I have the pleasure to share with Blue Abaya readers another article from “Anonymous Saudi Man”. It’s always interesting to read his view points as we hardly ever hear the Saudi men’s side to common issues in the Kingdom. This time he is discussing the hijab and what he feels has been lost from its original meaning. Read also these posts from him: Saudi Punks and Thoughts on Tribalism Love and Marriage

HIJAB AND YOUTH: A MODERN LOOK AT MODEST DRESS IN SAUDI ARABIA

Islam requires its faithful to dress modestly and I know many Muslims who apply this tradition to their daily lives. I believe there are several important and positive reasons for modest dress. One reason is modesty stops the poor from feeling any shame for their lack of wealth, and it reminds the wealthy that their money is to be spent wisely and shared with those less fortunate. Another reason is modest dress helps build a friendly, comfortable society. Modest dress also invites creativity, and encourages people – both men and women – to express their individuality in artful and beautiful styles. Modest dress does not mean boring clothing!

For years Saudi women have been wearing the Hijab, Saudi men limit wearing gold and other forms of jewelry or adornment for religious reasons without really understanding the wisdom and implications of their actions.

I believe the spirit and interpretation of the Hijab is currently lost among modern Saudi youth. Perhaps they’ve been following religious leaders blindly without digging deeper into the legislations. Maybe they are simply confused, as I would assume everyone who studies religion in Saudi is. This might sound like a “Soufi” approach to the Hijab. However, I am not associated with any Soufi groups.

Modest Dress in Other World Cultures

Many world cultures have religions that strive to dress modestly. Some notable examples include the Amish Christian sect in the United States, other world-wide Christian sects (including the Roman Catholics), the Jewish settlers in Israel, secular and religious Shinto or Buddhists in Japan, and Muslims from both the Sunna and Shiaa sects in Saudi Arabia and Iran. I also see modest clothing popping up in non-religious societies like in China. I have also witnessed a revival of modesty among feminists in Western societies. It seems to me that the original meaning of modest dress in the Islamic religious tradition is much better understood in other parts of the world that by Muslims themselves.

Taking Back Modesty – Women

Modesty is also important for men. I find that people are easily impressed of other men in the workplace by the cars they drive or by the suits or accessories they wear. That is why I personally wear modest plaid shirts and a pair of simple jeans and sneakers at meetings or other work-related events. When more formal attire is required, I select a simple thobe with simple plain colored pair of sneakers. This doesn’t mean I do not wear clothing that is more fashionable, personalized, or artsy; I do wear what pleases me, just as I prescribed for women. However, I stay away from any excessive display of wealth through clothing.

Plain, simple, and equal clothing allows people to receive credit and respect for something they worked for rather than something they are given at birth. I believe this is so much more satisfying and healthy for a person’s ego and tends to help level the playing field among all people in this life.

Modesty in the Saudi Youth

As I stated earlier, it seems the original meaning of modest dress has turned into a modern phobic reaction against sex. I see the original reason for the Hijab has changed into clothing that people preach about, something that protects women from sexual threats. The Hijab is now designed to cover a young woman’s “check lists” of body parts that could arouse men’s sexuality. This makes the Hijab seem more like a punishment to young Saudi women and a reaction to men’s inability to control their sexuality.

What’s interesting is how there’s no mention in the Saudi justification of wearing hijab on how it’s supposed to limit the vanity of a woman and help keep excessive display of wealth under control. I feel the current interpretation of the Hijab has left out limiting the exposure of brand-name handbags, expensive shoes, or expensive jewelry. Those items are flaunted everywhere. The spirit of the Hijab I believe is now ignored through these displays of excess wealth. I also see this with young Saudi men. The Saudi men drive expensive German cars, wear expensive vanity accessories, brand-name watches, carry the latest cell phones, wear fashionable sunglasses, expensive jeans, designer thobes and gold threaded Bishts (Meshlah or Robes) although Muslim men are forbidden to wear gold. Sadly, I see many religious people tempted by this showing off, and some do indulge themselves in displays of wealth. They justify their actions through religious texts and opinions.

Art and Beauty Does Not Mean Expensive

Beauty does not need to be expensive. This is something that I try to live by. I don’t have to buy expensive accessories and brand names to look fashionable and artistic. In reality, most art and beautiful accessories are very personal and are not sold in stores, nor do they need to be made out of expensive materials. One might debate that expensive name brands and purchased “kitsch” actually diminishes the beauty and artistic value of an accessory or piece of clothing. Bring back modest dress in your life, and stop the excessive display of wealth. Men, you can still look elegant, smell nice, and look professional in inexpensive and modest clothing. Women, if you elect to wear the Hijab, do it for the right reasons. Spread the positive energy of modest dress through art and creativity.

-Anonymous Saudi Man

What do you think? Do you agree with his observations?

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  • JennyJune 17, 2013 - 2:50 am

    I love these thoughts about the purpose of hijab being to promote unity and an emphasis on the non-material.

    Coming from a religion that also has a strong emphasis on modesty (I’m a Mormon), I had viewed modestly primarily as being important in reducing the objectification of the female body. I had never considered modesty to apply to wealth as much as body image.

    The ideal for modesty that you painted here is beautiful.

    But I’m curious how prevalent the author thinks the phobic perspective is (the idea that hijab is necessary to protect women from sexual threats, an idea that is demeaning to both men and women).

    Excluding extreme liberals and critics of Islam, how many people feel that the reason for hijab is to guard against sexual sin? Is this a common attitude?ReplyCancel

  • LaylaJune 17, 2013 - 8:47 am

    Anonymous Saudi to Jenny:

    I think that the attitude that Hijab is a way for women to protect themselves is very popular and dominant amongst people in saudi arabia
    its a very common attitude, and the idea that women are asking for it is still considered a valid justification of sexual assault, its really sad to see actually.ReplyCancel

  • Javeriya SiddiquiJune 17, 2013 - 10:23 am

    I totally agree with the fact that today’s youth have lost the meaning of hijab. They just use hijab as tradition without knowing the importance behind it. And once they are out of their parent’s reach, or an unrestricted place they throw it away, which is very sad. All this is due to failure of acquiring Islamic knowledge.ReplyCancel

  • Muslima HelenJune 17, 2013 - 1:47 pm

    I really like this article and I totally agree!ReplyCancel

  • drtaherJune 17, 2013 - 2:37 pm

    I grew up in a liberal society, albeit not as liberal as the US of A or any of the developed countries of what we, in India, call the “West” or the “wild” west. In my society, women do cover their heads, their “objectified” areas, but mostly, as Indian women wear the sari, they leave their upper back and the waist open (although not the belly button). There is practical reason behind such an attire. Most dressing should be based on a) practicality b) affordability c) modesty and d) ability to dress/undress/carry off the dress easily and without much fuss. If you look at dressing in this way, an abaya clearly meets all the requirements, but so does the sari from India, the sarong from an East Asian country, the blouse and skirt from Europe or the robe and obi from Japan. Thus, I only partially agree with the blog-poster. I think if the woman wants to, she should be able to dress modestly even WITHOUT resorting to an abaya.

    Dr. TaherReplyCancel

  • LaylaJune 17, 2013 - 6:25 pm

    Javeria:

    “I would much rather the youth work on what makes them better people in general than to just focus on which body part to cover.”

    -anon saudiReplyCancel

  • wonderweenieJune 17, 2013 - 7:19 pm

    I am a 59 year old American woman who adheres to no religion. In my opinion, women should dress as they wish, not as someone else wishes. That is my opinion and mine only.ReplyCancel

  • Jerry Mc KennaJune 17, 2013 - 7:57 pm

    I think his ideas about modesty are at least a step forward. As someone who grew up in the 50’s and60’s in the US, when businessmen wore almost identical clothing, I understand how society can impose impractical ideas. I cannot imagine my father in an un-airconditioned office with a suit on. Saudi society seems to take this to another level. I won’t comment anymore other than to say that there are many ways of being modest and the Saudi idea that women are restricted to black seems a cultural innovation and not anything relating to modesty.ReplyCancel

  • LaylaJune 17, 2013 - 11:25 pm

    to wonderweenie:
    that was the point I was making, everyone has the right to dress as they wish and that judgment shouldn’t be placed on anyone who dress in this or that. ( maybe i will judge them if they dress like lady gaga… just kidding)
    but there should be a higher consciousness in people, men and women that excessive display of wealth in clothing does harm others.

    -anon saudiReplyCancel

  • JulesJune 18, 2013 - 3:10 am

    All I can say is that the person sitting on the step could be anything; a ghost, demon, person, man impersonating a woman, creature from another dimension. There is nothing about the sitter to tell me that it is a female of the human specie.

    I couldn’t even connect to her on the human level, because I cannot see her, probably cannot hear her properly to have an aural memory of her because of her facial covering, likely cannot smell her to have an odour memory of her. I can only imagine walking down a dark road and seeing this thing floating towards me, I would be utterly terrified and likely pass out from fear

    I fully support modest dress if that is what an individual wants, but when it takes away from leaving a memory of your uniqueness, then something is terribly wrong.ReplyCancel

  • KMSJune 18, 2013 - 3:39 am

    He explains these ideas from my faith more beautifully than most Christians I know:

    “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”

    Thank you, Saudi Man, for being real and interesting and for addressing this topic. And thank you, Layla, for your fascinating blog and for showcasing gems like Anonymous Saudi Man. Your style rocks!

    –KReplyCancel

  • Chilies - Add Spice to LifeJune 18, 2013 - 6:58 am

    I think ‘Saudi Anonymous Man’s’ opinion is a bit skewed, because he is trying to repackage an old idea and sell it as a new one, dressing it up in flowery details and language. But the undeniable truth about the Hijab – which has been widely accepted by Muslim scholars and participants – is that the Hijab is mandated as a way for a woman to cover up her most beautiful and attractive attribute. In this way, a man is less likely to be attracted towards her. Also, it is mandated in Islam that a woman should cover up her feet and some scholars also believe that they should cover their hands. The face is the only part a woman can reveal, according to widely accepted academic and scholarly opinion. Therefore, there is no other point to the Hijab than to cover up a woman’s most attractive attribute. The ‘Saudi Anonymous Man’ tries to list many other reasons for modest dressing and while they maybe true, his focal statement in the article is, “I believe the spirit and interpretation of the Hijab is currently lost among modern Saudi youth.” And I absolutely disagree with that. Because the ‘spirit and interpretation’ of the Hijab is to cover a part of a woman’s body that makes her attractive and that is exactly what modern Saudi youth believe, as does the rest of the Muslim world. It is a bitter truth that most Saudis and Muslims don’t want to accept. The brutal truth of the matter is that Islam as a religion objectifies women as sexual objects, more like property. Women need to be covered, can’t travel alone, can’t talk to other men (be it their clients, business associates, mentors/mentees, research partners, etc etc). I also disagree with ‘Saud Anonymous Man’s” efforts to encourage modest dress. He claims that it encourages creativity, but infact, modest dress restricts you from showing certain parts of your body and thus, limits creativity. It also certainly does not remind wealthy to spend their money wisely as we all know that Saudi Arabia has the most modest dressing laws and yet we all also know that Saudis flaunt and spend their money carelessly. Modest dress does not discourage poor people from feeling shame either. Infact, one could argue that it encourages poor people to work harder for the things they cannot have. The fundamental principle of capitalism is competition. From competition, arises creativity, higher productivity, and upward mobility. And I also want to point out that dressing ‘immodestly’ does not necessarily mean that you spend more money on your clothing. I know a lot of people who dress ‘immodestly’ but buy their clothing from discount stores or even thrift shops (an idea that is not prevalent in Saudi Arabia). Point is, immodest dress can also be inexpensive.

    In the end, I am not advocating for modest dress (like the author of this article) or even immodest dressing. I am clearly pointing out the obvious (perhaps not so obvious in Saudi Arabia): the inherent right of every person to choose their own wardrobe that expresses their sense of individuality and creativity. Their inherent, basic right to personal dignity and freedom.

    -AishaReplyCancel

  • Chilies - Add Spice to LifeJune 18, 2013 - 12:07 pm
  • LaylaJune 18, 2013 - 12:36 pm

    to Chilies – Add Spice to Life:

    “his focal statement in the article is, “I believe the spirit and interpretation of the Hijab is currently lost among modern Saudi youth.” And I absolutely disagree with that. Because the ‘spirit and interpretation’ of the Hijab is to cover a part of a woman’s body that makes her attractive and that is exactly what modern Saudi youth believe, as does the rest of the Muslim world.”
    – this way of thought is exactly what I am trying to fight against in this article.
    “The brutal truth of the matter is that Islam as a religion objectifies women as sexual objects, more like property.”
    – in my opinion, you are correct in your opinion of islam’s current interpretation of islam
    “modest dress restricts you from showing certain parts of your body”
    – this is not what i meant by modest dress, what i was trying to do in this article is to change the definition of modest dress from covering up parts of your body, to refraining from excessive display of wealth.
    “The fundamental principle of capitalism is competition.”
    – true, but I would much rather competition to happen not in display of wealth but with artistic expression

    Anon SaudiReplyCancel

  • Chilies - Add Spice to LifeJune 18, 2013 - 9:35 pm

    “this way of thought is exactly what I am trying to fight against in this article” – I know you are trying to fight against this way of thinking, but that’s what I’m trying to explain. I don’t believe you’re completely right in your way of thinking and I think your way of thinking is somewhat flawed. I feel like you didnt use the word ‘modesty’ appropriately, because ‘modesty’ signifies clothing that is very ‘covering’, at a lack of words. Yes, it also does mean clothing that is not extravagant, but I think most people, in relation to Islam would interpret ‘modest’ clothing to mean clothing that covers us. Add in your narrative about the Hijab, and that’s specifically the meaning you are projecting about ‘modest’ attire aka, clothing that drapes and covers women’s ‘attractive’ attributes.

    I’m not suggesting that competition should be in display of wealth, but I also don’t think people shouldn’t wear what they want at the risk of offending others (others, as you claim maybe those poor and unfortunate people).

    Correct me if I am wrong, but it seemed like your article was advocating for modest dressing, but I think one should dress according to their desire – weather it be modest of imodest. Do you disagree?

    And the reason I mentioned dignity, is because in my opinion, having free will to live allows me to live with dignity. And a lack of free will is enslavement, that’s why the motto, “Give me liberty or give me death” was penned during the American Revolution. What point is there to a life of enslavement and lack of dignity? I know most people don’t think that restricting the way you dress can be attributed to enslavement, but for someone like me, it can be.

    -AishaReplyCancel

  • JennyJune 19, 2013 - 11:51 pm

    Freedom is paramount, but “everyone should do whatever the heck they want” is hardly a virtue.

    Aisha, I agree with you that how someone dresses should be their choice, and I think the Anon Saudi author does too.

    He wasn’t promoting or defending the mandatory use of hijab and wearing of the abaya as it is currently practiced in Saudi Arabia. He was talking about the ideal that led to the abaya, which I think is a beautiful concept.

    In my opinion, It only works if it’s voluntary.

    Can you imagine how improved society would be If people voluntarily refrained from dressing immodestly- if they didn’t try to call attention to their appearance (both that of their physical body and the cost of their clothing) because they valued the inner self more?

    I think it’s wrong for a government to dictate how a person should dress, but I wish that more people would chose to dress modestly. Not due to fear or lack-of-creativity, but because they placed greater importance on the inner self and the welfare of others.ReplyCancel

  • StephanieJune 20, 2013 - 3:53 am

    I do not identify with any religion, but I was raised in the Catholic church and attended Catholic school. This post on modesty is much more in line with what I was taught growing up and was also the justification for our school uniforms. We were not allowed to wear jewelry or anything with a brand name on it, as those were things that showed material wealth and showed inequality. the idea was not to judge someone by their attire or money, but rather by their character. although i advocate people expressing themselves through dress however they want, i can respect this egalitarian explanation for modesty much easier than the misogynist, oppressive view that women have to protect themselves from men, as if men were not human beings with ability to make choices but rather wild animals.

    i want to add that, on both sides of the clothing debate (those who advocate modest dress vs those who don’t really care) i think people tend to generalize too much. i am sure that it is frustrating for hijabi women to always be faced with the assumption, “you must be wearing that because you are oppressed and your husband forces you to.” sure, maybe that is the case for some women, but there are a million different reasons why a person chooses certain clothing, and you cannot paint all hijabi women with the same brush. however, that works the same way for the other side, as well. the assumption that “a woman who dresses provocatively is doing so because she wants male attention and the only way she can get that is to objectify herself” is equally ignorant. once again, that may be the reason for some women. but there are many other reasons why people choose to dress the way they do.ReplyCancel

  • Omani Princess (not Omani...yet)June 20, 2013 - 7:31 am

    I believe the purpose of hijab is so that women can interact with men in society and be valued more for their intellect and right actions than their beauty and social status. Same goes for men, but in Islam women aren’t restricted from wearing wealth although men are, if you study ahadith. HIjab should cover all the right places, but men should lower their gazes too, which is emphasized more than what a woman should wear in the Qu’ran.

