Author Archives: Laura

Hello there! I'm Laura, the founder of Blue Abaya- the first travel blog in Saudi Arabia, established in 2010.  Travel has always been my passion- so far I've visited 75 countries and I'm always on the lookout for new adventures inside and outside of Saudi Arabia! Follow my adventures in Saudi and beyond on instagram:

I thought it would be interesting of making a comparison between the Saudi and Finnish cultures every once in a while. They tend to be each others opposites sometimes!
These posts are not intended to be taken too seriously. I’ve written them with a dash of humor with them so please read accordingly!

This cultural comparison will be about moving to a new house and how the newly wed couples participate in moving process.

In KSA, typically the newly wed husband and wife will have lived in their parent’s homes until they get married. The girl will usually be around 19-25 and the boys a bit older because they have to save up money in order to get married. It’s required by Islam that the husband provides financially for everything. The couple will then move to the new apartment or house after the wedding celebrations called the walimah. At that point the house will usually be ready to move in, furnished, cleaned and renovated.

In Finland single young girls and boys will move out of their parents houses to live by themselves as young as 18 years old when they are considered legally adults. The rest will leave around their 20’s to other cities for studies and move into small apartments or shared student housing. Typically the age women and men get married is 26-30 after they have graduated and got jobs. They might move in together many years before actually getting married. Finnish women tend to be very independent and like to do things on their own initiative. All expenses will normally be divided 50/50 between the couple.

First I will shortly describe how in general the native couples would resolve the emerging issues. Then I’ll illustrate how the scene unfolds when these two cultures combine, Saudi husband and Finnish wife in KSA!

Choosing the new home/apartment
Saudi couple: The husband to be will search for the new apartment/house and choose whatever he can afford according to the preferences his fiancée has listed. The prospective wife will go see it separately with her mother or if she wishes to go along with the fiancee, her mahram (father, brother) will accompany them.
Finnish couple: They will usually move into one or the others apartment, whichever is more convenient for two people. Rent will be divided in half between them.
Mixed couple: Husband and wife will look for suitable house together and choose in agreement. Saudi husband insists on paying all expenses. Finnish wife refuses and insists on paying half because she is accustomed to doing so. They make a compromise and wife pays 1/3.

Furnishing the apartment
Saudi couple: Husband will search for furniture in few different stores depending on his budget. He will let the future wife know which store he has picked it from and it will be marked for the fiancée to look at. Wife to be will visit the store separately and approve or disapprove. Husband pays for all expenses.
Once decision has been made husband hires workers to carry the furniture to the new home, or he does it himself with his relatives. In the meantime the prospective Saudi wife goes to have her hair done at the salon.
Finnish couple: They will combine their existing furniture, or go buy new ones together and share expenses 50/50. They carry the furniture together or with help from friends.
Mixed couple: Couple looks for furniture together in different stores and come to mutual agreement. Saudi husband wants to pay for everything, Finnish wife refuses and they end up making the same compromise on the payment. Husband insists on carrying everything, wife refuses to let husband do all the work. Compromise is made and husband carries the heaviest things and wife gets to participate.

Cleaning the new home
Saudi couple: Husband will hire a maid/ maids to clean the whole new home. Mother of husband or wife will likely supervise. If he cannot afford the maid, his sisters will most likely do the job for him. Meanwhile the Saudi wife to be will be shopping for new shoes and a handbag.
Finnish couple: Presumably the wife will do majority of the cleaning. Husband might pitch in as a consequence to wife’s persistent nagging.
Mixed couple: Husband suggests to get a maid to clean the whole house. Wife refuses because she wants to do everything herself in order to get the wanted result and she is not comfortable with hiring maids. Husband agrees and volunteers to help.They start cleaning the house together. After a while the wife gives in and agrees to hire a maid. Maid arrives to clean house, but wife supervises and insists to clean with her. Husband pays and is relieved he is excused from cleaning.

Decorating the new home
Saudi couple: Most likely the wife will choose most of the decorations after they have settled in. Couple goes shopping together after the wedding, wife picks out what she likes and husband pays and carries everything.
Finnish couple: Wife will choose and pay most decorations, husband is not that interested.
Mix couple: Couple go looking for decorations together, same dilemma with payment arises. Alternatively wife wants to go shopping on her own, buys and carries the stuff home. Meanwhile Saudi husband is home watching football.

Saudi couple: Husband will hire a Pakistani or Indian worker to conduct all renovations while Saudi wife will go out shopping with her friends. Husband pays for both.
Finnish couple: Most renovating will be done by the couple themselves. If they must hire help the costs will be evenly divided.
Mixed couple: Husband wants to renovate himself what he can, wife insists she can participate but husband refuses she overburdens herself. Husband then hires the Pakistani to do the rest and Finnish wife is pleased to be excused.

Returning broken things
Saudi couple: Husband will drive to the store and take care of everything; on the way he drops off Saudi wife to have a manicure/pedicure at the spa.
Finnish couple: Whichever of the two has more time goes and returns the things.
Mixed couple: Couple goes back to store together. Wife complains about broken/malfunctioning goods and causes a scene and a few raised eyebrows from onlookers that are not accustomed to females voicing their opinions. Husband gets embarrassed by the attention and makes note to self that next time he will drop off wife to the spa to have a manicure/pedicure and go by himself to the store.

Assembling furniture
Saudi couple: Husband will hire a Pakistani or Indian worker to come to the house to assemble all furniture. Saudi wife is visiting her mother in the meanwhile.
Finnish couple: Couple assembles most of the furniture together.
Mixed couple: Saudi husband wants to impress his wife and attempts to assemble all the furniture by himself. After a while he gets frustrated and goes and hires the Pakistani guy. Finnish wife is proud of her husbands attempts and makes him some special Finnish desert.

Tribalism is alive and deeply rooted in the Saudi culture. Read more about what tribalism actually means here.

Tribalism can have some positive aspects to it. It creates close family ties and high respect of elders. Knowing ones roots and the names of ancestors hundreds or even thousands of years back can be educational and inspiring.
However tribalism should NOT create such pride and arrogance in people that they begin feeling supreme to others based solely on lineage. It should NOT cause the society to become racist and hateful. Tribe should NOT determine marriage suitability. Tribalism should NOT effect negatively the health of a whole nation.

But in Saudi-Arabia, unfortunately often it does.

Islam does not support tribal mentality

Ironic perhaps that tribalism is against the teachings of Islam, yet it seems to be what the national identity is based on.
Islam teaches that all human beings are equal in the eyes of the Creator as far as their status of human beings is considered.
“O Mankind, We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other (not that you may despise each other). Verily the most honored of you in the sight of God is he who is the most righteous of you” (Quran 49:13).

