيد شائعاً بمجرد أن يفهم الناس كيفية التقديم

آمل أن يساعدك هذا الدليل في التقدم بطلب للحصول على رخصة القيادة السعودية. إذا كان الأمر كذلك، يرجى مشاركتها مع أصدقائك من خلال ربطهم بهذه المنشورة، أو بالنقر على زر المشاركة بدلاً من نسخ النص أو التقاط لقطات الشاشة! هذا ليس عدلاً بالنسبة للكتاب الأصليين الذين يقضون العديد من الساعات والأيام في إعداد المنشورات

أرجو أن يقود الجميع بحرص ومتعة!

تحديث ٢٦ يونيو: يتم تحديث نظام أبشر، ويجب حل المشكلة المتعلقة ببطاقات الإقامة المتعلقة بالتابعين التي لم يتمكن من فتح حسابات فردية. الأمر يستدعي حل المشكلة في فترة زمنية قصيرة.


لسوء الحظ فإن الصورة التي يستخدمونها لرخصة القيادة الخاصة بك هي نفسها التي لديك بالفعل على الملف الخاص بك (الإقامة / الهوية) أقول للأسف لأن معظم الناس يكرهون عادة صور الإقامة الخاصة بهم :)

ملحوظة أخرى: ذكر الضابط المسؤول أن رخصة القيادة السعودية فقط هي التي ستقبل كوثيقة رسمية للقيادة للسيدات، لذا أوصي بتحويل رخصتك الدولية، فقط في حال وجودها.

ملاحظة ثالثة: هل لديك رخصة قيادة سعودية وجاهزة لبعض المغامرات؟ إلى أين تتجهي لرحلتك الأولى؟ للحصول على بعض الأفكار: اقرأ مشاركات المدونة المتعددةالموجودة على صفحتي.

|pin this|tweet it|Share to facebook|Contact us

Saudi Arabia will be lifting the ban on women driving on the 24th of June 2018 and Saudi driving licenses are now being issued to women. The first Saudi women got their licenses this Tuesday from the Moroor traffic office. On Wednesday the offices opened to public for women with appointments to convert licenses to come and get their Saudi driving licenses. I got mine on Wednesday morning and could not be more happy and excited about this! After receiving my license many people (hundreds, literally) have messaged me online asking for advice how to complete this process and apply for the Saudi driving license. So I’ve written everything I can think of regarding the process in this post. If any developments surface, I’ll be adding them here.

UPDATE for women under their husbands sponsorship how to apply for the Saudi driving license read this post: How dependent iqama holders can get Saudi driving license 

Please read about using car seats and safety awareness in cars from my previous article here: Children are treasures not airbags 

I hope this post will answer the following questions: How to convert your existing license to a Saudi driving license? Can expats get a Saudi driver’s license? How to get the Saudi driving license application for expat women?

Saudi Driving License for women issued

Converting a foreign license to the Saudi license is possible for women of any nationality with a valid driving license. You will not have to “give up” or surrender your existing license to get a Saudi license. The process is very similar to the one that foreign men go through to obtain the Saudi driving license. Both Saudi women who have obtained a license from a foreign country and expats can apply for the Saudi driving license with this same procedure.

There is a process you need to follow in order to convert the foreign license to the Saudi license. For the women who do not have valid licenses (license expired) or don’t know how to drive, you’ll need to enroll to the driving schools first.


First the woman has to open her own Absher account on this site: Ministry of Interior new account registration 

Alternatively you can go to one of the MOI Absher kiosks located around town ( in Riyadh Royal Mall upstairs has one)

In order to make your own absher you need to enter your details, ID number or iqama and your own mobile phone number. Note you also need a bank account. Tip: Make sure that when creating the account you use a username that is long enough and contains letters and a number for it to be accepted. For example they will not accept username “letsdrive” but the system will accept “letsdrive2”.

To activate your absher, you need to validate through online banking or go to  your banks ATM and do it there, this means you need to have a bank account.

There has still been reports that some expat ladies have not been able to create an absher for themselves if they’re under the sponsorship of a non Saudi husband, ie they are listed as “dependants”. Expat women who have iqamas under employers and wives of Saudi have been able to create absher accounts so far. This apparently is waiting to be fixed in the system and will hopefully be working for all women soon.



Once you’ve created the Absher account, the next step is to go to the Saudi Driving License Portal website:

The site at the time of writing this is available only in Arabic so have an Arabic speaking friend help you fill in the forms.

At SDLP you will create an account and upload your documents. Before doing this you must have some documents ready.


-Scanned copy of Your ID

– Scanned copy of your valid driving license

– Scanned copy of translation of driving license ( both front and back)

-medical report

Once the license copy and translation have been uploaded, you will be able to book an appointment to Moroor traffic office to do your driving test and fingerprints. It’s possible to book the appointment and not have the medical done yet. The appointments at the moment seem to be quite fully booked as it’s Ramadan and Eid vacation for the government employees. Tip: try to book in all locations of your city , try different times or even in another city! (If you’re really in a hurry 😊)

The license payment has to be processed through SADAD before your appointment. The cost is 400 sar for 10 years license and 5 years license is 200 sar.

HOW TO GET MEDICAL REPORT FOR SAUDI DRIVING LICENSE: Medical report can be done at certain clinics only. See the link from the SDLP site to a PDF file which gives you names and phone numbers of the specific clinics in your area that are doing the medicals for the driving license.

There are two clinics in Riyadh which myself and a friend went to that worked. During Ramadan, the staff was absent during the day or had left early and we had to make several trips to find someone to complete the medicals. To ensure the person who is allowed to access the absher system to enter your medical report there, go in the evening after 9pm (during Ramadan).The clinic is open during normal working days starting form 10 am onward.

Location of clinic I went to for Saudi driver’s license medical check up: Saha Aldiriyah Medical Complex Abdul Aziz Al Burhan, Al Khalidiyah, Riyadh 13713 011 486 3555

What happens at the medical clinic? Have your documents ready, ask for driving license medical testing and pay the fee ( I paid about 20 sar with insurance, without it’s 105 sar). Tip: if you hate blood tests then have with you a certificate which states your blood group and type. Otherwise they’ll draw blood to test for them.

At the clinic you’ll wait to see the female nurse who will perform simple eyesight checks (wear glasses for it if you normally do during driving). After receiving approval of medical checkup you’ll have to wait for the person in the office to enter the medicals into the system. Make sure not to leave before you’re certain they entered it and you’ve got the confirmation of the same on your mobile as SMS. They will also give you a stamped medical certificate.

HOW TO GET LICENSE TRANSLATED Search for certified translating service in your city. In Riyadh this one does all languages translation for 100sR and English to Arabic 40sar:

dropped Pin near Almalaz Ambulance Center, 6480 Prince Fahad Ibn Ibrahim Al Saud St, Ad Dhubbat, Riyadh 12627

< strong>Tip: you can send him the pic of your license for translation as a whatsap pic and then pickup the ready translation the next day.


Once you’ve done all these steps you’re good to go for the appointment at Moroor. I went to the one at Rimal area in Riyadh. It’s very far so make sure you have plenty of time to search for location ahead of your appointment. You will receive a SMS from MOROOR about your driving license appointment, time and the map.

Moroor Rimal Saudi Driving license appointment MOROOR  Rimal Location google maps:


Bring with you:<<
riginal license

-Iqama/ ID

-copies of all documents

-Glasses if you need for driving

(we brought passport pics just in case but they were not needed, they use the same pic they have on the system)

Entrance to the Traffic Office< strong>Saudi driving license traffic office Rimal < strong>At the office:<<
ign in by giving your id number (iqama or National ID) at the registration desk. They will look up your appointment and give you a number.

– When your number is called, you will approach the desk and present your original id and original driver’s license. (Note: they do not accept photo copies, you must have the original documents. Also note: they do not keep your original license, as some have speculated. You will take it home with you.) They will verify all of the documents you have uploaded in the system. So do also have your translation with you in case they ask for it. Your thumbprint is taken.

– You then go to the practical driving exam waiting area. Here, they will explain the course to you and you will wait for your turn.

– Once you successfully pass the exam, you return to registration and are again given a number. Once called to the desk, you will give your thumbprint again and provide basic information such as your hair color, eye color, and home address (at minimum provide the name of the neighborhood/area you live in).

Note that these are the full requirements for exchanging your license at muroor. It is possible that you will be allowed to skip some of these steps in the future if you hold a driver’s license from certain countries. However, at our testing center, no one was exempted from any part of this process.

They’ll start with fingerprinting and entering your license details into system. After this you will go to have your driving test.


Driving test. Please note this advice is specifically for the Riyadh Rimal branch. I’ve heard that women who did the conversion in other cities did not have to take a driving exam, so it will depend on the location it seems.

Tip: Don’t be like me and lose your night’s sleep over it. The test is very simple and all the staff was very supportive and helpful.

During the driving test, you will follow the course which includes performing 2 skills: the three point turn and parallel parking. You have to get 75% to pass. The car is with automatic gear.

Saudi driving license drive test  They will show you the map of what you need to drive and perform on the test track. A circle 8, 3 point turns and then in the end a parallel park (everyone’s favorite). The driving instructor does not enter the car with you, he will follow next to the car to evaluate the test and the one we had was very helpful and kept explaining what to do next.

Saudi driving license test drive track All of the officers were in good spirits, smiling and the one who did our test had a good sense of humor too, he first joked that only one of us had passed the test! Thankfully we both passed and then proceeded back to the main office.


The last step is printing out the actual license. So you will get your brand new license in your hand when you’re done! This did not take more than 5 minutes. It’s the best feeling to have this document in your hand, I still kind of can’t believe it’s real!

I must say we were really impressed at how well organized the whole setup was. All the staff knew exactly what they were doing and followed clear process. Almost everyone spoke English, they were helpful and friendly throughout the process. Surprisingly not many women were there but it will surely pickup once people understand how the application process works.

I hope this guide helped you in applying for Saudi driving license. If so, please share it with your friends by linking to this post, or by clicking the share buttons instead of copy pasting my text or taking screenshots! This is not fair to the originals writers who spend many hours and days preparing them.

Happy & safe driving everyone!

UPDATE JUNE 26th: The Absher system is being updated and the issue about the dependent iqamas not being able to open an absher should be resolved in a few time.


Unfortunately the image they use for your driving license is the same one you have already on your file (iqama/ID) I say unfortunately because most people usually hate their iqama pics :)


The officer in charge mentioned that only Saudi driver’s license would be accepted as official document for women to drive, so I’d recommend converting your international ones, just in case.

P.P.P.S Got your Saudi driving license and ready for some adventures? Where to head for your first Saudi road trip? Some ideas here: Explore Arabia<<
p>< /p>

|pin this|tweet it|Share to facebook|Contact us
  • Sherry NassifJune 8, 2018 - 3:06 am

    Thanks for this!ReplyCancel

  • N.MerveJune 8, 2018 - 3:19 am

    Thank you so much for the detailed, useful information.ReplyCancel

    • LauraJune 23, 2018 - 2:30 pm

      Thanks a lot :)ReplyCancel

      • Harish PawarJune 26, 2018 - 10:00 pm

        Can expat Women Without holding any driving licence (from their country) apply for driving licence here in Saudi?

        if they are confident and have all the required driving skills acquired secretly? ;-)

        I think it should be possible, do you have any info.?ReplyCancel

  • AmyJune 8, 2018 - 3:29 am

    Thank you Laura so much for the post. Really valuable information 👌🏼
    I have one more question, I’ve went through most of the steps you explained but my appointment was canceled and as it appears in the original sms you got, youre appointment was on the 21st of May, did you need to cancel that one and schedule a new one on Wednesday? Or did Moroor reschedule your original appointment on their own?

    Thank you so much!ReplyCancel

    • LauraJune 23, 2018 - 2:28 pm

      They sent me a new appointment confirmation by SMS the day before the new appointment 5th June.ReplyCancel

  • A WoodJune 8, 2018 - 8:52 am

    Thank you so much for all of the information!ReplyCancel

  • GaeleneJune 8, 2018 - 2:24 pm

    Awesome. Well done on getting your licenses and on writing the process up. I won’t be in Saudi on June 24th but will be there in spirit with razzle dazzle Pom Poms for all driving ladies. Looking forward to getting my license when I return in August. By then hopefully they’ll have sorted the issue with women sponsored by husbands. I tried to apply before leaving for my holiday but the system wouldn’t let me because of that. It doesn’t matter though…what matters is the 24th is sooo close now. So exciting for everybody.ReplyCancel

    • IbtisamJune 12, 2018 - 8:20 pm

      Thank you so much Laura! & congratulations on getting your license.
      I cannot wait until they open it up for women who are under non-saudi sponsorship. I have been counting days every since they announced it.ReplyCancel

    • LauraJune 23, 2018 - 2:29 pm

      yes lets hope by then it’s all sorted out and everyone gets to enjoy driving :)ReplyCancel

  • AdamaJune 8, 2018 - 5:05 pm

    Thanks so much Laura! This is so comprehensive! You are a star:-)ReplyCancel

  • StaceyJune 8, 2018 - 5:16 pm

    What if a person already has an international driving permit and a valid driver’s license from abroad? Can they simply start driving?ReplyCancel

  • Nura Al-ShammariJune 8, 2018 - 9:23 pm

    Thank you so much for the shared information!
    Nura Al-ShammariReplyCancel

  • Kahkshan AliJune 9, 2018 - 11:33 pm

    Just leaving olaya international clinic now. They said they still have not been approved to do the medical test for ladies. I asked several people at this clinic to make sure. Will have to try somewhere else. Thank you for the rest of the information. Going to finish uploading everything else now and get appointment.ReplyCancel

  • Angah AbdullahJune 10, 2018 - 8:07 am

    Thank you Laura. 😘ReplyCancel

  • Kahkshan AliJune 10, 2018 - 11:12 am

    Update. Came to the Al-daraya clinic which you recommended. They are open in the mornings at 10am and doing the medical test for ladies driving license. Had a very nice Saudi lady (Rihab) do my blood test and eye exam and she was very gentle, professional and spoke excellent English. Cost was 105 riyals with no insurance. Thank you again for your post. I managed to get through the Arabic form online with a little help from Google translate and have my appointment July 17 when I return from the States. Super excited!!ReplyCancel

    • LauraJune 23, 2018 - 2:27 pm

      Thank you very much for this information I have updated the post accordingly! Sorry for the extra trouble for you, they told on phone during Ramadan that they do them and they are on the list from SDLP.ReplyCancel

    • LauraJune 23, 2018 - 2:27 pm

      Do you know until when they are open?ReplyCancel

  • TayyabaJune 10, 2018 - 12:29 pm

    Congrats for this achievement and Thanks for the valuable Blog.

    As you mentioned in your blog above that some expat ladies have not been able to create an absher because they are listed as “dependents”. I’m experiencing the same problem.