    It would be wrong to say that hijab shouldn’t be loose fitting or not see-through. Just as wrong to say that it should be bland.

    Saudi the problem is, hijab seems to be about being the same as everybody else or it is your fault if something happens to you and that’s not what hijab is at all. It is to enable educational and theological interaction between the sexes. Oman same problem but on a smaller scale since we do have limited forms of interaction and more freedom to choose how to interpret hijab.ReplyCancel

  • inayah58June 23, 2013 - 3:15 pm

    Thanks for sharing these thoughts.ReplyCancel

  • Umm GamarJune 24, 2013 - 12:05 pm

    I would like to share this poem by a writer on easelandink.com as I believe it reflects the definition of modesty. Yes it is our rights to dictate how we wear what and when but this rights should not (ideally for Muslims) conflict with Allah’s law.

    Miss Flaunty meets Miss Hijabi
    If I see a woman who is unlike me,
    Does it give me a right to treat her badly?
    No..
    ..is the answer that would spring forthrightly.
    Ok..great.
    What if “her” is the kinda lady,
    Who wears make-up, flaunts her stuff, confidently,
    Men transfixed as she passes closely,
    Her perfume sprayed on super heavy.
    A perverse man may occasionally,
    Make her uncomfortable and uneasy,
    But she shrugs it off and thinks optimistically,
    “Hey, at least he noticed me!”
    She walks into work dressed smart-casually,
    Getting annoyed if some men don’t take her seriously,
    “Cut it out, you’re being cheeky” she slaps her colleague playfully,
    But inside she wished that he would understand, sincerely.
    Distracted by her beauty, he fails to see,
    Remains incognizant especially,
    Of the fact that she has much to offer intellectually
    Is this woman truly happy?

    Back in high-school, those days of self-discovery,
    Of trying to find her individuality,
    Something happened inevitably,
    Before she knew it she lusted for comments on her beauty,
    Only feeling good through displaying her sexuality.
    And after looking at magazines, the mad TV,
    Seeing scantily-clad celebrity after celebrity,
    Skirt to school getting shorter daily,
    And made-up quite conspicuously,
    Pushing the school rules “innocently”,
    Because, she’s discovered to say to her “you are pretty”,
    Is not enough,
    No, she wants to be sexy…
    Then she becomes another woman in her community,
    Losing satisfaction in how she looks naturally,
    slowly, slowly..
    Seeking to alter herself,
    Fake hair, sunbeds, what next? surgery?
    She yearns for someone to notice her, subconsciously
    Every woman can understand that surely,
    A woman may dream of a” prince charming” to be her hubby,
    That’s all that bothers Miss Flaunty,
    But to display your beauty to everybody,
    When it is faithfulness to do it for your husband only,
    Is not the way to go, unfortunately.ReplyCancel

  • Umm GamarJune 24, 2013 - 12:07 pm

    Second part of poem

    But will you treat a muslim woman badly?
    For being the contrast to the previous sweetie.
    She is just Miss Hijabi,
    Who says that she covers to obey the Almighty.
    Some argue and argue that she has no rights, see?
    That she was forced into become what’s known as a “hijabi”.
    Some scream Islam negates women’s equality!
    Listen, a woman easily becomes a man’s “Barbie”
    If she doesn’t conduct herself carefully.
    A manifestation of this is in darling, Miss Flaunty,
    You have the likes of Ayaan Hirsi Ali,
    Who claims a muslim woman is not free.
    Who claims that she knows what it feels like truly,
    To be a muslimah, a Miss hijabi.
    To people like Miss Ali,
    A muslimah is free,
    No, she is free…seriously.
    The likes of you would know, if you were speaking truthfully.
    Why? hmm.. let’s see..
    She is not tied to the shackles of society,
    Nor does she feel the need to please anybody,
    Except for her Lord, Allah, the Almighty.
    She believes and trusts her Lord entirely,
    He is her Helper and she turns to Him, trustingly.
    Preserving herself, preserving her chastity.

    What right does one have telling her to dress inadequately?
    I mean, garments, clothing, the main point is modesty,
    Yet, to try and invoke the “less is more” story,
    Seriously, seriously, seriously?
    Why strip a woman of her dignity?
    Muslimahs don’t mind if you have a different philosophy,
    But she has her own, so leave her be,
    People need to agree to disagree,
    “Live and let live” sums it up cleverly,
    Hijab is a concealment of her utmost beauty,
    Preventing the exploitation of her femininity.

    You only have to look back in history,
    A plethora of instances where men couldn’t see,
    That a woman is more than a bit of “eye-candy”
    And yes,
    Women truly weren’t free,
    Until the introduction of Islam,
    In the 7th century.
    Allah, the Provider of Security,
    Tells us to share our beauty
    with our special ones (husbands) only,
    It doesn’t take a philosopher, nor a theologian to see,
    That the best interests of a lady,
    Are resting with The Almighty.
    A muslimah believes that, alone, independently,
    And thus she dons the garments of modesty,
    But…
    No-one, nobody, should treat any woman degradingly,
    The one who flaunts and the one called the “hijabi”,
    Why?
    Well, simply,
    Every woman out there is a natural beauty,
    Who deserves to be treated
    RespectfullyReplyCancel

  • Φιλόσοφος - PhiloshopherJune 27, 2013 - 8:46 pm

    I think you blog has some technical problems ! I can’t read it like the past ! I’ll try to write to you again, from my PC !
    Regards from Athens, Greece :)
    (Unfortunately I can’t read your other blog about saudi images ! :(ReplyCancel

  • StephanieJuly 5, 2013 - 2:22 am

    Umm Gamar, the problem with your poem is that it is based on the false, misogynist assumption that everythiing a woman does (and wears) revolves around what a man (or men) are going to think about it. I cannot speak for all women on the planet, but I can speak for myself and my girl friends, I have not had that mentality since I was about 16. Then I went through puberty. Thank god that stage of insecurity is behind me IN MY CHILDHOOD.
    I do follow common sense clothing norms – when I go to work I dress professionally to be taken seriously, and when I go to the gym i wear athletic shoes n a sports bra – however, what I wear on my own personal time is about what I feel comfortable in, not what insignificant men on the street are going to think about it. That clothing choice is different for every woman, and sure, some women feel comfortable in a hijab – but i do think that is something those women should do for themselves and for GOD, not for their husbands.
    Your poem makes wayyy too many narrow assumptions about the reasons women dress a certain way. A woman covering her hair does not always mean she is trying to be modest – my mom used to wear a scarf on her head bc she had so many “bad hair days” and my cousin used to wear scarves bc she had cancer and was uncomfortable with a bald head. And hey, by global statistics, only about 90% of women are even sexually attracted to men at all – the other 10%, if they are trying to get attention from anyone at all by dressing sexy, are trying to get it from other women. Point being that there are many different reasons why women dress a certain way, and most of them have NOTHING to do with men.ReplyCancel

  • Laila KhanAugust 5, 2013 - 5:26 am

    Absolutely wonderful post!

    As a muslimah in South Africa I get asked so many times why I wear hijab,and only after some research and observation,I have found the concept of Hijab and modesty to be one that extends beyond the cloth. Be modest in clothes,manners,wearing perfume,makeup etc has so many benefits not to mention, it is the cornerstone of elegance. Hijab is definitely not something that covers one’s beauty because so many times I have found woman with hijab beautiful and I have found men dressed in thobe beautiful. True beauty always shines through.
    A nuns garments gives her identity,from their we understand how we should treat her as she carries certain principles that she lives by,same concept :) Hijab gives identity to the world watching and to the wearer, a means to focus on excellence of character and faith :)
    btw from one layla to another, could you please tell us how to wrap the saudi hijab ( i use so many pins and when i was in saudi the hijab just seems to sit perfectly or niqab style(one that uses the sheila over the face and eyes please-min fadhlik lol)
    Have a wonderful eid :)
    LailaReplyCancel

  • Simon AliMay 15, 2014 - 2:24 pm

    This is a debatable topic, everyone has right for their opinion, we see many woman in hijab everyday especially in muslim countri
    es, some wear it because of the law for a woman in quran by ALLAH,
    as ALLAH says that dont leave your house without hijab, some wear it because the are protective nature so no man look at her body, some wear it because many woman wear it or it is a fashion and some wear it to hide their bad intention what they hiding behind the abaya, i dont want to name the city where i myself seen woman in abaya but in real they are prostitutes. Nowadays the abaya became the fashion it is not used as a law from quran but they use it with different design, different embroidery, different colors, different material and moreover very fit to body which makes the man more attractive. Why we muslim forgot the law of quran, why we follow the foot step of western world, in western world woman wear mini skirt, a half mini short, a top which is a piece of cloth but man wearing full pant and coat, is this not exploitation of woman, a man in full dress but woman is half naked, is this justice to woman. First of all we must find out the reason why ALLAH ask woman for hijab and on the other hand why ALLAH ask man not to look at a naa-mehram woman…..the day we all understand this concept our society will be clean from bad elements and illegal relationship which mostly arises when there is lot of freedom for man and woman in societyReplyCancel

  • Stephanie DuncanOctober 19, 2014 - 7:51 am

    good articleReplyCancel

  • Dee MangalinoNovember 5, 2014 - 11:25 am

    Back then, we were thought of how to wear modestly. I am not sure if it is related with our Catholic faith or in our tradition.

    As time passes, I’ve observed that everywhere else, people forget to wear modestly. I think society has dictated us to do so. Most of us fall prey of worldly possessions.

    Idolatry perhaps can be a factor.

    I love this post. something tells me to do some research on sociology & pyschology. :)ReplyCancel

    • LaylaNovember 5, 2014 - 9:10 pm

      Thanks Dee!
      True that it seems the trend nowadays is “less is more” when it comes to clothing, unfortunately! Especially worrisome when it comes to teenage girls in a fragile age :(ReplyCancel

There’s no doubt that summer is here to stay. It’s getting hotter by the day with recorded temperatures reaching almost 50C! Lots of women are looking for swimming pools in Riyadh that could be used by females only. There aren’t many olympic sized public swimming pools out there, but a few great options are available for those looking for a refreshing and cooling day out at the pool. Whether you’re searching for an indoor or outdoor pool for women in Riyadh look no further!

 

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Top Ten Swimming Pools In Riyadh-UPDATED 2017 version! 

 

  1. Outdoor wave pool at Diplomatic Quarters Sport Club. The DQ Sports club outdoor and indoor pool have alternating days for women and men. The huge outdoor wave pool area is more like a water park. It’s located in a beautiful garden and has water slides, kids pools and of course the wave pool. A small restaurant/snack bar inside. Membership required!

2. ESPA at Faisaliyah hotel. Women’s only spa inside the Rosewood hotel has a beautiful  indoor pool with mosaic design. There’s also a steam room and jacuzzi adjacent to the pool area. Access to pool for spa customers and hotel guests.

3. Riyadh Golf Club Sports Gardens pools. A green oasis in the middle of the desert, the Golf club has plenty of outdoor activities for families including the outdoor pool, children’s pool, mini-golf, basketball and others. Membership required.

4. Al Manahil ladies spa in the Diplomatic Quarter has a large indoor pool accessible for non members and by single payment. Modest swimwear required. Swimming classes for children and adults.

5. Al Luthan women’s only Hotel and Spa has a beautiful indoor pool and also offers aqua fitness classes.

top ten pools in riyadh

6. Al Aghar Equestrian Club inside the Diplomatic Quarters has a private pool area that can be rented by the hour for private occasions. UPDATE: Unfortunately the Equestrian club pool has been closed until further notice but might open again 2017.

7. Dirab Golf & Country Club located 44km outside Riyadh is a wonderful haven outside the hustle and bustle of the city. Two outdoor pools and also horseback riding available for ladies, abaya free zone.

8. Al Multaka Ladies Center. In addition to an indoor pool,  AlMultaka offers a spa and beauty salon, library, shops and a restaurant.

9. Many of the private hospitals in Riyadh have women only pools and offer classes with female instructors. Check out Obaid, Hammadi and Specialized Medical Center pools.
10. Private chalet/ villa/ isteraha, For family pool time or pool parties, the area around exit 8 and 9 is lined with isteraha’s (small private chalets/resort). The chalet can be rented per day basis for the whole family to enjoy swimming together or many families can rent one (some have two pools one on men’s and one on women’s side) and share the costs. There are also many new pool chalets around the airport road. 
Yamama Resort and Splash Waterpark near Thumamah have Aqua park open to children only but they also offer private villas and isteraha with small pools. Inside the city luxury villas with private pools can be rented, check booking.com for options, Viviendas Hotel Villas is amazing but also pricey.
2017 EDIT
11. Kempinski hotel outdoor pool on rooftop for women and Al Faisaliah resort women’s pool are the latest additions to hotel pools females can use in Riyadh.
12. Compound hotels. Many western compounds have hotels inside them and staying there will give you access to the pools. Check Bustan Village, Ishbilia, Kingdom City.
13. Aquatots has swimming classes for women and children in their indoor pool.
14. Women’s gyms. Check KORE
15. Swim in nature pools. Some people go to Heet cave to swim (expect crowds, graffiti and garbage) or the Hidden Canyon, granted it still has water in it. Swimming at natural rainwater lakes such as Hidden Lake, Secret Lake or Shoiab Luha pools is NOT recommended!

16. Nofa Resort in Tebrak outside Riyadh. Amazing pools to choose from. Corporate or large groups bookings only.

For men I would recommend the Intercontinental hotel outdoor pools (men and children only), Four Seasons hotel at Kingdom Tower outdoor pool, Al Faisaliah resort pool and Ritz Carlton indoor pool (all men and children only).

Intercontinental Riyadh outdoor pool area.

 

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  • bootleg539June 5, 2013 - 6:29 pm

    wow, it sounds lovely. Do you know the fee’s and price range for the places mentioned?
    ReplyCancel

  • Denise BomfimJune 5, 2013 - 6:32 pm

    Salam, Laylah!

    Wow, ii is really hot in Ryadh. Here in Rio, Brazil, is also very hot but the temperatures in Summer are about 45 Degrees in the western part of the city.
    But, anyway, I love the sun.
    And you?

    kisses,
    Denise.ReplyCancel

  • dobbinswaldropJune 5, 2013 - 7:06 pm

    oh I wish there were pictures of all the pools!ReplyCancel

  • dobbinswaldropJune 5, 2013 - 7:07 pm

    Oh I wish there were pictures of all the pools!ReplyCancel

  • LaylaJune 5, 2013 - 9:14 pm

    I don’t have pics because it’s strictly forbidden to take pics of the female only pools and the ones I have of private istiraha I’m sure the people in the pics would not be very happy about :)ReplyCancel

  • LaylaJune 5, 2013 - 9:16 pm

    Hi Denise, thanks for the comment and yes I do also love the sun!
    Btw, did you know that Riyadh’s nickname is actually “rio” :)ReplyCancel

  • LaylaJune 5, 2013 - 9:18 pm

    Bootleg, the price ranges vary so much depending on the place, some places require a membeship which can vary from 2000-15,000sar a year. Hourly rates are usually form 50-150sar and the daily rates for istiraha etc are 500-4000 really depends on location and size!

    ReplyCancel

  • Iftikhar SaeedJune 6, 2013 - 9:22 am

    Hi, please suggest any economical place for kids swimming lessonsReplyCancel

  • Iftikhar SaeedJune 6, 2013 - 9:23 am

    Also can you please suggest some economical gym for ladies?ReplyCancel

  • Tina maryamJune 7, 2013 - 5:09 am

    jazak Allahu khayran Laylah. Wish i could go:)

    tinaReplyCancel

  • drtaherJune 13, 2013 - 10:33 pm

    Dear Layla,

    As usual, your posts are so entertaining and informative. I am based 600 km from Riyadh as a Pediatrician from India and have visited Riyadh only once since I came here to the Kingdom to work. Keep up the work.