Prophet Muhammed despised tribalism

Tribalism was practiced before and during the times of the Prophet Muhammed (pbuh). Interestingly he belonged to a very prominent tribal family called Quraysh which at the time ruled Mecca.
Despite his high status Prophet Muhammed tried to eradicate this backward and racist practice.

The Prophet used to say about tribalism (Asabiyah): “Leave it. It is Rotten ” narrated by Bukhari and Muslim.
He said on pride and boasting of lineage:
There are indeed people who boast of their dead ancestors; but in the sight of God they are more contemptible than the black beetle that rolls a piece of dung with its nose. Behold, God has removed from you the arrogance of the Time of Jahiliyyah (Ignorance) with its boast of ancestral glories. Man is but an God-fearing believer or an unfortunate sinner. All people are the children of Adam, and Adam was created out of dust.” narrated by At-Tirmidhi and Abu Dawud..

In his final sermon the Prophet stressed the importance of equality among all humans which in modern day Saudi-Arabia has been long forgotten:
“O people, Remember that your Lord is One. An Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a black has no superiority over white, nor a white has any superiority over black, except by piety and good action (Taqwa). Indeed the best among you is the one with the best character.”

Ignoring and ignorance

Many more examples of anti-racist and anti-tribal Hadith exist.
So why do the Saudis continue this practice and choose ignore such teachings? I guess you can call it pride, keeping the “goods” in the family, racism, prejudice, closed-mindedness, ignorance.

Somehow I can understand the uneducated Bedouins being tribal since they know of nothing else let alone ever heard of genetics. That said I’ve never met a single proud or arrogant Bedouin, on the contrary they seem humble and never discriminate or look down upon others of different races.


Consanguinity has dire consequences

In tribal families marriages between cousins are very common. I was aware it’s common to marry first cousins, but after recently attending a “Hereditary Diseases Workshop” I learned the rate is a staggering 60%. Inbreeding like this causes alarming rates of hereditary diseases. Some disorders are 20 times more common in Saudi-Arabia compared to the rest of the world. There are tribes that have distinctive malformations that are recognizable from their appearance:

Tribal Infection

So what is the impact of  this disease “tribalismitis” on the nation? In short, it is making Saudis more sick by every generation and slowly weakening the their gene pool. Previously those born with metabolic diseases and blood disorders would die soon after birth, or never reach reproductive age. Modern medicine has enabled most of them making it to adulthood, only to be married off to a cousin and producing a new even sicker generation.

Saudis infected with “tribalismitis” present with congenital disorders, malformed babies, high infant mortality rates, high prevalence of mental retardation and hereditary diseases that significantly lessen the quality of life and are a huge financial burden for the government to treat.

Everyday in my work I encounter patients that are admitted to the hospital either directly or indirectly because of an inherited condition. Some of them need expensive medical care frequently, not being able to live normal lives. Many patients require blood transfusions every month to survive. Some face death without a set of new lungs.

The innocent children

Innocent babies are born malformed and diseased and suffer immensely. There is unfortunately a very high prevalence of babies born with congenital malformations in Saudi-Arabia. These innocent children suffer because of the ignorance of their parents. It is absolutely heart breaking to see these children in the hospital.

There are couples I encountered that had seven sick children in a row. When the child reached a certain age, they would pass away. Regardless of the tragedy the woman was pregnant again. Another family had nine children that were all affected and died before they reached 10 years of age.

Strong roots are hard to weed

Tribalism is so deeply rooted that some families have even taken things into their own hands and turned to the courts. Here’s an example of a Saudi tribal marriage that was nullified by a judge based on tribal incompatibility.
After 4 yrs of legal battles the Supreme Judiciary Council in Riyadh overruled the decision and ordered that the couple be reunited in matrimony.

Hope for the future

Not all Saudis are brainwashed and fall into trap of tribalism. An inspiring article from Saudi Gazette tells about two very brave Saudi men Hussein Abdullah Al-Mansour and Ali Hadi Al-Hamzan, who embarked on an extraordinary road trip throughout the Kingdom to promote the message “No to racism. No to tribalism.”

Prevention is the cure

Saudi health officials have become more concerned about high rates of consanguinity and a few years ago launched a premarital screening programme for the most common hereditary diseases (thalassemia and sickle cell anemia). Couples wanting to get married have to go through mandatory screening.

While this might sounds promising, tribalism still effects peoples minds so much that 90 % of the screened high risk couples get married anyway. The rate is astounding.
The workshop for Hereditary diseases wisely concluded that prevention is the only cure for hereditary diseases.

Signs from God?
Perhaps hereditary diseases and genetic disorders are a sign from God to stop this nonsense. Maybe they are punishments for arrogance and pride and going against what God teaches humans.
Hopefully in the future Saudis will be more aware of the dangers of tribalism.

I often get asked the question what do women in Saudi-Arabia wear under the abaya? Doesn’t it get terribly hot under the abaya? How does it feel to be forced to wear abaya? Isn’t it horrible for western women to have to wear abayas everywhere? What are abaya fabrics made of? Do Saudi women follow fashion under the abayas?
There are as many answers as there are women wearing abayas, so I cannot generalize. Also it depends on the weather, varies greatly between the chilly winter months and the intense summer heat.
Mostly people will not know or see what a woman is wearing under her abaya so the good thing to this is, you don’t have to think too much before leaving the house! It’s a relief for the husbands too, no more last minute “what shall I wear” “does this make me look fat” scenarios with the ladies! Also enables shopping in pyjamas if feeling lazy.

Abayas come in various types of fabrics and the woman’s comfort level will be directly related to what kind of quality her abaya is. In addition to the heinous polyester, abayas actually come in really thin lightweight fabrics!

Wearing one of these abayas made from natural materials feels almost as if you are wearing a “breeze” around you. Movement makes the air flow soflty around your body creating ‘air-conditioned’ environment. When the abaya fabric is really thin, it’s good that the color is black or dark. If it were a very light color it would be see-through (like some men’s thobes in the summer)! So the black color enables women to wear very thin fabrics. Some breathable fabrics like cotton, silk, linen and jersey make great abayas, but often they will be more expensive because of the cost of fabric is higher than polyester.

Sometimes in the summer months women will opt for sundresses, shorts, tank tops or even plain bikinis under the abaya. If that’s the case, it’s best to choose a closed abaya model. The one with buttons in the front might pop open if it gets stuck somewhere! For example it might get caught in the escalator, shopping cart or car door, or someone might step on the hem if it’s a long tailing one. Wearing only bikinis is a little risky in my opinion, but I know women who do it anyways. I also know women who have gone out butt naked under the abaya.