    Can you please guide us whom should we take-up this issue or is there any forum or channel we should contact for the solution?ReplyCancel

  • Ayesha ismailJune 10, 2018 - 12:56 pm

    Dear blue Abaya
    Your detail information is very helpful
    thank you so very much

  • Katie BJune 10, 2018 - 1:16 pm


    I had an appointment on 31st of May but they cancelled. They are still working all this week. How soon after your appointment cancellation did they set a new one?
    Also is the parallel parking reversed or do you have to do it driving forward? Or they don’t care? Lol.ReplyCancel

    • LauraJune 23, 2018 - 2:25 pm

      My original was on the initial first day they planned to open the conversions, 21 st May. Then they cancelled and I did not hear anyhting form them until 5th June when they rescheduled it for the new first day, 6th June. So they’re doing it according to the order that women have signed up.ReplyCancel

  • Umm ShemsJune 10, 2018 - 3:25 pm

    Really helpful information! I’ll be there on the 30th of June to get this done!!! Thank you so much for the post!ReplyCancel

  • ZahramichaelaJune 10, 2018 - 4:20 pm

    I created my abshar account, went to sdlp website to create new account, but it directed me to abshar website (for new registration),how can I proceed?ReplyCancel

  • LolaJune 10, 2018 - 4:32 pm

    Thanks Laura for the post
    I have a problem on step 1, when I tried to create an absher acount, I got this message ” The current ID does not have an independent ID”
    I am a dependant on my husband iqamah,
    Is there a solution for me? Please let me knowReplyCancel

    • sadaf nageenJune 20, 2018 - 7:13 pm

      i have the same issue… please let me know if u get any solution for it…ReplyCancel

    • mKcAugust 2, 2018 - 12:17 pm

      Lola – You should be able to do this now. The system did not allow the “spouse dependents” to do the DLIC process. Try again!ReplyCancel

  • Zahra MichaelaJune 10, 2018 - 4:38 pm

    Where can i find the pdf file with medical centres?ReplyCancel

    • LauraJune 23, 2018 - 2:23 pm

      Inside the SDLP when you’ve logged in and filled out the application it gives you the link to the file.ReplyCancel

  • NinaJune 10, 2018 - 8:08 pm

    Replying to Stacey—-> Saudi Arabia doesn’t recognize international driver licenses especially not for women. I believe Laura mentioned it also…ReplyCancel

    • LauraJune 23, 2018 - 2:22 pm

      this is what the officers at the moroor told us on the day when we asked about it. I have not heard or seen any official statements about it.ReplyCancel

  • Muhammad Jawad YaqoobJune 11, 2018 - 3:25 am

    After taking appointment through SDLP, do we still have to visit Maroor office to get an appointment again? This part is confusing for me.ReplyCancel

  • FatimaJune 12, 2018 - 12:15 am

    Hello there! Me and my mother are planning to get our driving license soon inshallah after the month of Ramadan, but it’s very sad now that I’ve realized unemlployed international women can’t get them :( can you please update me on the status of the situation, and when will this be fixed?ReplyCancel

  • Just MeJune 12, 2018 - 2:20 pm

    Thank you for Blue Abaya for the useful information. A note and question about the SDLP portal. If opened in Chrome, it is possible to have a translated version of a website; however, I have found that only offers an option to log in, at the moment anyway. I was wondering if those of you who have been successful registering did so by clicking on the “log in” button or if you actually found a “register” button. If so, could you please leave a note to help locate it. Thanks.ReplyCancel

  • MishalJune 12, 2018 - 6:37 pm

    Clear and organized article. Thank youReplyCancel

  • Katie RothwellJune 15, 2018 - 8:10 am

    Any news on whether dependants can create an Absher account? I failed at the first hurdle as my ID is a dependant ID as my husband is an expat.ReplyCancel

    • LauraJune 23, 2018 - 2:20 pm

      When I hear something about it ill update the post!ReplyCancel

  • sadaf nageenJune 20, 2018 - 7:16 pm

    Any update on whether dependents can create an Absher account to get a driving license ???ReplyCancel

    • LauraJune 23, 2018 - 2:19 pm

      No updates yet, really hope they’d give some info on this soon.ReplyCancel

  • RLJune 20, 2018 - 7:21 pm

    Hi Laura,
    The blog about driving license application is very much informative.
    You mentioned that basic information were asked. so I wanna know if they asked for your height (or was it a requirement?)
    I wanna know coz’ I’m a short girl and i hope it won’t be a hindrance at all for me to apply one.



    • LauraJune 23, 2018 - 2:19 pm

      Hi there, no they don’t ask for these infos. Good luck :)ReplyCancel

  • VickyJune 22, 2018 - 4:44 pm

    Hi I am a little confused why the process / regulations are different for men. I have an UK 🇬🇧 and International License, men with UK and International licences can drive for 3 months on these documents, why different for women?! I’ve been driving 23 years and itching to get on the road in Saudi and sing 🎶 my head off to some tunes! 😆 Even my western Compound seem to be stuck in the dark ages!ReplyCancel

  • mazmazJune 24, 2018 - 3:09 am


    may i ask what if there is no driving license yet and it will be the first time to ever drive will that be valid and accepted? an expat woman with existing driving license can it apply for those women too?ReplyCancel

  • MaribelleJune 24, 2018 - 9:27 am

    Hi there..are there any fees to pay aside from the medical and the license fee? Is there any fee for the driving exam?ReplyCancel

  • Aru RamisettyJune 24, 2018 - 12:44 pm

    Dear Laura,
    So kind of you to have posted these step by step instructions on how to go about getting the Saudi Driving licence. Very helpful and I very much appreciate the minute details and your thoughtfulness!

    A Big Thank You :)ReplyCancel

  • NajlaJune 24, 2018 - 12:55 pm

    Hi Laura,,

    Congrats on your Saudi driver’s license.

    Thank you for posting this guide, its very helpful. I was glad to find my waya through your post. It certainly helepd me and my friends as well.

    I’m in process of applying myself but I was wondering if you happen to know if the process differ if my international drivers license is expired?

    Again thank you very much for taking the time to write this helpful post.

    Best regards

  • MaramJune 24, 2018 - 9:22 pm

    Hey thank you so much for the information! I just wanted to know what is the minimum age limit ..I’ve heard it’s it true?ReplyCancel

  • Regina CliffordJune 25, 2018 - 8:10 am

    Please let us know when dependents of expat husbands can drive! It’s so hard to find information out there! Thanks Laura.ReplyCancel

  • Dr. FNJune 25, 2018 - 6:43 pm

    Driving licence validity is linked to residency. So for example, if you are British, but not normally resident in the UK because you are living/ working in KSA, you can only use an international driving licence when visiting the UK as the insurance there would not cover you if you drove on your UK licence. So unless you are a recent arrival in KSA, chances are your UK licence would be invalid and possibly expired. Legally you can’t renew it in the UK if not normally resident there. So on what basis would the Saudi traffic department accept your foreign licence as valid since your licence lost its validity when you moved to KSA?ReplyCancel

  • Rawan DewanJuly 1, 2018 - 7:57 pm

    I have a UAE driving license that is still valid until 2021. I am currently dependent on my husband. Can my license be exchanged for a Saudi driving license or do I still need to create an Absher account when it works? I am planning to ask at Muroor since Men are allowed to do so. My husband only exchanged his when he came here so I am hoping it’s the same for women :)ReplyCancel

  • begonaJuly 5, 2018 - 9:28 am

    Dear Laura,
    My sponsor is my husband… Do You know the procedure to access the license?. At the moment I can not access anyplace. Because if I don’t have access to Ministry of Interior, I can not create the account on Saudi Driving License Portal….
    Help me Please…. :-)ReplyCancel

  • grace deeJuly 6, 2018 - 12:01 am

    hi LAURA. actually I was stuck in step2 coz I hve asked a few friends and we can’t seem to figure out how to create and account in sdlp site or to log in even So that I can proceed to get the appointment. Help me please. i have all the requirements but can’t seem to move on with the arabic website. Appreciate if u can further clarify.ReplyCancel

  • Yvonne OidaJuly 9, 2018 - 12:21 pm

    Big THANKS Laura🙏…I just got mine today noontime.
    Yallah lets drive🚦🚗ReplyCancel

  • Afiya SaleemJuly 9, 2018 - 10:20 pm

    Hi Laura. Thank you so much for such detailed information. You are the only one who has acknowledged the difficulty that expat women on dependent iqama are facing. I have a US lisence and cant wait to get back on road. Wondering if you have any update regarding the progress made by absher team? Any idea when it will be fixed?

  • cheap nimegen couponJuly 10, 2018 - 10:55 pm

    Thanks for a marvelous posting! I really enjoyed reading it, you’re a great author.
    I will ensure that I bookmark your blog and will eventually come back
    from now on. I want to encourage yourself to continue your great job,
    have a nice evening!ReplyCancel

  • Sami AbdinJuly 18, 2018 - 9:17 pm

    Thank you for this thorough and informative post. It’s really appreciated! You very much deserve a basket of strawberries but, alas, I don’t have any.ReplyCancel

  • iamaalJuly 20, 2018 - 3:48 pm

    thanks for your detailed article , i checked my iqama , and i find it still valid , thanks again for your helpReplyCancel

  • AngieJuly 25, 2018 - 2:39 am

    Thank you for the great information!ReplyCancel

  • MarriamJuly 31, 2018 - 12:46 am

    Dear Laura thanks alot for Such great information. I applied today for my license and got appointment. I didn’t pay fee yet and online application status is “ waiting for documents verification “
    Is it ok ? Will they verify my documents first then confirm anything or i can simply proceed my fee? I applied from my husband s account.ReplyCancel

  • mKcAugust 2, 2018 - 12:12 pm

    Hi Laura,

    Where did you get the car insurance from? Can you share some information about that as well?


    • LauraAugust 2, 2018 - 1:00 pm

      when you purchase a car from the car shops they hep you with this, also close to the car souk in Riyadh there are many car insurance offices where you must first get the insurance entered into the systems and then you can purchase the car.ReplyCancel

  • RobertAugust 2, 2018 - 9:29 pm

    Hi, I just arranged an appointment for my wife after registering her through my absher.
    Does anyone know if I can pay the fee for her through sadad, as my wife doesn’t have a bank account here?ReplyCancel

  • Saima ArifAugust 5, 2018 - 11:34 am

    Hi Robert
    R u applying for the first time license or your wife has licence before ?ReplyCancel

  • MarriamAugust 5, 2018 - 5:59 pm

    Sir what is the status of your request?
    Is it same like mine ?
    “ waiting for document validator “

    I also applied through my husband s absher account.ReplyCancel

  • MarriamAugust 5, 2018 - 6:04 pm

    Sir Robert
    Can you tell me what is the status of your wife’s request online
    Is it “ pending with document validator”

    I also applied through my husband s accountReplyCancel

  • LaylaAugust 6, 2018 - 3:52 pm

    Thank you SO MUCH! You are very very helpful!ReplyCancel

    • LauraAugust 7, 2018 - 12:56 pm

      Thank you for the comment :) I’m really glad to see what a great positive impact this post has had on women getting their driving licenses!ReplyCancel

Mysterious, remote and undiscovered, Madain Saleh is one of the most significant archaeological sites in the Arabian Peninsula.

The historic name of Mada’in Saleh is Hegra, or al-Hijr in Arabic. Madain Saleh is located in Al Ula, in the Hijaz region of western Saudi Arabia, some 300 kms north of Medina and 500 kms south-east of its sister city, Petra in Jordan.

In this comprehensive guide you can read in detail about Madain Saleh’s history, learn in depth knowledge about the different types of tombs and fascinating areas that can be found in Madain Saleh, Saudi Arabia’s mysterious desert city.


Historically, Hegra had a lucrative position in the desert with an underground water supply that permitted agriculture, which in turn made it one of several indispensable stops along the incense trade route from Yemen to the Levant. This strategic location brought a certain wealth to its inhabitants, and with it, a number of passing kingdoms and civilisations since early history. It began in the 3rd millennium BCE with the tribe of Thamud, infamous in Islam for rejecting the calls to worship the one and only God by their prophet Saleh. It is from this very prophet that Hegra’s modern name, Mada’in Saleh which means “Cities” of Saleh, was derived.

The Dedanites and Lihyanites were other tribes who settled in the area in the 6th – 4th centuries BCE, followed by the Nabataeans in the 1st century BCE. The latter made Hegra their second capital city in case their main capital, Petra in today’s Jordan, was threatened by the Romans. Hegra’s golden age thus ensued and for the next century, while the city flourished, its inhabitants carved rock-cut tombs similar in style to those found in Petra.

The Roman threat did finally materialise in 106 CE when the entire Nabataean kingdom and its civilisation, including Hegra, were usurped by the Roman Empire. The city’s decline, however, had already begun when, in 70 CE, King Rabbel II transferred the Nabataean capital from Petra to Bosra in modern day Syria, rather than Hegra. Although Hegra continued to exist for at least another century after the Roman takeover, it later mysteriously disappeared from history, only leaving behind its many magnificent rock-cut tombs as a reminder of a glorious civilisation.

These tombs, coupled with a fun desert adventure and visits to the many other historical sites in nearby al-Ula, make Madain Saleh the most remarkable place to visit in all of Arabia. Its importance has led the UNESCO finally to list it as a World Heritage Site in 2008.

The vast area of Mada’in Saleh (Jan 2011)


The Madain Saleh archaeological site covers a vast area. It is entered by car either from the south or from the north next to the Ottoman-period Hijaz Railway station, and both entrances join an unpaved road that loops around the whole site, making a few detours along the way. The ruins of the town of Hegra itself, where the Nabataean inhabitants once lived, is located at the centre of the site, but is currently under excavation in two distinct fenced-off areas.

Otherwise, nearly all of the visible ruins are in the form of rock-cut tombs, 131 in total, carved mostly in the first century CE, but only 86 come with a monumental façade. Though a few are isolated, these tombs were typically carved in clusters around the perimeters of large rock outcrops scattered around the site.

They are divided into seven areas (A to G), plus one additional mountain (Jebel Ithlib) used for religious rituals. In addition, there are more than 100 ancient Nabataean wells spread out across the site, and the dismantled Hijaz Railway Station, the aforementioned late Ottoman-period construction associated with Lawrence of Arabia.

The most famous tomb and iconic symbol for Madain Saleh is the tomb Qasr Al Farid, “the lonely Palace”. Photo: Laura Alho

At first glance, the tombs in Madain Saleh may all appear to be the same, but upon a closer look, the variety in styles and sizes becomes noticeable. The smallest carved façade is tomb N°3 (Jebel al-Mahjar Group), measuring under 3 by 2 metres, while the largest finished façade is Qasr al-Farid (N°110), measuring nearly 22 by 14 metres.

