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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

 There are grass fields, fountains, picnic areas, pavilions, courtyards, benches, shaded walkways, private seating areas, beautiful fragrant flowers and interesting rock formations for the visitors to enjoy. Each park has a distinct theme in design and vegetation which makes discovering new parks interesting and rewarding.
What makes the parks even more relaxing is the presence of water. The countless fountains, water channels and waterfalls create a constant calming sound of running water. This is like music to the ears for Riyadh’s desert dwellers.  Every park has at least one
fountain and the larger ones have sections of the park completely dedicated to different kinds of fountains.

 For families with children these gardens make for an enjoyable day out. Children of all ages will enjoy the playgrounds which have everything from swings, slides and suspension bridges to imaginative climbing gyms. The grass fields are perfect for running around and picnics. The largest parks have mosques adjacent to them and all parks have toilet facilities.

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


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



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  • IldiFebruary 19, 2013 - 7:18 am

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

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

    • LaylaFebruary 19, 2013 - 12:55 pm

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

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

      • MykSeptember 19, 2016 - 9:34 am

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

        • Arabian LauraSeptember 19, 2016 - 2:50 pm

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

  • AnonymousFebruary 19, 2013 - 9:42 pm

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

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

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

    Glenn in CanadaReplyCancel

    • LaylaFebruary 20, 2013 - 12:41 pm

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

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

  • AnonymousFebruary 20, 2013 - 3:11 pm

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

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

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

    • LaylaFebruary 20, 2013 - 7:53 pm

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

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

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

    • LaylaFebruary 21, 2013 - 8:30 pm

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

  • AnonymousFebruary 21, 2013 - 2:09 pm

    Hello Dear Writer

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

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

    Greetings for you:)


    • LaylaFebruary 21, 2013 - 8:27 pm

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

    • AnonymousFebruary 22, 2013 - 5:28 am

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

  • LaylaMarch 4, 2013 - 8:44 am

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

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

  • bDecember 5, 2013 - 11:07 pm

    But isnt it quite hard to get into dq

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

    Any idea if there is a way around thatReplyCancel

    • LaylaDecember 6, 2013 - 1:46 pm

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

      • KalApril 12, 2014 - 2:44 pm

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

        • LaylaApril 13, 2014 - 4:32 pm

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

  • ClarionMarch 2, 2014 - 7:24 pm

    Thanks Layla….loved that land…

    Much appreciate your grand work.

    Keep it up.

    You live in the Best land. Forget the myths!

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

  • Kiran KalamApril 29, 2014 - 7:30 am

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

  • Summer Is Here, What To Do? | Blue AbayaMay 24, 2014 - 10:45 pm

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

  • VeronikaJune 9, 2014 - 2:36 pm

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

    • LaylaJune 10, 2014 - 12:19 am

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

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

  • BardoSeptember 15, 2014 - 1:20 am

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

    • LaylaSeptember 15, 2014 - 3:29 am

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

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

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

  • Simon RNovember 14, 2014 - 12:34 am

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

  • MikeFebruary 28, 2015 - 11:34 am

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


    • LaylaMarch 3, 2015 - 2:08 pm

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

  • fatimaJanuary 7, 2016 - 10:58 am


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

  • 10 Things To Do In Riyadh During Spring » Blue AbayaMarch 1, 2016 - 8:18 pm

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

  • DawnOctober 8, 2016 - 8:02 pm

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

    • CourtneyAugust 4, 2018 - 4:14 am

      Dawn – the yellow and pink flower bush is a lantana.ReplyCancel

  • […] we’ve been lucky to spot these in the desert and I’ve even seen hedgehogs in the parks in Riyadh’s Diplomatic Quarter. My son insisted to hold one and the hedgehog rolled up into a ball when he held it. They also had […]ReplyCancel

  • […] Riyadh’s Hidden Gems-The Diplomatic Quarter Gardens (blueabaya.com) […]ReplyCancel

Saudi-Arabia…such a hopeless place to ever even dream of finding a life partner, a soul mate, or the love of your life..The country that strictly forbids mixing and all interaction between the sexes. How could anyone meet a member of the opposite sex here, let alone go out on a date, or fall in love?

Surprisingly there are countless love stories to be told that started in Magic Kingdom. So many of my friends found love here it’s actually quite amazing! Ironic perhaps, that out of all the places in the world, these couples met in the strict Saudi Kingdom. As a tribute to all these lovely couples I’ve compiled a list of short love stories from Saudi-Arabia. You can read our love story here: How I met my Saudi Prince.love hopeless place

Couples that found love in the hopeless desert Kingdom:

A Finnish man met a stunning Yemeni girl randomly one evening at a cafe..It was love at first sight. They are now happily married residing in Jeddah and have one adorable baby girl.

An Australian nurse met a U.S Marine at an embassy function. She thought he was cute, but not her type. He fell head over heals for her. They were friends first but soon fell deeply in love..They had a dream wedding a few years after when they moved to the U.S. They now have a beautiful newborn daughter.

A Finnish nurse met her Palestinian husband at a desert camp. They were inseparable from that day onward. They are now happily married residing in Riyadh.

A Finnish nurse met an all American guy at a compound party. They worked at the same hospital and started dating. Soon they left the Kingdom together to make a new home and life in U.S.A. The are now happily married and have a sweet little baby girl.

Another Finnish nurse met an American soldier at an embassy party. They started dating and soon decided to leave the Kingdom to the U.S. This adorable couple had their fairy-tale wedding in the Caribbean.

A Finnish party girl and a Lebanese guy had a crush on each other. They often saw one another at parties where he DJ’d. The beautiful couple fell deeply in love and share the same passion of travelling the world. They got married and had three weddings, traveled around the world and are now back working in the desert Kingdom.

An Irish nurse met a Lebanese engineer at a golf club. They shared the same hobby and soon realized they had a lot more in common too. The couple had an elaborate wedding in Beirut where they now reside.

A Finnish nurse met an American guy at the Hash Harriers outings. They shared the same interest in sport, photography and nature. Soon they fell in love and set out to Finland for their wedding. The stunning couple reside in Riyadh where they both work.

A Lebanese nurse had given up on ever finding a soul mate, she had worked in KSA for many years before she was invited to the Hash group gatherings. She met a lovely American guy there and got hooked on both the desert and the man. They had an amazing wedding in Lebanon and returned to continue work in Saudi-Arabia.

A Swedish nurse met a fellow Swede at a compound gathering. They became good friends and soon realized they had grown to love each other. The couple moved to Sweden where they got engaged soon after.

A Lebanese male nurse had a crush on a colleague, a Finnish nurse for a long time until he had the courage to ask her out on a date. They fell instantly in love and moved in together. They soon got married and then had a cute little boy.

Two Canadian nurses arrived to work in Saudi Kingdom at the same time. They met at the hospital orientation program. The couple started dating, but found life as an unmarried couple very difficult in Saudi and decided to return back to their home country together.

A Malaysian nurse met an American army official at a compound party. They started dating and later went to her home country for marriage. They now have two kids and continue working in the Kingdom.

found love in magic kingdom


There are many other stories out there..These are just the tip of the iceberg. So what is the secret behind all these love stories from perhaps the most un-romantic, strict country in the world? I guess it might have something to do with the fact that many of the expats coming here are like-minded and share the same interests. They already were open-minded enough to make the move to Saudi, so many of them are open to inter-cultural relationships. Expatriates can actually have a lively night life in Saudi-Arabia and many of these couples met a party or other expat gathering.

I’ve also noticed a phenomenon that is quite common; a lot of the women coming here are in bad relationships back home and moving to Saudi for a temporary work placement often leads to them seeing things in new perspectives. They realize they were just dragging along in an already doomed relationship. Moving to Saudi is a sort of an unconscious way to break off from that relationship.

I will leave you with a Valentine’s day card my 2yr old daughter made at Kindergarten..I’m so proud of my little artist! Ok maybe the teachers helped her a bit :)


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  • Solid DFebruary 14, 2013 - 2:53 pm

    too bad the progressive saudis are pushed out of lots of the gatherings, many gatherings happen where saudis are not allowed to enter, or they are just not invited, leaving them feeling discriminated against in their own country.ReplyCancel

    • LaylaFebruary 16, 2013 - 9:46 am

      Solid D-I agree with you, it is indeed a pity and creates barriers between expats and locals.ReplyCancel

  • Susie of ArabiaFebruary 14, 2013 - 3:05 pm

    Loved all your examples! One of my best friends here is a British teacher. She met a Jordanian chef this past New Years Eve at the British Consul’s bash and they are already engaged and making wedding plans!ReplyCancel

    • LaylaFebruary 16, 2013 - 9:46 am

      Love is in the air here!ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousFebruary 14, 2013 - 2:40 pm

    Wonderful idea to post these love stories with a happy ending online :) It is great to read.

    I also met my Saudi husband while working in KSA – we married and relocated to Europe after a few years.

    I guess it is more common than one thinks :)

    Happy Valentines :)!ReplyCancel

    • LaylaFebruary 16, 2013 - 9:45 am

      Oh really! That’s great to hear! Where are you from and how did you meet him here?ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousFebruary 14, 2013 - 4:52 pm

    Alhamdulillah! For you and all of those who have overcome the difficulties and embraced the challenges. Allah knows best. <3 <3 <3ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousFebruary 14, 2013 - 5:48 pm

    What is a Hash group gathering?ReplyCancel

  • FarooqFebruary 14, 2013 - 8:07 pm

    Does it count that I met my wife online in a yahoo chat room while she was in Singapore and I was working in Khobar?ReplyCancel

    • LaylaFebruary 16, 2013 - 10:03 am

      yes Farooq it does :)ReplyCancel

  • ღUmmعℓαwiღFebruary 15, 2013 - 1:04 pm

    Awwwww cute stories <3 i hope everyone has love & happiness in their marriages!! well as u know, i met both my Saudi husbands while they were studying in Canada... first case was love at first sight, the 2nd was for love at first sight for *him only* becuz i thought he was another Saudi playboy who rented fancy sports cars just to pick up girls -- i was wrong in the end *_*ReplyCancel

    • LaylaFebruary 16, 2013 - 10:03 am

      Well I’m glad you were wrong about #2 :)ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousFebruary 15, 2013 - 2:51 pm

    Loved this lovely story! There is never too much love in this world. If I was looking for a husband I’d be almost tempted to try the expat life in Saudi-Arabia after reading these examples :)

  • AnonymousFebruary 17, 2013 - 5:30 am

    Wonderful love stories…Too bad not one of them a Saudi girl or a Saudi boy meeting each other and falling in love. :(

    • LaylaFebruary 21, 2013 - 11:24 am

      Surely there are stories like that too, I do know some from the hospital where doctors that had met at work got married.ReplyCancel