In the hottest months a good choice is wearing long dresses and skirts underneath the abaya. They are comfortable and airy in the summer and will cover her legs in case the abaya goes flying up in the air. It’s easier to walk swiftly (as western women usually are accustomed to) in a long skirt + abaya combo compared to pants +abaya which makes the abaya tangle and stick onto the trousers when taking long strides. Long dresses are also a woman’s friend when going shopping and there are no fitting rooms available. Jeans and skirts are easy to try on without having to remove the dress at all. If the only available toilet is an arabic style squatting one, well it’s much easier with a dress than pants!

Contrary to common beliefs, abayas can actually cool the woman wearing it. Abayas made from natural materials actually protect the skin from the dry heat, and thus cool off the body. Naturally if the woman is in direct sunlight with it, she’s going to start cooking after a while. But during the very hot evenings the abaya brings relief from the dry heat. I remember sitting outside with some friends one evening as we wondered how come we only feel the heat on our faces and heads? It was the only uncovered body part that’s why!

Before they invented polyester, abayas were in fact made out of fine goat wool, and other natural materials so it’s understandable why the abaya is compatible with this desert climate. It protects from the suns burning rays, the air dryness, dust and wind and cold.

Wearing the abaya in Jeddah or Dammam is another story though. It’s so humid abayas tend to stick to the skin immidiately when after stepping outside! Summers are absolutely dreadful there in abaya.

In the winter months it can really get chilly, especially during nights the temperatures can drop near zero. Riyadh which is surrounded by desert is one of the coldest places in Saudi. The cold winds are ruthless and somehow penetrate the skin to the bones. One needs to dress accordingly and stack up under the abaya! Sometimes in the coldest days people will opt for a shawl wrapped around the abaya. Others choose wool coats, trench coats and jackets on top of the abaya. Some women do the opposite, they wear thick coats under their abayas resulting in a bulky “Michelin Man” look.
Some conservative Saudi women that cover literally from head to toe will always wear very modest clothing underneath their abayas. I see them alot in the hospital, they will have loose long-sleeved “house dresses” called jallabiya. Their choice of shoes will be closed black shoes with socks and they will also have black gloves so absolutely no skin is showing. Many of these women don’t even remove their head scarves inside and around women.

More liberal Saudis will wear trendy clothes under their abayas. Saudis tend to be very fashion conscious and will don the latest fashion items. The majority of the stores found in western countries can be found in Saudi too. In Riyadh you will find all the most popular western clothing chains like H&M, Lindex, Miss Selfridge, Monsoon, Guess, Mango, Zara, TopShop etc..The famous department store Debenhams can be found in almost all of the largest malls.

The wealthy Saudis and princesses will shop at high end fashions stores like Gucci, Prada or DKNY and the likes. Department stores like Harvey Nichols and Saks Fifth Avenue are popular among the upper class. Those women will typically wear classic designer clothing under their abayas. When going out for dinner parties or weddings these women will have Oscar night worthy evening gowns, racy dresses and elaborate jewellery hidden under their abayas. The cloaks will come off at the women-only events though.

Younger middle class Saudi women might opt to wear the latest trends seen in the western world. Skinny jeans and trendy tops combined with high heels are popular. The latest designer handbag is a must-have accessory with the abaya. Fashionable sunglasses and shoes are other ways for young women to express their   style.

Abayas themselves also have unique trends that vary from region to region and to other Arab countries. In the Riyadh some of the newest trends of abaya are lace inserts and puffy sleeves, large color blocks on the back of the abaya, wide sleeves with beautiful embroidery and abayas made totally of patterned or embroidered fabric.

Certainly, under each abaya there is a unique story..

This is a playful post for all the ladies currently living in Riyadh. It might be a harsh environment and many things irritate us from time to time..Nothing is like back home. But what can we do? Other than getting frustrated and anxious, try to look at it in a positive way and make your life a bit easier. I say, make the best of it! Don’t spend your time complaining and moaning. It will only make you feel worse. Here’s a couple of suggestions how to make the most out of your time here.

Wearing abaya: Ok this is probably one of the most annoying things for most western women, you gotta wear it, so I say…make the best of it!
-get an abaya made of good quality material, not polyester which will make you a cooked vegetable in no time in the +50c heat. Best quality abayas you will find upstairs in Kingdom Mall, Royal Mall and Hayat mall. They can also make abayas to order.
-abayas come in so many different styles, show your personality with a pretty or individual abaya. Go to Dirah or Tayba souq and find tons of different abaya designs and colors. Design and personalize it! It’s what you wear out all the time anyways.
-go shopping in your pyjamas, under the abaya :D

-get an abaya made of cotton or linen you will have to pay a bit more but it’s worth it for comfort in the heat.

Not being able to drive: Very frustrating sometimes especially for women who enjoy driving and are used to doing it a lot.
– while you’re being driven around by your driver, make the most of your time! Read a good book, a newspaper, call a friend, or your mother! Do your makeup on the way (ok depends on your driver’s skills and how stable your hand is).
– if you have an suv or a husband /male friend that can rent one go out to the desert to drive! It’s fun but be careful don’t venture too far. Bedouin women drive around all the time, once you’ve passed the checkpoints you will be fine. Check out the book “Desert treks from Riyadh” available in Jarir book stores.
– go to the Reem race track!they have carting and women can drive too! Exit 11.
– rent quadbikes or beach buggies to get rid of the extra “driving withdrawal symptoms”. Available at red Sands area Mecca highway and the Thumamah area.

quadbikes women in Riyadh

Extreme heat: When temperatures start topping 45c everyday, it’s not very pleasant to be outside anymore.
-make sure your abaya is made from natural materials. Some abayas are so thin you won’t even feel like you’re wearing one.
-make the best out of the dry heat and dry your laundry outside! In minutes you will have wrinkle free dry laundry.
-take all your bedding and mattresses out, cook well on both sides..and you have gotten rid of all possible living things such as bedbugs or dust mites which the sunlight will have killed!
– to create curls in no time, after showering apply some moisturizing leave-in conditioner and/or heat activated styler. Apply hair rolls or tie your hair in couple small braids. Optionally cover your hair with a scarf to protect from sun. Go out for about 15 min to half an hour depending on your hair length and desired result (preferably in yard or pool area, can’t recommend venturing out in public). While waiting for hair to dry apply nail polish if you like, it will dry quickly in the dry heat by the time your hair is done. Now just remove the rolls and you will have curls that stay put for long!