    If you have the time, do take a look at my blog http://drtaherofarabia.blogspot.com and especially my newest entry posted on 13th June, viz. http://drtaherofarabia.blogspot.com/2013/06/two-months-down-seven-to-go.htmlReplyCancel

  • LaylaJune 17, 2013 - 8:25 am

    Thank you dr Taher! Always a pleasure to read comments from you! Sorry for not getting back to you in a more timely manner!ReplyCancel

  • SirehJune 17, 2013 - 12:20 pm

    Hi layla, great post as always. I have not visited your images of saudi blog for a long time, I only regularly check for new posts in your blue abaya blog. I seem to just found out that images of saudi blog is no longer open for the public. (: Auwww. Why is that Layla? How long has it been anyway since the blog been made private? I hope you will continue to share your beautiful photographs with your avid readers.

    SirehReplyCancel

  • JeetuSeptember 29, 2013 - 1:24 pm

    Do you know/suggest a place for teaching kids swimming in Riyadh? I’ve a daughter who is 3.5 years old and we live in City center.
    Thanks in advance.ReplyCancel

    • LaylaSeptember 30, 2013 - 12:07 am

      Al Manahil has an indoor pool and they have swimming lessons year round!ReplyCancel

      • JeetuSeptember 30, 2013 - 9:23 am

        Thank You Layla for the quick response.ReplyCancel

  • Summer Is Here, What To Do? | Blue AbayaMay 24, 2014 - 10:44 pm

    […] For a complete list of pools in Riyadh go here. […]ReplyCancel

  • Syed Zeeshan AliJuly 23, 2014 - 10:55 am

    nice swimming poolsReplyCancel

  • zarine khanJuly 25, 2014 - 11:33 pm

    What is the charges for the private villa with swimming pool in splash , fantasy land etcReplyCancel

  • Marla LaddaouiJuly 31, 2014 - 4:28 pm

    What is the place in al worood that is for women only? ReplyCancel

  • Jayne DookAugust 21, 2014 - 7:54 pm

    The equestrian centre in the DQ doesn’t have a pool. :(ReplyCancel

    • LaylaAugust 22, 2014 - 10:39 pm

      but they do, last I looked at least :) It’s not on the open, females can swim there so it need to be a closed off area.ReplyCancel

  • ZahedOctober 10, 2014 - 1:26 am

    Hi Laylah, where is manahil swimming pool.

    Appreciate for your great efforts.

    Thanks.ReplyCancel

    • LaylaOctober 13, 2014 - 11:55 am

      hello there, it’s inside theAl Manahil ladies center in diplomatic quarters!ReplyCancel

  • 185 Things to Do in Saudi ArabiaDecember 5, 2014 - 4:08 am

    […]  6. TEN POOLS IN RIYADH TO COOL OFF IN THIS SUMMER! […]ReplyCancel

  • ADFebruary 10, 2015 - 6:03 pm

    Please let me know exactly where private/family pool is located???

    ThanksReplyCancel

  • Enaj Ybab ObutAugust 18, 2015 - 6:38 am

    May I know the price of esteraha for family only?ReplyCancel

  • QuadriSeptember 14, 2015 - 9:30 am

    Thanks to provide me some information on women swimming classes. For beginners. Also for girls aged between 8-15. I need the name, telephone numbers of the sports club/facility.

    Thanks,
    QuadriReplyCancel

    • Laura of ArabiaSeptember 18, 2015 - 8:44 am

      You need to go visit the DQ sports facilities in person, they will not pick up the phone or answer your questions via telephone, sadly.ReplyCancel

  • EdSeptember 12, 2016 - 11:34 am

    How much is the membership fee in DQ sports club? are single expats allowed here?ReplyCancel

  • Riyadh To Do Guide » Blue AbayaNovember 25, 2017 - 10:25 pm

    […] 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 […]ReplyCancel

  • nassarJuly 24, 2018 - 7:28 am

    Interesting article which helps users to know better about Riyadh place. I’ve been in Riyadh since ever, I visited 2, 3 places in the list. Still Riyadh is a fun-filled and wonderful place to visit..On my next vacation, i don wana miss these places. I am bookmarking this page. Ofcourse these are really some cool places to checkin in summer.ReplyCancel

Lake Kharrarah Park and Hifna Waterfall in Riyadh Saudi Arabia

A lake and a waterfall in the desert, in Saudi Arabia? Yes! Believe it or not such gems do exist and of all places, in the middle of the desert. The magnificent red sand dunes outside Riyadh’s city limits hide this surprising and beautiful scenery, little known to the expat community.

Amidst the endless ocean of sand dunes lies “Lake Kharrarah”, also spelled Al Kharrarh or Al Kharaarh National Park (Arabic  الخرّارة) 

A part of the Al Kharrarah national park valley transforms into a desert lake after heavy rains. The massive surge of water rushes down the steep dunes into the valley below, forming a temporary lake, which at times can become deep enough to swim in. After the water has evaporated, the valley lake bed becomes a striking green contrast to the surrounding red sand dunes.  

The red sand valley transforms into a pleasantly green pasture where migratory birds and other wildlife can be spotted, especially in early spring when the lake bed is in full bloom. 

Another desert lake outside Riyadh is the “Secret Lake”, which is remote and unknown location to most locals and expats alike. Find the guide on Blue Abaya: Riyadh’s Secret Lake.

 **Images and text are copyrighted under KSA copyright laws riyadh beach desert lake
Lake Kharrarah Riyadh
Kharrarah Park is popular among locals for picnics, dune bashing, sand boarding and dune buggy riding. On weekdays the park is practically empty of visitors while on weekends larger crowds gather in the afternoons especially in the cooler months. Most people come to the area with SUV’s and other vehicles compatible for the desert.  However normal cars are able to reach the edges of the park because it’s paved almost all the way down to the lake bed. The best places will only be accessible with a 4×4 though.
The lake bed makes for a picturesque picnic spot, acacia trees surround the edges and the deeper end has more lush vegetation year round.  The waterfalls can be found after a short drive along side of the lake. Water gushing down from the arid sand dunes is truly a sight to behold for those lucky enough to witness it. The red sand dune area is huge; they seem to continue endlessly to the horizon billowing like a mass of waves.
The scenery becomes even more astonishing in the afternoons and cloudy days when the shadows begin to color the dunes in a multitude of colors. It’s worth exploring this area further beyond the fenced lake bed valley. There’s a paved road that goes behind the dunes around to the other end of the lake. There are numerous off road spots that can be explored with a 4×4 from here.
Climbing the dunes by foot is certainly a strenuous effort, but well worth the struggle. Going up is a great exercise too!  The views from the top of the highest dunes are spectacular. On a clear day you can see all the way to the Tuwaiq escarpment and the farms far out in the valley.
Coming down the dunes is the most fun part! Some people run, roll, jump, or slide down the soft sand on various items. Special sand boards can be used the same way as snow boards would to ski down the hills. Taking a car out to the dunes needs an experienced driver; getting stuck is a common occurrence even among the more experienced drivers. The tires should be deflated before entering the soft sand and a sand shovel and ladder will be essential in getting the stuck cars out of the sand.  Luckily there will always be friendly locals around ready to lend a helping hand!
To get to the Khararrah park from Riyadh take the Makkah highway west (route 40) proceed passing the check point and follow the road down the escarpment.  Continue on this road passing the exit to Dirab and Dhurma until you reach exit 7 Jau, take the exit and make a U-turn. You are now headed back towards Riyadh and will take the first service road on the right, then you’ll pass by a pink gas station called ZamZam gas station.
After the sign in English and Arabic for Al Kharrarh Park, turn right onto a road in rather poor condition. This road becomes a Tarmac road after a few hundred meters and then passes by some camel farms circling its way into the dune area. As the road
winds up and takes a sharp turn to the right about 4 km from the main road, you’ll see a small white mosque on the right side of the road.
The entrance to the lake valley is directly opposite from the mosque.
GPS co ordinates for Lake Kharrarah: 24° 24′ 20.63″ N 46° 14′ 43.45″ E

The pics on this post with the lake filled with water were taken on 3rd of May 2013. The water was so deep people were swimming and paddling around the lake in various makeshift boats. it’s recommended to go there extremely early on weekends because it gets very crowded, noisy and dusty in the afternoons.

 

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  • iancochraneMay 5, 2013 - 1:01 am

    Enjoyed the images, that shade of red being reminiscent of outback Australia.
    Cheers, icReplyCancel

  • Denise BomfimMay 5, 2013 - 6:04 pm

    Salam, Laylah!

    How are you?

    I love the red dunes!

    Beautiful pics,
    kisses,
    Denise.ReplyCancel

  • BigstickJune 3, 2013 - 3:49 am

    Great pics.ReplyCancel

  • LaylaJune 3, 2013 - 11:46 am

    Salaam Denise, I’m fine thank you, and you?
    Thanks for the comments!

    Ian-would love to see the outback someday :)

    Big- gee thanks :)ReplyCancel

  • reenDecember 10, 2013 - 1:40 am

    hi there, this is nice..
    i would love to visit these with friends and family.
    i hope u can provide me latitude,longitude coordinates for GPS.
    thanks and more power.

    God blessReplyCancel

  • Red Sands Flower Fields | Blue AbayaFebruary 15, 2014 - 3:07 am

    […] could be found. Surprisingly, there was nobody around. Usually places this close to Riyadh (such as Kharrarah National Park nearby) are packed with families having picnics and hoards of youngsters on quad bikes creating […]ReplyCancel

  • HafizahFebruary 16, 2014 - 3:02 pm

    Salaam Layla,
    Would it be an essential to have a 4×4 to get to the lake/waterfall?ReplyCancel

    • LaylaFebruary 17, 2014 - 1:18 pm

      You could go with a regular car but then you can only drive for a little bit off the tarmac rd and that tends to be the most crowded area, so better you go when there’s no crowds, if they bother you that is.ReplyCancel

  • MHEL RMay 20, 2014 - 8:55 am

    Hi I am a photo enthusiast who currently resides in Riyadh. Your blog is very helpful & informative specially on the part of giving direction “on how get there”. Little did I know that there are so many places to visits here in the Kingdom. I love reading your blog and photos. Hoping to reach most of those places someday if not all & capture great images during my adventure. :)

    all the best, all the timeReplyCancel

    • LaylaMay 20, 2014 - 10:45 am

      thank you for the nice comment! Glad it has been of help to you, and hopefully you get to visit the places someday too!
      all the best to you!ReplyCancel

  • The Secret LakeOctober 22, 2014 - 4:41 am

    […] picnic and camping areas have been ruined by litter! One such example is another desert lake, Lake Kharrarah at the Red Sand dunes, which on the weekends hosts half of Riyadh for a […]ReplyCancel

  • 10 Things To Do In Riyadh During SpringDecember 3, 2014 - 12:24 am

    […] 2. Go to the desert! Spring is almost over and now is the time to see the desert in full bloom and the weather is not too hot yet. Easy to reach even with two wheel drives are the Red Sands area on Mecca highway and Thumamah sand dunes and park in the North. For further expeditions out of the city try Rawdhat Khuraim, Red Sands or Lake Kharrarah. […]ReplyCancel

  • Asim KhanMarch 7, 2015 - 10:01 am

    hi friends is this true that we have lake in riyadhReplyCancel

  • […] rain pours down for days which forms temporary lakes and streams in the desert. Flash floods can be a really big problem and can cause real life […]ReplyCancel

  • Mohammed NazimOctober 24, 2015 - 7:40 am

    The lake has already dried upReplyCancel

  • Tallha SonalkarDecember 24, 2015 - 7:37 am

    Any updates for this lakeReplyCancel

  • […] so it might be that had I done so years ago, this place would now be in a similar sad state of Lake Kharrarah, another seasonal lake outside Riyadh. Also things published online tend to be more easily shared […]ReplyCancel

  • Ten Beautiful Places to Discover in Riyadh’s Desert » Blue AbayaSeptember 13, 2016 - 3:22 am

    […] a beautiful area of red sand dunes surrounded by majestic mountains. This is a popular place to rent quad bikes to explore the area around Kharrarah National Park and on the way there you will see more quad bike […]ReplyCancel

  • DrCurtisNovember 13, 2016 - 7:07 am

    Parts of Riyadh very nice , parks and dunes so niceReplyCancel

  • […] Lake Khararrah […]ReplyCancel

  • […] Some of the best dunes to do this activity are located to the west of Riyadh along Makkah road. Near Lake Khararah you’ll find long steep slopes to slide down on. On the weekends it gets really crowded here, so head out very early or go on a weekday. Find out more about this red sand dune area here: Lake Khararah in Riyadh  […]ReplyCancel

  • Khaled AldughayemJanuary 23, 2019 - 9:04 pm

    Thanks a lot for sharing this useful information.ReplyCancel

  • Mohammed Abdulla Al FatahNovember 5, 2019 - 11:26 am

    Hello,
    would you please send me location as i have a plan to visit that side with my family. thanks.ReplyCancel

Blue Abaya’s Top 10 list of tourist attractions and sightseeing activities in city of Abha in Asir Province of Saudi-Arabia, and its surroundings including Asir National Park, Jebel Al Soudah, Khamis Mushayt and Rijal Al Ma’a.

Click here to read more Blue Abaya travel articles and destination guides from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia!

Head over to this post Saudi Road Trip Riyadh-Abha to find out more about driving to Abha from Riyadh.

This article and images are protected under KSA copyright laws. Please do not use them without permission.

The city of Abha, located in the Asir Province, is a very popular holiday destination during the summer months due its beautiful scenery, the famous misty mountain tops and cooling breezes.  Tourists from all over the GCC flock here to escape the sweltering summer heat. At an elevation of 2200m above the Red Sea level, the mountainous Abha region enjoys pleasant weather year round. Asir region has plenty of attractions to do and it might be a challenge to decide between all of the fun and interesting activities.

misty mountains asir province ksa

1.  Visit the New Abha resort and The Abha Lake Dam. Stroll around the lakeside in the 300,000 sqm garden and dine at the luxurious Abha Palace Hotel with fantastic views of the lake and the city. You can take a scenic cable car ride from the resort to the Green Mountain.

2. Take a thrilling cable car ride down to Habala, the Hanging Village. This ancient village was built halfway down a cliff face and it used to be only accessible by ropes. It’s believed that the villagers fled the Ottomans here and lived in isolation completely self-sufficiently until they were rediscovered by a Saudi army helicopter. The site is a unique piece of Saudi history but unfortunately it has become quite commercialized in the last few years but it’s still worth the visit. The cable cars usually run only during the holiday seasons.

Habala Rope Village. Photo: Laura Alho

3.. Drive up to the Green Mountain in the middle of Abha city. The “mountain” is actually a hill overlooking the city which is beautifully lit with green lights in the night. There’s a restaurant and café on the top with a nice outdoor terrace enjoying amazing views of Abha. Try the mint tea and sheesha while enjoying the sunset and the cool breezes on the terrace. On the way up be sure to stop at the excellent souvenir shop. There’s also a small restaurant decorated like a traditional Asiri mud house in the basement of the shop.

4. Take a hike in the nature to the various parks inside Asir National Park such asAl Qara’a, Al Souda, Al Wardeh, Dalafan, Al Jarrah, and Al Hassab.Wander around the juniper forests and spot some of the 170 bird species that make this region their home.

5. Take in the jaw dropping scenery in Soudah and marvel at the highest mountains in Saudi Arabia including the tallest peak, Jebel Soudah rising to 2910m. The mountains are famous for the mist covering the mountain tops which makes the atmosphere almost mystical. It’s always cool and serene up here.  Enjoy a picnic in full privacy with only the wildlife to interrupt the silence.

 

6. Take the Al Soudah cable car ride down to Rijal Alma’a heritage village. Visit the museum and the traditional food restaurant or just take a stroll in the beautiful valley. Don’t miss the beautiful interiors full of al Qatt al Asiri. 

Rijal Alma’a village. Photo: Laura Alho

7. Try some extreme sports in an extremely beautiful environment. Paraglide down from the mountain tops! 

8.  Discover Asir regions traditional architecture by visiting the Shada Palace, Al Milfa Palace and the old mud houses dotted around Abha. Visit the AlMiftaha village turned museum to see how people lived back in the day and check out the local artists displaying al Qatt al Asiri artwork. 
9.  Meet the famous Arabian Baboons that can be spotted beside most of the mountain roads. There’s a population of them near the Soudah cable car ride scavenging food from tourists. Be mindful of children with food in their hands, the baboons might attempt to grab it!