  • salwa abdulrahmanFebruary 20, 2013 - 9:18 am

    awwww……hw sweet….i wish saudi arabia wud give a li’l more freedom 4 the girls…especially regarding driving n all….
    by the way, layla- i just luuuuuuuuuurve your blog…..i’m totally hooked 2 it nowadays….
    great going…!!!!!ReplyCancel

    • LaylaFebruary 21, 2013 - 11:23 am

      thank you Salwa!ReplyCancel

    • pushpdeepMarch 5, 2014 - 9:16 pm

      its trueReplyCancel

  • AnonymousFebruary 21, 2013 - 10:58 am

    Do you have any stories about Muslim couples. Its easy to meet people if you are not muslim and not practicing. What about practicing sisters and brothers new to the country or residents who find love. Is it easy too? I can not relate to your post becuase its about non muslims….ReplyCancel

    • LaylaFebruary 21, 2013 - 11:22 am

      Why would you think none of them were Muslims?ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousMarch 3, 2013 - 2:09 am

    Hi! I’m a Filipina nurse and met my American husband here in Riyadh Oct.2011,we got married in my country May 2012… :)ReplyCancel

  • JamilahMarch 14, 2013 - 9:26 am

    I am a Filipina and met my Saudi husband here in my workplace. Love is magic!!!ReplyCancel

    • roseDecember 8, 2013 - 10:40 pm

      I need help,, is it true that if a Saudi man asks the government for the request of marriage to an expat there is a negative result?they will put him in jail, remove his right to go out of the kingdom and be a nomad without a family name,iqama and will be removed as a Saudi citizen?ReplyCancel

      • LaylaDecember 11, 2013 - 1:58 pm

        First time I ever heard of such a thing, sounds like some sort propaganda to me. No base whatsoever.ReplyCancel

    • dianeSeptember 22, 2014 - 7:29 pm

      Hi. I’m a filipina married to a Saudi but currently staying in the Philippines because we got married here without his permission. Need help regarding marriage permission. ThanksReplyCancel

    • HadaJuly 16, 2015 - 12:09 pm

      @layla: i think its difficult for expat to marry a single saudi man. We know that their culture suggest to an arranged marriage by the saudi family, how did you both do it? Im very curious..ReplyCancel

  • hashSeptember 7, 2013 - 3:10 pm

    am Saudi girl i wanna american boyfriend how can i meet one ?ReplyCancel

  • Ramon MohamedFebruary 16, 2014 - 3:57 pm

    We didn’t meet in the kingdom but we got married there. I’m an expat and my wife is Saudi.. And the rest is history :)

    • LaylaFebruary 17, 2014 - 1:18 pm

      Hi Ramon, that brings the question, where DID you meet :)ReplyCancel

  • jessie jayneMarch 31, 2014 - 2:10 pm

    i love reading all the stories here… i met my husband too here in ksa.. he is a saudi man and i am a filipina working here as a nurse…ReplyCancel

  • SnowOctober 16, 2014 - 12:50 am

    Hi I am a UK nurse preparing to go to KSA. Interesting blog!
    It is nice to know that there is a hope meeting a decent man.ReplyCancel

  • snowOctober 17, 2014 - 1:18 am

    I am a UK nurse applying for a job as an anaesthetic nurse. Does anyone know whether the nursing role and responsibilities are similar to UK?ReplyCancel

    • LaylaOctober 17, 2014 - 2:44 pm

      Hi there snow,
      The roles and duties are pretty much the same but here in Saudi I found that compared to Finland, the nurses have very little decision making responsibilities. All orders must go through the doctor. In Finland nurses can administer certain drugs without having to ask dr permission first, for example. So the overall feeling is for me as a western nurse, that nurses are not trusted or viewed as highly as professionals as back home. But this is normal for the Asian nurse for example, and the workplaces are mixed with many different nationalities all used ot different kinds of nursing styles..
      You can read more about that in the post “Saudi Hospitals, Bureaucracy and BullyingReplyCancel

      • snowOctober 18, 2014 - 4:06 pm

        Thanks a lot Layla,
        I will check that page.
        I did my nursing in Bulgaria but working now for 10 years in UK and I am British citizen.
        We did have a lot of freedom making decisions and giving some drugs back home. I haven’t been in a Ward in UK but only theatres where everything is applied and prescribed by anaesthetist. I have only given drugs in emergency under direct supervision. Putting peripheral canula in BG was only nursing task but in UK is doctor’s responsibility.
        I am researching now where is better as a expat community and if I am offered a job to know in advance whether to accept. It is good to know more of how the work is organized.ReplyCancel

  • Dee MangalinoNovember 12, 2014 - 10:33 am

    I’m not aware that there are a number of Finnish Healthcare workers in Saudi. What I know is that most female western expats came from the US and the UK.ReplyCancel

    • LaylaNovember 12, 2014 - 12:20 pm

      There are actually surprisingly many but they normally all work in the two or three specific government hospitals here like National Guard and KFSH.ReplyCancel

  • Nisar MughalSeptember 4, 2015 - 10:28 am

    I need a temporary marriage here in Saudi ArabiaReplyCancel

    • Laura of ArabiaSeptember 7, 2015 - 3:16 pm

      What is temporary marriage in reality? it’s prostitution. and if you have a wife abroad it’s also cheating and infidelity.ReplyCancel

    • Khalid ShakirJuly 5, 2018 - 1:40 pm

      wow, interesting love stories, i love keep reading all and more… but my bad luck it is 3rd year now here in Riyadh no friend no love… i wish i have a girl friend here …..(!)ReplyCancel

  • Jesseca IsagaApril 29, 2016 - 6:19 pm

    How those people date each other while they are in the kingdom? Isn’t that allowed?ReplyCancel

  • Kathy BurkeApril 7, 2021 - 2:30 am

    Hi! This is late to this storyline, but I am an Aussie and my husband was with British Aerospace in Dhahran. I worked at KFMMC as Head Nurse of the ICU. We met at a Scuba Dive Club on a Brit compound in 1994 and actually had a Shariah Marriage in Dammam in 1995, to be safe, and discovered it is valid worldwide.
    We are still together and living in Australia now.ReplyCancel

One of the nicest things to do in Riyadh during the weekends is having breakfast out. There are many places around town to enjoy a great start for the day with a cup of coffee and delicious breakfast for relatively affordable prices. One of the newest additions to Riyadh’s breakfast scene is PAUL restaurant and bakery on Tahlia street. For those who are not familiar with this restaurant, PAUL is a famous French patisserie and bakery founded back in 1889 and ever since they have been cherishing their recipes for home made fresh breads and other produce. PAUL has branches all over the world and this one is the second one in KSA, there will later be PAUL’s branches in some of Riyadh’s malls and int he Eastern province. Update: PAUL has now opened branches in Hayat mall and Nakheel Mall in Riyadh. For more Riyadh restaurant reviews click here.

pauls riyadh bakery briochettes

Briochette from Paul’s bakery Riyadh.

Entrance to Paul’s bakery Riyadh.

PAUL Riyadh Tahlia street branch.

Fresh from the bakery

PAUL opens at 8 am every morning and the breakfast is served until 12 pm on all days except Fridays when they close a little bit earlier, around 11. They open back up again for lunch at 1pm.

Some mouth watering specialties form the bakery; the olive foccacia bread and the different kinds of brioche.

These reminds me of the Finnish sweet cardamon bread, pulla! Click for recipe!

And another reminder from Finland, my mother makes blueberry pie that looks just like this one! It was delicious (but not as good as moms of course).

This cake looks amazing.  It was called chocolate macaroon cake. I actually ordered a slice of this but got something else pretty funny served to me. Read on to find out what happened..That means also I have to go back just for this!

Croissants! Plain, cheese and zaatar. Perfectly crisp outer layer with a soft and delicious inside.

PAUL’s Freshly baked breads and baguettes.

PAUL has the cutest high chairs for kids I have ever seen! Check out these little cuties! So sophisticated!

We arrived at PAUL on a Friday morning at 9.30 am, thinking we are early birds..Wrong! The place was already bustling with life and most of the tables were full. The restaurant has three adjacent sections to sit in the family section and also a small outside terrace, but they told us it’s closed.

Paul’s signature black and white checkered floor greets the visitors at the door and continues onto the first dining space which has the feel of a cafe somewhere in France. The other two areas in the back seem more like living rooms with plush chairs, sofas, paintings hanging on the walls and chandeliers. The look is typical to the other PAUL branches, although perhaps not as cozy and the attention to detail is not quite the same. Nevertheless the look in PAUL is something very different and refreshing in Riyadh.

The menu is pretty simple, they have three different breakfast packages all include choice of hot beverage, freshly squeezed orange juice and additionally choice of one viennoisserie and omelette. The full breakfast with all proponents is 59sar. I was disappointed that my favorites, pancakes, crepes or french toast were not on the menu. They didn’t have any especially designed menu items for kids either.

We ordered two set menus and some hash browns for the side order. The waiters were all friendly looked very French in their outfits, although all were from the Philippines :) The service was a little bit slow and sometimes forgetful and they seemed to be lacking coordination between the staff. They brought a complimentary basket of freshly baked breads which all looked delicious, but they came to the table cold. My husband thought that since this is a bakery, all the bread should be served warm so he requested for the bread to be warmed but the waiter forgot to bring the basket back.

Delicious freshly baked breads basket at PAUL’s Riyadh

I wanted to try the famous Paul’s Pain Au Chocolate for my viennoisserie choice but they said only cheese and zaatar croissant were available, they had ran out of the other options. We ordered one zaatar and one cheese croissant. Another waiter brought us two cheese croissants. Again, they were cold and we asked them to be warmed for us. They came back quickly and are served with PAUL’s own butter and strawberry jam. The croissants were perfect, crispy on the outside and soft and fluffy inside. Easy to break pieces off and not the chewy kind you sometimes get.

Omelet and hash-browns from PAUL’s

After a while they brought the omelet and hash browns. The omelet was was OK, but nothing special. The hash browns were absolutely lovely, very crunchy outer layer with a flavorful inside, both omelets and hash browns were served hot.

I was surprised that they didn’t bring everything to the table at the same time, for example we had to ask for our coffees to be served because there was no sign of them although we had gotten all the food already. The coffees were both good and were accompanied by a cute little sponge cake.

I went to take some photos from the bakery side and decided to order slices of the irresistible blueberry pie and the above pictured macaroon cake, both 19sar. They told me to go back to the table and the cakes would be brought there.

After 15 minutes with no sign of them, we asked the waiter and they brought this to the table:

An upside down cake?

I flipped it over the right way and it looked much better for the picture. It wasn’t what I had asked for, but I decided to keep it to avoid further confusion with the waiters.