Some of the differences in architectural styles are quite obvious, but others require a sharp eye and some basic understanding of architecture to distinguish between them. With the exception of the signature Nabatean column capitals, Hegra’s funerary architecture exhibits strong borrowings from nearby civilisations, including features from Egyptian, Assyrian, and Hellenistic styles, and anyone who has visited Petra in Jordan would immediately recognise the similarities in architecture.

The signature Nabataean capital on Tomb N°93, Jebel Khraymat (Oct 2017)

The signature Nabataean capital on Tomb N°93, Jebel Khraymat (Oct 2017)

There are eight main stylistic categories in Hegra:

#1 Madain Saleh Simple burial chamber:

This type of tomb is a simple burial chamber devoid of any ornamentation. It was used by poorer inhabitants of Hegra who could not afford more lavish tombs. There are over 40 such tombs in Hegra.

Simple Burial Chamber, Tomb N°106, as-Saneh Group (Jan 2011)

Simple Burial Chamber, Tomb N°106, as-Saneh Group (Jan 2011)

#2 Madain Saleh Single Row of Merlons:

This style is the simplest of the monumental façades in Hegra. It consists primarily of a single row of merlons at the top of the façade, but some additional decorative features may be used in some cases. These may be in the form of two large pilasters to support the row of merlons, a pediment and pilasters to frame the entrance, or statues above the doorway to honour a deity. Twelve tombs in Hegra are attributed to this style.

Single Row of Merlons Style, Tomb N°37 (Lion Tomb), al-Bint Group (Oct 2017)

Single Row of Merlons Style, Tomb N°37 (Lion Tomb), al-Bint Group (Oct 2017)

#3 Madain Saleh Arched tomb:

Only one tomb in Hegra follows this style, Tomb N°92. It is a small façade consisting of a single arch over the doorway resting on two pilasters and topped by three urns.

The Arched Style, Tomb N°92, Jebel Khraymat (Jan 2011)

The Arched Style, Tomb N°92, Jebel Khraymat (Jan 2011)

Arched style tomb in Madain Saleh. Photo: Laura Alho

#4 Madain Saleh Double Row of Merlons style:

This style consists of a double row of merlons at the top of the façade. Other features, such as pilasters, or face sculptures are added in some cases. In total, 14 tombs in Hegra follow this style.

Double Row of Merlons Style, Tomb N°75, Jebel Khraymat (Jan 2011)

Double Row of Merlons Style, Tomb N°75, Jebel Khraymat (Jan 2011)

#5 Madain Saleh Half-Merlons style:

Eight tombs were carved in this rather simple style. It consists of two large half-merlons arranged symmetrically at the top of the façade, resting over an Egyptian-style cornice. No pilasters or other entablature is used, but in some cases, the entrance may be framed. The half-merlons at the top create a five-step design that is the signature feature of most Nabataean tombs. Some speculate that the five steps – never more, never less – represent the five major Nabatean deities, including Dúshara.

Half Merlon Style, Tomb N°10, Jebel al-Mahjar (Jan 2011)

Half Merlon Style, Tomb N°10, Jebel al-Mahjar (Jan 2011)

#6 Madain Saleh Proto-Hegra 1 Style:

This is the first of three styles that are the trademark of grand tomb façades in Hegra and is the most widely used. It is crowned by two large symmetric half-merlons surmounted on an Egyptian style cornice and an architrave resting on two large pilasters, often with Nabataean capitals. The doorway may at times be framed by an aedicule consisting of a triangular or arched pediment. In total, 24 façades in Hegra follow this style.

Proto Hegra 1 Style, Tomb N°113, Jebel al-Ahmar (Jan 2011)

Proto Hegra 1 Style, Tomb N°113, Jebel al-Ahmar (Jan 2011)

#7 Madain Saleh Proto-Hegra 2 Style:

It is nearly identical to Proto-Hegra 1 style, except for one minor detail. The entablature below the large half-merlons is wider, consisting of an Egyptian-style cornice, an undecorated frieze and an architrave. The frieze is the extra feature in Proto-Hegra 2. Twelve façades in total were carved in this style.

Proto Hegra 2 Style, Tomb N°42, al-Bint Group (Oct 2017)

Proto Hegra 2 Style, Tomb N°42, al-Bint Group (Oct 2017)

#8 The Hegra (MADAIN SALEH)  Style:

This is the ultimate design in Hegra, thus dubbed the Hegra Style. It is similar to the two Proto-Hegra styles, except that it includes a second entablature above the two pilasters flanking the façade. The grandest tombs in Hegra follow this style, including several in Qasr al-Bint Group (e.g. N°21, N°22, and N°44) and Qasr al-Farid (N°110). The latter, though, is unique in that its façade contains four pilasters instead of two. In total, 14 tombs follow this style, though not all of them are particularly large.

The Hegra Style, Tomb N°20, al-Bint Group (Oct 2017)

The Hegra Style, Tomb N°20, al-Bint Group (Oct 2017)

As many as 38 of the tombs in Hegra contain a dedicatory plaque with carved inscriptions in the Nabataean alphabet, a precursor to Arabic. These inscriptions are legal in nature and often state the date the tomb was completed, the name of its sculptor and the family or person to whom it belonged, and sometimes also describe the punishment or requirement for anyone else who uses the tomb.


Hegra’s plaques date the tombs to the period between 1 BCE and 75 CE, usually stated as the year of the reign of a specific king. They have shed important light on the life and practices of Nabataeans in general and brought to life the cosmopolitan nature of Hegra’s population, and have thus been tremendously valued by archaeologists, in particular because Petra (in Jordan) by comparison has only one such inscription! Many of the other façades in Hegra contain a space for a plaque but no inscription, which led some archaeologists to believe that wooden tablets with inscriptions may have been inserted in that space.

Nabataean Inscription on Tomb N°93, Jebel Khraymat (Jan 2011)

Nabataean Inscription on Tomb N°93, Jebel Khraymat (Jan 2011)

As-Saneh Tomb group

Upon entering Madain Saleh from the southern entrance, one first encounters a group of tombs known as as-Saneh Group, numbered 102 to 108 and designated as Area G. It consists of only seven tombs across two rock outcrops flanking the unpaved road: the first has a single tomb with a large carved façade, known as Qasr as-Saneh (N°102), which gave the group its name, while the second contains the rest of the tombs in the form of simple unadorned burial chambers.

The façade of Qasr as-Saneh is one of the largest in Hegra, carved in the Hegra style, which consists of two symmetrical half-merlons over an Egyptian-style cornice and an entablature resting on two pilasters with Nabataean capitals. The entrance is framed by a triangular pediment on two pilasters, but lacks any statues or figures, and above it is an inscription dating the tomb to the 17th year of the reign of the Nabataean King Aretas IV Philopatris, thought to correspond to 8 CE. It also states that it was carved by the mason, Abd’haretat ibn Abd’obodat, for Malkion ibn Hephaestion and his family, whose name suggests a Hellenistic origin (ibn = son of).

Qasr as-Saneh, Tomb N°102 (Jan 2011)

Qasr as-Saneh, Tomb N°102 (Jan 2011)

East of as-Saneh Group, just south, south-east of the ancient urban centre of Hegra, Areas C and D are often grouped together. Area C is a single rock outcrop, known as Jebel al-Ahmar, with 19 tombs numbered 112 to 130 around its entire perimeter. Jebel al-Ahmar translates to the Red Mountain named so because of the faint red hues of its rocks. Its proximity to the residential settlement of Hegra meant it was a well-utilised necropolis with nearly all styles of tombs represented, but many badly eroded.

The most remarkable of these tombs are the twin tombs N°112 and N°113, carved on the southern side of the rock outcrop. They are very well preserved, except for the bottom part, which was probably eroded in flash floods over the centuries. Both tombs follow the Proto-Hegra 1 style, but differ slightly in the decoration above the doorway: N°112 on the left has three urns above the triangular pediment, while the slightly smaller Tomb N°113 has an eagle flanked by two urns. Although both façades have a space for a plaque, there is no inscription on either one. Some archaeologists believe a wooden inscription plaque may have been inserted in the space upon completion, but no traces remain.

Tombs N°112 and N°113, Jebel al-Ahmar (Jan 2011)

Tombs N°112 and N°113, Jebel al-Ahmar (Jan 2011)

Qasr al- Farid

Area D is further south and covers a large area with only three isolated tombs, N°109 – N°111. Among them is Qasr al-Farid (the “lone” or “unique” palace, Tomb N°110), Hegra’s most iconic tomb. It is a single tomb carved in its own rock outcrop, hence its name, and measures about 22 by 14 metres, making it the largest (nearly) finished tomb in Mada’in Saleh. The façade is crowned by two symmetrical half-merlons surmounting an Egyptian-style cornice, below which is an entablature resting on four pilasters with Nabataean-style capitals. A triangular pediment, resting on two pilasters and topped by a single griffin statue, frames the entrance, above which is a plaque with a short Nabataean inscription stating that this tomb was carved for bani Lahin ibn Quza (i.e. the family of Lahin, son of Quza).

The style of this tomb is known to archaeologists as the Hegra style, but Qasr al-Farid is again unique in that it is the only one with four large pilasters decorating the façade. The tomb was never actually finished, as seen in the very bottom of the façade, and is thought to have never actually been used as a burial chamber.

Visitors admiring Qasr al-Farid, Tomb N°110 (Oct 2017)

Visitors admiring Qasr al-Farid, Tomb N°110 (Oct 2017)

Qasr al Farid, the Lonely Palace of Madain Saleh

Qasr al Farid, the Lonely Palace of Madain Saleh. Photo: Laura Alho

Al Bint- Group

Al-Bint Group outcrop.

North-east of the urban centre of ancient Hegra lies al-Bint Group, another cluster containing 31 tombs, numbered 17 to 46 and designated as Area B. Twenty-nine of these tombs are carved around a single large hill, while two simple unadorned burial chambers are located in their own tiny detached outcrop. Some of the grandest tombs in Hegra are found in this group, which also has the largest number of Nabataean inscriptions.

The name of the group was derived from tomb N°24, Qasr al-Bint (no relation to its namesake free-standing temple in Petra). It is one of the smallest in the series of grand façades in this group and follows the Proto-Hegra 2 design. The triangular pediment above the doorway is richly decorated and topped by an eagle statue and two urns. The inscription is very legal in nature and, unusually, continues inside the tomb stating that it was commissioned by Abd’Obodat ibn Aribos for himself and his daughter, Wa’ilat, and her descendants. The mention of his daughter (i.e. bint) is likely what earned this tomb its name.

The inscription leaves specific instructions, almost like a will, from Abd’Obodat to his daughter and her offspring, forbidding them from selling or transferring ownership of the tomb, even though it belonged to them in perpetuity. It also states that if Abd’Obodat’s brother, Huru, died in Hegra, that he should be allowed to be buried in this tomb.

This inscription is one of two that mention Hegra in name, written as Hijr, the Arabic equivalent (the other is Tomb N°100). Aftah ibn Abd’Obodat is the mason who carved this tomb in the 44th year of the reign of King Aretas IV, equivalent to 35 CE.

Qasr al-Bint, Tomb N°24 (Oct 2017)

Qasr al-Bint, Tomb N°24 (Oct 2017)

Other remarkable tombs in al-Bint Group include the Doctor’s Tomb (N°44), carved for Kahlan ibn Wa’lan, the doctor, and his descendants, and the Lion Tomb (N°37), a small one with two feline sculptures with curly tails above its doorway (are they lions or leopards?). Tomb N°39 is the oldest dated tomb in Hegra, carved in 1 BCE for Kamkam bint Wa’ilat and her daughter Kulaybat and it has an arched pediment and eagle bas-relief above the entrance.

The Lion Tomb, N°37, al-Bint Group (Jan 2011)

The Lion Tomb, N°37, al-Bint Group (Jan 2011)

Tomb N°39, the oldest dated tomb in Hegra, al-Bint Group (Jan 2011)

Tomb N°39, the oldest dated tomb in Hegra, al-Bint Group (Jan 2011)

The Doctor’s Tomb, N°44, al-Bint Group (Jan 2011)

The Doctor’s Tomb, N°44, al-Bint Group (Jan 2011)

Had the civilization at Madain Saleh lasted longer, then al-Bint Group would have boasted the largest tomb in the city, appropriately nicknamed the Unfinished Tomb (No°46). It would have measured 28 metres in height, but only part of the top step down motif (two half merlons) was completed, which clearly illustrates that Nabataeans carved their tombs from top to bottom, and is only visible from a distance. An inscription near ground level, just below the unfinished façade, states that this space had been acquired by Rabibel, a Nabataean governor, proving that a process of acquisition was necessary before a tomb was created for a particular person or family.

The Unfinished Tomb N°46 towering above Tomb N°17, al-Bint Group (Jan 2011)

The Unfinished Tomb N°46 towering above Tomb N°17, al-Bint Group (Jan 2011)

Jebel Ithlib (The Nabatean Holy Mountain)

East of al-Bint Group lies Jebel Ithlib with its most unusual rock formations. For the Nabataean inhabitants of Hegra in the 1st century CE, it was the centre of much of their sacred religious rituals. On its northern side is a rock-cut assembly hall, known as al-Diwan, carved next to the sacred Siq, a natural crevice in the rock used for religious processions, similar but much smaller in scale than the Siq in Petra. Along the walls of the Siq are several carved cult niches for statues of deities, and at the other end of the Siq lies the Sanctuary, a natural basin with the remains of a Nabataean temple used for religious ceremonies and a water canal that channelled water into a cistern.

A small number of other religious sites have been discovered around Jebel Ithlib, including steles, altars, assembly halls and Greek and Nabataean inscriptions, but much more is thought to lie buried in the sand waiting to be discovered. For those with time and energy, a short hike up the slopes surrounding the basin offers a rewarding view over the whole of Mada’in Saleh.

Jebel Ithlib (Jan 2011)

Jebel Ithlib (Jan 2011)

The Diwan and the Siq (Oct 2017)

The Diwan and the Siq (Oct 2017)

Carved niche on the wall of the Siq (Oct 2017)

Carved niche on the wall of the Siq (Oct 2017)

Jebel al Mahjar ( Quarry Mountain)

West of al-Diwan and just north of the ancient urban centre of Hegra is another cluster of tombs known as Jebel al-Mahjar (Quarry Mountain), designated as Group A. Fourteen tombs are attributed to this group, numbered 1-14, and spread across three rock outcrops. An ancient well is also located in the vicinity of this mountain, and the top of its main rock outcrop has the remains of a Nabataean sacred high place. This group also boasts the tomb with the smallest façade in Hegra, N°3, measuring only 3 metres in height.

Only a handful of the tombs in Jebel al-Mahjar come with inscriptions. One of the more interesting ones is N°9, known as the Taymanite’s Tomb, which has as many as 53 burial niches, more than any other tomb and is one of three tombs in Hegra with two inscriptions, one on the façade and the other inside. The façade is moderate in size and was carved in the signature Hegra style, but is devoid of any sculptural or floral ornamentation. It is raised well above ground level and comes with a small platform in front of the entrance, plus a couple of exterior burial niches as well.