Hard water: Many women have noticed that after a while their hair seems to fall out more and it becomes thinner. This is due to the hard water that is mostly desalinized and therefore lacks some essential minerals.
– buy some zinc and selenium supplements from any pharmacy.
– after rinsing your hair with tap water, follow by bottled water to make hair softer.
-get Sodium Laurel Sulfate free shampoo available at GNC!

Boredom: Very common symptom of living in Riyadh. However treatment options are numerous to begin therapy start here with Riyadh to do guide.
– start a new hobby, keep yourself active. Try golf, salsa dancing, horse polo, or scuba-diving!
– since you have the rare opportunity to live in the Saudi-Arabia and are surrounded by Islam, why not find out a little more about the religion? I guarantee you won’t be bored anymore! The WAMY centre opposite Owais souq is a great place to visit to learn more.
-Check out Dar Adh-Dhikr, an Islamic center for women and children (boys up to the age of 6) to learn Arabic and Qur’an in the Ma’athar area

western female tourists in Riyadh

Surrounded by desert: For some its a blessing, others..not. But why not take advantage of the lack of tourism in Saudi-Arabia, you will have most places to yourself and the nature is mostly untouched.
-explore historical sites just outside Riyadh,such as Diriyah UNESCO heritage site.
-visit Madain Saleh the other capital city of the ancient Nabatean people. You will most likely be the only people there. Although smaller in size than Petra, I enjoyed the atmosphere more here. It seems like stepping into the past. Discover more amazing places to visit in Saudi Arabia here
-Take weekend trips to the seaside, don’t miss Jeddah which is a city with quite a different vibe and atmosphere than Riyadh and a beautiful historic district al Balad (also UNESCO world Heritage site)

-join the Riyadh Hash Harriers who organize desert walks every weekend and camping in cooler months, ask around from westerners for contact details!
hash harriers wak in Riyadh

-explore the mostly untouched Saudi side of the Red sea coast. start start scuba-diving. The lectures and pool training are in Riyadh, and open water training will take a weekend in Jeddah. The Red Sea is full of amazing underwater life! Top diving spots in KSA: Yanbu, Al Lith, Farasan Islands, Farasan Banks, Haql Shipwreck.

If you have a chance, go to the Farasan Islands, one of Jacques Cousteau’s favorite places! A wonderland for divers, there is virtually no other humans (except for the odd fisherman). Currently only two hotels on the main island (reachable by ferry from Jizan)

farasan island paradise

Gender segregation: Most public places will be separate for men and women, it might get frustrating to always find the right place but there can be some advantages to this too!
– you won’t have to queue in banks when you go to the ladies section it’s hardly ever crowded
– shopping at Kingdom center ladies only floor with own entrance.
-Panorama mall ladies only section
– as a woman you should be served first if there’s no clear mens/ladies queue, but of course this is not always the case. A polite smile might get you in front of the line.
-always take advantage of the ladies sections of Saudi airlines offices and get things done in 5 min compared to 5hours on the men’s side.
– on Saudi airlines (and most other national airlines) flights you can always change seats if you happen to be sitting next to a man,(if it bothers you) just request for another seat. They will give you a window seat if available, and if you’re lucky an upgrade to business class.
– at the airport pass the men in the baggage security check line, they don’t usually mind if you put your bag first, then pass through the ladies security check and you will be done in no time.

It all comes down to attitudes. We can’t change these things but we can change our outlook on them. It’s mostly up to ourselves how we handle it and a positive open mind will never do you harm!



Disclaimer: this guide is aimed at ALL women, not just westerners, currently living in or planning to move to KSA. Written from pov of western woman in Riyadh for 8 years now :)

The hospital I work in gets quite a few bedouins coming in for treatment from all around Saudi. It’s a large tertiary referral hospital, which means many patients were referred there because they could not be treated elsewhere or their cases were so difficult or rare it needed special care. Which makes these patients even more interesting! Bedouins come to our hospital from all over Saudi-Arabia, but mainly from the tribes that originate around the Najd area. Read more here

What is generally meant by the term “Bedouin” is the nomadic Arab people who dwell in the desert areas reaching from Western Sahara to the Arabian Peninsula. Bedouins used to follow water and pastures and were nomadic, not staying in one place for a long period of time. Nowadays many of them have settled in certain areas and formed small towns cities like Dammam on the east coast of KSA.

The Bedouins are divided into tribes of which the largest ones are Al-Shammari, Al-Harbi, and Al-Mutairi, Al-Qahtani, Al-Subaie, Al-Dossary all originally from Najd valley and around. Most patients will have one of these very common surnames, kind of like mr. Smith or in Finland mr.Virtanen.

I work on an inpatient ward where nurses are typically assigned to 3-5 patients at a time. We look after them the whole 12 hour shift, usually for a few days in a row. This enables a lot of one on one time with the patients and since the patients will always have private rooms, women will be relaxed and at ease. I feel very lucky to have been able to take such an intimate look into their lives, culture and traditions.
In my opinion Bedouins are generally the nicest patients in all aspects. I’ve found them to be friendly, genuine, warm, curious, easy-going (hardly complain), they have excellent sense of humour, are talkative and just about the most hospitable people you will ever meet. Hardly any of them speak English though, and sometimes their Arabic accents are difficult (sometimes impossible!) for even our Saudi nurses to understand. So basic Arabic language skills are really essential for more interaction with them. But actually even before I learned Arabic I found it was easy to get along with them by using sign language! They were always in for a little fun!Saudi bedouin woman weaving

Typically the Bedouin patient will have one or two sitters present at all times. Read more about the way Saudis visit the sick in hospitals here. They will have large families and it wouldn’t be strange to see ones with over 10 children. Visitors often come every evening and they will enjoy a meal or coffee and dates together.

Bedouin patients tend to have a few peculiarities compared to other Saudis. Especially the really nomadic ones have habits that they continue in the hospital, like sleeping on the floor rather than the bed! They will take the sheets off the bed and put them on the floor. Not even the pillow is needed. The sitters have a sofa bed available but it’s hardly used. Bedouins like to keep things simple and they don’t like “modern-day luxury” such as bedding.
When the patient has guests they will usually eat on the floor and with their hands. A sheet is spread on the floor and people will gather around it. Chairs and tables might be regarded as unnecessary luxuries. The youngest son or daughter will serve the food and tea or coffee out of respect to the elderly. They will most likely have their own tea or coffee pots with them in the hospital.

Guests will typically bring along dates, arabic sweets, camel milk or date filled small cakes called mammoul. The nurse will be invited to have a taste of their coffee and foods, sometimes they insist that the nurse joins them on the floor. If I have time on my hands I will sometimes join them for their dinner which they tend to eat very late. Usually long after ishaa prayers, near midnight!