The taste was much better than the appearance, which looks a little bit dry. I can say this chocolate cake was far from dry! It was heavenly! So smooth and rich in chocolate flavor, yet not overly sweet and I was able to finish it easily. Would be even better with a scoop of real vanilla ice cream.

The Blueberry pie was equally delicious. It tasted very similar to the one my mother makes in the summer from fresh berries picked from the nearby forest. The blueberries in the filling were fresh and plentiful, it was creamy but light and perfectly sweet for my taste buds. The extremely thin crust was not to my liking but my husband liked it very much (although he remembered to say my mom’s is much better). This would be great with that vanilla ice cream too!

The restaurant has these ceiling to floor windows which are blackened from the outside but you can see out from them. This means also that the restaurant will become very hot and uncomfortable inside. After five minutes of sitting near the windows we had to ask for the A/C to be turned on because we were really sweltering in our winter clothing. After a while it got better, but it still felt somewhat suffocating.

As polite and friendly the staff was, I feel they would still need some additional training and a little bit more attentiveness.

Star ratings:
Overall: ***1/2
Ambiance: ***
Food: ****
Decor: ****
Service: **

Toilets: ***
Value For Money: *****
Kid Friendliness: ***
Romance Factor: ****

Cleanliness: ****


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  • Shuja UddinFebruary 13, 2013 - 10:06 am

    After reading the detailed review, i think its a MUST GO place…
    A very nice Review ..
    Keep Up the Good Work.ReplyCancel

  • Jerry Mc KennaFebruary 13, 2013 - 3:54 pm

    It looks like this place is a work in progress.ReplyCancel

  • Arezu In WonderlandFebruary 13, 2013 - 9:34 pm

    hmmm the food looks yummie.

    XO ArezuReplyCancel

  • Muhammad ali SohailFebruary 13, 2013 - 9:57 pm

    Seems like a place to visit at least once. Though m lucky to have a delicious breakfast buffet being served in office cafe daily (except Friday). It doesn’t offer that much variety but still i am certain that you’ll love the course and soft croissants if i get a chance to take you in.

  • NoorFebruary 14, 2013 - 8:56 am

    I am so glad that you reviewed this bc I have been waiting on them to open and we saw they were last night and were thinking about going. I do not know if you know the cafe called La Madeline its a french style one in the states and by far my favorite place to go so I am excited YAY.ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousFebruary 14, 2013 - 6:43 am

    Sorry totally disagree. Went there a few weeks ago and had a sandwich. It was awful. And it hurt even more because it was very expensive.ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousFebruary 18, 2013 - 6:46 am

    Paul is supposed to open here in Khobar as well. I just hope the quality is better than what it has become back home in France. Their breads & salads are not as good as they used to be. Will give them a go nevertheless as it will remind me of home.

  • VonnelFebruary 19, 2013 - 12:36 pm

    Owww, do they have the macaroons, thank you for posting this one. I will be a fan of your blog from now. Your blog is a site to watch.ReplyCancel

    • LaylaFebruary 20, 2013 - 7:08 pm

      Hi Vonnel, yes they have macaroons too!ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousMarch 24, 2013 - 3:02 pm

    I ordered that chocolate cake at Paul in Dubai and it was also served to me upside down. Maybe that’s how it’s supposed to be served?ReplyCancel

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

    […] PAUL on Tahlia street. Especially lovely place to have breakfast, freshly baked croissants and breads from the famous […]ReplyCancel

  • LaylaNovember 4, 2014 - 3:39 pm

    Wa aleikum salaam Aisha! So glad to see you on here:) Thanks for the restaurant tip, that sounds very interesting, definitely have to check that out!

    Would love to see you soon too, the kids grow so fast and time flies!

    All the best to you and your family God bless you always,

    Love LReplyCancel

  • […] breakfast my favorite is Paul’s on Tahlia street. They are open on Fridays and it’s always a pleasure to be able to enjoy […]ReplyCancel

  • Limbu RaveeJuly 7, 2015 - 6:01 pm

    i likeReplyCancel

  • […] Breakfast In Riyadh: PAUL’s Restaurant And Bakery (blueabaya.com) […]ReplyCancel

  • Shahid HussainFebruary 27, 2016 - 12:01 pm

    the bread is very good and brand is name i lickeReplyCancel

Riyadh and Romance don’t exactly go hand in hand do they? Despite its boring reputation, Riyadh has some surprisingly romantic restaurants where lovers can find a nice quiet spot.

I’ve noticed that some of the best restaurants in Riyadh are also the most romantic. With the upcoming Valentine’s Day next weekend, many couples are going to eat out in Riyadh. Here’s my top list of romantic restaurants found in Riyadh for some tips on where to head for that special Valentine’s Day romance!

top restaurants riyadh romantic

1. The Globe, Cristal and Cigar Lounge Faisaliyah Tower
Probably the best views in town. Dine high above the city lights indulging on exquisite dishes made by some of the world’s top chefs in a luxurious setting. Extra bonus the ladies can take abayas off if they so wish. The exclusive culinary festival ‘Globe Summit’ takes place here a few times a year, not to be missed for the ultimate dining experience.

2. Spazio, Italian restaurant, Kingdom Tower
The second best views in town. Good food and lovely ambiance. Enjoy some sushi and a chance to walk on the Sky Bridge with amazing views of Riyadh.

3. Mondo Italian restaurant, Intercontinental Hotel
One of the only places you will find a table next to a water source. Mondo has an outdoor seating area by the poolside. Fantastic, well presented food, divine desserts, candles and romantic music.

4. Appetit Kitchen Tahlia Street
What could be more romantic than an evening out in Paris? Appetite Kitchen is as close to the real thing as you can get in the sand pit! Dimmed lights, cozy atmosphere, sophisticated music and best of all, a candlelit dinner!

5. Cento Per Cento Italian on Olaya Street
Book your own beautifully decorated private room with a set 7-course menu for an all out evening.

6. Fairuz Garden King Fahad rd.
Beautiful interior design, dim lights, blue colors, excellent Lebanese food (and music!)..  You can book a table in advance which the staff especially decorates with rose pedals and candles. Choice of sitting outside on the rooftop terrace with a view to the Kingdom tower.

7. Maya La Chocolaterie Ourouba rd.
The ultimate place for all chocolate lovers, the chocolaterie offers an extensive menu of pure indulgence in a warm atmosphere with soulful music playing in the background. This love clinic will get your endorphins running high!

8. L’Olimpo Italian restaurant end of Tahlia Street, Dhabab rd.

This restaurant looks like it belongs somewhere in a small idyllic village in Italy. The decor inside is romantic with pretty fountains all over, it seems as if stepping into another country. Choice of small outdoor seating area or private rooms in the upper level.

9. Hediard Tahlia Street
Another option for family section dining under the stars. Prime location on the rooftop on Tahlia street, good food and service.

10. Azurro Italian,Ritz Carlton
This Italian poolside restaurant will make you feel no less like royalty.  Six star service not comparable to anything else in Riyadh, extraordinary dishes created by a real Italian chef, beautiful decor and views to the spectacular indoor pool area (which is closed to visitors during dinner hours!). What more can you ask for?

11. Lenotre Cafe,  Centria Mall 3rd floor
Lenotre has some of the best desserts in town, especially the chocolate dishes are amazing. Served in a fabulous setting on a terrace overlooking Olaya street and the Kingdom tower on one side and Faisaliyah on the other.

12. La Vela italian, Centria Mall 3 rd floor
You can either dine inside in a beautiful intimate setting or outside on the terrace with views to the Faisaliyah tower and down to Tahlia street. Candles, dim lights, great ambiance and tasty desserts!

13. Amore Tahlia Street
The name says it all, this Italian has some of the best pizzas and pastas in town which will make you fall in love all over again :) Service is excellent and dinner is served in a modern setting.

14. Scalinis Italian in Diplomatic Quarters.

This Italian restaurant is located in the Fazari plaza area and open to everyone. Female guests can remove their abayas if they want. Nice decor, great food and one of the safest places to dine for those looking for muttawa-free areas.

What are your favorite romantic restaurants in Riyadh? What would you add to this list?

Special mention goes to the Najdi Village restaurant!

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  • AnonymousFebruary 11, 2013 - 2:02 pm

    hahaha i loved ur husband’s comment, he is right lolReplyCancel

    • LaylaFebruary 12, 2013 - 12:06 pm

      lol I told him people are going to think he’s weirdReplyCancel

  • American BeduFebruary 11, 2013 - 5:35 pm

    An excellent review, Layla!ReplyCancel

    • LaylaFebruary 12, 2013 - 12:06 pm

      Thanks Carol!ReplyCancel

  • LaylaFebruary 12, 2013 - 12:08 pm

    LOL well he is not bad at all :) brings flowers and takes me out to dinner occasionally and when I’m feeling blue he makes me Finnish pancakes, so that’s sort of like Valentine’s day over and over right ;)

    #14 is in my neighborhood, I can actually walk to that restaurant!ReplyCancel

  • FayezFebruary 12, 2013 - 9:51 am

    Another worthy mention: La Cucina in Faisaliah. Great food and decor.ReplyCancel

    • LaylaFebruary 12, 2013 - 12:16 pm

      Thanks for the recommendation Fayez, I fully agree :)ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousFebruary 12, 2013 - 11:45 am

    We just returned from Riyadh this morning. I wish I had read this yesterday, because we were looking for a nice place to eat. One of these places would’ve been nice. O well, maybe next time, insha Allaah.

    Btw, your husband is right. You are promoting Valentines Day, which is unIslamic (shirk to be exact). It seems that you’re aware that this is incorrect by stating that your husband is against it. It is good that he frees himself from what you post, but it would be even better if you took down this post and offered a disclaimer against Valentines Day.

    May Allaah guide you to what is correct and grant the good that you do be a benefit to yourself and to others, ameenReplyCancel

  • Coolred38February 12, 2013 - 7:04 pm

    Nice post interrupted by anonymous negative comments as usual.

    btw I thought Saudi haya made sure nothing pink or red was within view during this time of the year? Have they softened their stance finally? LOLReplyCancel

    • LaylaFebruary 12, 2013 - 9:01 pm

      Coolred38- Yup! Nothing new here, just the usual Negative Nelly’s :D
      First they say how they wish they’d seen the post earlier, then the next sentence, you should delete this post…hmmm.ReplyCancel

    • LaylaFebruary 12, 2013 - 9:03 pm

      Oh to answer your question about the red, for sure they will be on the lookout this weekend, what else do the muttawa have to do than terrorize people :p

    • AnonymousFebruary 17, 2013 - 5:07 pm

      I visit your blog from time to time, because you share a lot of nice information. I like good resturaunts, festivals and events. You’re blog is one of few that keeps the expat up to date for such things.