The façade inscription states that the tomb was carved in the 13th year of the reign of King Aretas IV (5 CE) for Hawshab ibn Nafi, a Taymanite (i.e. from the city of Tayma) and his extended family, many of whom are named. It also warns of severe punishment for anyone else who attempts to use, buy or sell the tomb. The interior inscription is shorter but marks the exact niches where the bodies of Hawshab and his two sons, Abdalga and Habbu, were placed.

The Taymanite’s Tomb, N°9 in Jebel al-Mahjar (Jan 2011)

The Taymanite’s Tomb, N°9 in Jebel al-Mahjar (Jan 2011)

Jebel Khraymat

The eastern rock outcrop of Jebel Khraymat contains three tombs. One on the northern side and two adjacent ones on the western side, numbered 12, 13 and 14, respectively, but only Tomb N°12 contains an inscription. Written in the Nabataean language, it states that the tomb belonged to Shubayt ibn Aliyu, the Jew, his wife Amira and their children, and that it was carved in the 3rd year of the reign of King Malichus II, equivalent to 43 CE. This inscription is interesting because it demonstrates that Hegra was a pluralistic society with prominent Jews, along with Greek or Hellinistic families as some other tomb inscriptions have indicated.

Tombs N°13 and N°14, Jebel al-Mahjar (Jan 2011)

Tombs N°13 and N°14, Jebel al-Mahjar (Jan 2011)

West of the urban centre of Hegra is the most extensive group of tombs in the archaeological site, known as Jebel Khraymat. It contains 53 tombs, numbered 48-101 and is split into Areas E and F. Tomb N°64 is known as the Centurion’s Tomb. The geographic location, prone to winds and flash floods, has caused severe erosion in many of the tombs in this area, and N°64 was no exception.

It was designed in the Proto-Hegra 1 style, but much of the lower façade was completely destroyed. The inscription above the doorway has survived with some damage and is very legal in nature specifying ownership and fine for unauthorised use. It also states that this tomb was carved by the mason, Aftah, for the Centurion, Sa’dallah ibn Zabda, and his extended family and warns that the tomb is protected by the gods Dúshara and Manat. The existence of the title Centurion shows clear Roman influence on Hegra’s military regime. Unfortunately, the tomb’s exact date of completion is damaged, but occurred under the reign of the Nabataean King Aretas IV Philopatris, who ruled from 9BC to 40 CE.

The Centurion’s Tomb, N°64, Jebel Khraymat (Jan 2011)

The Centurion’s Tomb, N°64, Jebel Khraymat (Jan 2011)

Nearby is another fairly damaged façade, Tomb N°66, known as the Prefect’s Tomb. However, its inscription has survived well and states that it was carved by the mason, Aftah ibn Abd’Obodat, for Matiyu, son of Euphronius the Prefect, and his extended family, whose title and name suggest a military profession and possible Hellenistic origin. The tomb is dated to the 48th year of the reign of Aretas IV Philopatris, which is equivalent to 40 CE.

The Prefect’s Tomb, N°66, Jebel Khraymat (Jan 2011)

The Prefect’s Tomb, N°66, Jebel Khraymat (Jan 2011)

Jebel Khraymat’s crown jewel, however, is Tomb N°100, the largest in this group and its most richly decorated. Although it was carved in the signature Hegra Style, a few additional features distinguish it from the rest. It is the only façade with carvings in the attic space between the Egyptian-style cornice and the entablature below, consisting of four decorative Nabataean column capitals. The aedicular frame around the doorway is also richly decorated with a row of carved rosettes below its pediment and two griffin statues flanking it.

The left hand statue is the only one in Hegra that has astonishingly retained its head, avoiding the decapitation that befell all other statues in Hegra in the post-pagan period. The inscription dates it to the 24th year of the reign of King Malichus II (64 CE) and states that it belongs to the family of Tarsu ibn Taym.

Tomb N°100, Jebel Khraymat (Oct 2017)

Tomb N°100, Jebel Khraymat (Oct 2017)

The Griffin with its head, Tomb N°100, Jebel Khraymat (Oct 2017)

The Griffin with its head, Tomb N°100, Jebel Khraymat (Oct 2017)


To complete the tour of the site, one must visit the Madain Saleh railway station. It was one of numerous stops along the defunct Hijaz Railway, which was laid out in 1900 under the Ottoman Empire to link Medina with Damascus and ultimately Constantinople, thus significantly cutting pilgrims’ travel time during the important Haj season.

Plans had been made to extend it all the way to Mecca, but the strategically important railway was blown up by T.E. Lawrence and his Arab allies during WWI in an effort to weaken Ottoman control over the Hijaz region (western Arabia). With the breakup of the Ottoman Empire by colonial powers following the war, the railway was never repaired and its tracks and stations remain a relic of a bygone era. Here in Mada’in Saleh, the red-tiled station and adjacent buildings, including a fortress, are one of the attractions of the visit with the station now turned into a museum exhibiting the old locomotive cars.

The Ottoman Fortress with Jebel Ithlib in the background (Oct 2017)

The Ottoman Fortress with Jebel Ithlib in the background (Oct 2017)

  • Routes d’Arabie, archéologie et histoire du Royaume d’arabie saoudite (published by Somogy and Louvre)
  • The Nabataean Tomb Inscriptions of Mada’in Salih, by John F. Healey (Oxford University Press)
  • Discover more amazing places in Saudi Arabia: Explore KSA
  • Al Ula Royal Commission


This is a guest post by @zauravoyages, a traveler and writer hailing from Saudi Arabia with a passion for architecture, history and world heritage. All images @copyright zauracvoyages unless otherwise mentioned. Follow him on Instagram here: zauracvoyages


IMPORTANT NOTICE FOR VISITS TO MADAIN SALEH STARTING DECEMBER 15TH 2017 : Madain Saleh, Jebel Hekmah and Khuraybah sites have been closed by the Royal commission of Al Ula for development and archeological research project until further notice. Despite the temporary closure of these sites, Al Ula is a beautiful place to visit full of rich history and otherworldly landscapes. Stay tuned for more posts about Al Ula!

To keep up to date about Al Ula project, follow Blue Abaya’s social media channels and subscribe to the newsletter with the form below!

instagram: Viking in Arabia 

Twitter: blueabaya

Facebook: Blue Abaya- Explore Arabia 

|pin this|tweet it|Share to facebook|Contact us
  • keshav singhalMay 18, 2018 - 10:52 pm

    Ibn Fadlan and the Land of Darkness: Arab Travellers in the Far North is a book about muslim travellers to scandanavian countries in past. you are viking in arabia.ReplyCancel

  • keshav singhalMay 18, 2018 - 10:54 pm

    you will be scared to kow there were norwegian peolple who migrated to the arab world for purpse of tradeReplyCancel

  • NoelJune 3, 2018 - 12:37 pm

    Hi Layla! This post just made me more interested in the place as I originally thought Madain Saleh is just a single tomb. Also, I once thought this is located in Riyadh but is actually in Al Ulah (or is it around the same region, I’m not really familiar).

    Is this near the Elephant Rock? Perhaps I’d visit the place when it becomes colder. Looking foreard to it. Thank you!ReplyCancel

I’ve been looking for a place to recycle waste in Riyadh for a long time. Probably one of the most frequently asked questions I get from readers are “where to recycle clothes, old appliances, glass, metal, batteries etc”.

I must admit, one of the most shocking things for me in transitioning to life from Finland to Saudi Arabia was the lack of recycling practices. Coming from a Scandinavian country, where we recycle almost everything (by law!) I felt like a criminal throwing glass jars and metal cans into the trash bin along with all the other rubbish. Recycling becomes a part of life when you are used to it from an early age, and recycling doesn’t really take that much of an extra effort. So the people who are already used to the system and mindset or materials being reused for other purposes feel guilt when they have to throw away everything in the same bin.

The problem that many people face in Riyadh has been where to take all these glass, plastic, paper and metal products for recycling? Where to donate all this old clothing to? How about old furniture and appliances?  I was most shocked to find out that even batteries are regularly thrown in the same garbage dump.

I was so happy to hear about a recycling place in Riyadh where we can take all this problematic and toxic waste and everything can be dropped off in one place. Recycle center map location at the end of this post!

The use of plastic in Saudi Arabia is extremely worrisome. Whenever I go out to the beautiful desert and other amazing places that can be found in Saudi Arabia, I see what kind of detrimental effect humans and their obsession for plastic bags, water bottles and plastic cutlery does to nature.

Recycling in Saudi has always been close to my heart and I’ve written about it previously in this article: Recycling the Saudi Values and this list of  Ten Ways to recycle in KSA

Thumamah desert fence January 2018. Photo: Laura Alho

Trash collected from Farasan Island beach April 2017. Photo: Laura Alho

One of my pet peeves is going to the supermarket, pharmacy or a baqala (small convenience store), where every single small thing you buy will be placed in one plastic bag. Why? Why is there a need to put a tiny box of medicine for example, into a plastic bag? When I can just put it in my pocket, or handbag or carry it in my hand!

The use of plastic bags in Saudi Arabia is totally out of control.

The country is drowning in plastic.

Habala village September 2017. Photo: Laura Alho

Sadly, going to the desert nearby Riyadh often means having to mingle with a bunch of left behind picnics, plastic bags and bottles. Same goes for the public beaches around Jeddah and Gizan, and the valleys, national parks and the beautiful forests in Asir. Pretty much anything within a 50 km radius from a city is going to look like a garbage yard due to those very same plastic bags we are forced to use everyday, and which people with complete disregard to nature throw onto the ground.

Sometimes large trash cans are provided in some areas, but they’re not emptied at all, or not often enough. Weather conditions and animals cause the trash to fly out of the garbage cans out into the nature. Other animals will come and spread trash around further. The large yellow trash cans we can see in many places have no lids, so all the birds and cats can just jump in and take the trash outside and it spreads around, even if humans tried to do the right thing and dispose of their waste in them.

Plastic bags bags should be BANNED in Saudi Arabia, like they already have in several places around the world. The plastic bags can be replaced by cloth bags, paper bags, or reusable bags.

Hidden Canyon in Riyadh September 2017. Photo: Laura Alho

An example of the plastic madness from everyday life in Riyadh: When you go to a grocery store the have baggers who are actually TRAINED TO WASTE PLASTIC. I know a lot of people reading this from outside KSA will not believe anything so absurd could be the norm in the year 2018 but it’s true. Yes, the bagger is instructed to use a mass load of bags for a just a couple of grocery items. Go to any grocery chain in Saudi Arabia and you’ll find the same problem, the baggers never fill the bags up, unless the customer specifically asks and insists otherwise. This has got to change!!!

For example if the customer buys a bottle of milk, a shampoo, a loaf of bread and some bananas, instead of using ONE single bag to pack all of them, these would be placed in five bags, double one for the bananas.

Every single time I go to the grocery store I face the same issue that I have to go and instruct the bagger to fill the bags up and stop wasting so much plastic. They give me weird looks but I still do it, because it’s really the least I can do if I don’t have a reusable bag with me. Sometimes they won’t understand and that’s when I just take the bags and start filling them up myself, I’ve also taught this to my children and they will advise and help the baggers each time. It’s definitely not the norm to do this and most people seem to have no idea why I wouldn’t want all those plastic bags.

An even better option would be to always remember to have your own reusable shopping bag for packing groceries. Although I’ve noticed that the baggers will not know how to use the reusable bags, unless instructed. They first try to place the items in the plastic bags then place all those inside the reusable bag! You can’t make these things up!

Everyone can start making small changes life, DAILY. Everyone can do it. REFUSE to take that plastic bag. Get a reusable bag for groceries. Tell the bagger to use less plastic. Refuse that straw, you don’t really need it. Take your glass, batteries and metal waste to recycle unit. Most people have drivers, give the recyclable items to the driver once a week and he takes them. No extra effort needed. When taking laundry out, refuse all the extra metal hangers and plastic wraps.

Read this post for 10 ways to recycle in Saudi Arabia. 

When you’re at the park, don’t litter. Call people out for littering. Honestly this really does help.

Pick up trash left by other people, be an example.

Show an example to your kids by teaching them how to recycle and pick up after themselves from a very early age. Insist that the kids school begin teaching recycling and respecting nature as part of the curriculum. There are hundreds of ways every single person reading this can help.

Are YOU doing something?

To be fair there are many environmental awareness campaigns in Saudi Arabia, more and more each year. So there definitely has been a positive change from what I’ve seen in the 10 years time I’ve been in Saudi Arabia. Things which have the most dire impact on the nature, such as the use of plastic bags and water bottles needs regulations and laws set to be effective.

Plastic bags in Saudi Arabia’s stores should either be

A) banned altogether and alternatives taken into use or

B) customers have to pay for their bags and this will greatly reduce the amount being used.

My main reason for this post was originally to share the location of the center where you can recycle in Riyadh that I found out about recently. As usual when speaking about matters close to my heart, I got carried away about how the environment is not being protected enough in Saudi. I do this because I genuinely care and I want things to change. It’s something I’m passionate about and can talk about on and on. Without these things being addressed and talked about, things will not change. This is my second home country and my children are half Saudi, I want them to be able to live in a clean safe environment in the future and for future generations to be able to enjoy Saudi Arabia’s nature the same way we can now.

Location of Recycle Center in Riyadh

I was so excited to find this recycling place in Riyadh where they will accept multiple things at one location. Instead of having to go around the town to multiple different locations to try to recycle waste and in the process spend several hours stuck in traffic, there is one place in the city center that we can now take it all to.

They can also come to your house to fetch larger items such as furniture and old appliances. So this is fantastic news indeed! It’s not the same as we have in Finland but this is absolutely better than nothing and a great start!

What to do: Drive to the location and have your items already separated in bags or boxes. Plastic bottles, glass, metal, clothing, batteries, all separately. Just hand over your waste to the staff and that’s it. Or alternatively you can use the existing recycle bins. There’s containers for plastic, paper, clothes, and one for shoes and they give these to charity.

Here is the location on google maps of the center for recycle in Riyadh:

It’s open daily from 9 am to 11pm. Fridays after Jumah prayer.

Recycle center in Riyadh

Recycling place in Riyadh.

If you know of a similar place to recycle in Jeddah, Khobar, Abha, Dammam, Qassim and any city on KSA, please leave the info in the comments to help others to find these locations.

Please also leave in the comments social media handles for Environmental awareness campaigns, charities that accept donated clothing and any other related information that will benefit everyone.

Thank you!