I’ve encountered Bedouin patients that didn’t know how to use the western style toilet. Some even made their business on the floor next to it. It’s the first time they see a toilet seat and they don’t know what to do with it.

The male Bedouins will often chew on miswak,which is a stick used to clean the teeth. Unfortunately some of them also spit on the floor after using it!

Another thing I’ve noticed is that Bedouins don’t like to “waste” water. In other words take showers or wash their hair too often. I guess this comes from living in such harsh environments with constant lack of water. They use the water very sparingly to wash themselves, mainly it’s used for performing ablutions (washing before prayer). It takes a lot of convincing or sometimes even doctors order to get them to wet themselves totally under running water!

Since they’ve been living all their lives in the desert, I figure their bodies have become accustomed to being warm all the time. The Bedouin patient will usually ask for the air conditioning to be turned off because they feel cold. It’s actually not possible to turn central AC off, so then they will ask to get extra blankets even during hot summer months. The men wear thobes made out of thick wool in the winter, which for them seems to end around May when the temperature starts raising above 40. Especially in the winter months they will have layers after layers of thick clothing even though the heating is on max in the room. The women and the men like to keep their own clothing on instead of changing to hospital gowns.

When a Bedouin patient has fever he/she will be very afraid of “cooling” themselves. The more they have fever, the more the clothing and blankets will be on. Sometimes an offer of applying an icepack will result in surprises and suspicious looks. They might politely take it, but when the nurse leaves off it comes! This is sometimes a bit frustrating because the patients are convinced that warm is good cold is bad!

Bedouins love henna. Older men will sometimes color their beards with it, resulting in an orange tinged tone. Older ladies with grey hair use henna which results in the same orange tone as the mens beards. The women will color their long naturally coal black hair with it resulting in a nice dark red tinge. Additionally they might apply decorative patterns on their hands for special occasions like Eid and weddings. The everyday henna for the hands is applied to the palms and tips of fingers so that it looks like they have very dark orange nail polish on. First time I saw this I thought to myself boy are those some dirty hands! The women will do the same with the soles of their feet and toes.

Some elderly women have tattoos on their faces sort of look like map signs. I’m not sure what they use to do them but the color is usually dark blue. It will look like small markings resembling X’s or T’s around her cheeks, forehead and temples. I found out this is a sign that the lady in question is of high status within her tribe. She might be the eldest woman of her tribe.

Most elderly patients will likely not know their exact age and might only be able to give you an estimate. Older generation Saudis didn’t register births and they also count age according to the Hijri calendar. Also Saudi-Arabia didn’t register female births until the 1970’s. Estimating their age is not easy because of the harsh weather and constant exposure to sun, Bedouin often look older than their actual age. I’ve had very old Bedouin patients, some reaching over 100 years. They might have been healthy and never visited a hospital up to that day they come in.

Another peculiar thing which I’ve noticed is some of the older generation have a thin thread tied to their waists. First time I encountered one I immediately wanted to cut it off because of infection risk. They strictly refused and seemed horrified of my suggestion to remove it even though it was already harming the skin because it had become too tight. I’ve seen this on both men and women.
The reason for this is that they don’t want to get fat so it’s a weight control belt! The thread is there to remind you that you’ve eaten too much when the thread feels uncomfortably tight.
I wonder would this be worth patenting? The Bedouin weight loss belt!

There are surprisingly many differences between the grocery shopping experience in Saudi Arabia vs. in the expats’ home countries.
Here are a few tips for newbies in Saudi Arabia- How to grocery shop in KSA!

Where to Shop

The most popular large grocery stores in Saudi Arabia are Hyper Panda, Tamimi, Carrefour, Danube. Lulu’s and Euromarche. For imported American goods go to Tamimi. For exotic fruits and vegetables, Asian foods, wide range of gluten free and organic produce go to Lulu’s. Danube is good when looking for for organic, gluten free and dairy free options, great fruit and vegetable section and bakery. Carrefour for imported European produce. Euromarche and Panda are the best budget friendly options. Panda has the widest selection of Saudi produce.


Prayer Times

Don’t forget the prayer times! Everything in Saudi closes for prayer for around 15-30 minutes. The length of the closure time depends on the store and how eager the employees are to return to their posts.

Some larger stores like the ones mentioned above, let you stay in the store shopping while the employees go to pray, or if they´re non-muslims they have a break. When they come back you can cash out. keep in mind you won’t be able to exit the store during prayer times.

When to Shop

To avoid zahma which means traffic, never shop on weekend evenings. Worst times for crowds are on weekends starting after Maghrib prayer to around 11pm. Fridays the stores will start to have lots of people earlier, around 3-4 pm (Asr prayer). Due to the crowds, traffic jams in parking lots and getting “stuck” inside the store during prayer times, a quick grocery shopping spree might turn into a 3 hour ordeal. Add another hour or two to get there and back and you’re looking at a 4 hour grocery shopping trip.

The largest stores are open until 12am-2 am. It’s much nicer to go shopping late at night if you have the chance, or an early weekday morning. Some stores are even open 24hrs a day, like Hyperpanda on Takhasusi road. There’s even one infamous store on exit 20 which is open 25 hours a day. Imagine that, an extra hour for shopping!

Cultural considerations

-Try to avoid bumping into or getting too close to Saudis of the opposite sex. They might feel awkward because they are not used to it. You will notice the Saudi men usually give way to the women in the aisles, they do this out of respect and they want to be polite to you. Not because they are scared/disgusted/arrogant (most common misperceptions). So be polite and and mindful of other shoppers.

Chose the right cashier

Female cashiers began working at “family section” cashiers in Panda’s in 2015 and they’ve become mor and more common in other grocery and department stores ever since. If you are a single male (single here meaning shopping without any females) you should always go to the male cashiers to avoid any problems. Men accompanied with their wives can go to the female cashiers. Females shopping alone can chose either one.
All the staff in the store apart form the cashiers are male. The staff is everywhere, there seems to be a different guy responsible for every 10 sqm of the store. There will always be someone sweeping the floors, filling the shelves and working at the fresh food sections. Surprisingly when asked, the staff might not know the answer to your question because their area of responsibility is so narrow. The yogurt shelf guy doesn’t necessarily know a thing about the bread or know where the pasta might be located. The frustrating aspect of this is that they hardly ever say “I don’t know”. Instead, they will just point you to a random direction (often in the wrong).