  10.  Explore the legendary Asiri souqs that have been named after the days they’ve been held on for centuries; Abha’s Tuesday market (Souq Al Thulatha) and its sister city Khamis Mushayt’s Thursday Market ( Souq al Khamis). The Tuesday market has a separate women’s souq run by all female vendors and the Thursday Market boasts some of the best gold and silver Bedouin jewelry in the region. Other finds are white or gold honey, colorful straw baskets and hats, traditional embroidered women’s dresses, Jambiyah (daggers), frankincense and ‘shab’ a white powder used by locals as a natural deodorant and antiseptic.

 More travel inspiration from Saudi Arabia: Check out the Wanderlust KSA posts!
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  • No_BishopersMay 8, 2013 - 8:02 pm

    Oh my goodness! When I read about the baboons, I thought it referred to the photo of the man ABOVE the caption! I was shocked! Then I scrolled down and laughed at myself for being stunned.

    The other stunning features are your photos. It’s a vacation without leaving my dead oaks and poison ivy.ReplyCancel

    • J FJune 21, 2015 - 9:04 am

      don’t you worry because I though the same thing too! I’m still rolling on the floor laughing over that photo. :D btw, kudos to the author. this is a very informative blog. I so want to go visit Abha someday.ReplyCancel

      • LaylaJune 21, 2015 - 5:27 pm

        thank you J F :) Hopefully your wish will come true one day!ReplyCancel

  • Mrs AquariusMay 9, 2013 - 3:14 am

    Beautiful photos Laylah! I really want to travel more inside the kingdom, this post was a great reminder of some of the great things there are to see in Saudi Arabia!ReplyCancel

  • LaylaMay 10, 2013 - 11:44 am

    Thank you No Bishopers! I looked at it like you mentioned and laughed too :)ReplyCancel

  • LaylaMay 10, 2013 - 11:45 am

    Mrs. Aquarius! Ya there are so many things to do and places to see, I feel like I’ve only seen a small portion.ReplyCancel

  • Ahad AliAugust 4, 2013 - 10:32 am

    Hello Laylah,

    Awesome post. Got me all I needed to visit Abha. Will be going Inshaa’Allah this Eid.

    Do you have the GPS coordinates for Shada Palace, Al Milfa Palace and Al Miftaha Village?

    Thanks,

    AhadReplyCancel

  • LaylaAugust 7, 2013 - 8:22 pm

    Hi Ahad! Thank you, so glad to hear that!

    Unfortunately I do not have GPS co-ordinates for them, but maybe a Google search might find them for you :)
    ReplyCancel

  • […] 5. Al Soudah The Asir National Park and the Al-Soudah area near Abha are a lush, breezy paradise best visited in the hot summer months. The park offers trekking, camping sites, cable cars, and plenty of other outdoor activities in addition to interesting architecture and friendly people. Check out Blue Abaya’s Top recommended things to do in Soudah, Abha and Khamis Mushayt here! […]ReplyCancel

  • EmilySeptember 29, 2014 - 1:02 pm

    Your website is an amazing resource, thank you so much! I’m wondering if you can tell me about the markets in Abha, particularly what hours they are open and selling items? Looking forward to your reply!ReplyCancel

    • LaylaSeptember 30, 2014 - 10:20 am

      Thank you so much Emily! The opening hours would be similar as in all over KSA, so usually they open around 9-10 am and then close and dhur, then open again after Asr prayer. It really depends on time of year too! Sometimes in the colder months they can stay open for the whole day. Normally they will close around 8 or so, but some souks can be as late as 11..Sorry for not being able to provide more specific information for you. When you get to Abha you can confirm with your hotel what the timings are for the most up to date info. Thanks for visiting Blue Abaya :)ReplyCancel

      • Abha MarketAugust 2, 2016 - 10:57 pm

        Famous Abha market is called Souq Thulatha (Tuesday). Go get your nice piece of the region.ReplyCancel

  • Mom’s Adventures in the Magic KingdomOctober 31, 2014 - 3:43 am

    […] In Abha region we stopped to buy honey from this local salesman. Mom ended up buying a huge canister of that honey which was from Yemen and tasted like heaven! Go to this post for more on tourism in Abha and Asir region: Top 10 Things to do in and around Abha. […]ReplyCancel

  • Dee MangalinoNovember 12, 2014 - 2:40 pm

    We’ve been to Abha last month during the Hajj Holiday. We went to the green mountain to Al Soudah. We just used google Maps on our phone and unlucky for us, we have chosen the longer route. and even got worse because the road is narrow and one wrong steer and we could fall into the ravine.

    Overall, it was fun and one of a kind experience. A piece of advise for travelers going to the Asir Province, prepare some arabic words as some people don’t speak English. Also a 4×4 car would be nice enough to drive on steep slopes. I drove a 1.8 Engine sedan and it barely make it to the top at 10-20km/hr which is kind of embarrassing to the driver behind me.ReplyCancel

  • mohammedDecember 25, 2014 - 10:04 am

    Salaam, I’d like to visit Abhaa but I want to take a flight in, is it easy to get around without a car there, eg taxis?

    And how far is it from Bahaa?ReplyCancel

  • MikhailMarch 2, 2015 - 1:10 am

    (6) Rijal Al Ma’a heritage village is not at the foot of the Soudah cable car, it’s about 12km further down the valley. Also, the traditional houses are not mud brick, but dry stone wall construction. Similar examples exist (sometimes ruined) on top of the escarpment, e.g. Al Azizah just off the main road from Abha to Soudah.ReplyCancel

  • TEN AMAZING PLACES TO VISIT IN SAUDI-ARABIA | Best Vacation Spots infoAugust 3, 2015 - 10:01 am

    […] 5. Al Soudah The Asir National Park and the Al-Soudah area near Abha are a lush, breezy paradise best visited in the hot summer months. The park offers trekking, camping sites, cable cars, and plenty of other outdoor activities in addition to interesting architecture and friendly people. Check out Blue Abaya’s Top recommended things to do in Soudah, Abha and Khamis Mushayt here! […]ReplyCancel

  • […] My mother recently visited us in Saudi and we wanted to show her as much as we could of the country so we decided to go on a road trip around Southern Saudi-Arabia. What an awesome way to explore the Kingdom! I love the fact that you can stop wherever and whenever you like to check out the surroundings. It was Eid Al-Adha time and my husband got almost two whole weeks off work. We planned to have the following itinerary: Riyadh-Kharj-Layla-Wadi Al Dawasir-Khamis Mushayt-Abha-Jizan-Farasan…and back. But we ended up improvising and changed plans on the way, which makes road trips all the more fun! In this post you’ll read about the journey from Riyadh through Kharj, Wadi Al Dawsir, Khamis Mushayt to Abha. Check out all the amazing things which you can do in and around Abha in this post: Top 10 Things to do in Abha. […]ReplyCancel

  • seyed mohamedNovember 24, 2015 - 8:40 am

    would be a good time to visit abha in the month of decemeber ?.

    and rope car would be available during decemeber ?ReplyCancel

    • Laura of ArabiaNovember 24, 2015 - 1:59 pm

      December will very freezing cold up there! I doubt they keep them all open.ReplyCancel

      • SeyedDecember 1, 2015 - 11:20 am

        Hmm..

        We have plans to go next week .. Is there anyway to contact tourist spots like haballah cable car, abha lake dam/resort, asir national park before we start ??

        I checked the temperature its Showing 21 /9 .. It would be nice..ReplyCancel

  • abhaJanuary 6, 2016 - 4:04 am

    You should fix your blog design. It’s poor, according to my self-proclaimed web and teeth design expert sistah.ReplyCancel

    • Arabian LauraJanuary 9, 2016 - 2:56 pm

      really? Can you please explain how this is? I’m open to and waiting for some constructive feedback!ReplyCancel

  • […]  TOP TEN THINGS TO DO IN AND AROUND ABHA […]ReplyCancel

  • AbdulrahmanMay 2, 2016 - 8:35 pm

    i would like to thank you for seeing and writing about the good in saudi Arabia

    only the beautiful people can see the beauty in any country

    thank you so much i was nice to read through your blogReplyCancel

  • Upali RanatungaMay 9, 2016 - 3:45 am

    I was in this city in 1983-84.I could not believe my vision, as I already heard as the Soudi Arabian lands are mostly deserts.ReplyCancel

  • WaheedMay 13, 2016 - 10:33 am

    What are the timings of abha chairlift?ReplyCancel

    • Arabian LauraMay 13, 2016 - 10:38 pm

      I’m sorry I don’t have the current timings of the lift. Try to check form local tour operators.ReplyCancel

  • LyreihsJune 12, 2016 - 12:48 pm

    Hello layla. Do you know how to contact a taxi to get around abha city? ThanksReplyCancel

  • LyreihsJune 12, 2016 - 12:51 pm

    A registred taxi company contact number maybe?ReplyCancel

    • Arabian LauraJune 12, 2016 - 2:51 pm

      Try asking the intercontinental hotel! I think Uber should already be working in Abha or very soon it will after the big deal they made with KSA>ReplyCancel

  • Danish LorenDecember 7, 2016 - 4:36 am

    Hi Guys, I recently applied a job in Saudi and my agency are deploying me in Abha,KSA. Will be working with a Polyclinic. Is it really safe to work there? Are people nice too? I will stay there for two years so i really want to know more about the country before i decide. Thanks for the help.ReplyCancel

  • AndrewSeptember 7, 2018 - 9:40 am

    Where is the best part to buy good gold here in abha/khamis?ReplyCancel

Have you been to the Najdi village restaurant in Riyadh yet? I would highly recommended visiting this amazing Saudi restaurant that serves traditional Saudi dishes in a heritage house built like the old houses of the Najd region. Visiting Najd Village restaurant would be a great a learning experience for all expats about the traditional Saudi lifestyle, architecture and of course food! The Najdi Village restaurant is also THE place to take guests visiting Riyadh for the first time.

Al Qaryah Al-Najdiya-The Najdi Village Restaurant
 For the ultimate Saudi experience, a visit to the Najdi traditional village restaurant is a must for all expats and visitors to Riyadh. The restaurants are built in large mud houses, built in traditonal Najd style complete with inner courtyards, water wells, bread ovens, majlis and colorful Saudi doors.
There are currently four branches of the Najd Village restaurant in Riyadh:
-Abu Bakr Road (opposite PSU)
-King Abdul Aziz road (near Kingdom hospital)
-Bujairy Square (Historical Diriyah)
-Takhasousi road
Here is the location of the first branch on Abu Bakr street (images on this post are from this branch):   24°44’33″N   46°42’17″E.
 Najd Village restaurant located on Takhasousi road, I would not recommend going there because most of the time it’s open for men only and gets too crowded in the weekends when they allow women and families to enter. The other branches are much larger and prettier inside.

My favorite Najd Village location is the one set in beautiful surroundings in historical Diriyah al Bujairy square. Read more about Diriyah and find the location of the Diriyah branch of Najd Village in this post: 10 Things to do in Historical Diriyah 

najdi village restaurant

Najd Village restaurant Abu Bakr street branch

The building itself has many interesting details and vividly displays the traditional Saudi lifestyle, decor and architecture.  Guests will enjoy not only the delicious Saudi heritage cuisine, but the entire building and little details which make it almost like visiting a cultural museum. Stepping into the restaurant is like stepping back in time.

The restaurant is divided into singles and family sections. The men’s entrance is lined with intriguing artifacts, colorful old doors, cooking utensils, Bedouin jewelry, spices and food items. Guests are lead to an open air courtyard typical to Najdi homes from back in the day when ventilation and light was provided through it. The courtyard is surrounded by the dining majlis and a watermill.

traditional Saudi majlis Najd village restaurant

The family entrance is from the side of the building, visitors pass by some antique cars on the way.  Najdi style decorations, architecture and friendly waiters dressed in traditional Saudi attire welcome the visitors.

Najd Village restaurant Riyadh

There’s a choice to dine in an open area, tent-like rooms or private rooms decorated to look like Najdi living rooms, majlis. There’s a watermill in the center of an open air courtyard which allows the natural light to enter during daytime and star-gazing during the evenings. The majlis are complete with air-conditioning and fireplaces. The tents are very romantic with lanterns hanging from the ceilings. No chairs or tables here, seating is on cushions on the floor and food is served from traditional plates placed on large straw mats.

The Najd Village restaurant is quiet during daytime but in the evenings and especially weekends it gets very busy and reservations are recommended.

The food is very tasty and reasonably priced allowing the visitors to order many different Najdi specialties. For groups of more than seven people the best way to sample all the different flavorful dishes is to order the elaborate set menu. It includes everything from various freshly baked breads, dips, salads, soups, chicken, vegetable, lamb and camel dishes, dessert and Arabic coffee, tea and dates.

A meal with five dishes would cost around 100 riyals. Portion sizes are so generous that it’s enough for two persons to eat a filling meal and still have some left to take home. Najdi Village is the best place to try unique and authentic Saudi dishes and of course camel meat!

Especially nice here are the Jareesh (barley grain with yogurt and caramelized onions), Haneeni, (wheat dough, dates, butter and milk) Marasiya (Saudi pancakes) and Mataziz (wheat dough pieces cooked with vegetables and meat). The chicken dishes are especially succulent and tender. On the menu are also some more “modern” Saudi foods such as chicken Kabsa.
All meals include complimentary flat bread, Arabic coffee and dates. Eating is with hands, but utensils are available for those not accustomed to eating the traditional Saudi way. The best indication that the food here is delicious and authentic in taste is seeing how many Saudi families enjoy the Najd Village restaurant. It doesn’t get more authentic than this!

 

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  • DianneApril 5, 2013 - 3:40 am

    I should have listened to my self…visit your blog tomorrow morning. It’s midnight here in US and reading this made me hungry! lol!

    Thanks for this review. I will keep this restaurant in mind if I visit Saudi someday. Hopefully we’ll see each other! :)

    DianneReplyCancel

  • LaylaApril 5, 2013 - 11:10 am

    Hi Dianne, I really do hope to meet you one day and maybe I can take yo there for dinner :)ReplyCancel

  • muslimah mummyApril 5, 2013 - 9:15 pm

    WOW Jazakullah for sharing this place looks fantastic, inshaAllah would like to visit it one day. :) Your photography is great! xReplyCancel

  • C. LaSalleApril 9, 2013 - 10:04 pm

    Thank you so much for your postings. Every since childhood I’ve been fascinated by the cultures of the dessert! Your pictures and posts make it come alive for me.ReplyCancel

  • Tina maryamJune 4, 2013 - 6:16 am

    salaam waluakumm sister, :)

    how can someone from canada obtain saudi fabrics like the one found on the majlis picture?? :))

    I really am in love with saudi fabrics lol. jazak Allahu khayran sis <3
    Tina

    ReplyCancel

  • KateOctober 9, 2013 - 9:09 pm

    Hi Layla

    This may come as a stupid question but at which restaurants in Riyadh can expats dine with friends that are male and female? So we would all like to sit at the same table..

    Thanx!ReplyCancel

    • LaylaOctober 10, 2013 - 12:39 am

      Scalinis in DQ is your best bet :)ReplyCancel

      • MaryJune 3, 2015 - 8:35 pm

        Hello Layla!

        Other than scalini in DQ can you recommend any other places to dine with male and female friends?