Recycle in Riyadh

Recycle in Riyadh

|pin this|tweet it|Share to facebook|Contact us
  • AbdulmohsenMarch 22, 2018 - 11:29 am

    very interesting article. It is worth noting that the recycling location you mentioned is actually a charity collection spot mostly for clothing or anything that can be donated to those in need.
    There is this company I found online for recycling electronics:

    There is also this company that recycle paper, plastic and glass through it’s 8 branches around the kingdom:

    It is worth noting that I haven’t dealt with any of these companies and I just knew about them from my internet search.ReplyCancel

    • LauraMarch 22, 2018 - 12:01 pm

      Hi thank you for the links!
      it is for charity and recycling.

      Let me know please if you try any of the ones you mentioned how they work.ReplyCancel

  • BerndienMarch 22, 2018 - 4:28 pm

    I always take my bag and have an extra one in my purse.For me it is very strange that people from Europa are not doing what they do in there homecountry: take there own bag….
    They recognize me in shops and ask for my bag….they know, I don’t want plastic bags….I am sure that if more people do this, it will change ‘Be the change you want to see in the world ‘- Ghandi-ReplyCancel

  • Maureen vamplewMarch 23, 2018 - 6:04 am

    To the lady that says take your own bag … yesthus works if you use the same supermarket and the baggers get to know your habits Often I have given my bags over for a large shop to be packed only to find the bagger has packed my reusable … no time before prayer to repack . I hear you ask why don’t you pack your own shame on you !!!! But if I don’t that little bag packer has no job at all
    Very good article to promote recycling
    May be we need recycle bins in compounds as some mosques have recycle bins so there must be a system for recycling ??ReplyCancel

  • RayMarch 26, 2018 - 12:10 am

    THANK YOU! Coming from canada it was SO hard throwing garbage out. I felt guilty! Now i have a solution. 😀
    And i agree about the packers packing every single thing in a small bag…i get weird looks too when i tell them to fill the bag!ReplyCancel

  • HarbiMarch 26, 2018 - 3:07 am

    Sometimes the companies who claims to do recycle ( except charities) are doing resale trade for the clothes on the expence of being a recycling company .. be aware plzReplyCancel

  • MAriaMarch 26, 2018 - 12:24 pm

    thanks for this! I’ve been looking and this is very useful!ReplyCancel

  • GhaidaMarch 26, 2018 - 5:33 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing this!
    I’ve been hoarding a year’s worth of plastic bottles in hopes of finding a place to recycle them! I finally have them off my consciouns (and have more room in my house) 😃ReplyCancel

  • ErnstMarch 27, 2018 - 10:39 am

    What a disappointment — I have been outsorting my recyclable rubbish for a week and was going to drive past the recycling point on the way home tonight. Now I see I am going to have to throw the bottles, paper and metal in the bin.ReplyCancel

  • AlejandroMarch 31, 2018 - 3:31 pm

    today saturday 31/3/2018, day to highlight. I went to recycling point, i could leave:
    – big bags of bottles and plastic items.
    – bag of glass
    – bag of cans
    – bag of tetra brick.
    – bag of paper and carton.

    they took everything. Easy and quick drop.

    Thanks Laura.ReplyCancel

  • AlejandroApril 15, 2018 - 7:23 am

    today Saturday 14th april, second successful delivery. QUICK and EASY.
    is there more collecting points like this in Riyadh?ReplyCancel

Some of you may already know that I’ve been making Saudi souvenirs as wall calendars for several years now, five consecutive years in fact! I love compiling and designing the calendars using imagery from my travels around Saudi Arabia, despite it being a huge hassle every year to produce and print them.

The hardest part is choosing ONLY 12 beautiful places in Saudi Arabia (from hundreds of options) and then from those 12 locations, having to select just one or two images to showcase the location in the best possible way. It takes me about three months to finish the entire calendar design because I want the result to be perfect. I try to include something from each region of KSA and showcase the surprising diversity in landscape, culture and colors of Saudi Arabia.

The calendars make the ideal Saudi souvenirs to take back home to show the beauty of Saudi Arabia in a compact and affordable package. They would also make great gifts to visiting foreign friends. For more Saudi inspired gifts check out my Instagram: Inspired by Arabia

For this years calendar cover design I chose to feature al Qatt al Asiri, the traditional wall paintings of Asir region. These wall murals are done entirely by the women of Asir who have mastered this art form for centuries.

I was thrilled to hear that Qatt al Asiri was selected as intangible heritage by UNESCO in 2018 so the choice was perfect to celebrate this recognition! More al Qatt alasiri art can be found inside the calendar.

Other Saudi Arabia UNESCO sites (already listed or tentative) featured in this calendar: At Turaif district, Madain Saleh, Al Balad, Dhee Ayn village, Rijal Alma’a village and Hejaz railway.

So where can you get one of these wall calendars?

I’ve selected some of the best places in Riyadh, Khobar and Jeddah that you definitely should pay a visit to, even if you don’t get a calendar or other Saudi souvenirs :)

Perfect Saudi souvenirs-Wall calendars


Kanakah Cafe

Exit 5 next to Kingdom hospital. Ladies only venue, beautiful cafe, delicious food and freshly brewed coffees. Monthly book clubs! Instagrammable level: 100.

Haya Tours office

Salwa is a wealth of information and visiting her office at Alia plaza you can book tours and grab a calendar as a souvenir!

Luthan Spa

Luxury women-only hotel, spa and salon near Diplomatic Quarter. Highly recommend them for all spa and salon services, probably the best haircut you’ll find in Riyadh. Don’t miss the authentic Moroccan bath and rooftop restaurant! Calendars from salon and spa receptions. You’ll also find Madeha al Ajroush’s book about Saudi Rock Art for sale at Luthan. Call to book: +966 11 480 7799

Keep a lookout for events and bazaars hosted at Luthan Spa by following them on instagram: Luthan Hotel and Spa

Draft Store Centria mall second floor

This shop is addictive, each time I go there I find new cool things and gift ideas. You will be compelled to grab something every time you visit! Magic Kingdom wall calendars can be found there too as well as many other items you could take home as Saudi souvenirs and gifts from the region. Find them on instagram: @draftthoughts

Open all day 10am -11pm (no break in between 👍🏻)

The Blossom Tree Bustan Village compound

Lovely concept store inside Bustan compound. Accessories and home decor, Saudi souvenir ideas. They stock the Inspired by Arabia canvas at Blossom tree.



A must visit place when in Jeddah- they select the best home bakeries, local designers and producers so you are guaranteed for a treat. Have coffee and shop for the perfect gifts in a beautiful instagram-worthy environment! They also host events and concerts at Crate- stay up to date on instagram: @crateksa

Al Khobar

Desert Designs

The go-to place for Saudi souvenirs in Eastern Province. Magic Kingdom wall calendars, Saudi doors pillows, phone covers from the Inspired by Arabia brand are available there too.

Online stores:

Unlimited Art KSA

A new online store based in Riyadh with quick, affordable shipping all over KSA and lots of Saudi inspired gift ideas. You can shop for my calendars and Inspired by Arabia phone covers online here


Lulu publisher (U.S.A & Canada)

Lulu is a print on demand site and they will produce and ship the calendar to you worldwide, shop online here: Magic Kingdom Wall Calendar 2018 


Calendar Sponsor

Special thank you to calendar sponsor al Nakhla residential compound! Al Nakhla compound won the title of Best Luxury Residential compound in Saudi Arabia 2017, and once you visit this compound you will no doubt see why! It’s like stepping into a luxury holiday resort, except that people actually live there!

A very family oriented compound, with daycare, kids playgrounds, plenty of different pools ( 23 pools!), safe places for kids to ride bikes, skate and play.  I’ve tried their open air buffet at the Majdool restaurant by the gorgeous pool. I’d highly recommended to try it out as an alternative to the five star hotel buffets for a more relaxed atmosphere.

Al Nakhla’s recreation office is well known for hosting some of the best events in Riyadh, and they allow visitors to attend! The best way to stay up to date with al Nakhla events is to follow their social media channels: Instagram and Facebook page.  Visit their website for more compound info: Al Nakhla Residential Resort

|pin this|tweet it|Share to facebook|Contact us

The Janadriyah festival in Riyadh is an annually held cultural heritage festival of Saudi Arabia THIS GUIDE HAS BEEN UPDATED FOR 2018 schedules and visiting days for men and families.

The biggest cultural event of Saudi Arabia, the Janadriyah Cultural heritage festival is just around the corner! In this Blue Abaya guide you will find everything you need to know to attend the most important national festival for culture and heritage of Saudi Arabia.

In this Janadriyah festival guide you’ll find Janadriyah visiting hours, dates for family and single days, maps, location, directions, more festival guides, tips for parents and more.

For more Janadriyah updates, like & follow Blue Abaya on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. 

First of all, what exactly is the Janadriyah (Arabic: مهرجان الجنادرية) Heritage Festival?

An annually held, cultural heritage and folk festival of Saudi-Arabia organized by the Saudi National Guard since 1985.

The Janadriyah village was built specifically to host this festival. This is the largest festival of its kind in the Gulf, attracting millions of visitors from all over the region each year. The festival was cancelled in 2015 due to the passing of King Abdullah. During Janadriyah of the previous year 2017, over 3 million people from all over Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries visited the festival.

Al Janadriyah village is divided into sections according to the provinces of Saudi Arabia. Each area, or pavilion as they are referred to, showcases the unique culture, architecture, foods, dances, traditional dress and craftsmanship of that region of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

2018 UPDATE:

Janadriyah will be held in the Al Janadriyah village on the outskirts of Riyadh.

Entrance to Janadriyah Village is completely FREE of charge and everyone is welcome!

SCHEDULE and VISIT DAYS for 2018 Janadriyah Festival as follows:


MEN ONLY: February 8th- 11th 11 am- 11 pm Friday 2 pm- 12 midnight

FAMILIES AND WOMEN : February 12th- 23 rd February 11 am- 11 pm Fridays 2 pm – 12 midnight

Janadriyah festival Guide

Janadriyah Festival Guide

Images from previous Janadriyah festivals check these posts: Why I love Janadriyah Festival  and Janadriyah 2011

What can be found at the Janadriyah Village?

Al Janadriyah Village is a huge area, covering over 1.5 sq km of land. It’s is divided into sections according to the different Provinces of Saudi Arabia such as: Jizan (Gazan), Asir, Riyadh, Hail, Tabuk, Eastern Province, Makkah, Medinah, Taif, Al Baha, Qassim, and Najran. Each Province area has buildings which are replicas of the architectural style typical to said region.

Each year there’s also visiting country at the festival and in 2018 Guest country is India. India will have their own cultural pavilion at Janadriyah.

In addition to the province areas, Janadriyah showcases also the largest governmental organizations such as National Guard Health affairs, Ministry of Agriculture, Saudi Ports Authority, Saudi Tourism and Heritage and many others. Additionally various social projects, non profit organizations, private companies and charity foundations are present.

A Camel race track which hosts camel races during the first three days is also a part of the Janadriyah village.

Several marketplaces, art exhibitions, food stalls, stages for traditional dance performances and commercial pavilions are also present.

When can I visit? Can I go with my husband/family/single male friends? 

Dates and timings as follows: The festival grand opening is by invite only on Wednesday 7th of February 2018, you can watch it on live Tv from the KSA tv.

Janadriyah festival begins for families Monday 12th February until the 23rd February in 2018

Opening hours: Gates open 11 am until 11 pm everyday exept Fridays fro 2 pm to midnight.

Family days are when single women (either on their own or with their male family members) and married men with their families are allowed to enter.

Note that sometimes single males might be able to enter on family days accompanied with a tour group, by sticking with the group strictly at all times. The religious police are on the look-out for single males and all single males will be escorted out of the festival if found unaccompanied by family members. The Haia are very strict in particular with the Saudi youth, however expats might get some leeway in this matter.

Where is Janadriyah village located? How do I get there, is there a map of the area, or GPS co-ordinates?

The Janadriyah Village is located on Janadriyah Rd, opposite the Salwa Garden Village North of Riyadh, approximately 40 km from the city center. Further along the same road are the King Abdul Aziz Race track and Thumamah National Park. Three roads from Riyadh lead to Janadriyah. Check the Google map to see which one is closest to you and for driving directions. It takes about 30- 45 minutes from Riyadh city center to reach Janadriyah depending on the traffic. There’s no public transport available to the festival apart from taxis, they should all know the Janadriyah location.

GPS co-ordinates: 24.958592, 46.794462

Location Google Maps:

janadriyah map riyadhJanadriyah Guides: 

For more information on the different areas of Janadriyah and suggested activities go here: 10 Things to Do at Janadriyah
A guide aimed at families with children for visiting Janadriyah: Janadriyah with Kids
Complete Guide to Janadriyah Festival 2015 
Still not convinced you should visit this festival? This post is for you: Why I Love the Janadriyah Festival
|pin this|tweet it|Share to facebook|Contact us
  • RahiZJanuary 31, 2016 - 9:42 pm

    Thanks for the timely update especially regarding the timings for the family.ReplyCancel

    • Arabian LauraFebruary 1, 2016 - 12:23 am

      Hi Rahiz!

      you’re welcome, I know how it’s always so hard to find the info online in English.ReplyCancel

      • MurtazaApril 4, 2016 - 1:10 pm

        what about the crowed there,,, i would like to open stall for lights foods,, can i proceed if yes then how??????ReplyCancel

  • AbdulazizFebruary 1, 2016 - 8:44 am

    good work thank youReplyCancel

    • Arabian LauraFebruary 1, 2016 - 7:30 pm

      Thanks Abdul Aziz! I hope this inspires and encourages people, especially the expats to visit the festival.ReplyCancel

      • MuhammadFebruary 7, 2016 - 3:45 pm

        Thanks Arabian Laura :)
        Very useful info and planning to visit soon.


  • […] Check out new on Blue Abaya: Janadriyah 2016: Complete Guide for expats! Location, maps, directions,… […]ReplyCancel

  • […] Complete Guide to Janadriyah festival 2016 click here! […]ReplyCancel

  • Matthias RabFebruary 6, 2016 - 6:13 am

    I went there yesterday with a couple of expats and a Saudi friend. It was really nice and interesting ! People were extremelly friendly, we felt like my friends and I eventually were the second curiosity of the day, as people were mostly Saudi and insisted on taking pictures with us ;)
    I would advise to go there with an Arabic speaker as all the signs are in Arabic. We stayed from 5pm to midnight, and could have easily stayed twice that time as there is really a lot to do !. Thanks for the article !ReplyCancel

  • Josephine pacsoy flordelizaFebruary 7, 2016 - 8:28 am

    I just want to confirm if the festival is open during fridays… because that only time we can go. ThanksReplyCancel

  • AlanFebruary 8, 2016 - 3:53 pm

    Went last night for a few hours, and greatly enjoyed the experience. It was truly unique, even if we only had the opportunity to (barely) scratch the surface. Hoping to head back again prior to the 20th, but not sure it’ll pan out (due to the “family” environment the remainder of the time)

    The one downside (for me) may have been the excessive attention I received (as a westerner). While the initial round of picture requests/practicing of English were fun, after a while the charm wore off and it became excessive and tiring. I certainly can understand their interest in me, as I stand out among the locals (based on size and complexion), but when I become weary of even making eye contact the experience begins to lose its luster.ReplyCancel

    • Arabian LauraFebruary 11, 2016 - 11:30 am

      Hi Alan!
      I was there too on Monday :) Were you by any chance at the camel races?