      Nevertheless, there are some things that you promote that go against the Qur’aan and Sunnah; in additon to on occasion, you’ll make mockery/unIslamic statements about Islam and or Muslims (Muttawa, Haya, etc.). You are to be advise that this is not correct. It is a duty upon every Muslim to adivse he/her brother/sister in Islam. Now, if you’re not Muslim, then, I free myself of you.

      I meant what I said in my first post. I truly wish that I had read your post on these resturaunts, as I would have like to eat some place nice while in Riyadh this past week. My spouse and I have some time to ourselves before the kids arrive, so we’re trying to enjoy this time.

      Thank you for your beneficial posts and may Allaah guide you and me to that which is correct, ameenReplyCancel

  • AnonymousFebruary 13, 2013 - 5:48 am

    There are few restaurants here in Yanbu – far from romantic!. Will live vicariously through you & your photos, enjoy!


  • Samia Khan HyderFebruary 15, 2013 - 2:07 am

    we were at cento per cento last night….its our val’s day place…hav been goin thr for the past 3 years n its still awesome!!but spazio was a big disappointment…the food is over priced n forgettable!!lolimpo n fayruz gardens r good.m going to try out ur other suggestions!!ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousFebruary 17, 2013 - 3:28 am

    You mentioned that in one restaurant, the ladies do not have to wear abayas. How does that happen? Is it considered not to be in public? As for promoting, not promoting Valentines day – well, a sense of humor is good to have not matter what religion you are, right? After all, I’m not catholic, but got lovely flowers, a card, dinner, and candy from my husband (just to remind me that he loves me). He does that other days too, but it’s always nice to be told again :).ReplyCancel

  • Karen SmartFebruary 14, 2014 - 4:17 am

    If you comment and you care so much show your face don’t be anon. ReplyCancel

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

    […] Food is presented in fabulous ways and this place has high international standards. One of the most romantic restaurants in Riyadh and ideal for […]ReplyCancel

  • Michael EggertNovember 14, 2014 - 3:59 am

    I suppose that Le Chateau (“underground nightclub” in basement) was too new to be mentioned on this list – I think the Japanese pagoda area (there are many different themes inside this Italian/Chinese multi-restaurant palace) may rank as the most romantic area – but there are many different hide-aways in this huge place… The train station area would be a romantic option and the main dining area is always packed with birthday meals and filipino drum bangers for a raucous rendition of Happy Birthday to you, for a culture that’s not suppose to emphasis birthdays… not! – mike e.ReplyCancel

  • biyaJanuary 25, 2015 - 4:43 pm

    Hi, i checked the menus of thse hotels. these are very much costly…:( can some one suggest reasonable resturants.ReplyCancel

  • faddiMarch 8, 2015 - 1:01 pm

    i want to make a booking for “Fairuz Garden King Fahad rd” and iv tried calling them endless times but no one is answering. i can always walk in but wanted some special arrangements for the dinner. This is really a big MINUS for them.ReplyCancel

    • LaylaMarch 9, 2015 - 8:38 pm

      oh dear, unfortunately most places in Riyadh are terrible at answering their phones!ReplyCancel

  • faddiMarch 9, 2015 - 10:40 pm

    well that was not just it. allow me to share my experience with them.
    gladly i was finally able to book in my appointment and i asked them in specific to make special arrangements and decorate the table as it was meant to be a surprise dinner party for my parents anniversary. anyhow when i reached the “Fairuz Garden King Fahad rd”
    no arrangements were done even though i saw it on the appointment parer written SPECIAL with my name next to it. so the whole plan of the surprise was flushed right there and then.

    ADVICE: the service they provide is for sure not worth the effort nor the price. for me it was first and last time.ReplyCancel

    • LaylaMarch 10, 2015 - 3:59 pm

      Very sorry for this terrible experience! Thank you for sharing. Certainly sounds like appalling service. I hope you contacted the manager?ReplyCancel

  • Rachelle AnneApril 5, 2015 - 7:35 am

    Thank you for making this article. I can’t help but voice out though that some restos/cafes mentioned are not romantic at all. Been to majority of them therefore I know. :)ReplyCancel

    • LaylaApril 10, 2015 - 9:46 am

      Thanks for the feedback Rachelle, Well I guess it all depends on our individual preferences and perceptions :) As the saying goes, beggars are not choosers ;)ReplyCancel


Rawdat Khuraim-An Oasis in the Saudi Arabian Desert. Directions and GPS Co-ordinates to Rawdat Khuraim (also spelled Rawdhat Koraim/ Rawdhat Kuraim) can be found at the end of this post! More information about this desert oasis, also known as the King’s Forest, can be found here: Rawdhat Khuriam-The King’s Forest.

The beautiful desert gardens of Rawdhat Khuraim can be found about 100 km outside Riyadh in the middle of the desert. An abundance of trees, bushes, birds and flowers will surprise first time visitors. Rawdhat Khuraim is like a green oasis suddenly appearing from the desert. Rawhdat Kuraim is also commonly known as the ‘King’s Forest’ because a part of the huge area is closed off from public, forming the King’s private farm. However a vast portion of Rawdhat Kuraim is open to the public year round. Please be informed that the Rawdhat Kuraim is best visited after heavy rains in the winter and spring time. On years with little rainfall the are can be very dry and arid with little vegetation.

The best thing about the Rawhdat is that it’s fairly easy to reach from Riyadh and that no motor vehicles are allowed beyond the fenced area. No quad bikes or SUV’s madly racing around! Just silence interrupted only by the chorus of birds and sound of the the leaves rustling in the wind. Perfect for a picnic or long walks in the “bush”, exploring the desert flora and fauna.

oasis desert saudi arabia

 rawdhat kuraim kings forest saudi arabiarawdat khuraim flowers

Rawdhat Khureim is fenced all the way around and accessible by foot only. You must drive next to the fence and when you find a spot you like, park your car and then proceed on foot. The further away you walk from the fence into the park, the greener and quieter the area gets. Saudis usually stay close to the fence and don’t walk further inside the area.

The area inside is clean and free of trash, which is unfortunately a rarity for picnic places in Saudi. It’s a lovely place to go walking, bird watching or just for a picnic and women can take their abayas off if they wish because there’s typically nobody else around. On a weekday you can have the entire place to yourself.
The best time to visit the Rawhdat is during the cooler winter months and spring when the garden is in full bloom and a grass carpet appears after rains.  Migratory birds stop here and it’s a bird watchers paradise.
After rains in the winter and spring months small “lakes” and streams form in the Rawdhat. This is when lots of Riyadhis will come to the area for picnicking on weekends. If it gets crowded it’s best to drive up North around the gardens, a trail runs next to the fence all the way around the area. A 4×4 vehicle is needed when driving on this trail!

Overnight camping is not allowed inside the area and visitors should leave the park before 10 p.m when the rangers start roaming the area. Caution should be practiced when making open fires and visitors are expected to keep the place clean. Don’t leave any trash behind and try to pick up anything you see. There are large trash cans outside the area.

Directions: From Riyadh take the Dammam highway (route 40E) toward Rumah. After about 40 km turn left to Rumah. Then drive another 55km and you will see signs for Rawdhat Khuraim on the right, just follow the signs and the green oasis is very easy to spot from the highway.
Turn towards Rawdhat Khuraim and by following this road you can the enter the park from anywhere you like, left or right hand side of the road. If you continue straight on this road you will reach the King’s farm which is off limits to public and closed off with a large gate. To the left of this road the red sand dunes can be seen behind the garden.

For the most quiet places drive off to the right from the road, around to the back of the area beside the fence until you see a nice spot. The area is so huge you can drive for half an hour along the fence and still not see an end to the park. Alternatively you can go left from the road next to the red sand dunes but this place usually is more crowded because it’s easier to reach. You can drive here with a normal car but if you wish to venture further you will need a 4×4.

 GPS Co-ordinates:
Latitude: N 25.35209°
Longitude: E 47.45373°
N 25° 21′ 15” | E 47° 17′ 50.2”


Google Maps location click here.


Warnings and tips: 

-Watch out for the thorny bushes especially at night. Don’t wear flip-flops or crocs the thorns might puncture the shoes!(trust me it hurts)

-It’s best to leave the area before dark if your car is far away from you, carrying all the stuff back to the car in the dark is a nightmare (been there done that, see above)

-Don’t take a strollers here that have air filled tyres, the thorns will puncture the wheels. Strollers with very small wheels might be hard to manoeuvre in the terrain. (pushing a stroller with flat tyres in the desert makes for a good work-out though)

-If you make a fire, use one of the fire trays that you can buy at all of the gas stations on the way to the desert. They are much safer. It’s not allowed to use the garden trees for firewood so bring your own, it can be purchased on the road to the garden. (remember to bring a lighter so you don’t have to rub sticks together  until your hands get blisters in them and then walk around the rawdhat looking for someone to borrow a lighter from and then get lost in the process and end up scaring your wife into thinking you got eaten up by some desert lizards.)

-Make sure you know where your car is parked. If you walk around and don’t pay attention to your surroundings you WILL get lost. (not fun especially in the dark and carrying a baby, see part one)

-If you have children with you make sure they are wearing proper shoes like sneakers and long sleeve trousers. Don’t let them out of your sight they might easily get lost!

-Don’t leave food lying on the ground, ants will soon take over your picnic. Instead, hang the foods packed in plastic bags on tree branches or keep them in the cooler. (ants especially enjoy climbing into opened cans of 7 Up in the dark)

-Don’t play loud music here. It annoys the heck out of people who drove 100 km to enjoy the song of BIRDS not your crap. (includes watching loud Youtube videos from your iPhone)

-If you sit under a big acacia tree, check first if it has birds nests in it. You don’t want bird poo-sauce on your sandwich (or any other food for that matter, trust me on this)

-Before you leave, try to check the weather forecast for sandstorm warnings. Check this post to find out what happens if you don’t.

-Pick up all the trash you can carry out, do a good deed and you will feel good, promise!


Liked this post? For more desert treks outside Riyadh click here! Don’t forget to subscribe to Blue Abaya to receive updates to your email!



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  • AnonymousJanuary 29, 2013 - 7:28 am


    I really enjoyed your advise and look forward to visiting this place in the near future, insha Allaah.


  • LaylaJanuary 29, 2013 - 2:34 pm

    Thanks, i hope that others can learn from our mistakes :DReplyCancel

  • Jerry Mc KennaJanuary 30, 2013 - 4:44 pm

    Lovely photos!ReplyCancel

  • KKSeptember 7, 2013 - 6:35 pm

    Looks like a nice place to visit.