        Thank you!ReplyCancel

  • Top Ten Restaurants in Riyadh | Blue AbayaFebruary 26, 2014 - 11:14 am

    […] Najd Village Restaurant next to Prince Sultan university. This is THE place to go for expats in Riyadh and also popular […]ReplyCancel

  • VeronikaJune 9, 2014 - 2:26 pm

    Very nice!! Thank you for this post, I have to visit this place!! :))ReplyCancel

  • Ten Things to do in Riyadh’s Historical Diriyadh » Blue AbayaMay 10, 2015 - 11:12 pm

    […] of this lovely Saudi food restaurant. Read more about why this restaurant is so amazing here: Al Qarya Najdiya-The Najd Village restaurant.  The Diriyah branch is overlooking the ruins across the wadi, the views are incredible and food […]ReplyCancel

  • CRAIGNovember 23, 2015 - 1:01 pm

    Great blog, and a great posting. i ate there a few weeks ago. Do you know where I can buy majlis Arabian cushions, drapes and soft furnishings in Riyadh?ReplyCancel

    • Laura of ArabiaNovember 23, 2015 - 6:40 pm

      Thanks Criag, yes you can find those in Souk al Owais and Tayba souk. Both next to each other between King fahd and olaya rd.ReplyCancel

  • Kate Roberts- DaviesMarch 24, 2016 - 10:54 am

    Do you have the telephone number for this restaurant so I can make a booking with them?ReplyCancel

  • […] historical setting. Lots of nice restaurants in the area like the Saudi traditional food restaurant Najd Village and Bab al […]ReplyCancel

  • La cuisine Saoudienne – SimplicitéNovember 8, 2016 - 3:52 am

    […] un article de BlueAbaya sur un restaurant servant des plats typiques uniquement, ici […]ReplyCancel

  • Alayne LoNigroApril 12, 2018 - 11:28 am

    THANK YOU – THANK YOU – THANK YOU!
    Been in Riyadh for about 45 days now (from Los Angeles, California), all unpacked, settled and ready to explore! I am blown away by how much meaningful and helpful information I’ve found on your site. Planning to go to this Najdi Village Restaurant tomorrow with the family.

    Again, thank you for sharing your experience with us newbies~ReplyCancel

Guide To Visiting Janadriyah Cultural Heritage Festival With Children- How to make the Most out of it? 

The annually held Cultural Heritage festival Janadriyah is definitely 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.

Janadriyah Festival for National Heritage is like a window to Saudi culture, customs, history and way of life. You will get to experience hands on how diverse and rich in heritage Saudi Arabia really is.

I’m always encouraging expatriates to attend this festival, and I wanted to write a guide to ease minds of those going there with children. Janadriyah is a perfectly safe place to visit and free for everyone! 

QUICK TIPS:

Visiting Days: Family days are beginning from Monday 8th February 2016 everyday until February 20th.

Visiting Hours: Gates open officially at 4 pm. Usually right after Asr prayer they will start letting people in, everyday until midnight. Arrive early to avoidkids janadriyah guidemassive crowds.

No Entrance fee or parking fees,

Free maps of area in English at entrance.

Janadriyah Village Coordinates: GPS co-ordinates: 24.958592, 46.794462

Location Google Maps:http://goo.gl/maps/184ur

Moms Bring with you: Stroller, headscarf, wet wipes, hand disinfectant.

Dads/Drivers: Best place to park your car: from main entrance road, drive toward the gates and park on the lefthand side parking lot, opposite to Najran pavilion. Recognizable from the tall tower and giant Saudi flag.

Park to the left of this road.

 

There is something for everyone at Janadriyah! Here are some tips on fun activities with kids and where to find the best places at the Janadriyah village for families. 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, but this guide will help you make the most out of your time at Janadriyah festival.

 The best time to visit for families with children would be on the weekdays, weekends get super crowded and entering/ leaving the area can take hours. It’s best to arrive as early as possible, so be at the gates when they open. Officially the festival starts at 4pm, but on many occasions they will open the gates much earlier. There are plenty of vendors outside the gates selling everything from toys, all sorts of trinkets, Saudi foods, flags and more. With luck it’s possible to find Saudi ladies who will make quick beautiful henna tattoos for 15 sr on visitor’s hands.

On weekends the festival area will get very crowded especially after Ishaa prayer it’s going to be fully packed. The parking lot is disorganised and can get chaotic. Enter from the front gate, which is directly opposite the highway. Upon entering the area (admission is free for everyone) make sure you take a map from the info stands;

they will have English language maps too. Maps are not available anywhere else!

Staff will provide small children with wrist bands that have the parent’s mobile number on them in case they were to get lost in the area. A stroller would be a must because the area is huge and takes many hours to walk around it.

Start out by exploring the Jizan Province and Farasan area directly to the left from the gates. A large white wall marks the entrance. The Jizan dancers are fun to watch, their dance is very lively and the beat is fast and gripping. Children will love the show, the traditional fishing boats and there’s a camel running a sesame seed mill. From this area you can buy beautifully scented jasmine flower necklaces and flower hair bands for the kids (and why not adults too).

The recommended area to visit next to the Jizan Province is the Qassim region. It’s the one with the highest watch tower and the surrounding marketplace.  For kids there’s camel riding at the square.

Don’t miss the camel caravan, Arabian horses and the traditional black and white Bedouin goat hair tents next to the Qassim square. there’s also a traditional Saudi farm where you can see how farms where run back in the day.

Try these Saudi foods from Qassim Province:

The sweet Kleja breads made by the Bedouin women in a special Kleja-oven on site.

Various kinds and shapes of delicious mammoul (sweet biscuits filled with date paste and jam).

Dates! Qsssim Province is famous for its annual dates festival, ask to taste different types of dates.

 Another must-visit Province area is Medinah al Munawara, easily recognizable from the golden dome. Skip the food here (somewhat overpriced) but try to catch the men dancing the famous “spinning” dances. This area also has a nice bazaar for buying souvenirs such as Arabic coffee pots, tea cup sets, hand-made colorful baskets, lovely oudh and perfumes. You can also get fresh organic herbs and tea, lots of different Saudi spices plus there’s a traditional bread oven to grab some fresh bread from.

Another area children will enjoy is the big Eastern Province marketplace, located on opposite side of the Medina building marked by a large gate with wooden doors. Here you can go on donkey carriage rides, climb on a huge fishing boat, see boa snakes and join in on the Saudi traditional children’s games. There’s also a nice Saudi restaurant here in the middle of the market worth trying out.

Visit the Eastern Province area nearby if you’re interested in seeing the hunting falcons and for a chance to hold one. You’ll also find a replica of the Qara caves of al Hofuf (caves if Ali Baba!).  The architecture is beautiful inside and outside of the houses of Dammam area. Here you’ll see Saudi craftsmanship skills at their best, sandal cobblers, basket weavers, dallah coffee pot makers, fishermen making small sailing boats and much more.

For the girls and moms it’s worth visiting the women’s only hall where you can experience and see traditional Saudi women’s attire, music and dances.
Women

Women’s area entrance Janadriyah

For the boys and dads there’s the Saudi National Guard exhibit next to the Makkah area where you can see tankers, helicopters and other military equipment.
Don’t miss the traditional Sword dancing shows, “Ardha” which can be found in all the province areas.
Aardh Dancing from Ha

Aardh Dancing from Ha’il province Janadriyah Festival

Janadriyah is definitely the best way to take a quick course on the Saudi culture and customs!

saudi girl traditional dress

Complete Guide to visiting Janadriyah, Saudi Arabia’s National heritage and Cultural festival in 2016, click here!

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  • Susie of ArabiaMarch 28, 2013 - 4:16 pm

    I sure hope I can attend one of these years… It looks like one of the best events in KSA – great pics!!!ReplyCancel

  • bigstick1March 29, 2013 - 2:03 am

    Nice building.ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousMarch 29, 2013 - 12:03 pm

    Thanks for the expanded description. Going there without any knowledge means we’ll miss a lot.

    er, any news on Jackie Chan turning up?ReplyCancel

  • LaylaMarch 31, 2013 - 10:28 pm

    The latest on Jackie Chan is that he is indeed on his way to visit the festival :)

    SN I am sorry but I don’t have the answer to that one..I can recall seeing people in wheelchairs there but have no idea if they were provided by the organizers or not, sorry :(ReplyCancel

  • LaylaMarch 31, 2013 - 10:36 pm

    Susie I would be more than glad to show you around!!ReplyCancel

  • LaylaMarch 31, 2013 - 10:36 pm

    hey there big, thanks for the comment lolReplyCancel

  • SNMarch 31, 2013 - 8:32 pm

    Thanks for the great description. I’m excited to go. Is it possible to get wheelchairs at the festival? My aunt is elderly and really wants to go. Hope you can let me know.ReplyCancel

  • ChoniApril 4, 2013 - 8:26 am

    Just found your excellent blog this morning Laya and love your wonderful photographs of events, people and atmosphere at Janadriyah…I have always missed the event but am going this year and really excited about it. Is their a camera rule or protocol at the festival…should I ask before taking a shot?ReplyCancel

  • LaylaApril 4, 2013 - 10:00 pm

    Choni-thank you for the kind words and hope you enjoy the festival!
    No policy for that, and you will notice people are quite relaxed about it!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:    Why I Love The Janadriyah Festival Complete Guide to Janadriyah Festival Top Ten Things to do at Janadriyah  Janadriyah Cultural Heritage Festival With Children […]ReplyCancel

  • […] 2016 visiting hours, dates for family and single days, maps, location, directions, festival guides, tips for parents and more. For more Janadriyah updates, like & follow Blue Abaya on Facebook and follow us on […]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.

I think every expat in Saudi should visit this festival, not just to see the beautiful architecture, heritage and traditions of the various provinces, but to experience what the Saudi people are truly made of. This is such a unique chance to interact with Saudis from all over the Kingdom and embrace their culture.  If you plan on going make sure you check out this post for Blue Abaya’s Top Ten Recommended Things To Do At Janadriyah Festival to make the most of your experience!

The feeling of joy and happiness at Janadriyah are simply contagious. One simply cannot go to this festival and leave with a sour face! It’s impossible! Everyone enjoys Janadriyah! Unless of course…

You happen to be member of the Saudi religious police, who do not find this festival fun. At all. But hey, that’s their loss.

Time to take a cultural bath!

Trust me you will be surprised if you thought Saudis are rigid and don’t know (or want to) have fun. Boy are you in for a shocker! At Janadriyah you will see Saudi women men and children laughing and having fun in public some dressed in funny outfits or wearing wigs,  hats and over sized glasses. Many women will be wearing beautiful decorations on their veils and men can be seen donning flowers in their hair! Who would have thought?

At Janadriyah village you will find the young and the old, the city people and the desert dwellers, the professors and the farmers, Sunni and Shii’a, craftsmen and women, Saudis of all backgrounds, colors and regions come together. Millions of Saudis flock here every year.

Janadriyah unites the Saudis.

That is what the true magic of this festival is all about. The national pride, the unity and the sense of togetherness just can’t be experienced quite the same as it can be at Janadriyah.

Janadriyah is like a social experiment. An experiment that exceeds all expectations. An experiment which should be an eye opener to many. Saudis are fully capable of behaving in normal and decent ways despite the gender mixing going on, of course, why wouldn’t they!

I never once was harassed or approached in a negative way there, EVER.

And let me tell you that I’ve visited this festival a total of 13 times with many friends of different races who share the same positive experiences. Everyone was genuinely welcomed and shown respect. No leering, outrageous flirting, passing of mobile numbers and thank goodness no grabbing or groping. All of these on the other hand, I’ve experienced in malls or on the streets in KSA. So how is that for proof that allowing normal human interactions in the public sphere of Saudi Arabia does not result in chaos and men jumping on women (which some people are convinced were to happen if gender mixing were allowed).

To some Saudis at the festival, a foreign visitor is almost as much of an attraction as the actual festival. Saudi women will come up to foreign women (especially blondes I guess) for a photo, or they will secretly film us with their cameras and phones. They might be giggling, in this instance not in a bad way but a genuinely curious and friendly way. The women might be shy to approach you so I would recommend foreigners take the initiative even if you don’t know any Arabic. You will not regret it. They will want to welcome you to their country, know where you’re from and what you think of the Kingdom. Some might want to show you around and explain the things going on.

Notice the “secret” photographers in the background :) We later talked to them and took lots of group photos.
“Welcome to Saudi-Arabia” is the most common phrase a foreigner will hear at Janadriyah. I encourage everyone to embrace the culture, get to know the Saudis. Laugh with them, dance with them, joke around with them. You will soon realize that they are just like anyone, like you and me. Don’t be afraid to make the connection. You will remember these times for the rest of your life as the best moments of your time in Saudi Arabia.
Now I’ve been around a lot of expats here and I’ve heard over and over how it’s impossible to meet Saudis or talk to them and how Saudis are such “insert negative adjective here” people. If you never met any let alone spoke to them, how can you even make a statement like that? There are rotten apples in every country and culture. Don’t be that rotten apple of YOUR culture or country by thinking that Saudis are all bad.

Don’t judge the whole nation just because when you went to the shopping mall a woman cut you in line or a man didn’t open the door for you. Accept that there are differences in our cultures. Now I for one can say this is not always easy. I do rant, I do complain sometimes. But you know what guys? I still keep an open positive mind. I refuse to become bitter, hateful and isolate myself from the culture I happen to live in. Some of us are here voluntarily because we were interested in the culture and the country, many came just for the money, some followed their spouses and were thus “forced” to come.

Get out of your bubbles and compounds and visit Janadriyah with an OPEN heart and mind is my advice to you :) Leave your prejudices at home. Drop your guard. Open your mind.

The following is a photo collage from previous experiences from the festival over the years. Please DO NOT use these images without my permission. These are some of my most cherished memories and moments from the Magic Kingdom and I am sharing them with you to spread the joy and bridge the cultural gaps out there!

Notice the bloke on the left? Definitely not a Saudi but he has joined the Makkah region wedding parade. Looks like he really embraced the culture!

P.S I spent many days compiling this post for your enjoyment :)
P.P.S. The woman appearing in the photos is a good friend of mine who has worked the past five years in KSA and truly loves the Saudi culture!
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  • BeckyMarch 16, 2013 - 5:27 am

    Wonderful post and photos such a positive message that you are sending!

    You make me wish I were in Saudi Arabia! Did I just say that out loud???ReplyCancel

  • AmyMarch 16, 2013 - 8:35 am

    I really enjoy your photos. You have such a talent for capturing the essence of your subjects. This is a wonderful blog post. I would love to be in KSA during the Janadriyah Cultural Heritage Festival someday.ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousMarch 16, 2013 - 6:36 am

    OMG amazing photos. I was just about to ask who the lady was who we always see in your photos she looks really friendly lol and then i saw u mentioned who she was after the post.
    Thanks for more beautiful photos can’t wait to see more.
    p.s. the men wearing flowers in their hair are so adorable.ReplyCancel

  • NoorMarch 16, 2013 - 12:16 pm

    I love the festival as well, cant wait. I always feel so relaxed there.ReplyCancel

  • LaylaMarch 16, 2013 - 6:19 pm

    Thank you Becky :)ReplyCancel

  • LaylaMarch 16, 2013 - 6:20 pm

    anon-I think the babas are really cute too, they call them the flower men of Saudi Arabia!ReplyCancel

  • LaylaMarch 16, 2013 - 6:20 pm

    Hi Amy thanks so much for the kind words! Hope you can experience it someday!ReplyCancel

  • LaylaMarch 16, 2013 - 6:22 pm

    Felicia-thank you so much, are you going to come just for he festival and from where? Best to book a hotel early :)ReplyCancel

  • LaylaMarch 16, 2013 - 6:22 pm

    Noor, true I feel so relaxed there as well, the atmosphere is so laid back.ReplyCancel

  • SoileMarch 17, 2013 - 10:40 am

    Can’t wait to go there again next year!ReplyCancel

  • Omani Princess (not Omani...yet)March 17, 2013 - 9:54 am

    So awesome! Next year I will try to go! I didn’t know Saudi had a festival like this at all.:)ReplyCancel

  • rahizhassanMarch 18, 2013 - 7:02 am

    Thank you for the post..looking forward to visit the festival, first day itself.ReplyCancel

  • LaylaMarch 18, 2013 - 9:45 pm

    OMani Princess and Soile-I hope you both get to visit next year!ReplyCancel

  • LaylaMarch 18, 2013 - 9:47 pm

    Hi Sarah thanks for letting us know about these festivals, do you know the time they usually arrange them and what is the Omani one called?ReplyCancel

  • A Free SpiritMarch 19, 2013 - 1:40 pm

    Good pictures..All you need is love..With your love and understanding ,the Saudis will go out of their shell.If not this year,the year after . “Inshallah”.ReplyCancel

  • FayezMarch 20, 2013 - 10:48 am

    Apparently Jackie Chan’s coming to the festival this year as a cultural ambassador representing China!

    http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/micro-reading/dzh/2013-03-19/content_8532756.htmlReplyCancel

  • BaldrickMarch 27, 2013 - 8:44 am

    Thanks for this page.
    Every year I’ve wanted to go and every year something has come up, but this could be my lucky year.
    Any idea about the schedule? Family day? VIP day? Men only day?ReplyCancel

  • David KellyApril 5, 2013 - 9:17 am

    I drove an hour and a half to get to the festival with my wife last nite only to be refused entry at the gate! The guard who stopped us would not even attempt to speak to us to give us a reason only looked away but thankfully another guard shouted over “No women allowed til the day after tomorrow.” So much for the wonderful atmosphere of men and women mixing together!
    ReplyCancel

  • LaylaApril 5, 2013 - 10:12 am

    Sorry to hear that David!
    I guess rule number one for any event in the kingdom is to check the family and men only days before going to avoid these kinds of situations..but they’ve happened to all of us at some point, do not fret!