How to queue in line 

-Be aware that in general Saudis do not acknowledge the concept of queuing, or standing in line, example of which you can read here: How not to queue in Saudi Arabia.
What line? Is there a line here? Especially when you’re going to have your fruits weighed, there seems to be no order in which the staff attends to the customers. Usually the Saudi women will go first, then whoever is the loudest or has best skills in line-cutting will be served next. In this situation you can use your female gender to your advantage, try to go behind or next to the loud Saudi lady and have your bag ready immediately when she is done, place your bag ON the scale! This will not guarantee success though.

Special considerations for female shoppers 

– If you’re a young woman, watch out for gangs of teenage boys and young men on the lookout for a date. Yes, as ridiculous as it sounds, they come to grocery stores sometimes to hit on girls. Shopping malls are off-limits to them because of this exact behaviour. They might follow the girl they are interested in the store, trying to exchange numbers. Sometimes they will try to hand you their phone number on a sheet of paper or napkin. In the recent years this has become less common and looking for dates has moved back to the shopping malls and public events.
-Be careful with your abaya when going on escalators, it might get stuck. Another annoying occurrence is it sometimes might get jammed under your shopping cart, or fellow shoppers carts.

-At the cashier always have cash! So many frustrating times I have encountered problems with any kind of cards. They will run around the store with your card trying to get it work, but you still might end up having to go to the ATM.

Say NO to plastic bags 

-Please try to save the nature and encourage the packers to use less plastic bags! Take your own reusable grocery bags (they can also be bought at the cashiers in Danube for example) Check out this post: 10 ways to recycle in Saudi Arabia 

In Saudi Arabia there will be one or sometimes even two men packing your groceries. They are trained (I would assume) to put different items in separate bags, which is a very peculiar phenomenon for most westerners. If you buy for example bread, milk, deodorant, cookies, chicken and eggs, everything requires it’s own bag! This total waste of plastic is just mind-boggling and needs to stop. We can all do our part in reducing the mindless and pointless usage of plastic bags, which end up in the desert, the ocean and the beaches ruining the scenery and destroying the environment. There is no harm in telling the bagger you prefer your groceries bags to be packed full of things. If this fails, there is also no harm in going to help the bagger to pack the groceries and fill them up full yourself.

Any tips for grocery shopping in Saudi you want to add?

Happy shopping!

This week I went to the King Khalid exhibition which is going on this month at the National Museum Riyadh here are some pics I took:

The King Khaled exhibition was at the National Museum in its own separate building. They welcomed us very warmly and we were treated like VIP guests. I guess they don’t get many blondes coming in! We got our own english speaking well-mannered guide for the tour. The exhibition was beautifully displayed and had lots of interesting artifacts. There was photography of the Kings life on the walls, and the the rooms were divided according to the theme. The guide took us through the various rooms highlighting the Kings political career, achievements, hobbies, personal and religious life. They let us stay inside during the Ishaa prayer and we got to sign the special guests book. When I wrote something in it in arabic they were amazed :) They said the exhibition should be there for at least another month, and there are no special days for women or men only its allowed for everyone. Around the National museum theres a big park area with fountains, creeks and sitting areas, nice to walk in the evenings with the beautiful lighting.

Camels, the animals designed specifically to survive in the harshest of environments – the desert.Every single detail of the camel has been carefully designed and constructed to perfection.

It is one of the few animals specifically mentioned in the Quran:

“Have they not looked at the camel – how it was created?” (Surat al-Ghashiyah: 17)

A patient of mine recently gave me some freshly milked camel milk to taste and mentioned all the health benefits that it has.  It was so good that it inspired me to find out a little bit more about this amazing creature!

Camel Anatomy

Numerous anatomical and physical adaptations have allowed the camel to survive the incredibly harsh environment of the desert. Heat storage within the body of the camel, selective brain cooling, fur, concentrated urine from unique kidneys, adaptions in the respiratory system, special physical features, unique blood consistency and hormones all serve as important characteristics for the camel in terms of thermo-regulation.

The camel actually increases its own body temperature during the scorching heat of the day. That way it minimizes water loss from evaporation. In the night it cools its body temperature down 7 degrees Celscius, saving almost 5 liters of water this way.
To protect the brain from overheating, the camel has an ‘air conditioning” system installed.

The extreme survivor
The camel can survive up to eight days in 50-degree temperatures without eating or drinking-circumstances that would kill a human in 36 hours. It usually drinks 4 times in the summer and only one in the winter! Most of the time the camel is in a state of dehydration, but when it gets hydrated its physiological system quickly adapts to the massive change in body volume.

When the camel does find a source of water it stores it up. Camels can drink up to a third of their body weight of water in ten minutes meaning up to 130 litres in one go.

What’s in the hump?
Contrary to common beliefs, the camel doesn’t actually store water in the humps, but they consist of about 40 kg of fat!  Concentrating body fat in their humps minimizes heat evaporation and creates and insulation throughout the rest of their body. When this tissue is metabolized, it acts as a source of energy and yields more than 1 g of water for each 1 g of fat converted through reaction with oxygen from air. This process of fat metabolization generates a net loss of water through respiration for the oxygen required to convert the fat.

camel closeup
Special features
The camel’s red blood cells have an oval shape, unlike those of other mammals which are circular. This is to facilitate their flow in a dehydrated state. These cells are also more stable in order to withstand high osmotic variation without rupturing when drinking large amounts of water. WOW!
The kidneys of the camel of course play an important role in water conservation.They have a special shape being able to produce very concentrated urine and thus increasing water retention. The concentration of the camels urine is higher than seawater, it resembles syrup in consistency. This also enables the camels to drink salty water without problems. Also the levels of hormones responsible for water levels significantly increase in the dehydrated camel.

Most of the food sources in the desert are dry and thorny so the camel’s digestive system has been created according to these harsh conditions. The animal’s teeth and lips are constructed to enable it to eat even sharp thorns with ease. Its stomach, which has a special design of its own, is strong enough to digest almost all plants found in the desert.

How camels survive in sandstorms
The eyelids of the camel protect the animal’s eyes from dust and grains of sand. However, they are also transparent and that enables it to see even with its eyes closed which would come in handy in the midst of a sandstorm. Its long, thick eyelashes are created to prevent dust from getting into the eyes.

There is also a special design in the camel’s nose. When sandstorms blow, it closes its nostrils with special lids. The nostrils are also designed to reduce loss of water through respiration with a unique cooling system and nasal passages that are able to absorb water that passes through them.
camel black white
The camel’s feet are specially created for the desert so that it doesn’t get stuck in the sand even if  its carrying hundreds of kilos loads on its back. The animal’s wide toes stop it from sinking in the sand and function just like snowshoes. Its long legs keep its body away from the burning heat of the desert floor.