    Is it advisable to access this place in Hyundai Accent or Toyota Yaris?ReplyCancel

    • LaylaSeptember 17, 2013 - 1:04 am

      Yes, you can visit with these cars, however you would have to stick to the places closest to the road..nothing wrong with those places, but you might have to walk into the area to find a better spot.ReplyCancel

  • Shahid LuqmanSeptember 28, 2013 - 1:14 pm

    All photos are beautiful but no human can see in photos.
    How about security because looks lonely & scared place in desert for families & kids. Is there any sitting arrangement, hotels & restaurant near by that place ?

    Shahid from Riyadh, KSAReplyCancel

    • LaylaSeptember 30, 2013 - 12:08 am

      Hi there, no sitting arrangements, it’s a protected natural area and the best part is that there are not many other people around and you get to enjoy the sounds and sights of nature!ReplyCancel

  • Rizwan khanOctober 16, 2013 - 6:41 pm

    I had heard of this place through newspapers n web, I went with my family today but was disappointed as we could not see the real beauty which is hidden with the wires. Would request the authorities to open these natural treasures to the general public. Or at least post photos n pictures so that we learn more about Saudi natual treasures.ReplyCancel

    • LaylaOctober 20, 2013 - 3:11 pm

      You have driven to the King’s farm which is closed from public. Enter Rawdhat Khuraim from either left or right from that road which leads to the King’s farm. it’s quite simple really. The little pole fence is there just to prevent you form driving inside and ruining it, you must walk in.ReplyCancel

  • […] For more tips and warnings in Rawdhat Khuraim check this post. […]ReplyCancel

  • […] them it was a fantastic idea to go. So after five hours of preparations and driving all the way to Rawdhat Kuraim. BOOM. Sandstorm […]ReplyCancel

  • Sans Abaya in Saudi » Blue AbayaFebruary 6, 2016 - 11:41 pm

    […] place far off in the desert will be safe for women to take their abayas off. This time we went to Rawdhat Khuraim and the girls made long walks around the huge area without abayas, there was literally no one else […]ReplyCancel

  • Ten Beautiful Places to Discover in the Desert » Blue AbayaFebruary 7, 2016 - 2:59 am

    […] just outside Riyadh which have vegetation year round. One of the largest one’s is called Rawdat Kuraim, also known as the King’s […]ReplyCancel

  • […] and Thumamah sand dunes and park in the North. For further expeditions out of the city try the King’s Forest, Rawdhat Khuraim, Red Sands Flower Fields, For seasonal desert lakes try Lake Kharrarah or The […]ReplyCancel

  • Ten Beautiful Places to Discover in Riyadh’s Desert » Blue AbayaSeptember 13, 2016 - 3:43 am

    […] just outside Riyadh which have vegetation year round. One of the largest one’s is called Rawdhat Kuraim, also known as the King’s Forest. Fun Fact: Riyadh is the plural of rawdhat, meaning gardens […]ReplyCancel

  • Riyadh To Do Guide » Blue AbayaNovember 25, 2017 - 10:18 pm

    […] other desert treks and picnicking spots around Riyadh, but again I will only mention my favourite Rawdhat Khuraim. Once you get there you will not believe you’re in Saudi-Arabia, it’s so green! Check […]ReplyCancel

  • maria karatziaOctober 20, 2018 - 10:10 am

    Your informations are totally wrong.we went with my family there 100km distance and they told us that it is closed,the we returned back 100km.200km for nothing!you must update your information that you give to the peopleReplyCancel

    • LauraOctober 22, 2018 - 12:11 pm

      Sorry to hear that Maria. However, as you can clearly read from the post, the part owned by the King is always closed with gate and fence.
      There is a massive area that is always open to public and you may drive around the fences and park your cars next to it, then walk inside.

      Please tell me, WHICH PART DID YOU NOT UNDERSTAND from this clear instruction:
      “Turn towards Rawdhat Khuraim and by following this road you can the enter the park from anywhere you like, left or right hand side of the road. If you continue straight on this road you will reach the King’s farm which is off limits to public and closed off with a large gate. To the left of this road the red sand dunes can be seen behind the garden.

      For the most quiet places drive off to the right from the road, around to the back of the area beside the fence until you see a nice spot. The area is so huge you can drive for half an hour along the fence and still not see an end to the park. Alternatively you can go left from the road next to the red sand dunes but this place usually is more crowded because it’s easier to reach. You can drive here with a normal car but if you wish to venture further you will need a 4×4.”

      Also, there is no way any person can constantly keep up with places in Saudi Arabia, they constantly change roads, signs, opening hours, and any rules according to their mood, at whim or by just mere randomness.

      That something is not as expected in KSA, is the NORM, not the exception. So you just have to learn to accept it. There’s nothing I can do about it either.

      Do you actually expect me to to drive around all the 100+ locations on weekly basis to verify if they are accurate or not?

      FYI I often revisit places I write about in the past and then update posts accordingly. I have visited Rawdhat Khuraim last spring in April 2018, and it was very dried out and not nice and green this year, due to very little rainfall. Of course as it always is, it was open and accessible from ALL areas that I’ve mentioned in the post. I have informed people about the dry landscape on my social at the time I visited.

      There are over 300 posts on here. Not even a robot can constantly update everything.

      Comments like yours certainly put me off writing anything at all, or giving out free information and spending many hours a day just to help ungrateful people.ReplyCancel

  • FirozJanuary 31, 2019 - 12:05 pm

    Hi Laura,

    Thanks for such a great information. We are planning to go this weekend. Can you provide any places for hiking in Riyadh?ReplyCancel

  • Hanan.ZApril 10, 2019 - 8:20 pm

    I saw a few people who visit RK are not have enough information and can not explore about it, I love this place, I will go to it whith my family after the finish of my final exams.ReplyCancel

Some of my readers have been asking me to write more about my travels and favorites spots around the world. I really love to explore new destinations and often suffer from severe travel fever if I haven’t gone to a new place for a while. I prefer going to destinations that are on ‘roads less traveled’ and not very touristy. Sometimes I travel for great diving spots. Other times just for the culture. Or just a great beach! So far I’ve been lucky to have visited 59 countries and I dream of visiting many more..

Discovering new places makes me feel alive and I’m constantly planning on new adventures. There are so many amazing places I want to visit..but right now my life is hectic with the two babies and I’ll have to keep the travel bugs in check until the kids are a bit older. I also want my kids to grow up seeing as many different cultures and places in the world as possible..hopefully that would make them more open-minded and tolerant toward other cultures but also instill a sense of pride of their roots in both Finland and Saudi-Arabia.

Here’s a list of the countries I’ve been to so far..

Finland (well obviously lol)

United Kingdom
Sri Lanka
Hong Kong
South Korea
St. Vincent and the Grenadines
Cayman Islands
Equador, Galapagos Islands
South Africa
Tanzania, Zanzibar


Czech republic










That’s 70 countries if I counted correctly :)

Here’s my quick bucket list:
Mongolia. Japan, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, New Zealand, Namibia,  Zimbabwe, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Iran, Pakistan, Brazil, Costa Rica, Trinidad and Tobago, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Argentina, Chile, Madagascar, Eritrea, Djibouti, Senegal, Romania, Nepal, Bhutan, Syria, Comoros Islands..was that another 50?

Which one of the places on my been to list would you like to hear more about? One of my favorite travel destinations so far has been Galapagos Islands.


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  • Umm AhmadJanuary 17, 2013 - 1:04 am

    That is so neat! Masha’allah, I could only dream of going to 1 country, and yet you have been to 59! Lovely! :)ReplyCancel

  • dBJanuary 17, 2013 - 6:51 am

    WOW! OMG! I’m imprest of how many countries you have visited! Great!!
    I would like to read about all your visits here on your blog!
    It must have been amazing experiences! So many people met, so many places seen!
    I really love to see Romania on your bucket list! It is my home coutry which I love and deeply miss! You will find great places to visit there!

  • AnonymousJanuary 17, 2013 - 6:12 am

    woooow amazing! How did you go to Yemen? That would be interesting to hear!ReplyCancel

  • MudassirJanuary 17, 2013 - 8:01 am

    Thats a LOT!! btw any special reason for omitting India? just curious.ReplyCancel

  • DentographerJanuary 17, 2013 - 3:11 pm

    Life, you are living it right.ReplyCancel

  • NoorJanuary 17, 2013 - 5:18 pm

    You are very much like me in that way. I also love travel and culture and want to go to the places no one else does. As for the places that are filled with people I rather pass bc you do not get the real experience.

    BTW hello coffee date asap :)ReplyCancel

  • LaylaJanuary 17, 2013 - 11:07 pm

    Umm Ahmad-thanks for the comment, inshallah you get to got to many countries :)ReplyCancel

  • LaylaJanuary 17, 2013 - 11:12 pm

    anon-Went there with my mom 2009 I planned it all on my own, not many ready made tours go there.ReplyCancel

  • LaylaJanuary 17, 2013 - 11:14 pm

    dB-I would really love to visit Romania some day you have a beautiful country rich in history!
    I will definitely write about my favorite locations, thanks for the comment!ReplyCancel

  • LaylaJanuary 17, 2013 - 11:17 pm

    Mudassir-I’m not really omitting it, just not on my top places right now. I really loved Sri Lanka which I imagine is a little bit similar in some aspects, but of course not the same..
    India is such a huge country and there’s so much to see, it would take many weeks just to go around the country :)ReplyCancel

  • LaylaJanuary 17, 2013 - 11:18 pm

    Noor-Let’s arrange in the next few weeks, will have to figure out the transportation issue :)ReplyCancel

  • LaylaJanuary 17, 2013 - 11:28 pm

    moto-Japan-thanks for commenting and the good suggestion.
    Some of the countries I visited when I was younger with my parents, some of these I went to while studying nursing as placements for my practical training (South -Africa and Swaziland)..
    I have to say working in Saudi-Arabia is one of the things that ha enabled travel to so many places.For one, life here is cheap and you can save more from your pay(plus no taxes) second, the annual leave is amazing (54 days)and thirdly, the location is ideal to visit many places around here with minimum costs by taking local transport and cheap airlines..
    Sometimes I do so that I fly to one city and then travel from there with buses and trains to surrounding countries..and stay in cheap hostels and backpackers accommodation. With kids it would not be my first choice anymore, but as a single woman this is what I did many times..ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousJanuary 17, 2013 - 9:08 pm

    Its awesome that youve been to so many countries.! Ive got quite the travel bug myself, but Ive only been to : France, Turkey and Cyprus….ReplyCancel

  • moto-JapanJanuary 17, 2013 - 11:19 pm

    question come to mind is how to afford the money. Either, you have plenty of money enable you to do all this OR you know how to find cheap offers. Given your incredible experience in travailing can you share with your readers some trick how to travel with less money.ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousJanuary 18, 2013 - 9:16 am


    Do come and visit Malaysia. Plenty to see and lots to do. Am more than happy to give any travel advice should you opt to visit the country.