    Like I mentioned on this blog before and the Blue Abaya FB page, family days will start next Monday and until then it is men only.

    I do hope you will give it another go and try to put this setback behind you and maybe look at it as one of those “only in saudi” moments :)ReplyCancel

  • fatima walyApril 20, 2013 - 3:56 pm

    visited the festival last Friday for the first time , wasnt sure what to expect , but we had a wonderful time with so many amazing things to see , just looking through your photos brought back memories of the great night so many thanksReplyCancel

  • fatima walyApril 20, 2013 - 4:00 pm

    thank you for the wonderful photos , visited the festival last Friday we had a wondeful time so many amazing things to see , so thanks again for sharing your photosReplyCancel

  • fatima walyApril 20, 2013 - 4:01 pm

    visited the festival last Friday for the first time , wasnt sure what to expect , but we had a wonderful time with so many amazing things to see , just looking through your photos brought back memories of the great night so many thanksReplyCancel

  • Mr ThompsonApril 28, 2013 - 11:32 am

    Thank you Layla for showing us this side of Saudi and expressing your enthusiasm for the culture. I definitely need to come and experience this festival as I have become one of the negative expats I am afraid!! My main complaint unfortunately, is how I see many Saudis treating the more vulnerable expats out here (Philippinos, Bangladeshis etc). How do I overcome my feelings in this respect? My kindest regards,ReplyCancel

  • Mr ThompsonApril 28, 2013 - 11:33 am

    Thank you Layla for showing us this side of Saudi and expressing your enthusiasm for the culture. I definitely need to come and experience this festival as I have become one of the negative expats I am afraid!! My main complaint unfortunately, is how I see many Saudis treating the more vulnerable expats out here (Philippinos, Bangladeshis etc). How do I overcome my feelings in this respect? My kindest regards,ReplyCancel

  • Meegan AinslieJanuary 24, 2014 - 10:23 am

    love the Janadriyah festival!!! hope to go again this year ReplyCancel

  • Arv HardinFebruary 8, 2014 - 8:01 pm

    My wife and I lived in KSA for almost 12 years and enjoyed being there and amongst the Saudi and Expat peoples. Berni went to Janadriyah with women’s groups once or twice. I never did go, which I regret. Becoming more familiar with other cultures is important for all of us and for the development of future peace and harmony. These pictures are great and bring to light so many positive aspects of Saudi life. Thanks for this!
    ReplyCancel

  • Joy A NeumannMarch 13, 2014 - 5:00 am

    lived here most of my life and I am so glad you embrace your life here!! thanks for sharing!!ReplyCancel

  • Sue MoarApril 10, 2014 - 8:42 pm

    I was lucky enough to go there February 2012..it is wonderful
    ReplyCancel

  • […] For more info and imagery of Janadriyah festival please go here: Why I love Janadriyah  […]ReplyCancel

  • […] village on the outskirts of Riyadh. Images from previous Janadriyah festivals check these posts: Why I love Janadriyah Festival  and Janadriyah […]ReplyCancel

  • ghadaFebruary 18, 2016 - 5:48 am

    okay wow rudeee?? men dont wear the flower crows to be “silly” its a symbol of strength in some regions :)ReplyCancel

    • Arabian LauraFebruary 18, 2016 - 3:18 pm

      Glad you took the time to try and find something negative to get offended about and complain, and that you found it even in an super positive post that is about the beauty and friendly character of the Saudis (which I’m assuming you are too?) :)

      So congratulations on that accomplishment.

      have a nice day!ReplyCancel

One of the perks of living in the Middle-East and particularly Saudi-Arabia are the amazing travel opportunities it opens up. Many places of interest become geographically closer for expats originally from the Americas, Europe and Asia. Travel is also relatively affordable and there are direct flights and good flight connections from Saudi and the GCC countries. Some of the cheap airlines have great promos and affordable prices around the Middle East. What’s pretty cool about working in Saudi Arabia is the annual leave. Many expats in KSA get more than 50 days a year paid annual leave. That leaves plenty of time to explore the surroundings, both inside and outside KSA. Here are some of my favorite destinations to visit from Saudi Arabia.

top ten escape destinations from KSA

 

Some destinations are great for a weekend getaways and others I would recommend for more than a week long holiday. The possibilities are really endless! The following are my personal favorites as a traveler that prefers the roads less traveled and places to connect with nature and wildlife. That’s why you won’t find Bahrain or Dubai on this Top Ten list. There’s nothing wrong with those two destinations, just not necessairly my cup of tea as a traveler who prefers less crowded destinations with lots of nature around. On this list I want to focus more on the quality of the destinations in terms of historical value, local culture, local food, unique nature.

My top 10 places to travel to from Saudi-Arabia: (in no particular order!)

1. Maldives
Maldives, the paradise islands where honeymooners and couples flock from all over the world to spend their dream vacation. Many do not know that the Maldives can be reached with a direct Saudi Airlines flight from Riyadh, making it very easily accessible even for a shorter trip. The flight from Riyadh to Male is just 5 hours! Picture perfect beaches, luxury overwater bungalows and world-class diving await the visitors. Many will be surprised to learn that there are family friendly options in the Maldives, such as the Sun Siyam Iru Fushi resort- which is really the ultimate Maldives resort choice for families with kids. Kids stay for free there so it will not break your bank either. Read more about it here: Maldives Paradise Island Getaway for the Family 

2. Yemen

The current security situation is of course a serious concern, but in the occasion the situation calms down, hopefully very soon, Yemen is a MUST VISIT destination. Purely from the historical point of view, Yemen and especially the capital Sana’a is a unique, world-class destination. The architecture, the landscape, the people, the nature, the culture..It’s too much to even begin to describe the amazingness of what Yemen has to offer. I will only say, If you ever have a chance to visit Yemen, do not miss out on it. Especially Socotra Island, which is to date my favorite destination from all the 65 countries around the world I’ve been lucky to visit so far. There is a way to visit Socotra island without going through the mainland, which might be the only way to visit Yemen in the meantime. frankincense tree socotra island

 

 

3. Oman

oman pic collage
IMHO, the world’s most hospitable people are the Omanis. I have never felt so welcomed, my every need and wish catered to with such genuine, overwhelming hospitality than what I experienced in Oman. Some examples of the Omani people’s character: I traveled there alone so I felt a bit awkward at times as a female in an Arab country. However I was not harassed even once while there. One afternoon as I was collecting small pink seashells from the beach, a group of young Omani boys that were playing football on the beach came to help me. At first I found it odd, but after a while I realized they genuinely just wanted to help me. We had fun searching for the pink ones and managed to gather a large amount. I thanked them, and being accustomed to little boys only doing such arduous jobs for tourists because they want our money I thought to myself, they surely want to get paid now! As I was handing over some cash telling them to go buy ice cream they all firmly refused. I was insisting but they declined and smiled and told me it was a gift. I thought it was the perfect example how Omanis don’t see tourists as only walking money machines but as honored guests to their beautiful country.

Oman has many places worth seeing, the capital Muscat has a mystical feel to it and it’s nothing like the other busy, crowded and materialistic GCC countries. The country is full of interesting historical sites and amazing landscapes like the numerous Wadis with emerald green water to swim in. Oman is one of the few places in the world where tourists can be 100% sure to be able to watch sea turtles come to shore to lay their eggs in the middle of the night at Ras al Jinz.

4. Sri Lanka

sri lanka infinity pool beach

Easy and cheap to reach from Riyadh with a direct flight, Sri Lanka is a charming little island in the Indian Ocean. A nice combination of nature,history, culture and friendly people, Sri Lanka has surprisingly many options for the traveler despite its small size. The magnificent tea farms and majestic mountains make for wonderful trekking opportunities! There are palaces and temples to explore, delicious spicy food to enjoy and bustling little cities and towns nestled in the mountains waiting to be explored. And of course some pretty amazing beaches!

5. Jordan Very easily reachable from Saudi even for an extended weekend, Jordan is an absolute must see destination! From Amman the Dead Sea is quick to reach and the spas dotted along its coast are just divine! Movenpick Dead Sea Resort and Spa is absolutely gorgeous! The hotel has a tranquil atmosphere, an amazing spa, several different pools all overlooking the Dead Sea, relaxing treatments and great restaurants.
The world famous tombs of the Nabatean people can be seen in ancient city of Petra, which sis a sister site to the one in Saudi called Madain Saleh. Petra gets pretty crowded with tourists year round and its best to book early for peak seasons. The ancient city of Petra is surrounded by the most strangely shaped, rose-colored mountains. Jordan has plenty of other historical sites, as well as Wadi Rum and a beach destination, Aqaba on the Gulf of Aqaba.

dead sea

 

6. Hong Kong
The dynamic Hong Kong has something for everyone! Superb shopping, delicious food, beautiful  and surprising scenery. Worth a visit on its own but also great for a stop-over when continuing further East.

7. Tanzania

The best safari experience I had so far has been in Serengeti and Ngorongoro crater. Especially during the great migration this place is truly magical! A visit to Tanzania would not be complete without seeing Zanzibar, the Spice Island! One of those few places left where the only people on the beach besides you are the local fishermen. Amazing diving!

zanzibar fisherman

8. Kuwait
Saudi-Arabia’s tiny little neighbor is greatly under valued as a tourist destination. Only an hour flight away from Riyadh, Kuwait is definitely worth a weekend trip and great for a quick getaway from Saudi. Personally I like the more quiet vibe here which is a nice change to the busy and crowded Dubai for example. Read more about Kuwait here.

 

kuwait towers

9. Malaysia
Very popular among Saudi tourists, Kuala Lumpur and Langkawi are the best know destinations in Malaysia. But this country has so much more to offer! Diving, trekking, history, rain forests, wildlife, architecture, shopping..Malaysians are known for their courtesy and fabulous food! My absolute favorite place in Malaysia is the tiny island of Perhentian Kecil!malaysia beach perhentian

10. Turkey
Last but definitely not least, Turkey, particularly Istanbul is an amazing destination and super easy to get to from Saudi Arabia. Check out Blue Abaya’s post on Istanbul to understand why you shouldn’t miss it!

 

Now I’ve caught the travel bug!! What places would you add to the list?

 

If you’re looking to stay in Saudi Arabia for your holidays there surely is not shortage of places to visit! Start from our Explore Saudi Arabia page to browse some local destinations.

 

 

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  • RobynMarch 15, 2012 - 3:36 am

    A great list-although don’t think Qatar deserves a spot there,unless it is the weekend of the tennis. Syria or Lebanon deserve a spot though, for sure.ReplyCancel

    • LaylahMarch 15, 2012 - 7:49 am

      Robyn-I left out Syria (and actually Yemen) because of the current political situation there, and for me I prefer Qatar over Lebanon although I do love the country! I would go somewhere else than Beirut though!ReplyCancel

    • NoorMarch 18, 2012 - 11:30 am

      Yea who would go to Syria right now :pReplyCancel

  • Faisal HajiMarch 15, 2012 - 5:19 am

    Oman …. I love the Sultanate and its wonderful people. Very humble, generous, and thoughtful people in Oman. I’m very happy that they are my neighbors :DReplyCancel

    • LaylahMarch 15, 2012 - 7:50 am

      Faisal-You’ve described them very well!Happy to live so close by too!ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousMarch 15, 2012 - 6:16 am

    WHYYYYYYYYYYYYYY!!!!.ure making me wanna jump on an aeroplane this MOMENT all those look and sound wonderful..lol All i can say is i love ure blog.
    #MORENAReplyCancel

    • LaylahMarch 15, 2012 - 7:50 am

      Morena-I would love to jump on a plane to the Maldives right now :)ReplyCancel

  • IldiMarch 15, 2012 - 10:14 am

    I have never been to any middle-eastern or even in arab countries. I love your travel guide! Would like to visit all. Due your blog I randomly started friendship with Standy the omani girl, and reading your experiences aabout her home made me feel happy. :) Thank you Dear!ReplyCancel

    • LaylahMarch 20, 2012 - 3:47 pm

      Ildi-I hope you get to visit one some day! If I had to recommend only one I would say go to Oman!ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousMarch 15, 2012 - 9:10 am

    I’ve just recently found your blog and love it! How fortunate you are to explore this amazing areas on our planet. I doubt I’ll ever be able to visit and enjoy your travels so much.

    As for the ‘haters’, you are correct, you can’t please everyone and you are entitled to your experience and opinion. Keep up the good work and thank you so much for sharing!

    ElleblueReplyCancel

    • LaylahMarch 20, 2012 - 3:45 pm

      Elleblue-thanks for the comment and hope to see you around :)ReplyCancel

  • mrsbawazirMarch 15, 2012 - 10:22 am

    Hi Laylah,

    So proud to see Malaysia on the list :) You are right, there are a lot of Middle Easterners visiting Malaysia especially Saudis. Some of them come for holidays, for honeymoons and some come to study as we have many good universities. It is a good source of income for my country :) and the funny thing is, they leave quite an impact on us, Malaysians, in terms of dressing. You can see many Malaysian ladies donning abayas now just like the GCC ladies. Myself included but I’ve been wearing it since a looong time before it even became the “IN” thing. Btw, Laylah would it be too much to ask if I were to put a link to my vacation home here for anyone who plans to visit Malaysia? I’ll give you a special offer on my vacation home if you and your family plan to visit KL again :) Be free to say no, though.ReplyCancel

    • NoorMarch 18, 2012 - 11:31 am

      I would love the link bc my family and I LOVE Malaysia and want to come again.ReplyCancel

    • mrsbawazirMarch 18, 2012 - 12:14 pm

      Noor, I’m waiting for Laylah to give me the green light first bcoz this is her blog and I don’t want to advertise anything unless she agrees :)ReplyCancel

    • LaylahMarch 20, 2012 - 4:02 pm

      mrsbawazir-sorry for late reply!!Sure you can put the link!Where is the vacation home?
      Hope we can visit there someday!ReplyCancel

    • mrsbawazirMarch 21, 2012 - 3:15 am

      Hi Laylah, thanks :) It is in Kuala Lumpur about 10 minutes of driving to the twin towers. I do hope you'll come visit. seasoncityinkl.blogspot.com

      I wish to go to Kuwait though, your blogging about it really puts me in awe. Inshallah once the baby is bit bigger and can handle the travelling. Keep on writing, you are an inspiration!ReplyCancel

    • AnonymoushApril 9, 2014 - 4:06 pm

      the only reason anyone would go to Malaysia would be for sex tourismReplyCancel

  • Omani Princess (not Omani LOL)March 15, 2012 - 11:38 am

    I love Oman for all the same reasons;)

    I couldn’t live anywhere else.ReplyCancel

    • LaylahMarch 20, 2012 - 3:46 pm

      Omani Princess-lucky you to live there! I will be visiting next month inshallah!ReplyCancel

  • Om Lujain©March 16, 2012 - 7:25 am

    Love your list. I have been to several of the countries mentioned… and Yes.. Kuwait it in my heart… I lived there as a teenager.. and loved it <3 Still trying to get the hubster to move out of Riyadh and to some of the spots you mentioned above :D

    I think I might need to go to Oman again, as I really did not see it the way you describe it.. gotta go give it a second chance :)ReplyCancel

    • LaylahMarch 20, 2012 - 4:03 pm

      Om Lujain-I have the same agenda, Qatar and Kuwait would be great ;)Yup you really need to visit Oman again!When did you go?ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousMarch 16, 2012 - 11:24 am

    I’ve never been to the Middle East or the Far EAst, but the places on your list all look amazing! Thanks for posting your beautiful photos! Francesca from Ottawa, CanadaReplyCancel

  • Karen KingMarch 16, 2012 - 2:52 pm

    So exotic, all the places your mentioned. I would love to see where my grandparents came from (Anatolia), but it’s not easy being an Armenian in that section of Turkey. BTW, have you traveled in the US? I’ve driven this country from Massachusetts to California. Cross-country drives here are amazing. Can’t wait to do it again.ReplyCancel

    • LaylahMarch 20, 2012 - 4:04 pm

      Karen-I used to live in the States as a kid and we did a lot of travelling especially on the east coast.Never drove cross country though ut it sounds like an awesome trip!ReplyCancel

  • JeanMarch 17, 2012 - 3:22 am

    I actually have not yet been to Asia yet. Nor the Middle East and Africa and South America.