      It can become a little but annoying when they keep coming up to you, but if you just try to show that you’re “moving along” smile and say salaam aleikum, they won’t get offended or anything.
      Nowadays there’s plenty of westerners at the festival for Saudis to take pics with, compared to few years ago. I like to think this is partly due to years of promoting of Janadriyah through my social media channels and the guides on this blog of the festival which have encouraged more expats to visit:)ReplyCancel

  • monsoonsandFebruary 10, 2016 - 12:42 pm


    First of all I would like to congratulate you on such a beautiful blog.
    I share a vivid interest in travelling and photography, but unfortunately haven`t got much chance in saudi to intensify it.
    I love your photographs so much.
    I am planning to visit JAnadriyah 2016 and so please help me know if taking photographs is allowed in this festival by DSLR or mobile?
    Have you ever heard anyone facing problems in Riyadh because of a camera?

    Thanks and keep sharingReplyCancel

    • Arabian LauraFebruary 11, 2016 - 11:23 am

      Hi there Monsoonsand and salaam!

      Taking photos on Janadriyah is allowed, but please be mindful when photographing people and especially women. Most likely they will have no problem with it during this festival though, especially when it’s another female photographing them.

  • Al Jamila Laura CruzFebruary 10, 2016 - 12:43 pm

    The mornings are only for schools? Also on weekends?ReplyCancel

  • Saudi Heritage Preservation SocietyFebruary 10, 2016 - 8:25 pm

    Hi dear
    Please contact us for upcoming event .

    Thank you.ReplyCancel

    • Arabian LauraFebruary 11, 2016 - 11:20 am

      Hi there! If you mean the the SaSa event, I am aware of it and have posted on my Blue Abaya Blog Facebook fanpage :)ReplyCancel

  • Abdul BasitFebruary 12, 2016 - 11:11 am

    Can school children visit Janadriyah on February 15, 16 and 17th?ReplyCancel

  • Mirza Obedullah BaigFebruary 29, 2016 - 9:09 am

    apart from festival can we visit any time with families.ReplyCancel

  • […] Don’t forget Janadriyah Festival in February! For all the details go here: Janadriyah festival Guide  […]ReplyCancel

  • Marie Louisde SodemannFebruary 5, 2018 - 6:41 pm

    Dear Laura,
    I had been strugggling to find the scedule for this lovely festival which nobody in Riyadh should miss.
    Thank you. Marie LouiseReplyCancel

  • TalalFebruary 5, 2018 - 10:07 pm

    Hi Laura,

    Thank you for this post and updates. My family and I tried to go last year but the traffic was so crazy and we couldn’t even reach the parking and had to leave. What time do you suggest we leave for the festival on a Friday or Saturday?

    Thank you,

  • AngieFebruary 5, 2018 - 10:23 pm

    Thanks for all of the updated information on the festival. We love going and are excited to see it again this year. Do you know if there are any camel races open to families? I would love to see one!ReplyCancel

  • Nazeem SyedFebruary 5, 2018 - 10:34 pm

    Thanks for the great info.
    Eagerly waiting to visit this weekendReplyCancel

  • AyshaFebruary 25, 2018 - 11:02 am

    ur post was really helpful.. Thanks for infoReplyCancel

  • kaylaApril 19, 2018 - 6:10 pm

    I like your article, you are really talented and professional not only in writing but also in topic selection, the great thing in addition to your simple and organised article that you give as full background about such city (Jandaria) that we not only know its geographical aspects but also historical value and its interesting event such as Jandaria festival which is culture sharing among different nation stayed their.

    Good job and keep writing ,Am waiting your next blogReplyCancel

How to recycle in Saudi Arabia? This question is often asked by people interested in ways to make life in Saudi more environmentally friendly. Here are 10 easy and simple ways everyone in Saudi Arabia can recycle and conserve the environment.

Saudi-Arabia has some beautiful and unique nature and by even the smallest changes we can make a difference in preserving the environment. It might feel like just a drop in the ocean, but when hundreds or even thousands of people make that one small change it becomes a wave of change. I’ve listed some ways to recycle in Saudi Arabia that are relevant to people living in the Kingdom and the GCC. This is a topic I’m passionate about and first wrote about in 2012: Recycling the Saudi Values

10 ways to recycle in ksa

10 Ways How to recycle in Saudi Arabia.

Sometimes we go about our daily lives without giving things much thought and just continue doing stuff the way we’re used to. However, once we look closer and think about it from another POV, a lot of the things we do are just pure madness! We can do so much better!

It’s time to start thinking and acting to stop the littering madness!

Where plastic bags end up. Thumamah desert outside Riyadh. Photo: Laura Alho

1. Reduce usage of plastic bags

The single most efficient thing everyone in the Kingdom can do is cut down how many plastic bags they take home from the store. A lot of people like to have their groceries and purchases placed separately in a GAZILLION plastic bags instead of placing everything in one or two large bags. But why? When you think about it, isn’t this crazy?

Think-Do you really need all those 20 plastic bags to carry the 21 items you bought? In fact did you know you can fit 21 items into ONE large bag with no trouble at all!

The problem is baggers in Saudi grocery stores will by default place only one or two items per bag. This can easily add up to 40-60 plastic bags per average family per grocery shop visit.

If the family grocery shops once a week, plus all the additional visits to get few things, adding 20 or so more bags to the total of approximately 80 bags a week. That becomes 400 bags a month and 4800 bags a year!

Plastic bags on a fence in Thumamah desert.

Multiply that by how many Saudi and expat families there are who are doing this..MILLIONS of plastic bags wasted! For nothing! And those very same plastic bags end up in the streets, in the desert, on the beaches, in the sea.

The baggers do it simply because they have been taught not to place for example a deodorant, a bread loaf, cheese or a milk bottle in the same bag. In reality these things do not need separate bags. if millions of people in other countries in the world are able to place everything in one same bag, surely this is possible in KSA too. In order to make this happen, we must re-train the baggers or pack the bags ourselves. 

Some grocery stores like Carrefour sell large fabric bags you can reuse for your grocery shopping. Most baggers will not know how to use them and might even place the items first in tons of plastic bags, then place inside the fabric bag. Again, you might need to show them how you want it done.

At home re-use the plastic bags, use them as garbage bags and for storage. For more tips check this list of 99 ways to reuse plastic bags:

2.  Recycle water bottles

Most people in Saudi drink bottled water. Some prefer to always purchase hoards of small bottles which accumulate into mountains of plastic in no time. WHY? This is really not necessary!

Buy the large recyclable water bottles from companies like Nestle that offer home delivery and save money and the nature and your back! You can place an order online.
If you still want to use the smaller water bottles: after use, rinse bottle, refill from large water container, you can safely use a few times before throwing them away.

Change to reusable water bottles made of metal which you can wash, refill from the large water tank and reuse indefinitely.

3. Use water sparingly

Many Saudi families will have more than one car. It’s usually the driver’s duty to wash the cars, and the housemaids are the ones who clean the outside areas from dust. And how do they do it? By spraying hundreds of gallons of running water from the hose all over the yard or the cars! WHY?? This is nuts!

Don’t have your car washed with running water from the hose. Ask the driver or whoever is cleaning the car to use a bucket and cloth instead. Ask the housemaid to SWEEP the yard once in a while instead of pouring hundreds of liters of water around on a daily basis. Don’t run the water the whole time while showering or brushing teeth and avoid taking excessive baths.

4. Reuse or return hangers from laundry places 

Most Saudi families take their thobes, abayas and ghutras to be professionally cleaned and ironed. Every neighborhood has a laundry place or two. When they are picked up, the clothes will each be placed on hangers and inside plastic bags separately. And what do most people do? Throw the hangers away! WHY?? This is really a waste!

Don’t throw these hangers away! If you don’t want to reuse them yourself at home RETURN them to the cleaners! Also, request to have multiple thobes/clothing items placed inside one bag, no need for ten separate plastic wrappings.

How to recycle in Saudi? Take back the laundry hangers!

5. Buy Second hand clothing and furniture 

You can do this in many ways, in Saudi Arabia the large websites for buying used goods are in english and (Arabic only). In Riyadh you can visit the Princess Souk ( Haraj bin Gasem) where you will find just about anything you can imagine second hand.

6. How to Recycle in Saudi by Managing your waste

I’ve recently discovered a new recycling place in Riyadh where you can take all your waste for handling. The recycle center located in central Riyadh will take your plastic bottles, paper, metal, glass, clothes, batteries and old appliances. For larger furniture and household appliances call them to schedule a pick up. Location and info on this post: Riyadh Recycling Center. There are many collections points around the larger cities where you can take your waste for recycling.

7. Cut back on use of tissues/ mandeel.

Before I moved to Saudi Arabia, the Tissue Wonderland, I had probably used tissues a handful of times only in my entire life.  It seems tissues are used for pretty much anything and everything in Saudi Arabia, as if it’s an essential item for survival. Tissue boxes can be found in every single room of the house and even in cars.

This pointless tissue-extravagance is just mind-boggling to me raised in Scandinavian culture, where we are used to towels, washable wipes and cleaning rags instead of disposable tissues. Reducing usage of paper (preserving the forests we so love) is a central part of our culture and this can be seen in how toilet papers are made from recycled materials and how they’re packaged in very compact, recycled packaging. You will not find many tissue boxes at Scandinavian stores.

That’s whysSeeing entire isles full of different brands and types of tissue boxes at Saudi grocery stores was a culture shock for me.

I understand that completely cutting out using mandeel in Saudi homes is not going to happen but it’s easy to at least try to reduce how much is being used.

Think- do you REALLY need to use them so much?

Start by using towels instead of tissues to dry hands, place them in convenient areas. 

For cleaning use reusable wipes and rags.

Dry surfaces with washable kitchen cloths.

And for the love of God, don’t get scented tissues, those are the most environmentally destructive ones that you can get!

8. Avoid Styrofoam packaging and straws 

The takeaway restaurants in KSA often use Styrofoam packaging which is extremely harmful to the environment and also for your health. In fact, styrofoam ( polystyrene) has been banned in many countries already due to its detrimental effect on the environment and humans. The probelm with polystyrene is that it does not decompose and it breaks into tiny microscopic particles which travel from the landfills with the help of wind into the oceans. Plankton then eats these particles. Small fish eat mass loads of plankton and also the microplastic particles. Bigger fish eat those plastic filled fish. Humans eat the big fish. So next time you’re having a fish dish in that styrofoam packaging, think about it. Read more about just how awful polystyrene is here.

The restaurants in Saudi Arabia use shocking amounts of of polystyrene packaging. One item will be placed in one large container instead of trying to at least save space or opt for environmentally sustainable packing materials. Tell the waiter to pack your food in more smart ways and opt for take out restaurants that use biodegradable packing such as Saldwich.

Also, grocery stores in Saudi often pack fruits, cheese, pastries etc. in styrofoam and plastic. Ask to have them just wrapped in plastic wrap which is really all you need!

Straws in drinks should be avoided as much as possible. Plastic straws are a major ocean polluter so try to avoid the straws whenever possible.


9. Buy local produce avoid imported goods.

There is plenty of good quality local produce available, yet many families always go for the imported, American stuff, just because it’s American. People will pay 50 sar for strawberries imported from U.S.A when a local one would cost 5 sar. WHY?? This is truly madness!

Always try to favor locally produced goods, organic produce, whether it be bread, fruits, ice cream or meat you are buying! Imported goods are often overpriced, have gotten damaged or ruined in the shipping process or have bad expiration dates.

10. Don’t throw trash on the streets, beaches, oceans or deserts!!

Well this should be a self clear thing. But some people tend to think that someone will come to the desert (or wherever they’re having the picnic) and pick up their trash. This is not true! Nobody will come. The trash will stay there, animals will come spread it, wind will blow the waste even further around the area.

The attitude “someone else will pick it up for me” needs to change. Everyone needs to pick up after themselves. Indeed, there are yellow-clad street cleaners around every corner in the cities. That doesn’t justify throwing trash out of car windows. That’s just a really trashy thing to do, period.

I know that people can do better. Just think. This culture of trashing beautiful places and littering the streets is actually a relatively new phenomenon which came along with the discovery of oil and Saudi families getting used to having house help.

Think-Would you throw trash on your own mother? Of course not. So why are you throwing trash on your motherland?

How to recycle in Saudi Arabia

Spread the message! Please share this post with your friends and help them find ways how to recycle in Saudi!

Thank you.

|pin this|tweet it|Share to facebook|Contact us
  • JeanFebruary 1, 2012 - 1:28 am

    Really atrocious to see a littered desert. Environmental awareness and habits ..must be integrated into the school system and through public campaigns.ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousFebruary 1, 2012 - 2:25 am

    Oh my goodness. The madness indeed! I went mad when my husband and I, and the in-laws spent a beautiful day at the river (in the middle of practically no where) and when we were packing up, they just bagged all of the garbage and left it next to a tree (which, I admit, it appeared to be a collection point). However, there were free range cattle roaming the area and clearly where curious about the garbage. I know that as soon as we left they trotted over to get in those bags (as there was garbage strewn everywhere around the “collection area.”)

    My in-laws tried to reassure me that there was “someone” who’s “job” was to “collect” the bags of garbage… I was not convinced. I think it was the good ole middle eastern tradition of “Just tell her what she needs to hear to make her happy. She will never know the difference.” hahahaha…

    Dumpster-diving in Kurdistan.ReplyCancel

  • AliceFebruary 1, 2012 - 6:35 am

    Great post and amazing tips! I wish they took this article of yours and posted it in some Emirati newspaper! Whatever you wrote applies to the UAE as well. The problem here is that we have much more expats than Emiratis and many expats especially from underdeveloped country may lack personal culture and environment awareness. They just litter because “it’s not their country (so, why should they take care about it)” or “because it’s somebody else’s job to clean their waste” or because they are used to not cleaning after themselves and it does not even come to their mind to gather the rubbish after the picknic and throw it in the waste bin. Many Emiratis are not much better – not gathering rubbish after themselves even if they have a picnic with their maids, they just leave rubbish on the grass :( This careless attitude to environment is appalling. UAE is going to face serious problems soon.

    “Most baggers will not know how to “use” them and might even place the items first in tons of plastic bags, then place inside the fabric bag” This is exactly what happened to me two days ago. I finally bought a Carefour bag only to discover shopping items packed separately in many plastic bags inside of it. I’ll take care to pack my blue Carefour bag myself next time.

    Regarding bottled water, recently I started to buy those big (5L) bottles instead of a box with 1.5L bottles in it. But still a better solution would be to get a water filter installed.