  • AnonymousJanuary 18, 2013 - 9:33 am

    Oh please do visit Indonesia. It is a beautiful country.
    There’s a new “just opened” destination called “Raja Ampat”.
    I think you’ll like it there.ReplyCancel

  • LaylaJanuary 18, 2013 - 9:25 pm

    Hi Sireh I’ve been to Malaysia and enjoyed it very much! Would love to visit the Borneo side some day, Kota Kinabalu and Sipadan Islands for diving..ReplyCancel

  • LaylaJanuary 18, 2013 - 9:26 pm

    Indonesia is on my top list to visit in the near future,lots of cheap flights from SA!ReplyCancel

  • LaylaJanuary 18, 2013 - 9:27 pm

    Sylvia Warsaw and Krakow!ReplyCancel

  • baby muslimahJanuary 19, 2013 - 4:01 am

    I am like you! If I do not have a trip planned I feel like there is nothing to look forward to! I have been to 11 countries which I thought was alot until I read your list lol! Next on my list is somewhere in the middle east, anywhere really. Just to see something differnt the North America or Europe which is where I have done all my travels. My favourite place was Spain! I have learned all I need is an ocean and a beach for my vacation to be complete! Safe travels on all the adventures you have in your future!ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousJanuary 19, 2013 - 8:57 pm

    It is called ColOmbia* not ColUmbia ;) I am from Colombia and a frequent reader of your blog! I can’t believe that you came here. Wich cities did you visited? and how was your experience here? I hope you get to see all the pretty things and have a positive experience. – Camila.ReplyCancel

    • LaylaSeptember 11, 2014 - 2:32 am

      Thanks Camila for the correction! In Finnish we spell it “Kolumbia” hence my temporary confusion :) I was in Bogota only, all by myself! But i felt safe and was sad to leave but hopefully some day I will return and have more time to explore other regions as well.ReplyCancel

  • Andi of My Beautiful AdventuresJanuary 23, 2013 - 12:59 pm

    59 countries is incredible!!!!ReplyCancel

  • LaylaSeptember 11, 2014 - 2:33 am

    Hi Andi!
    I’m certain i’ve replied to your comment before but it looks like it’s not here anymore! Anyways, thanks for stopping by and I adore your inspiring travel blog!ReplyCancel

  • MonikaOctober 19, 2016 - 8:39 am

    Amazing blog dear! Thanks for sharing!ReplyCancel

  • […] 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 […]ReplyCancel

“Forget love, I’d rather fall in chocolate!”

Can you imagine a restaurant where you can not only eat and drink chocolate, but smell its fragrant aromas, experience the different textures, feel its silky softness, taste exotic and surprising chocolate flavors and be surrounded by flowing liquid chocolate! All that in a space decorated with delicious chocolate-y colors! Sounds like a chocolate paradise, and Maya La Chocolaterie could be called just that.Maya la chocolaterie riyadh restaurant review

Maya Chocolaterie Riyadh Ouroba rd branch

The motto of Maya La Chocolaterie is “chocolate for a better world”. Maya has three branches in Riyadh; one on the end of Tahlia street, one in Hayat mall and the newest one opened on Ouroba Road at the Oasis business complex.

I’m so glad Maya opened its new branch because the restaurant on Tahlia, although excellent in food and service, lacked a nice atmosphere. Maya’s Tahlia branch is small, crowded on weekends and worst of all full of partitions, making the entire place feel suffocating. They don’t even play music there to soften up the ambiance.

Maya Chocolaterie Riyadh Tahlia branch

Maya La Chocolaterie on Ouroba however is open and airy inside and the place is very inviting.  Here you are welcomed with a cozy and laid back atmosphere and it’s not as crowded as its sister branches. As an added bonus they play groovy and soulful music matching the warm chocolate theme. You forget you’re in Riyadh once inside this little chocolate haven!

Inside the Maya restaurants they have a shop for all sorts of chocolate delicacies, pralines, truffles and cocoa. Maya is the ultimate place for a hot chocolate and a delicious dessert to go with it. It’s one of my favorite spots in Riyadh for sure.

Maya La Chocolaterie offers an extensive menu of pure chocolate indulgence. Starting from their specialty hot chocolates and signature fondues to the delicacies from the decadence boutique or the home made pastries; Maya will surely get you on a sugar and endorphin high. The only problem with eating here is the menu: it has too many tempting options to choose from and you can’t possibly eat that much chocolate on one sitting!

Maya Chocolate Shop

Maya Chocolaterie Riyadh Chocolate bar

Something quite awesome about Maya are the huge churns filled with liquid chocolate. They have milk and white chocolate churns that lead to pipes that running along the ceiling carrying the liquid gold all over the restaurant!

Our dining experience at the newly opened Maya was very enjoyable, especially on a cold winter night there’s nothing better than warming up with a cup of hot chocolate.
Maya’s signature chocolate fondues are a must try. Comes in white, milk or dark chocolate flavor and also sugar free options are available. You can choose a variety of different items to dip in this heavenly liquid. The chocolate is served from a fondue pot that has a candle underneath keeping the chocolate at an optimal temperature.
We started the chocolate feast with milk chocolate fondue wit a platter with mini cakes, marshmallows and strawberries to go with it.. The chocolate itself is divine. Dipping just about anything into this stuff would taste good! Even cardboard paper! Some of the little cakes that came with it were a bit dry but it didn’t keep us from gobbling them all up dipped in the delicious chocolate.

Maya has an interesting selection of different hot chocolates to choose from. White chocolate, dark chocolate, African, rose and orange flavors all sounded tempting. We settled on Rose and Java blend and also tried some of their coffees.

The waiters here are always super friendly and swift and we quickly got to sip on our chocolate elixirs. There is truth to the saying chocolate has healing powers. The smooth rich flavor of the hot chocolate was absolute perfection. So silky and soft and somehow soothing and relaxing at the same time. One of those moments when you taste something so good you can only smile, sit back and enjoy.
The Maya menu is impressive. It’s hard to choose from the list because well, you want to try almost everything. Thank goodness they also have sugar free options available for the health conscious and diabetic customers.  I didn’t find Maya to be a particularly kid friendly environment, it’s more for adult taste in the evenings and they didn’t even have high chairs at the new branch. They do have a kids menu with chocolate pizza on it!
We tried their Belgian waffle and Chocolate Crepes for “main course”. The waffle too was a bit chewy but the chocolate drizzled on top saved it. The crepe is filled with milk chocolate and comes with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and more chocolate drizzled on top. I was surprised that the dish wasn’t overly sweet with all that chocolate going on. Their milk chocolate is something I would love to drink straight from a bottle, it’s just too good to be true.

For “dessert” we had the brownie mousse which is served in a dark chocolate shell. It was easy to finish the mousse, which was light and fluffy in texture, but the chocolate cup was too much to handle! Talk about chocolate overload. The waiter recommended a Maya specialty dessert, the cardamon and milk chocolate mille Feuillee. I’ve always been a big fan of cardamom and I think it goes with lots of things but hadn’t tried it in chocolate before. This dessert reminded me of Finnish Christmas foods where we use lots of cardamon. The taste of cardamon was not overpowering and it was just a subtle touch that partnered well with the chocolate in the cake. Delicious!The chocolate feast started to make us dizzy and giggly from the sugar high. Modern science has proven that eating chocolate produces certain “love hormones” in our bodies which makes us feel happier and in a similar state of being in love. Visiting this chocolate “love clinic” released so much endorphins and serotonin it certainly kept the spirits high for a long time. It’s the perfect place for a romantic night out in Riyadh!

Maya Chocolaterie website:

Branch reviewed: Ouroba Rd Oasis business complex

Star ratings:
Overall *****
Value For Money:****
Kid Friendliness: ***
Romance Factor: *****



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  • I'm FarsillaJanuary 12, 2013 - 9:25 am

    owh my! thats heaven


  • Aafke-ArtJanuary 12, 2013 - 9:42 pm

    Oooohhhh! A bit out of my way :(

    Did you see the movie ”Chocolat”???ReplyCancel

  • LaylaJanuary 12, 2013 - 11:13 pm

    SlashOfArabia- oh YES please :)ReplyCancel

  • LaylaJanuary 12, 2013 - 11:14 pm

    Aafke-yes I did many times because I love Johnny Depp in that movie!!

    Well maybe when you come visit to KSA we can take you to Maya lolReplyCancel

  • LaylaJanuary 12, 2013 - 11:14 pm

    Hi Doreen and thanks for the comment :)ReplyCancel

  • PetraJanuary 12, 2013 - 10:30 pm

    En kesta katsoa edes kuvia apua ihanaa! Sulle on haaste mun blogissa, korjaa talteen kun ehdit!ReplyCancel

  • Fruitful FusionJanuary 13, 2013 - 3:09 pm

    I just saw this over on Ya Salam Cooking and I’m wondering if they’re going to open in Jeddah, not that I’m as addicted to chocolate as I once was LOL!ReplyCancel

  • SoileJanuary 14, 2013 - 8:05 am

    OMG! If I’m coming back to Saudi (and I might…!) that’s going to be the first restaurant I visit ;-)ReplyCancel

  • Moh LL1January 29, 2013 - 2:11 am

    this is horrible… I can’t begin to imagine the amount of sugar in those confectioneries. Such decadent and gluttonous influences I don’t welcome in my countryReplyCancel

  • […] Maya La Chocolaterie Ourouba rd. The ultimate place for all chocolate lovers, the chocolaterie offers an extensive […]ReplyCancel

  • Sulafa Sami KurdiSeptember 1, 2015 - 3:03 pm

    u wrote so much about it… what about their contact info?ReplyCancel

  • Sulafa Sami KurdiSeptember 7, 2015 - 2:21 pm

    Their website has false numbers. I already contacted them… They never got back ay Me for the real number. Ah customer service sucksReplyCancel

We hardly ever hear the candid voices of Saudi men in regards to relationships, marriage and thoughts of living in a tribal society.
The following post is written by an anonymous Saudi man. He could be anyone, his thoughts and feelings are probably shared by many others out there. I came across this post on Facebook and found it so interesting and compelling I felt it should be shared with more people. I asked the author and he agreed to share his thoughts on Blue Abaya.

In his post, which he says was written as a sort of apologetic letter to all the women he hurt in his life, the writer goes through tribalism and its deeper meanings in the society while trying to explain to himself, and to the women who came across his path, the reasoning behind his actions. The piece has very insightful analysis about tribes, “meta-tribes” and the complex matter that is marriage in Saudi-Arabia.