    So clearly you’re doin’ well, bopping all over the place.ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousMarch 17, 2012 - 8:49 pm

    I am looking at the calendar right now to see when I can fly out to these beautiful places.

    Another place that is on my list is the Seychelles and Mauritius islands. I have heard a lot about those islands and want to visit ASAP.ReplyCancel

  • NoorMarch 18, 2012 - 11:29 am

    You forgot Bali so many people from the Gulf was there and Jakarta, Indonesia was flooded with Saudis..

    My dh has no interest in going to Arab countries but I would love to go to Oman. Maldives is on my to do list for sure.ReplyCancel

    • mrsbawazirMarch 20, 2012 - 12:32 pm

      This comment has been removed by the author.ReplyCancel

    • LaylahMarch 20, 2012 - 4:06 pm

      Noor-haven't been to Bali for the reason I dislike and tend to avoid places that have been ruined by mass tourism..Many of my friends did go from Saudi and were disappointed, however they loved other places in Indonesia. Indonesia is on my bucket list for sure!ReplyCancel

    • AnonymousNovember 28, 2012 - 9:19 am

      Don’t write off Bali just yet! It is absolutely lovely as long as you get off the main tourist strip. There are lovely romantic guesthouses and villas to stay in and things to do all over the island. Also, don’t go in July, August or Christmas – it’s much too busy then, if you go during other times it can actually be really quiet and quaint.ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousMarch 19, 2012 - 11:43 am

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.ReplyCancel

  • flawlessvelvetMarch 27, 2012 - 4:16 am

    I’m very interested in going to Oman one day. How developed is it in comparison to other gulf states?ReplyCancel

  • shazMarch 27, 2012 - 6:08 am

    you should visit west Malaysia ..the Borneo island..Sarawak & Sabah!
    as malaysian, i cant get enough of Sabah & Sarawak!
    so many interesting and beautiful places!! especially if you are a nature lover :)ReplyCancel

  • SyedJune 13, 2012 - 5:14 pm

    Wow,its great that you mentioned oman!
    Even though i’m living in Abu Dhabi,i still love Oman and even though i’m Indian,i love it more than my Homeland,maybe because i was born over there and all my memories are related to Oman,infact there isnt a day i dont think about Muscat :(
    Indeed the People are really so wonderful! I really hope Oman gets more Tourism too!

    On the other hand i just came across this blog today and so far its very interesting,looks like im going to spend the whole night going through it!

    Btw what you have to say about Dubai is slowly spreading to Abu Dhabi as well,but then there is Al Ain which then totally kicks ass for Greenery+Traditions!There is greenery all over and there are so many forts,if you dont know about it then please Google it and find more about it! I’m sure you’ll like it :)ReplyCancel

  • KatieSeptember 15, 2012 - 2:18 pm

    Great list here! Sri Lanka and Kuala Lumpur are my favourites :). Keep it up!ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousFebruary 24, 2013 - 12:34 am

    Laylah, was it you in the swimming pool?ReplyCancel

  • […]  12. TOP 10 TRAVEL DESTINATIONS FROM SAUDI […]ReplyCancel

  • Marlene PennellsDecember 6, 2014 - 6:37 am

    Thailand a must!!ReplyCancel

  • PaulinaFebruary 15, 2015 - 9:18 am

    What is the 6 hours flight to Maldives????? There is no direct flight , all at least 8 hours:(ReplyCancel

  • Meagan BrownoOctober 17, 2016 - 8:56 am

    Hey, there, thanks for sharing this amazing and outstanding info about top 10 traveling destination from Saudi! There have so many new and challenging things to learn. I must say your blog is really stunning.ReplyCancel

  • arshadDecember 24, 2017 - 9:25 pm

    I am surprised not to see Dubai in this list! I was traveling from Dubai to Jeddah and plane was full of Saudi tourist. Saudi`s are top list of visitors to UAE.ReplyCancel

    • Laura of ArabiaDecember 26, 2017 - 1:35 am

      Because everyone goes to Dubai and Bahrain anyway, it doesn’t need to be listed :DReplyCancel

Darbawi- The Saudi Punks. Remember the “Anonymous Saudi Man” who shared with us his insightful thoughts on tribalism, love and marriage in Saudi Arabia? (You can read that post here.)

I’m so excited to share Saudi Man’s candid thoughts on Blue Abaya for the second time. I really enjoy his open and to the point approach of analyzing the Saudi culture. This time he’s bringing a very interesting and unheard of phenomenon to our attention. In his article Anonymous Saudi Man analyzes the sub culture of  the so the called “Saudi punks”, the Darbawiya, in Saudi Arabia and its parallels in the west. It’s my first time to hear the term ‘Darbawiya’ or ‘Darbawi’ and to learn such detailed descriptions from their drink of choice to power dynamics and sexual preferences.

Please leave a comment below and let him know what you think!

Darbawi And Punk

“I like to consider myself an observer of western and especially American subcultures. I am Saudi/American but I always find other sub-cultures fascinating. I have hung out with punks, emo, classical hippies as well as neo hippies, Hip-Hop followers from underground to Hip-Pop (yes they branch out), pop followers and with anyone who really identified themselves as a sub-group of society. It was fascinating and very entertaining.

When I got back to Saudi Arabia I found that I got detached from such interactions, this is part of why I get bored in Riyadh. Lately though I have discovered a sub-culture in my own backyard that I have never observed from a foreign eye. Those are now called Darbawiya, or “the people on the path”. They are a group that share lots of parallels with the punk culture in the western countries. I will, in this article, define both and talk about their parallels.

darbawiya the saudi punks

Darbawi- The Saudi Punks.

So what is punk?

This is a very debatable question, but lets summarize my observation in a couple of points that define “Punk”

● resistance to authority

● lack of sense of danger

● listen to high tempo rock music

● shocking and alternative fashion

● glorification of anarchy and chaos

● glorification of being unrefined culturally

● alternate sexual preferences

● Distinct Brands of Beer that they consume

● some are highly self educated

To me, this is what defines being Punk, regardless of fashion or music you listen to. The punk culture became more of a “for show” scene these days, but many still hold true to the punk spirit. Punk can be a positive force in changing societies and forcing them to question social norms. Sadly punk also became synonymous with substance abuse.
So who are the Darbawiya?
Darbawi in their modern form have always existed under different names. They are a group of male Saudis in the central or eastern parts of Saudi Arabia, they probably exist in other areas too. They are usually from low income, uneducated families and they really didn’t have a chance to become something. They lived a more simple and primitive life compared to city folk and still held tribal values strongly.

 

They are young men who usually competed with each other on more traditional masculine testosterone driven traits and challenges like physical strength or fearlessness in the face of danger. This translated to their love of drifting with cars dangerously, love of firearms, constant fights and glorification of old tribal feuds.

Like in most male dominated societies, many prisoner social dynamics start showing up. For example, domination of softer males through homosexual acts, similar to those that we see in high security prisons. These acts do have a presence in the darbawiya scene.

These people were called many things in the past, some call them bedouins, “sand dunes”, or nomads by city and educated folks. I was surprised to hear that lately they started to call themselves, Darbawiya or Darbawi. 

So where does the word “Darbawi” come from?

 It’s relatively new. After doing a little research I found that it’s in reference to a web forum called “darb alkhatar” or “path of danger” where people post their drifting videos and talk about their adventures with other people from that same group. So people who attended that forum regularly started calling themselves the “Darbawis” or “Darbawiya”. Soon everyone who shared their interest started having the same name. I also backed up this theory by asking many people who have interacted with Darbawiya.

How is that Punk?

Darbawi have some traits that are very similar to Punk. So what are the shared traits you ask?

● Resistance to authority

Many Darbawis do illegal drifting and escape from police and drink and drive as a way to prove their “I don’t care” and “I don’t give a F***” attitude, which is the core principle of being punk. Some of them also hold illegal firearms. Since at its core darbawiya are more traditional, they still hold tribal authority dear to them and stay close to their tribal roots, which is a contradiction that is very fascinating to me. I wish to dig deeper into that one day. It would be an interesting topic for the discussion in the comments.

● Lack of sense of danger

High speed Drifting is scary enough, especially when people die regularly as spectators to races at illegal drifting parties. Also drinking home made alcohol, smoking cigarettes hashish and shooting guns while drifting is an extreme challenge for many darbawis.

● High tempo music 
Many love more traditional songs that are sped up to be on high tempo. Of course there are some known musicians that Darbawis hold to higher levels, like “Azazi”. Sped up traditional music really resembles how punk might have started, and it has become a core Darbawi trait. Many sub-cultures get defined by the music they listen to, and this is no different with Darbawis.

 

● shocking and alternative fashion

Darbawis wear traditional garments and thobes. They choose not to wear fancy thobes or designer shoes, but rather wear really cheap traditional clothing and cheap eastern sandals, which makes them look raggedy and dirty. They also started showing up wearing only their undergarments as to shock people. They often use their shumaghs to cover their faces. that is also very punk of everyday life, and tend to commit many traffic violations.

● glorification of being unrefined culturally

This is a new trait that I started noticing, being proud of being uneducated or being from unrefined backgrounds is a really scary thing to see glorified. Here is where I see some differences between darbawis and punks. Most Punks have a cause or a purpose. Some of the punks I have met are highly educated and opinionated about politics and are very aware of the political atmosphere, but with Darbawis, it’s different. I can’t help but wonder, will an educated few from them be the leaders of the pack in the future? Will it evolve to a movement with a cause later on?

●  glorification of anarchy and chaos

I think that goes without saying with the first point I made. Glorification of anarchy and chaos gives them more credit in the resistance to authority arena. They don’t follow rules of ignorance. Being uneducated is a good thing for them as that feeds into the first points again, resistance to authority.

● alternate sexual preferences

In high security prisons we find people abusing others in homosexual acts due to power dynamics. Sometimes it’s not about the sexuality but about the power trips. This happens with Darbawiya. Not all of them participate in this of course, but there are some incidents that rose that supports this as a thing that happens in the scene of darbawiya.
To me what people do behind closed doors is their own business, but once rape and pedophilia comes into play it starts to get disturbing. Many kids go to these Drifting parties that darbawiyas organize and they seem to get mesmerized by these “strong” “manly” men who do these dangerous things that they start following them and idolizing them. In many cases this leads to pedophilia since at the end, prison dynamics take place and the man with the most “pets” gets to be the most manly.

Distinct Brands of Beer that they consume

While there is no Brand of beer being sold in stores in Saudi, many Darbawiya drink home made alcohol called Araq mixed with their most popular drink, Miranda Citrus. Miranda Citrus has become their Drink of Choice, many drink it warm to show their devotion to the scene.

As for education, this is where I find the difference between Punk and Darbawiya to be strong. Darbawi might not have the education or political awareness as punks, actually they are far from that, but if some of those started to be more aware politically or highly educated, it might lead to a very unique punk movement in Saudi Arabia.

Well there you go everyone, my own observation on what the punk movements and darbawiya sub-culture have in common. Leave your comments below and lets start the conversation!”

-Anonymous Saudi Man

Email the author: anonymous.saudi1@outlook.com

 

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  • KristineMarch 5, 2013 - 10:02 pm

    Very interesting article! I was unaware of the label of this sub-culture.
    When I first visited Riyadh in 1999, I was suprised to see some teenagers dressed “gangsta”. They would hang out in front of a certain McDonald’s that we frequented. I aways had the urge to roll down my window and shout, “Ya nu-nu, ya nu-nu, w’aish foge? Yo baby, you baby, what’s up? :-)ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousMarch 6, 2013 - 8:58 am

    Are all Darbawiya single or are some married? Also I believe the population in the gulf area is very young; is the birthrate such that groups, such as these will be increasing in the next decade?

    Thanks so much to both the writer and Blue Abaya.

    Regards, AnnieReplyCancel

  • LaylaMarch 6, 2013 - 12:09 pm

    Kristine-I was very surprised about the gangs too, they all have the same clothes and look like american hiphop singers rather than Saudis! They even have matching shirts made with logos like “The tigers” lolReplyCancel

  • LaylaMarch 6, 2013 - 12:10 pm

    Annie-I’ not sure but I would think that they’re single and that’s one of the reasons behind all of this, sexual frustration that is! The Saudi gender segregation I think has a lot to do with the homosexual behavior and all the reckless driving, these men are just like walking time bombs.ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousMarch 6, 2013 - 12:19 pm

    I was wondering how the anonymous saudi man know all these things :p is he a darbawi or his friends are??ReplyCancel

  • Anonymous Saudi ManMarch 6, 2013 - 3:34 pm

    I observed their forums and read reports from people who have been to their gatherings.
    as well as seen videos and met some of them during school years as well as later on.ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousMarch 6, 2013 - 7:38 pm

    are darbawiya the ones responsible for the drifting and other crazy videos we see on youtube? I thought they were just call bedus?Pretty disgusted actually about the sexual practises but I recall reading an article years back about how common the gay sex is in KSA. There was a man in Jeddah explaining how they meet at cafes or bluetooth.
    any ideas how darbawiya meet sexual partners and how can they even be so many gays I just assume that Saudi is so strict?
    Anyways this is interesting so thank you for posting!ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousMarch 7, 2013 - 8:06 am

    are these darbawiyas in the military? i know that rape of men is common in the saudi military.ReplyCancel

  • LaylaMarch 7, 2013 - 9:15 pm

    Umm Gamar I have no idea how anyone would take this as promoting of the darbawiya.. Myself at least find this phenomenon mostly disturbing, somewhat sad, and partly disgusting.ReplyCancel

    • EstelleDecember 2, 2015 - 12:37 pm

      Asalamu alaikum Layla, I felt just like Umm Gamar “not sure of the tone of this article”. Maybe because of the intro where the writer explains how he enjoyed being interacting and discovering such groups. It sounds kind of promoting to me.

      Anyway, this was so disturbing and sad to read.

      Not mention that they also take the name of Bedus, bedoui, bedouins as well ! SubanAllah. My in-laws have roots in bedouism and this is really sad that such honorable people are getting their names misused this way.

      This group is so far from the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him). I don’t know what to say.

      I see it as a failure from the Saudi society to them.

      Ex: marriage must be made easy for people, education must be provided, etc.

      I am making douas for them to leave this disgusting path and to come back to their sanity.