    I always gather the laundry hangers and return them.

    When recharging the phones my husband always does it on-line.

    Buying local produce instead of imported is a great advice. If there’s Almarai milk and Al-Ain, I’ll choose Al-Ain to support an Emirati company :) I try to buy Emirati products, Omani and Saudi when possible…

    There are many street cleaners in the UAE as well.. and thanks to them, the country may look clean. But if one day there will be no money to pay for street cleaners the whole country will look like a rubbish bin if the attitude of people will not change.ReplyCancel

  • AliceFebruary 1, 2012 - 6:54 am

    there’s one thing regarding garbage… I don’t know why, but the maids from the neighboring houses often put the rubbish near the rubbish bin instead of placing it INSIDE the bin. I’ve seen it many times, even if the bin is empty. The thing is, if they leave rubbish near the bin, cats come and scatter it around  making the whole place and the road dirty. Later the wind scatters the litter around and into people’s houses. I even got a pic.

  • miolannFebruary 1, 2012 - 7:53 am

    Very good post. I wonder why people want to live in a dumping place. Can’t they see how ugly it is? They must have a genuine tunnel vision… Pick a piece of trash a day – campaign would be in place there too. I wish you luck in your enlightening mission :)ReplyCancel

  • Fruitful FusionFebruary 1, 2012 - 9:31 am

    Thanks for an excellent post Laylah!ReplyCancel

  • HudaFebruary 1, 2012 - 1:48 pm

    Do they have any recycling plants in Saudi?ReplyCancel

  • corinajFebruary 1, 2012 - 7:21 pm

    Today I came from Tamini with only 10 bags:) And then I checked for some crafts with plastic bags and I made some nice plastic flowers!ReplyCancel

  • margheallaraleimFebruary 1, 2012 - 8:06 pm

    Re no. 3, not running the tap while brushing teeth: my 2-year old nephew was being taught just that by his Mum and Dad. One evening on TV, there was someone brushing his teeth. “What’s he doing, Jack?” asked my brother, expecting the reply, “Brushing his teeth.” But Jack solemnly said, “WASTING water!” Well done, parents!ReplyCancel

  • LaylahFebruary 2, 2012 - 12:33 am

    Thank you all for the wonderful comments and suggestions! Keep em coming! And remember to circulate this post to people in Saudi to spread awareness!ReplyCancel

  • LaylahFebruary 2, 2012 - 12:46 am

    Alice-thanks for the great comments! You know that exact same thing happens here too, with the maids taking the garbage outside, have no idea why they do it!
    What you are doing is awesome! Keep it up and yay for the Carrefour bag! You go girl, show em how it’s done!ReplyCancel

  • LaylahFebruary 2, 2012 - 12:47 am

    miolann-Seriously sometimes I think people live in bubbles without seeing the outside at all, they just float around in their little bubbles.ReplyCancel

  • LaylahFebruary 2, 2012 - 12:48 am

    Huda-they do have some very basic recycling going on, just recently they started few campaigns here in Riyadh, very small scale though unfortunately.ReplyCancel

  • LaylahFebruary 2, 2012 - 12:49 am

    corinaj-AWESOME! if you fit everything in ten bags, I’m imagining that would’ve been around 100 bags if the bagger would have had his way!ReplyCancel

  • LaylahFebruary 2, 2012 - 12:51 am

    margheallaraleim-thanks for sharing that story, that’s a great example of how we can change the future with teaching the next generation!ReplyCancel

  • DogsOnDrugs.comFebruary 2, 2012 - 4:14 pm

    When I was 16 and worked bagging groceries, I was taught to never bag detergents, soap, deodorant, etc. in the same bag as food. The reason: If something breaks or leaks, it will ruin the food or, worse, someone will eat the food and get sick.

    But yeah, we’d put more than a couple of things in each bag. (Of course, back then it was all paper bags, but still…)ReplyCancel

  • DentographerFebruary 2, 2012 - 11:57 pm

    I Agree,This is madness!!ReplyCancel

  • LaylahFebruary 6, 2012 - 10:06 pm

    Dogsondrugs-I understand the reasoning behind that BUT the stuff is packed so that it won’t leak..If anything leaks it’s gonna be your milk or yogurt rather than the detergents..
    Never in my lifetime did any of those items leak and I almost always use only one or two bags only ;pReplyCancel

  • ChrisMay 27, 2012 - 9:10 am

    One of the best posts I have read about the environment here in Saudi. Definite kudos regarding the air con. It's not as hot here as people say and we can all afford to use the air con a LOT less. I hadn't thought about the dry cleaning one and I will certainly use it in the future. With regards to the plastic bags, you have to consider that not using plastic bags and instead usingReplyCancel

    • LaylahMay 27, 2012 - 10:16 pm

      Chris-why thank I'm happy to hear that! I hope more locals and expats in Saudi take this as a real concern and we can start seeing less trash everywhere and living a more sustainable life..ReplyCancel

  • ChrisMay 27, 2012 - 9:23 am

    One more thing: If you explain your concern/request to the worker, it might sound incredibly strange to them and, it being Saudi Arabia, they might even negotiate with you. But if you end your sentence with, "No problem?" suddenly the narrative switches and they say, "Of course. No problem."ReplyCancel

  • saaqib siddiquiAugust 2, 2012 - 9:11 am

    This needs to be translated into Arabic and published EVERYWHERE!ReplyCancel

  • sabkon wellsAugust 31, 2012 - 11:41 am

    wow. these tips are very helpful. i wish many are inspired to use methods o reduce carbon foot print.ReplyCancel

  • laura BrackleyJune 6, 2013 - 5:05 am

    Hi love the article. i found LuLu’s great when it comes to bag packing never one or two items in a bag :) and they also separate it all the way i like, cleaning things and toiletries all in the same bags away from food (i have had things leak in the past), bottle’s and heavy things in the same bags so they don’t crush veg or eggs and so on (i’d like to point out at this point i’m british so probably very picky lol). My compound has it’s own bag for life you can buy as well :)
    I take plastic bags with me in the car as well for rubbish, handy for bagging it all up to take home or to the nearest bin.

    I also re-use envelopes and paper (both my daughter’s are in nursery and they seem to come home with 2 copies of every nursery rhyme printed out) for writing my shopping list on. :)

  • […] What can be done to change the attitudes and spread awareness in Saudi? How to introduce these green values on the youth without them making a mockery of it? Perhaps one way of waking people up is by making them realize that the plastic bag they have just tossed on the beach/street/park/desert will some day come back to them. What goes around, comes around. The plastic will dissolve into the ground water or animals will eat it. The chemicals will go up the food chain, until it reaches the human again…Their stomach..their bloodstream. A list of ten tips on how to live a more environmentally friendly life in Saudi-Arabia. […]ReplyCancel

  • Elena Trovatelli WardApril 8, 2014 - 10:27 am

    I “recicle” the Styrofoam trays using them as a dish for my cat’s food, and I use to washe them and reuse them for a few times (until she destroyes them during her destructive games).ReplyCancel

  • Elena T.April 8, 2014 - 1:29 pm

    I “recicle” the Styrofoam trays using them as a dish for my cat’s food, and I use to washe them and reuse them for a few times (until she destroyes them during her destructive games).ReplyCancel

  • Smithe108April 10, 2014 - 3:05 am

    I like the valuable info you provide in your articles. I will bookmark your blog and check again here regularly. I am quite certain I’ll learn a lot of new stuff right here! Best of luck for the next! fkgabdbedeReplyCancel

  • AnonymousJuly 12, 2014 - 7:41 pm

    alsslam alikm

    First , thank you for what you wrote it is really great.
    Secondly , how can I now some information about you because I will use this as a source for my report about recycling in KSA.


  • Dean CoxJuly 8, 2015 - 5:03 pm

    It really is a madness and this madness in not only in KSA, but also all around the world. The good thing is that lately people have exhibit the tendency to care more about nature. Very useful tips, by the way.ReplyCancel

  • AlejandroNovember 10, 2016 - 11:36 am

    i would recommend a blog in Spanish, of a Spanish lady in Jeddah.

    Una Abaya para Amaya

  • MarinaDecember 3, 2017 - 1:01 pm

    Thank you, Laura, for the useful information.
    Do you know how/where can we recycle lamp bulbs and batteries in Riyadh?
    I don’t throw them away with usual garbage, but i’ve already collected so many of them that i really want to get rid of them in environmentally-friendly way, but don’t know how. I would appreciate your advice. Thank you in advance.ReplyCancel

    • LauraFebruary 1, 2018 - 5:40 am

      Yes I am compiling a new post about it soon will publish. I recommend you sign up for the newsletter to keep posted.ReplyCancel

      • MichaelMarch 15, 2018 - 5:00 pm

        Has the situation improved somewhat? I had the absolute pleasure to work in KSA 2015/16. It was one of the greatest experiences I had so far. But, coming from greenish Germany, what really upset me was the “plastic and waste culture”. I still remember the looks of the packers in Lulu Hypermarkets when I asked them to pack everything in the same plastic bag I already used the week before…

        Btw. your blog is just amazing :D Shukran Jazilan Laura.ReplyCancel

  • Recycling The Saudi Values | Blue AbayaFebruary 1, 2018 - 5:55 am

    […] What can be done to change the attitudes and spread awareness in Saudi? How to introduce these green values on the youth without them making a mockery of it? Perhaps one way of waking people up is by making them realize that the plastic bag they have just tossed on the beach/street/park/desert will some day come back to them. What goes around, comes around. The plastic will dissolve into the ground water or animals will eat it. The chemicals will go up the food chain, until it reaches the human again…Their stomach..their bloodstream. We should be kind to mother nature and treat her well, as we would our own mothers. A list of ten tips on how to live a more environmentally friendly life in Saudi-Arabia. […]ReplyCancel

  • ChazMarch 24, 2018 - 6:07 pm

    Thanks for this – at least a start to raising awareness of this issue in KSA. I am in Jeddah and have been looking for any environmental groups and/or people to coordinate efforts to address the trash/recycling issue here. Any suggestions?ReplyCancel

  • Nifana RizvanMarch 25, 2018 - 10:52 am

    i’m guilty of using tissues and the take out containers. although i dont use tissues for wiping the counters and other stuff. i only use them for sneezing. for everything else i use reusable materials . about the grocery bags, you dont actually need to use a bag for everything. use a bag or 2 to fill up the tiny things everything else can be put in the trolley and taken to the car. we have a large bag in the car which we use to transport the groceries into our home. we rarely buy tiny bottled water. maybe only if we have gettogethers at home.all other time we use the recyclable large cans.
    everyone can start small. then slowly move on to the larger recycling process.ReplyCancel

  • Alayne LoNigroApril 12, 2018 - 9:35 am

    Reduce, Reuse, Recycle mentality has been built into my everyday life for the past 25 years and I must say that there was a bit of a mental and an emotional earthquake inside of me the first week here. Been here for almost 2 months now and have been researching on how to best work in the practice of recycling and found Blue Abaya! Thank you for all your insight and I’m looking forward to engaging with others to raise awareness!ReplyCancel

  • Murtaza HussainJune 27, 2018 - 12:14 pm

    That’s a lot of valuable information here which is an eye-opener to anyone who is interested in making this world an environment friendly place to stay.
    Perhaps one of the best ways to reduce/eliminate the use of plastic is to utilize eco-friendly or long lasting carry bags while grocery shopping. Problem is convincing authorities to use them instead of having the items shipped into the plastic bags.
    If coordinated efforts can be put into convincing authorities in these stores, then a lot of plastic waste can be eliminated.ReplyCancel

“Top Ten Things To Do At Janadriyah Festival” is a quick guide and tips on the most interesting things to do in the festival area.

The annually held Cultural Heritage festival Janadriyah is undeniably one of the most important cultural events of the year and a must visit for all expats in the Kingdom of Saudi-Arabia. This is when you can immerse yourself in the Saudi culture, enjoying what the real Saudi-Arabia and the friendly hospitable Saudi people have to offer.
The vast festival area may seem daunting for first time visitors; there seems to be endless places to see and it might be hard to choose which areas to go to!

Check out new guide for 2018 festival on Blue Abaya: Janadriyah 2018: Complete Guide for expats. All info about the location, opening hours, activities and more can be found in this guide. Click here to go to the 2018 guide.

janadriyah top ten by blueabaya

Here are Blue Abaya’s Top Ten recommended things to do at Janadriyah Village: 

  • 1. Sample the delicious foods of the Makkah area. Try the special drink Subiya, the mouth watering Kabab meero, special Saudi dumplings and the flat bread made on the fire. Enjoy your foods while watching a traditional Makkawi wedding party at the nearby auditorium.
  • 2. Watch the famous Al-Baha region dances. Get carried away by the catchy quick paced rhythm of the drums and watch in amazement as the dancers leap high in the air with their daggers in hand. This area gathers the most spectators for a reason!
  • 3. Take a camel ride at the Qassim region square. Children will especially enjoy this activity while parents can sample the tasty fresh Kleja bread and mammoul from the nearby Qassim souk.
  • 4. Browse the Al Madina Al Munawara marketplace for exquisite perfumes, Saudi style leather sandals in a
    multitude of colors, fresh herbs and spices, colorful woven baskets, a wide selection of dates, gold jewellery and antiques.
  • 5.  See the hunting falcons at the Eastern Province area. The bravest visitors can get a chance to hold one too.
  • 6. Get in the festive mood by decorating yourself with a necklace made of Jasmine flowers at the Jazan region marketplace. Men can join in on the fashion craze and wear a headband of flowers like the ‘Flower Men’ of Saudi Arabia do.
  • 7. Discover the traditional treasures on display at the Najran area. Here you can find and purchase the traditional women’s dresses, unique Bedouin jewelry, pottery and wooden handicrafts all made by skillful Saudi craftsmen.
  • 8. Wander around the Hail region museums and discover how people used to live in a traditional mud house.
  • 9. For the best views of the Janadriyah Village, climb the Abha house up to the third floor. Don’t be discouraged by the rather unexciting appearance of the house from outside; once you step in you will be blown away by the colorful interior.
  • 10.   Get quick henna tattoos on your hands at the women’s only building while admiring the talented Saudi women weaving carpets from goat hair.
P.S. The woman in the images below is a Finnish friend of mine who enjoys posing in these images for Blue Abaya. She loves the Janadriyah festival as much as I do!
For more info and imagery of Janadriyah festival please go here: Why I love Janadriyah 
Follow Blue Abaya on Facebook for more updates on the Janadriyah festival!
|pin this|tweet it|Share to facebook|Contact us
  • muslimah mummyApril 11, 2013 - 10:36 pm

    :) wow looks super fun and interesting :D lovely photography. xReplyCancel

  • Sarah A.April 12, 2013 - 8:42 am

    Did you see Jackie Chan there?ReplyCancel

  • LaylaApril 12, 2013 - 11:33 am

    thanks muslimah mummy :) Sarah A I didn’t go this year, yet!! Will let you know on the fb page if he’s there when I go next week!ReplyCancel

  • BigstickApril 13, 2013 - 4:18 pm

    Nice basket.ReplyCancel

  • nurApril 16, 2013 - 2:31 am

    You look so happy there!ReplyCancel

  • DianneApril 16, 2013 - 3:47 am

    Hi Laylah!