The problems that arise from tribalism are numerous and seemingly only negatively effect the Saudi woman. In reality the strong tribal practices in Saudi-Arabia today have negative effects on everyone on all levels of society.
Read more about tribalism in Saudi-Arabia here.

More from Anonymous Saudi: Darbawiya-The Saudi Punks. 

Another reason I want to share this post is I often feel like the western media is portraying a false image of Saudi men. The illusion is of somewhat brain washed, rather boring men going about their monotonous days without much feeling or thought about life or how it would’ve been had he been born without the y chromosome.

The truth is Saudi men have hopes, dreams and fears just like any man in any other country. Especially the new generation seems to have a lot of frustration toward the contradictions and hardships they face in their every day lives living in a tribal society such as Saudi-Arabia.

What I thought makes this post special is the fact that Saudi men are usually private about these personal affairs and we hardly get a glimpse into the depths of their minds.

It’s long, but a great read. Feel free to share it.

“Why am I not married, or in a serious relationship and the Meta Tribe”

Plain and simple, the reason why I am not in a serious relationship of any kinda goes back to 1 reason, reverse tribalism or Meta Tribalism. It might not be a term you can google as I have coined it lately. This is, of course, my own perception and reality might be a little different or inconsistent with it since this is not a research paper. But in this post I will try to explain what Meta Tribe means and how it affects my love life and how I chose to deal with it.

Intro to tribes

So why does the need for tribal societies to marry off their young to other “compatible” tribes exist? its kind of a known fact that tribal marriage rituals were created as a system to insure money doesn’t fly far off a group of people, as well as to minimize threats on a group of people and to minimize the influence of a stronger tribes and groups of people on this said family or tribe. This is also a criteria of what is considered a ”compatible” tribe. If a family or tribe has the same power amongst other tribes, or the same financial level, this will insure that money doesn’t fly to others who are greedy or that the other tribe aimed to take advantage of the other tribe’s social status or power, also this makes sure that civility dictates when conflicts arise as so much more than just 2 people are involved. Of course all these hazards could be minimized if the marriage happens between two of the same tribe.

This of course rises from weak judicial systems and weak civil society institutions as well as the lack of insurance and retirement plans and social security where people are forced to huddle up in “tribes” to protect themselves. This is also why we see a high dependance on the young in a family to taking care of the elderly of these tribes. The elderly depend heavily on the young to survive. Of course these reasons might look like they disappeared now days to some or they are under a layer of ignorance and tradition, but I assure you that those are some of the reasons why marriage rituals in tribal societies exist and why they continue to exist.

Meta tribes

What is interesting in my opinion is the backlash that non-tribal families had because of this. Since tribes have a strong political and financial power, non-tribals fearing for their well being around much more powerful groups started grouping together. Non-tribals started creating Meta Tribes amongst like minded and financially compatible families around them for the same reasons that Tribals created tribes. Similar marriage and partnership rituals grew out of this too. Families will choose to reject suiters for a lady from an “incompatible” because of the family’s social status, religious values, financial situation, association with other families that might or might not be of compatible nature. This is just about talking about neighboring families in the same city, imagine how it would be if a suitor was from another country. This also applies if a man decides to get married from another “incompatible” family, the family of the man would object almost as much as a lady’s family would, even though its easier for a man to do what he pleases legally, but a woman would need the approval of a legal guardian. This is what I call reverse tribalism, or Meta Tribalism, and it does exist.

Me my family

So before I come to the conclusion, a little bit about me must be communicated. I am a proud person, I hate begging for acceptance. I grew up being a non-tribal geeky nerd kid in the center of all Saudi Arabian tribalism. I was called gay for having a softer west saudi arabian accent, this explains why I learned to merge accents and adapt my language. I was picked on for being different and a geek and a person of higher grades. I was also picked on for being more westernized as I grew up on lots of american TV and media. I was an easy target for everyone. When I lived alone in my college years I learned to be proud of who I am, be an individual and not care about what others think, I found acceptance between a great group of friends. I know what I want to do and who I want to be. I can’t go back to that fool was begging for acceptance from a society that rejected him. I learned to be proud and bend for nobody. I also learned that I don’t like most people. Dont get me wrong, I don’t mind most people, I am pretty social, but the people I like close to me are very rare. It takes me on average a 2 year relationship with a person with constant hanging out to even consider them close friends., if they manage to be my friend for that long. I also have a very specific way of life and a set of beliefs that finally made me a happy person. I won’t go into details as some of these believes and choices might get me killed or put one of my family members in danger. I know what I want to accomplish in live, I have specific goals in life and those goals are my compass and will bend over and down to have them accomplished. If I cant get them accomplished, then I will die trying. I want to create a sustainable game industry in the middle east, and I want that to be my legacy.

I also met many women in my life of course, some were saudi and some were from other countries, and I know my taste in women now. I know what I want in a life partner and I know what emotions to look for in myself as signs of compatibility and chemistry. I know my skills as a person and I recognized my faults as a human and I do look for a partner in life that completes these faults to create a solid unit. A person that shares my believes and enjoys being part of my way of life. A person I can be part of their lives and a best friend amongst their friends and a friend to their friends too. I am not a kid falling in love and I am not a naive brat who just wants to piss off his family. I know what I want and what I need. This being said, most of the women that meet these criteria for me are women who are not from this country, and I have met a lot too, but chose not to persue them.

My family is a simple family from a non-tribal decent. My mom is from a simple family from makkah and my father is from a simple family in Madina. Two holy cities, the pressure I feel to be a good human being. My two parents focused on their education, got scholarships to go to the US and get their higher degrees from esteemed US universities, amongst them is UCS. They both got their PHDs and during their PHD days is when I was born. They have achieved high status in the community and they are known to be trust worthy and they are respected by everyone. They provided a life that is unimaginable to a young non-tribal in saudi. The house was full of love and acceptance even though the world outside the house didn’t accept me or love me. They offered me the best education, the best nutrition and care as well as everything they ever could give me to make me feel comfortable while in saudi. I have never mentioned their name is shame, EVER. I have high respects for what they have accomplished in their lives and I love them unconditionally as they loved me unconditionally. Nothing is perfect though.

The issue with my family does rise with their commitment to the Meta Tribe I spoke up earlier. Due to their experience in life they have seen many people dealing with the backlash of marrying from outside of the meta tribe as well as deal with some complicated political and sociological problems after a divorce, especially if kids were involved. They have seen the pain that people went through and have seen how much damage that has caused not to the married/divorced people themselves but also for their direct and indirect families as well as for their kids. Those negative effects do happen from time to time and solving them is never easy. They don’t want their baby, me, that they have nurtured for so long to be in pain or suffer from such issues, and that is understandable. They want me to have the life they have found to be the best for me, with nice daughter of their friend’s. They have expressed firmly mamy times that they would never accept a non-saudi or a girl that is not from a compatible family.

Some of my experience

As the nature of Riyadh’s ultra conservative social structure (capital of Saudi where I live currently), I am not really in contact with many saudi women, except virtually online. I met people in real life that I have known virtually for a while, knowing someone virtually doesn’t count in the bigger picture of “knowing them”. The social structure doesn’t allow me to observe their behavior around their friends, and it wouldn’t allow me to observe their behavior around my friends. I don’t consider that “knowing” someone at all. Not that I judge people who do, I just know myself and know how I feel about it, it just doesn’t suite me. The women that I do meet in my social circles are not really my type too, its already a rare occurrence to meet a saudi woman in my circles, and the ones I meet are not my type at all.

So why don’t I venture into other cities in saudi you say where people are dominantly less tribal? It just doesn’t serve my goals, other cities just don’t have the jobs or opportunities that Riyadh has. My goals come first. I tried to get to know a person that lived in another city once or twice though. For instance, I knew this one girl for a while online and we were good friends and she was from a “compatible” family, but once we hungout in another neighboring country for real and not online while we were traveling, it just didn’t fit in inside my head, the whole experience was weird, I wasn’t myself and she wasn’t herself that I knew online. It was a complete mess, I didn’t feel the relationship at all and it felt like I was digging myself a huge hole. I ended up panicking and doing something that I will always regret, I called her fat just to break up with her. I will always be a horrible human for what I have done. I don’t want this type of crap to happen to her or anyone else so I will save the whole world my crap by going far away from the online saudi dating scene. If that lady was reading this, I am forever sorry.

I once met a person that I thought could have been the one here in Riyadh, geeky, intelligent, strong woman, ambitious and has high hopes and plans for herself that had the same believes that I had. We dated for a bit before she decided to break it off. Her reasons? She was tribal and she already had an experience convincing her family to be in a relationship with a incompatible tribal guy. She decided to spare herself and myself the pain of dealing with that again especially since I was non-tribal. I don’t know if that was an excuse or if she was lying or not, I don’t care anymore. There was other big issues with both of us that would have broken us apart regardless, but it sucks that an external force was the cause. what I do care about is the possibility of that ever happening again in Riyadh. When will I ever be able to meet someone who is compatible with me on that level? I never had in the last 5 years.

So how about arranged marriage right? How about my family choosing and introducing someone to me right? Not that I have anything inherently against this approach. different people, different methods. Arranged marriages tend to focus on compatibility beyond anything else, it does have a high rate of success due to the reasons I mentioned way earlier in this post. On the other hand, this method does depend on the son or daughter sharing the same values as the family, which is not the case for me. Even if I did go that route just to date and get to know the person, I would be reluctant to share with them anything that is considered perverted, blasphemous and weird by the status quo, and I am full of those and all about them. They are the basis of my personal believes and personal structure. Sharing any personal information about myself would put my family in danger, physically, or maybe just socially if any of that information seeped out to their “friends”. I really want to protect my family from any harm, they have always been nice to me and I am not an ungrateful bitch. I also don’t let my family buy underwear for me, its really awkward to think they are choosing where my penis will go.

I have met some non-saudi women that were amazing, and I almost fell in love with one of them as I was trying to test out the waters and see if my family would approve of someone from a neighboring country that had similar cultural background. The attempt ended in very passive aggressive fights and it only boiled more aggression and late night crying of my mother according to my own sources. I decided to save that girl the trouble of dealing with all of this, and in turn inflicted same pain that the saudi girl once inflicted on me before. The circle of paid and hurt keeps going around. It has to stop.

Dealing with it

dealing with not having a partner is becoming a huge hurdle in front of my own goals, Its really hard to focus on work when your heart is empty. You need a life partner, a cofounder, for your life, someone that would accept the things your family rejected about you. This is the source of my current depression as my emotions started to be a hurdle in front of my goals, and I feel trapped.