Protection and perfection

The camel’s body is covered in thick, hard fur. This protects the animal both from the burning rays of the sun by reflecting the heat and from the desert chill in the night which can go below zero.
Some parts of its body are covered in thick protective layers of skin that comes into contact with the ground when it sits on the scorching sand. This prevents the camel’s skin from burning.
These thick layers of skin are not calluses that develop over time; the camel is born with them. The equivalent to a human baby being born with thickened skin on the soles of its feet! This special design brings out the perfection of creation in the camel.
The thickened skin cannot be explained by the logic of the theory of evolution That and all its other extraordinary features reveal one evident truth: That the camel was specifically created by God to help man survive in the desert.
 camel feet and toes


Camel in arabic actually comes from the word beauty. Arabs have known the curing affects of camel milk and urine (yes URINE) since the times of Prophet Muhammed who advised people to use it to treat certain illnesses like liver diseases and rashes. Recently scientists have proven this to be a fact. Camel milk on the other hand is especially beneficial for type1 diabetics, helps the digestive system, is cholesterol free, rich in vitami C and it even tastes good!

Read more on the health benefits of camel milk and urine here.

Since my last post showed a rather negative side of saudi culture, this post will display one of the many positive sides to the Saudi way of life.
Visiting the patients in hospitals is a very important thing here, it stems from Islam and its teaching to visit the sick.

A patient in saudi hospital is rarely ever left alone. He/she will almost always have a “sitter” staying in the room with them. These sitters are family members, they might be a son, a daughter, a mother or father, a grandson/daughter, aunt or uncle, brother or sister. The most important thing is the patient is never neglected and left alone, he or she will always be looked after by the family. The family might also provide a paid sitter in addition to family members.

Since my last post showed a rather negative side of Saudi culture, this post will display one of the many positive sides to the Saudi way of life.
Visiting the patients in hospitals is a very important thing here, it stems from Islam and its teaching to visit the sick.

A patient in Saudi hospital is rarely ever left alone. He/she will almost always have a “sitter” staying in the room with them. These sitters are family members, they might be a son, a daughter, a mother or father, a grandson/daughter, aunt or uncle, brother or sister. The most important thing is the patient is never neglected and left alone, he or she will always be looked after by the family. The family might also provide a paid sitter in addition to family members.

As a westerner this came to me as a surprise, a very positive one of course! In western countries like my home country, sadly patients rarely have visitors, they might come on weekends only,or only on holidays if patient is for example in elderly home. Some of these people might have been forgotten in these elderly homes with absolutely no relatives visiting at all..

It would be considered a disgrace and great shame to put ones parents in an elderly home here. Elderly homes do not even exist!There is no need for them, it is an honor to take care of ones parents and have them live in your home.
The sitters take care of all the basic needs of the patients. They will help them eat, even feed them if they cannot themselves, they will assist them to shower and to toilet, and anything else the patient needs. I think this is just awesome! The families here are so close and its amazing to see how dedicated they are. For example, I would bet you no average western man would “babysit” their very ill, possibly demented, bedridden mother. Would a western man change her diapers, feed her, turn her in bed, rub her feet, read her books or recite Quran/read Bible? The average Saudi man on the other hand would NEVER say a bad word or get irritated if the mother is demanding, forgetful or confused.
In the Quran there is several verses stressing kindness towards parents, here is one “ dutiful to your parents, if one of them or both of them attain old age in your life, say not to them a word of disrespect, nor shout at them but address them in terms of honour.(Quran 17:23)
Type into Google “kindness to parents” and all the top 10 results are from Islamic sites :)

And how about a husbands dedication to his ill wife? They will go through anything to please their wives, they truly are great husbands. This also comes from Islam, the prophet Muhammed (pbuh) said “the best among you (men) are the ones who are best in treatment towards their wives.”
The elderly patients will be the most respected, they might have great great grandchildren visit them!
Children are much valued in Saudi culture and family sizes are often large, I’ve come across parents with 17 children!The more common amount is around 6.

A patient might have many visitors at a time, sometimes so they fill up the whole room. They will bring tea or arabic coffee, dates, chocolates, flowers, cakes, pastries etc to offer the patient. When other relatives come they are then served to those sweets also. Sometimes the whole family will eat a meal together in the patients room. You might even see them sitting on the floor on a carpet eating and chatting. Saudis are the most hospitable people I have ever met. They will always invite the nurse to have a cup of tea or coffee, to have taste of the foods, and will generously give chocolates and other goods, even if they are poor they will want to give you something.dallahovalblack

Often the visitors will come in groups of either men or women, and they will visit the patient separately, although if they are close relatives they will go in together. Sometimes when many women visit at a time the whole room will smell like their lovely perfumes, or they might even burn some bukhoor inside the room (mind you it IS forbidden). Bokhoor is a kind or special wood that is slowly burned and the smoke smells really good. This is also used as a welcoming gesture to guests.

I’ve been lucky to have met many lovely Saudi families and become friends with some.

I often hear people complaining or boredom and lack of activities in KSA, especially from the expats who have moved to conservative Riyadh and assume there’s just nothing to do, or that they as women are not allowed to go out and do anything! Which is of course completely untrue.
I’m always short of time to do things in Riyadh so there’s plenty of option you just need to know about them!
Of course it depends a lot on yourself, how active you are in trying to find things to do. It IS more difficult here, but it doesn’t mean that theres “nothing to do”.
I ask these expats, what did you to do back home on your free time then? Often they’d reply: go to cafes, restaurants, friends homes, the gym, shopping, library, museum, art gallery..Well you can do all of that here too!
things to do in riyadh

Expats in KSA usually have more variety of different types of activities available compared to locals, due to the fact many of the activities take place inside compounds which have “no Saudis allowed” rule. Available things to do also depend on if you’re male/female because of the gender segregation. Western compounds have a variety of different sports and hobbies to undertake. Ranging from dance classes, martial arts, aerobics classes, language courses, photography, baking, arts & crafts classes, theme days for families, rugby, football, soccer matches, concerts, etc etc. Embassies also arrange concerts, art exhibitions, national days, and parties. For most compounds  you must know someone who lives inside to get into these places. To know about some of these events, add me on snapchat by username; blueabaya.

As for cafeterias and restaurants, the choices are endless. For some suggestions check out the Riyadh Restaurant Reviews page. Don’t miss having “High Tea” at the Faisaliah tower Globe and combine it with a visit to the viewing platform ( to go up to platform only is 60 sar charge pp). Expats often take off their abayas and the atmosphere is relaxed. Upstairs is the more intimate Cigar Lounge for romantic evenings. Take note there is a minimum charge which as of October 2017 was 300 sar pp.

the shooting range at Dirab Golf and Country club

For men there are numerous terraces you can sit outside and enjoy the warm evenings.
3rd floor Centria mall Lenotre cafe, Hualan and Lusin have a lovely terrace for families!