      May Allah guides us all

      Wa salamReplyCancel

  • LaylaMarch 7, 2013 - 9:17 pm

    Great thoughts Asma, thank you for sharing!
    They certainly seem to be doing everything they possibly can to go against the cultural norms here.ReplyCancel

  • LaylaMarch 7, 2013 - 9:19 pm

    Dianne and others, thanks for the comments and questions, will await Saudi Mans reply, am also curious to know the answers!ReplyCancel

  • nicoleMarch 7, 2013 - 9:52 pm

    so interesting! i think this is something my husband knows about but hasn’t really talked to me about, lol…a few days ago we were in tamimi and the two young guys behind us were checking out with a cart full of miranda. my husband shook his head and said, “stupid kids!” i was like, “what?” he said, “they’re obviously going to get wasted!” i had no idea how he knew that…despite his years of saudi teenagery, i’m pretty sure he’s never been a “saudi punk.” :)ReplyCancel

  • bigstick1March 8, 2013 - 4:31 am

    Interesting.ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousMarch 8, 2013 - 4:25 am

    This is so sickening, seriously these young boys who put others lives in danger by driving recklessly will all hopefully kill themselves in the process as well as those dumb enough to be watching by the side lines. They are all cowards in my eyes..acting so shocked and saddened when they witness arms and legs flying around..really?? didn’t you see that coming?
    The sexual lewdness that was spoken about is so disturbing. The concept doesn’t make sense? Playing copy cat with that of a prison system where there is a hierarchy and men are raped in accordance?? Sounds like a lame reason. Maybe they are just pedophiles; lets not try and make excuses for it.
    Ya Allah destroy these animals inshallah ameen.
    *NoorReplyCancel

  • LaylaMarch 8, 2013 - 11:07 am

    Reply from ANonymous Saudi man to above comments:
    “about being single, I dont really know, but I would assume that they are until more information could be dug up.
    some darbawiya are in the military, but they keep their identities a secret and use aliases and nick names
    darbawiya are the ones responsible for the crazy drifting and stunt yes
    darbawiya is just one of the names that they are called by these days
    as for different types of “punk”, I would think that most of the attempts are just to copy other culture’s fashion and not copy the true essence of what is punk.
    I find darbawiyas having the closest attitude to punk movements in the west
    as for promoting anarchy and this type of behavior. I try not to be biased with my observation. as someone who is trying to understand a group of people you cannot really be judgmental or encouraging of their acts. just observe and try to be as neutral as possible.”ReplyCancel

  • LaylaMarch 8, 2013 - 11:08 am

    another one from him:
    “going back to the different types of punks, I actually do think there is a more “punk attitude” movement, but its less extreme and actually very intelligent. I would say its more social activism which could be considered “post punk movements”. those are usually exist on the cyber online space mostly.”ReplyCancel

  • LaylaMarch 8, 2013 - 11:18 am

    Nicole-thanks for the comment, so it seems your husband does know something more than he is telling you ;)
    Did you ask him about the darbawiya yet?
    ReplyCancel

  • LaylaMarch 8, 2013 - 8:23 pm

    Reply from Saudi Man:
    “sadly most military or security personell are from less educated families. thus the darbawiya mentality can easily take over.
    military personel can get access to alchohol as well as fire arms very easily
    but they also get harsher punishments when caught
    even though police and military personel do cover for one another in case something happens
    nicknames are very popular amongst darbawiya
    for that reason, and for the reason of things not coming back to haunt their tribes.”ReplyCancel

  • Coolred38March 9, 2013 - 4:41 pm

    Now the interesting thing would be whether the females of Saudi have similar adventures?ReplyCancel

    • EstelleDecember 2, 2015 - 12:48 pm

      What is that ? Adventures ? To see those poor souls get trapped into darkness is no fun. May Allah protect our youth, both male and female.

      And when I see a man doing wrong, I am not motivated to imitate him. SubanAllah.

      This is a way of thinking that I observed too many times in the West.

      Let’s be equal (by doing bad). That is not equality. It is stupidity.

      Let’s be equal in doing good in’sha’Allah.

      What is the in put of such a group to their society ?

      – driving dangerously = killing innocents (major sin by the way)
      – abusing youngers sexually and emotionnally
      – use of alcohol and more

      Truly, what good is there to see and be part of ?

      Adventures is doing charity, helping others, going out of your way to make sure to learn and share.

      Adventures is taking care of your family and building a better society.

      I am truly so sad after reading this articleReplyCancel

  • AnonymousMarch 9, 2013 - 1:54 pm

    I work with Saudi Military daily and I am AMAZED at the level of disregard for laws and authority among these men. They want to take on the American freedom but ignore their religion and any other laws. It is sad really because I respect Islam so much even though I am not Muslim. I pray that these guys will find a good path, but it is sad to see and hear from these guys after they have left my class. Many of them go crazy and probably continue this behavior back in Saudi. He is correct about the education of some Saudi military. Some of these guys have a minimal education and also a minimal understanding of cultural differences but are so tribal. It is sad really, but I think this rebellious nature is a way for the young Saudi men to have an individual identity without shaming their family. Everything is done in secret and they keep it under wraps.
    It makes me sad because I want the best for these guys, but this sub-culture comes on when they visit the USA very easily.
    ReplyCancel

  • nicoleMarch 10, 2013 - 5:16 pm

    i did ask my husband about it! he said, “the word ‘darbawiya’…it’s just about being a stupid kid with your friends. like if your friends say in the middle of the night, ‘let’s go to bahrain!’ then you go to bahrain. if your friends say, ‘jump in a hell,’ then you will jump in a hell. this ‘darbawiya’ word…it’s a very cute word, a very formal word. it doesn’t mean gangs or subculture or whatever.” in other words, most teenagers, anywhere in the world, are “darbawiya” at some point. :) he says better, more slang words that apply to the male saudi youths as described in the post is “mut’asa” or “mahnasa.”ReplyCancel

  • LaylaMarch 11, 2013 - 10:07 pm

    “I do not think that there are woman who take this culture seriously.
    I do think that some girls try to mimic these guys in clothing or attitude as a joke or just for the sake of doing something outrageous, but I do not think they participate in core darbawya activities.”

    Anon SaudiReplyCancel

  • LaylaMarch 12, 2013 - 9:48 pm

    Reply to nicole from Anon Saudi:

    “he says better, more slang words that apply to the male saudi youths as described in the post is “mut’asa” or “mahnasa.”
    this is a very expected response from someone who is from my generation too
    as those terms that you described are terms that outsiders of their cultures used to call them, and still do. they are also negative terms that mean “sand dune” or something that degrades that group. there fore, they came up with the word Darbawiya.
    to describe themselves of course

    from an outside observer’s point of view, lots of kids are mimicking darbawiyas with fashion or attitude but dont really involve themselves in any dangerous activity. We also see this with punk movements around the world too. most of us have been sort of “punk” while growing up, but that doesnt mean that punk is not a way to describe someone who is truly involved in the culture.

    many older folks like me who have seen these group of people before they called themselves darbawiya tend to brush off new changes within their movements and assume that our older knowledge and terminology is what holds true when the younger generation is much more dynamic and is deeper that what we think.

    your husband is right that a lot of group of kids call themselves darbawy but they dont involve themselves in dangerous activities, but that also doesn’t mean that the core group they are mimicking dont exist or dont call themselves darbawiya too.ReplyCancel

  • nicoleMarch 13, 2013 - 1:48 pm

    i don’t think that my husband was saying that the core group of “darbawiya”–saudi punks, however you want to refer to them–and their movement don’t exist at all, but i do think it’s treading a line to suggest that all saudi guys who drink miranda citrus or a certain type of beer, wear a shmagh over their faces, have their music loud, or wear raggedy, dirty sandals are dangerous “darbawiya” who imitate prison sexual hierarchies and advocate for anarchy and not just…you know, saudi teenagers. it’s easy for outsiders–and by my use of that term, i’m referring to people who are not saudi and don’t interact with saudis much–to see a kid imitating the “darbawiya” style and consider him somehow dangerous. of course, the same concept exists in the states–there are some groups that are truly “punk,” truly into the music, the subculture, etc. (and there are offshoots of such cultures, like straight edge), and then there are kids who imitate them in certain ways but aren’t really involved in the core of the movement, nothing beyond superficialities like music, clothing, etc. the number of people who are truly involved in the dangerous elements of “punk” culture(s) is pretty low (and i say that as someone who was a superficial pop-punk in college–i was a pretty sad excuse for a punk, lol, but my best friends were much more hardcore).ReplyCancel

  • LaylaMarch 14, 2013 - 11:00 am

    hey “sahar” I’m not going to publish your idiotic comment and btw I caught your IP address so you can stop pretending you’re Saudi when in fact you’re from KL Malaysia.ReplyCancel

  • LaylaMarch 16, 2013 - 12:36 pm

    Hi Dianne, it was so pathetic it’s not even worth a mention. I feel sorry for her, poor woman! Must be a tough life.ReplyCancel

  • Hadeel ALSultanApril 19, 2013 - 2:30 am

    OMG!! I’m hearing about Darbawoyah all times, but I didn’t know anything. I thought they are silly boys. Thanks Laylah!! Apparently, you are more Saudi than I am:)ReplyCancel

  • LaylaMay 13, 2013 - 12:39 pm

    Anonymous Saudi Man reply to Nicole:

    Quote “but i do think it’s treading a line to suggest that all saudi guys who drink miranda citrus or a certain type of beer, wear a shmagh over their faces, have their music loud, or wear raggedy, dirty sandals are dangerous “darbawiya” who imitate prison sexual hierarchies and advocate for anarchy and not just…you know, saudi teenagers.”
    you are right, that is just common sense. you cann’t really find anyone wearing urban street clothing and assume they are thugs. Your mention of straight edge is pretty interesting as I am seeing a simular trend in the darbawiya sub culture too. i still didn’t analyse them as well as I should, will probably update this post when I do.
    with every movement there is a much more mainstream movement that is less about the values and more about the fashion. This is just the basics of any subculture and I expected the readers to be aware of this.ReplyCancel

  • […] More from Anonymous Saudi: Darbawiya-The Saudi Punks.  […]ReplyCancel

  • […] hijab and what he feels has been lost from its original meaning. Read also these posts from him: Saudi Punks and Thoughts on Tribalism Love and […]ReplyCancel

  • […] More from Anonymous Saudi: Darbawiya-The Saudi Punks.  […]ReplyCancel

For a nice day trip out of Riyadh, the village of Raghbah North West of the city is worth a visit. The old mud village has some interesting buildings and architecture, an ancient mosque and a watch tower which is possible to climb up and admire the views down to the city and the magnificent mountains in the background.

raghbah village Saudi Arabia

 This charming little mud village is located about 120 km outside of Riyadh and is easily accessible even with a small car. Nearby are date farms, red mountains and lovely rolling sand dunes that grow small bushes and other flora perfect for a picnic. In the rainy season small bodies of water gathers in the deep folds of the dunes. 

Raghbah makes for a fun day trip from Riyadh and it’s really easy to find because of the prominent watch tower. The ruins of this town (built in 1669) are vast and the visitor can take hours to explore all it has to offer.Many of the houses can be entered and explored from inside. Some have interesting details and there is one building especially well preserved with amazing detail inside. There are also wells and ruins of castles and walls on the outskirts of the town. The town has historical significance, it plays a role in the Najd history and it was invaded and destroyed by the Turks in the 19th century.

There are two mosques and the larger one is called the Al-Tali’ mosque, which is, like all the other buildings here made out of mud and straw. It’s worth going inside the mosque and checking out the courtyard, small well for wudu (washing for prayer) and the amazing prayer hall which is lit by natural sunlight.

 
The most interesting part is the Marqab watch tower on the west side of the town. The tower is quite tall and surprisingly narrow! It’s possible to climb the tower’s spiral staircase all the way to the top to get a great view of the whole town and the beautiful mountains and sand dunes in the distance. The climb up takes time because the way there is extremely claustrophobic experience! Not for the faint at heart and only one person can go up at a time, otherwise you will get stuck.ragbah watch tower saudi
Nearby the town are beautiful sand dunes, reachable with a small car if you don’t venture out too far. With a 4×4 it’s worth driving further out for better views but in general this place is has few other people around.

Be careful when driving, there are sudden holes and there might be water in them too!

To get here from Riyadh, from exit 4 take the Qassim road (65W) until you get to the exit called Huraimila. Then continue until you see the sign for Raghbah. The drive takes about an hour. Drive until you come to the small village and you cannot miss the mud village on your left hand side because of the watch tower visible from the road. The village is not more than 200 meters from the main road. Turn left when you spot the tower and you can drive into the village from any place you see fit.
Google maps: Rughabah Rughabah

https://goo.gl/maps/UULkNJPhaFm

To get to the sand dunes just continue on the road that lead you to the mud village and the dunes are best on the right hand side.
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  • Tara and DaleMarch 3, 2013 - 5:51 pm

    Layla, Sounds like a lovely weekend trip. I was wondering…we live near Hofuf and is the site closer to us or on the other side of Riyadh? We are trying to see if it is doable for a weekend trip for us. Thanks so much. :)ReplyCancel

  • Nabeel KhanMarch 3, 2013 - 3:22 pm

    nice place. check this also 24.994239,46.20782.. its sadus town. a bit farther on the way to edge of the world.ReplyCancel

  • NoorMarch 3, 2013 - 8:44 pm

    Oh mashAllah how gorgeous I would love to go there.ReplyCancel

  • KHAWAJA UMER FAROOQMarch 4, 2013 - 6:37 am

    Dear sister,
    Iam realy sorry i used some of your images without your permission i hope as a muslima you forgive my mistakes and enshallah i will try my best to avoid this type of mistake in future i already deleted your images on my site.if your find any thing wrong pls tell me i will correct it.
    wallah iam realy sorry you feel bad from my mistake and hope you will forgive me for my mistake.
    thanks and ragards.

    ReplyCancel

  • LaylaMarch 4, 2013 - 8:32 am

    Thank you Nabeel for the info, we have drive past it but never stopped.Will do next time!ReplyCancel

  • LaylaMarch 4, 2013 - 8:34 am

    Tara and Dale!
    I’m sure it would be doable for a weekend trip because even driving from Hofuf to Riyadh or vice versa is doable for weekend or one day if you leave early..You could easily spend the half day in Raghbah and then continue on to Ushaiger village or Shagraa a little further on.
    Try to check the locations and distances and roads from google maps!ReplyCancel

  • LaylaMarch 4, 2013 - 8:36 am

    Khawaja-Thank you for your prompt response I really do appreciate it.
    Of course I forgive you and trust you won’t do it again :)
    Thank you for being honest about it! I wish there were more people like you out there.

    best wishes

    LaylaReplyCancel

  • Susie of ArabiaMarch 4, 2013 - 9:41 am

    I love this post, Layla. I wish my hubby would take me out exploring to places like this! You are so lucky that your hubby does. The little village is so charming and I love all the detailing on the interior shots. Tre cool!ReplyCancel

  • LaylaMarch 4, 2013 - 9:04 pm

    Thank you Susie! Well I have to agree my husband is really nice to take me he is such a sweetheart. He enjoys the outdoors too so we share a common interest!ReplyCancel

  • Arezu In WonderlandMarch 4, 2013 - 10:00 pm

    Very beautiful pictures.
    Love the watch them.

    XO ArezuReplyCancel

  • bigstick1March 5, 2013 - 4:31 am

    Nice pics.ReplyCancel

  • Mom’s Adventures in the Magic Kingdom | Blue AbayaMay 11, 2014 - 4:34 pm

    […] the middle of the desert. She walked around in the lovely red sand dunes after having explored the old mud village of Raghba where she got to climb the watch tower for beautiful […]ReplyCancel

  • AbdulazizAugust 1, 2014 - 5:56 pm

    Lyla
    Thank you for the nice Pics of Raghba. Because I spent my childhood there, these pictures attracted me a lot and allow me to go back years. You are prof photographer
    Than you againReplyCancel

  • Missing Mom and MotivationOctober 31, 2014 - 2:35 am

    […] Find the full guide and directions to this beautiful desert trek and Saudi heritage site here: Ragbhah and the Rolling Sand Dunes. If you’d like to read more about my amazing mom and her adventures in the “Magical […]ReplyCancel

  • Al Thawadi ZainMay 2, 2015 - 6:33 pm

    It has been destroyed in the recent rain… We just visited today :( may 2015ReplyCancel

    • LaylaMay 4, 2015 - 12:59 pm

      destroyed?? the entire village? or parts of it? what about the watch tower? how awful :(ReplyCancel

      • AliJuly 12, 2018 - 3:08 pm

        I went to Raghba few weeks backs ( Thanks to your post and that interior picture). I can say that the whole town is in bad shape overall since no restoration work has been done except Mosque and the watch tower ( which seems to be renovated recently ).

        The building with detail interior work is missing roof now and the central column is gone as well. It is still a beautiful building with detailed work. I can share pictures

        It needs immediate attention :(

        AliReplyCancel

  • Ushaiger Heritage Village » Blue AbayaMay 29, 2015 - 5:49 pm

    […] location of Ushaiger village added at the end of the article. Check out Blue abaya’s guide to Raghbah mud village located closeby to Ushaiger, it’s possible to visit both these villages on the same […]ReplyCancel

  • Ten Beautiful Places to Discover in the Desert » Blue AbayaOctober 26, 2015 - 8:52 pm

    […] And last but definitely not least, what I love to do outdoors is to explore the numerous different historical mud villages that can be found around Riyadh. Some of my favorites include Ushaiger Heritage Village, Shagrah and Raghba village. […]ReplyCancel

  • […] village is a lovely place to visit for a half day trip, about 1,5h drive from Riyadh. Close by the Raghbah village has a more rustic feel and hasn’t been restored like its neighbor. The crown jewel of Saudi […]ReplyCancel

  • […] Guide to Ushaiger here and Raghbah here  […]ReplyCancel