    I have a question, what is a “Makkawi”?ReplyCancel

  • LaylaApril 16, 2013 - 10:53 am

    Hi Nur, thanks but that’s not me it’s my friend :)
    She told me everyone has started asking her if she is “Blue Abaya” heheReplyCancel

  • LaylaApril 16, 2013 - 10:53 am

    Makkawi is something from Makkah /MeccaReplyCancel

  • FayezApril 16, 2013 - 2:26 pm

    11. Not be too handsomeReplyCancel

  • myabubakarApril 16, 2013 - 8:03 pm

    wow. I love this kind of festival. where does it take place? In jedda or Riyadh or where? guess i moght just attend one day.ReplyCancel

  • myabubakarApril 16, 2013 - 8:04 pm

    wow. I love this kind of festival. where does it take place? In jedda or Riyadh or where? guess i moght just attend one day.ReplyCancel

  • Hadeel ALSultanApril 19, 2013 - 2:18 am

    Thanks Laylah for the report.ReplyCancel

  • Denise BomfimApril 19, 2013 - 1:17 pm

    Assalam Alaykum, Layla!

    Mash´Allah! I found your beautiful blog now and I am your new follower.
    I loved the pictures and the cultural life, too.
    It will be a pleasure if you visit my blog. And if you let a comment there, it will make my day more beautiful. Sometimes I write in english and in german. But I think it is easy to translate my texts from portuguese into english, if you be curious about them.

    Well, best wishes for you and family.



  • Omani Princess (not Omani...yet)May 22, 2013 - 6:46 am

    I so sos so want one of those dresses (with the florals) they are selling. Do you know how much they cost around?ReplyCancel

  • LaylaJune 3, 2013 - 11:52 am

    OMani Princess-you mean the ones on the littl girls? they don’t cost much, maybe like 20-50 sar!ReplyCancel

  • […] It’s almost time for the annual Janadriyah Cultural Heritage festival, organized in 2013 for the 28th time. I for one have been waiting for this festival for months. I truly love going to Janadriyah and have been there every year since I came to Saudi in 2008 and some years I went on several days. The festival has surely changed a lot over the years but some things remain the same like the cheerful atmosphere. Check out this post for Blue Abaya’s  Top Ten Recommended Things To Do At Janadriyah Festival !  […]ReplyCancel

  • […] What can I do at Janadriyah festival? There are so many places to see and things to do that one whole day is not enough to see everything. You can watch camel races, or ride a camel, see falcons, and Arabian horses, see what the interiors of houses of different areas in Saudi Arabia look like. You can try traditional foods, watch sword dancing, learn about the history of Saudi Arabia, visit some museums, art exhibitions and much much more. For the Top Ten Recommended Activities click here. […]ReplyCancel

  • Hani ElkadiJanuary 13, 2015 - 8:54 pm

    The Best Cultural event of the year in the Middle East: Al-Janadria Cultural Folk and Heritage Festival, K.S.A.ReplyCancel

  • […] Filed in: culture | events | gender segregation | Janadriyah | photography | saudi men | Saudi women | Saudi-Arabia | things to do in Riyadh | tourism | westerners6 comments Janadriyah Cultural Heritage festival of Saudi Arabia is held annually on the outskirts of Riyadh at the Janadriyah Village. This post depicts images from the festival in 2011. For more information about the folk festival itself, the timings and dates of Al Janadriya, check out Blue Abaya guides to the festival:  Janadriyah Cultural Heritage Festival With Children   Why I Love The Janadriyah Festival Complete Guide to Janadriyah Festival Top Ten Things to do at Janadriyah  […]ReplyCancel

  • beuvelotJanuary 31, 2016 - 1:53 pm

    Good morning, thanks for these useful & appealing infos

    Is it ok to go to this festival with a camera or do people refuse that please ? RegardsReplyCancel

  • […] For more information on the different areas of Janadriyah and suggested activities go here: 10 Things to Do at Janadriyah A guide aimed at families with children for visiting Janadriyah: Janadriyah with Kids Complete […]ReplyCancel


  • Waheed AliFebruary 18, 2016 - 4:54 pm

    Kindly share the ticket priceReplyCancel

The yearly held King Abdulaziz camel festival in Saudi Arabia in ongoing in the Dahna desert outside Riyadh this January! This is the largest camel festival in the world packed with different kinds of activities and it’s definitely worth the visit! The best thing about it is that’s it’s entirely free of charge and accessible to everyone! We spent a total of 10 sar each for a delicious Saudi traditional home cooked meal there, everything else was free. The camel festival in local media is called Alaibil, which in arabic means “camels”.

It’s very easy to reach the camel festival by any type of vehicle from Riyadh, about an hours drive out. We went to the camel festival on its first weekend on a Saturday and it was a very nice experience I was positively surprised how beautiful and well organized the area was. The festival area is all brand new and it has a modern look with traditional touches all over. The mosque and astronomy dome are actually quite beautiful architectural structures in the middle of the desert! You can visit the King Abdulaziz camel festival any day during January 2018, it’s open from 8 am to 10 pm every day, free entry. Please note some activities are available only in the mornings while others are best for the afternoons. Read on to find out more.

In this article you’ll find out all the things you can do at camel festival, when is the best time to go, how to get there and the exact location. 

King Abdulaziz Camel festival and camel Beauty Contest 2018. Image: Laura Alho

The World’s Biggest Camel Beauty Contest

Camel Beauty at Alaibil festival. Photo: Laura Alho

Also known as “Miss Camel”, this festival’s main activity features a camel beauty contest, with prizes amounting to almost 120 million SAR ($31 million). Thousands of camel herders travel with their herds here to have their camels participate in the “Miss Camel” competition. The Camel Beauty contest continues through the entire month.

Camel beauty contests are taken very seriously and this year some camels have been disqualified because their owners tried to make the camels more beautiful by using Botox!

There are several different categories of beauty camels depending on their colors ranging from the darker black ones to the red, brown, beige and white. Please note that the camel beauty pageants are held only in the mornings, so if you want to see these specifically you should be there around 9-10 am. The beauty contest is held at a separate stadium nearby to the festival area.

Camels at the Camel Festival. Image By: Laura Alho

Camels at the Camel Festival. Image By: Laura Alho

We arrived at the festival in the afternoon around 4 pm and the camel beauty competitions were all over by then. The camel races would be in the mornings as well. Apparently, the camels are more motivated and co-operative in the mornings and that’s why the early timing:) You can also learn about how camel beauty pageants are judged at the camel expo.

Activities In The Camel Festival

Camel Exhibition

The camels played an essential role in day-to-day life for people of the region. They used to be a source of food and drink, transport, and a trading pillar. The festival recognizes their importance through a mix of traditional festivities. Visit the Sanad expo to learn more about camels. They have english and Arabic texts on display.

Recommended Article: “Camels – Miracles Of The Desert”

You can see the world’s tallest camel at the festival and also a two humped camels and a odd looking blue eyed two colored camels.

World’s tallest camel. Photo: Soile Haapalainen

Camel Caravan 

camel festival - camel caravan

Camel Caravan at the Camel Festival. Image By: Laura Alho

Camel caravans are circling around the dome from 10 am- maghreb prayer daily. You can hop on the caravan for a ride- free of charge.

camel festival - camels2

Camel caravan at the Camel Festival. Image By: Laura Alho

Camel Riding at the Camel Festival. Image By: Laura Alho

Camel Riding at the Camel Festival. Image By: Laura Alho

Camel Riding at the Camel Festival. Image By: Laura Alho

Camel Riding at the Camel Festival. Image By: Laura Alho

Kids and Family

Hwair the Camel. Image By: Laura Alho

Hwair the Camel. Image By: Laura Alho

The festival has a friendly mascot: Hwair the camel who is present in a variety of workshops. For kids there plenty of activities and they are all free of charge!

Plenty of activities and craft for kids at the Camel Festival Image By: Laura Alho

Plenty of activities and craft for kids at the Camel Festival Image By: Laura Alho

Interior of the Theatre. Image By: Laura Alho

Interior of the Theatre. Image By: Laura Alho

Activities at the Camel Festival. Image By: Laura Alho

Activities at the Camel Festival. Image By: Laura Alho

There’s a theatre where they can watch songs and plays ( Sponge Bob, traditional dances etc) and an Arts & Crafts hall where you can drop your kid off for an hour to make all sorts of fun crafts. Special mention to the wonderful staff there, who almost all spoke very good English and were engaging and professional.

Outdoor playground, camel rides all free of charge.

In the sand art tent you can drop the kids for sand play while you walk around the exhibit.

camel festival - sand sculpture

Sand sculpture at the Camel Festival. Image By: Laura Alho

Astronomy Dome

camel festival - exterior

View of the astronomy dome at the Camel Festival. Image By: Laura Alho

The Camel Festival is the homage to a Panoramic Dome equipped with technology that allows guests to stargaze into the night and learn about what’s beyond our planet; an interesting option for kids and grown-ups.

This was really cool! Do not miss it! English shows available, ask for this with a group of english speaking friends from the staff working inside the dome. There was a very helpful friendly Saudi lady there who can arrange this for you.

Traditional souk

Traditional Souk at the Camel Festival. Image By: Laura Alho

Traditional Souk at the Camel Festival. Image By: Laura Alho

A collection of goods such as spices, traditional Saudi food, artisans, decorations and clothing at the souk.

Recommended Article: “Camel Milk, An Elixir From The Desert”

Environmental Initiatives

Visit Exhibitions such as “Don’t Throw Away Plastic Bags Initiative”, “Food Waste Initiative”, and “Green Dahna”.

Art & Culture 

There are also activities related to arts, such as poetry and photography competitions hosted by National Geographic.Sand art exhibit with the talented sand sculptor Neelu from India. You can watch them making new sculptures live. Camel Hair Art and kids arts and crafts area.

Traditional dancing, songs and music at the tent and also in the desert area in the evening they have a concert. You can have your own bedouin tent with a fire and watch the concert.

Camel hair- art. Photo by Soile Haapalainen

Sand art at the Camel Festival. Image By: Laura Alho

Sand art at the Camel Festival. Image By: Laura Alho

Traditional dances at the Camel Festival. Image By: Laura Alho

Traditional dances at the Camel Festival. Image By: Laura Alho

How to get there:

By any type of vehicle, drive yourself or hire a driver/ taxi to take you. It takes about 1h – 1,5 hours drive depending on traffic from Riyadh to the festival area. Hiring a taxi would be around 200- 300 sar back and forth for the entire taxi if you negotiate they wait for you at festival. Sharing the ride with friends would make it more affordable.

Parking lots separated into singles/ families but festival area is mixed.

Guided Tours:

It’s possible to experience the festival on a guided tour. I recommend you go with Haya Tours, for the tour sign up click here: Haya tour camel festival trip 27th January 

Best time to go:

If you want to see the actual Camel beauty contest in action, you have to go in the morning around 9-10am and head to the camel beauty pageant stadium. All of the other activities you can experience in the afternoons and evenings so arriving around 2- 3 pm would be best for a visit to the festival site only.

The festival is open daily until 1st of February.

The festival area looks very pretty in the evening lighting too!

Cafeteria at the Camel Festival. Image By: Laura Alho

Camel Riding at the Camel Festival. Image By: Laura Alho

Camel Riding at the Camel Festival. Image By: Laura Alho

camel festival - dome

The Alaibil Camel Festival hashtag. Image By: Laura Alho

camel festival - mosque

Mosque at the Festival. Image By: Laura Alho 

Where It Takes Place: The Southern Terrains of Al-Dahna (Between Ar-Rumah and Al-Hefnah) Check exact google map location of camel festival below. Turn off point to the festival area from the main road at this location:

Dropped Pin:
Location Of The Festival:

Dropped Pin:



|pin this|tweet it|Share to facebook|Contact us
  • Susie of ArabiaJanuary 12, 2018 - 3:06 pm

    Fabulous photos and great info – wish I was in Riyadh for this event!ReplyCancel

    • LauraJanuary 15, 2018 - 12:22 am

      Thank you Susie! me too! Hope we will see you for Janadriyah :)ReplyCancel

  • CarlosJanuary 13, 2018 - 10:54 am

    Excelente laura! Im in riyadh and thank you for the tips!!


  • ChrisJanuary 17, 2018 - 2:29 pm

    Thanks so much for the helpful guide. Headed to the festival with friends and very much looking forward to it.ReplyCancel

    • LauraJanuary 18, 2018 - 11:11 pm

      Thank you for leaving a comment, have fun :)ReplyCancel

  • MichelJanuary 18, 2018 - 8:59 pm

    Is it safe to go there in private car and we are all singles?ReplyCancel

    • LauraJanuary 24, 2018 - 12:56 am

      Yes you can go in a private car just park it at the singles parking lot :)ReplyCancel

  • Najm AreekkanJanuary 19, 2018 - 9:57 am

    Really good information, I was searching the real details since on week. Hopefully tomorrow will try to visit. Thanks very much.ReplyCancel

    • LauraJanuary 24, 2018 - 12:56 am

      Thanks Najm! Do Let us know how you liked it!ReplyCancel

  • BarnoJanuary 23, 2018 - 11:25 am

    Hi Laura,

    Do you know the timing of the festival on Fridays? Will it be open at noon (after salar obviously) on Friday?ReplyCancel

    • LauraJanuary 24, 2018 - 12:54 am

      According to the festival site it’s daily from 8 am the activities, camel beauty pageant and races being in the am and the rest of the activities in the afternoon.ReplyCancel

  • […] In January 2018 you can visit the world biggest camel festival, the King Abdulaziz Camel festival everyday. Starting from January 1st to February 1st, programs run daily from 8 am to 10 pm. The festival is entirely free and open to everyone! All of the activities available at the festival are also completely free of charge. Read the camel festival guide here: King Abdulaziz camel festival 2018 […]ReplyCancel

  • kayla ahmedApril 8, 2018 - 1:15 am

    camel festival is one of the unique festival it reflects one dimension of Saudi culture its also encourage festivals tourism really this event is interesting and this article show us realistic professional photos reflect how amazing is this event and really its event to be attended in the futureReplyCancel

  • umm e ahmadMay 2, 2018 - 2:36 pm

    asalaam o alaykum dear,a mom of 3, ive been living in riyadh for about 11 years now…:) and id love to know where i can buy camels milk on a regulr basis for my kids?

    currently residing in the south end of the city,right where Makkah highway begins. Swaidi area.
    Any advice on this would be greatly appreciated.