There’s plenty of male only gyms all around town, female only is a bit more difficult to find, but they do exist. There is one in Almultaka center, Nuyu, KORE, Almanahil inside DQ (diplomatic quarters) to name a few. There’s also a walking/ running track that goes around the DQ.

If you want to start golfing there are many good places to get started and have lessons like the Intercontinental right in middle of the city has a golf course. Also Riyadh golf club and Dirab golf club have courses, the Arizona compound has their own course too! Dirab also has polo and horseback riding. It requires membership but you can try it out for free.

Women are allowed to golf and even drive golf carts in Saudi!

There are places just outside Riyadh about 20-30 min drive away where you can rent quad bikes for couple hours and drive on the dunes. Yes women can drive them too! My favorite is Thumamah area, on weekdays it’s almost empty, you can have the vast desert to yourself. Weekends it gets packed with young Saudi men, especially in the afternoon and evening this place is super crowded and not worth the time to get there an back. Go in the morning!

The Red Sands area west of Riyadh along the Mecca highway is a beautiful place to go just for the scenery. Also possible to rent quad bikes there.
There are numerous other desert treks and picnicking spots around Riyadh, but again I will only mention my favourite Rawdhat Khuraim. Once you get there you will not believe you’re in Saudi-Arabia, it’s so green! Check out this post: 10 Beautiful places to Discover in Riyadh’s Desert for more tips!
Then there’s a lot of historical sites to explore around Riyadh, like Old Diriyah’s Turaif district. It’s a historically interesting site to visit including the famous Salwa palace. During 1745, a strong Islamic reform movement took place over here. Diriyah was the largest city in the Arabian peninsula in the first part of 19th century Turks destroyed this city and afterwards Riyadh captured it. Walk amongst the ruins of mud and brick built houses, palaces bath houses and mosques.
EDIT 2017: At Turaif district is still closed for the huge restoration project. Estimated to open in 2018. You can visit the Bujairy Square, opposite of Turaif.
 For more info on Historical Diriyah check this post: Ten Things to do at historic Ad’Diriyah
diriya palace ruins POSTCrd

Blue Abaya’s guide to Riyadh Historic city of Ad’ Diriyah


Another popular family activity is rent your private “villa” or chalet or private pool for a day, in Arabic called isteraha. They can have inside anything from big grass fields, football fields, basketball, gardens, kids playground, indoor/outdoor swimming pools and large rooms with AC, TV and all luxuries you want. Because Saudi culture is very private, they like to rent out an isteraha for weekends so that the whole family can join. Some people rent them for special occasions like birthdays and Eid holidays. Renting a private villa/isteraha is the best way to enjoy a day of family swimming, as mixed swimming pools in Riyadh do not exist. It’s actually quite affordable and some even have staff if you want to take care of catering and looking after the kids.  There are literally thousands of isteraha to choose from around Riyadh. Just search with the term #chalet or #isteraha on instagram and you’ll find them. For more Riyadh swimming pools check out this post: Top Ten Swimming Pools in Riyadh 
The summer heats are a good time to visit The King Abdul Aziz Historical Center and the National Museum. It consists of a remodeled mosque, the old original Murabba’ Palace with main Diwan renovated as “living museum”, the “Memorial Hall” on the outlines of an old courtyard house, a modern exhibition hall for the car collection,  the new Al-Dara main lobby and multipurpose hall, a documentation center with a separated men’s and women’s library each, an art gallery and a large internal garden.
Nearby and definitely worth a visit, Riyadh National Museum will take you a good three hours to walk through. The whole area is surrounded by parks, waterfalls, fountains and picnic areas. It’s especially nice to stroll around in the beautiful evening lighting. It’s possible to walk to the now restored old water tower, there is a restaurant on top with nice views of the city. The whole Historical Centre area covers some 360,000 square meters!
 The nearby area called Dirah (Deerah, Derah),where Musmak castle is located there’s a clock tower next to the huge souq area. You can easily spend hours wandering around the antique, gold and carpet, Bisht, abaya, souvenir and furniture souqs of Dirah haggling and having endless cups of tea with the shopkeepers. Check out the directions to the Bisht Souk here.

For families with kids, (small or grown-up) you can go to various theme parks and amusement parks on the outskirts of town, just make sure it’s singles/families/women’s only day accordingly. Most of them are situated along the Thumamah highway.

And when it comes to shopping, new shopping malls seem to be sprouting like mushrooms after the rain! One of the nicest ones is Riyadh Gallery which has a nice little river and fountains among cafes in the middle.
Most of the biggest malls (Hayat, Granada, Riyadh gallery, Panorama) have huge entertainment areas for children. Some even have ice skating rinks (Royal mall, Panorama, Hayat mall Othaim mall) and roller coasters!

Riyadh gallery mall

For a very different experience visit the huge sheesha cafes on Damman highway. The biggest one is over 10000 sqm and fits 2000 people at a time! If you’re a football fan go on a match day and the place will be packed and the atmosphere is fun and welcoming. This activity is mainly for males, but they do have family sections also.


If you’re into bowling, there’s a couple places around the city centre you can practice your skills. This seems to be very popular among Filipino expats! There’s one in Khozama hotel next to Faisaliyah tower, one in the Intercontinental hotel, Ritz Carlton and King Faisal hospital has one too, but you would need to go as a guest of an employee.
 There are numerous Art Galleries in Riyadh, check out Naila, Alaan Artspace, Lam, and AMA for starters.
Living in Saudi Arabia is a great chance to start or try out scuba-diving! The Red Sea coast of Saudi Arabia has some of the best diving spots in the world. Riyadh has two good dive shops, Blu Reef Divers and Desert Sea Divers. If you’re already a diver, explore the untouched Farasan Islands in southern KSA.
Every month there are women-only exhibitions held at hotels or exhibitions halls like Nayyara and the Kingdom tower ballroom which are great to discover new interesting businesses established by Saudi women, and to mingle and get to know Saudis. Every first Monday of the Month Kingdom compound has Ladies’ coffee morning 9-12, free entrance and no need to register. Keep up to date with these by following Blue Abaya facebook page!
 That’s a long list of activities and things to do in Riyadh! For more ideas check this page: Things to do in Riyadh 
For families with children: Riyadh with Kids 
The Best Events in Riyadh: Follow Blue Abaya on Facebook!