One might debate the usefulness of Meta tribe in a civil society that is developing in saudi, but its completely irrelevant to my believes and my way of life. I am not planning on being in saudi for a long time as I do want to move somewhere else and I do have the means to do it and plans are already in motion. In those other places, civil societies do exist and the need of a meta tribe is completely irrelevant and is instead replaced with a smaller social circle of friends that share the same values and you best of all, you get to choose them yourself. And as I am not an ungrateful brat to my family, I promised myself never to get married to anyone they don’t approve of. Its the least I could do after all the great things they offered me to be who I am. That leads to never meeting anyone they approve of, hence the decision not to get married.

Their decision to commit to the meta tribe does push me away from them, and does their inability to ever accept my way of life and my own believes, but thats another issue and I am ok with that. What I wonder sometimes about is my ability in the future to withstand dealing with them and caring for them due to giving me so much but taking away the most important thing away from me right now, the freedom to choose who to love.  I will refrain from getting married and see me go into a downward spiral of bullshit and they will feel me being pushed away from them as time goes by. We will see if they stomach to see their little boy be alone in his life due to their commitment to the meta tribe.

I am still struggling with the fact that I will remain alone the most of my life though, never allowing myself to fall in love again. Wondering if a person able to not fall in love? Am I destined to fall in love over and over again and then continue to break hearts along the way? Mine as well as others? I now live my life clinching to any piece of love I could find, any hug and kiss counts to keep me alive, every cuddle and every sigh and moan adds a day or 2 to my heart. I don’t want to hurt people around me, but I need the blood of your hearts to survive. Share some with me willingly, and I will share some of mine in return before we both move on. stay around as long as you can.

Maybe things will change in the future, maybe it won’t. I don’t want to over think it when I am with someone, but its completely unfair for the other party not to know the truth about what goes on with me. I know this post started very informative, but then turned into a sappy bs whiny story, I just really had to get it off my chest. I also know that women have it worst 10 folds but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t still hurt for us men. I know you feel even worst and that you get the shit card, but that doesn’t mean that the source of our issues is not the same. Regardless, women problems are worst by far, just having a legal guardian is messed up enough. With this attitude, if I was a woman, I would have committed suicide a long time ago. Bravo for being so strong.”

By Anonymous Saudi man

If you wish to contact the man who wrote this post, please email him at: anonsaudiman1@outlook.com


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  • NoorJanuary 7, 2013 - 9:31 pm

    Bravo what an amazing letter. I really loved reading it. This man sounds a lot like my husband. My husbands family is a HUGE tribe here in KSA as well as his moms. HE is the only one in the family married out of the tribe and to an American at that lol.

    It was a really big issues for everyone at first but after they got to know me they all love me and tell him that he chose the best person. Bc I love him and I love his family and I make sure to never let them down. BUT my husband fought for me at first and he was willing to loose it all for me and know look everyone is happy.ReplyCancel

  • LaylaJanuary 7, 2013 - 9:52 pm

    Noor my husbands family is also very tribal form both sides and like your husband, he is the only one to have married outside the tribe. Even choosing a Saudi wife from the “wrong tribe” would’ve been a huge issue for them, let alone a foreigner :)
    It was hard at first, it looked like it wasn’t going to happen but he fought and stayed strong..and here we are..
    So there is hope :)ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousJanuary 7, 2013 - 11:52 pm

    My father (a tribal Saudi from the north) married my mom (a foreigner) over 30 years ago. For as long as i can remember, my dad’s family had absolutely  no problems with my mom and everyone gets along fine.
    Although I’m not sure how complicated the situation was when they first got married.. I know that my grand parents from both my mom and dad’s sides weren’t very supportive of the marriage, but they got married anyways while they were both studying in college away from their families. And both families learned to accept the marriage. I’m sure in many cases the parents will accept the marriage if the guy is determined, even if they didn’t approve of it. 

    Its hard to marry someone from a different background, but I know that people are much more open nowadays than they were 35 years ago… I think the anonymous guy shouldn’t wait until his family feels guilty enough to allow him to marry the woman he wants…

    From what he says about his family, they seem nice, educated and open enough to accept the woman he chooses even though they disagree with him. They won’t be mad for ever. And if you choose right, you’re future wife will try to make them accept her with time.

    Most Mixed Saudi’s I know have a great family relationship even though some parts of the family didn’t support the marriage at first. However, I have heard of a case of a Saudi tribal guy that married a foreign lady and his mother (old fashioned, and uneducated) still disliked his wife and treated her grandchildren badly and the whole family bullied and labelled them as ‘the children of the foreigner’. But this is extremely rare in my opinion.

    I say follow your dreams…ReplyCancel

    • Umm GamarJanuary 8, 2013 - 5:59 am

      I second Anon’s comment. Tribalism is a problem which even our Prophet disliked as Layla rightly wrote on her 2010 article. In Islam, Allah has created us all as equals so the fact that tribalism is still practiced shows how paradoxical Saudis are in regards to its understanding of Islam. Hopefully you find your future wife Anon Saudi Guy. And hopefully it comes without any grudges from your parents.ReplyCancel

    • RoxanneFebruary 29, 2016 - 9:43 pm

      This post is breaking my heart. Im a non saudi nurse working in a clinic and last year june 2015 a saudi family requested me to stay on their family to take care of their father it lasted 3 months until he died. During my stay there i meet all members of the family and the saudi man i secretly like. He is single. He before tells me like im a little sister to him or like his sister named jawaher. His mother on the other hand ask me to marry him for few times. Ofcourse i refuse reason out and tell to his mom that im still a young and his son always tell that im like a sister to him. Yes, i like him secretly before but i dont want to marry that fast. Its only been 2 months during that time i know them. after his father died i go back to the clinic where i was working before. I still have contact to his family. Even im not on there house we still talk until today. Then this feb 14, 2016 i decided to tell to that man that i like him since before, that i have a crush on him. And i like him very much. I was surprised by his reply he said that he like me too! That he loved me and was waiting for the right time to tell to me. He said he did not tell because he taught that i would be angry to him or avoid him. I was happy when he said that. But what makes me confused is this. He also tells me that he keep this as a secret and ask me to keep this secret between the two of us. We talk on whatsup snapchat. And been using line app for video chat for 3 times already now. I always message him. We are in a relationship now for 3 weeks. And during the first week it was okay because he always replies to my message. The succeding weeks till now , is confusing and makes me feel unstable or doubt if he really love me. Why? Because he will only message me if i start messaging him. Or it depends if he wants to reply. Sometimes he replies but only with stickers or emoji ???. Or somethimes my messege is seen/read. Sometimes i think if did wrong to him. I want to talk to him But i dont want to be annoying. What can you see about our relationship. Is there any potential. Why do you think he wants our relationship secret. Do you think he is serious or he only wants a fling? It hurts when he ignored me. I dont know. I try to adjust understand about our situation. Like he is a saudi conservative man maybe he was not sweet or dont talk to much. But i feel hurt when i send messages to him and no reply at all. Its been 3 weeks now in relationship. ?ReplyCancel

      • LoraMay 23, 2016 - 2:23 pm

        Hi there, I think you shall ask him directly. It’s not usual that he is doing this. At first, I thought it was his family who didn’t want the relationship but as you mentioned, his mum liked you. So, there’s no reason that he’s not being very excited about the whole thing. Just ask him) Cheer up!ReplyCancel

    • anonymousMay 24, 2016 - 3:56 am

      I have been dating a Saudi man for a year and a half. We are very happy together. He wants to get married but is very scared that his family will not be accepting. I am not Saudi and i am not a muslim either. I have been learning of Islam as well his culture. I respect everything because of my beliefs which put us on the same page. We love each other and we feel that we should go ahead and get.married. I feel that his family should know about us. We live abroad and both families are in different countries. My family is supportive. But the fear of his family not accepting us is heavy.ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousJanuary 8, 2013 - 6:05 am

    Maa sha Allaah

    This is a great story. It made me think of my son (25) and our family. No, we’re not Saudi nor tribal, but we do hold certain values when it comes to marriage. We desire for him to marry someone who comes from a certain background and values. I think the person he’d prefer to bring home may be a little off from that. I understand his frustration. But after seeing so many failed marriges first hand, due to the couple only seeing themselves in the marriage, I decided I didn’t want to put my family through that. I pray that he continues to understand and have patience.
    I didn’t marry until my mother approved of her dear son in law, alhamdulillaah, our marriage is decades strong. But being from a Western background, when I had kids, I decided to be a little softer on them. That turned into two failed marriages for two daughters with children being seperated from parents and the rest of the family. This all due to marrying them to people from different backgrounds, for love, so they thought. The spouses values didn’t jive with their upbringing nor our expectations.
    Marriage can be for love between the couples and love for their families. Marriage isn’t just the coming together of two people, but the coming together of families. I guess, to some extent, we’re tribal or Meta tribal in our own way.
    Every parent from the time the mother becomes aware of the presence of her child in the womb, she wants what she thinks is best for them and that doesn’t go away when the child becomes independent due her sacrifices, nuturing and caring for them when the couldn’t care for themselves.
    So, my son sits unwed, because of our Meta tribal rule. I pray that Allaah provides him with a good mate for him and us, but most of all him. That she’s someone we can accept, even though she may be from the outside (and I don’t mean that to be in a negative way.
    In the meantime, I’ll, we’ll work on a compromise, a possible solution, insha Allaah.

    Please thank the author for sharing with us the readers.ReplyCancel

    • Umm GamarJanuary 8, 2013 - 11:06 am

      You gave a whole new and much appreciated outlook dear second Anon. Marriage is not just about two people, true…May Allah guide us and give us the correct choices.ReplyCancel

  • NoorJanuary 8, 2013 - 9:06 am

    My husbands mother and father are from two different popular tribes and his family ALWAYS gave his mom a hard time and caused problems for her now even after 31 years of marriage.ReplyCancel

  • Omani Princess (not Omani...yet)January 8, 2013 - 7:58 am

    I really enjoyed hearing his reasoning.

    As a Westerner, I guess, I just say, don’t follow your parents in anything they are wrong in. They wwill eventually accept what you chose if you chose the right thing because tey DO want to see you happy.

    -wife of an Omani man whose entire tribe and nuclear family at first rejected him but then accpeted and now like us all;) now that they know me and my daughter.


  • LaylaJanuary 8, 2013 - 11:08 am

    Thank you all for the excellent comments. I have a message from “Anonymous Saudi Man” which he sent to me after reading the comments:

    “in tribes, for a man to marry someone from a less powerful tribe, or a foreigner, is usually less of an issue, since men are dominant in the saudi society, a tribe looks at a situation like this as their tribe dominating a lesser tribe.
    also lots of tribes look at one of their boys getting married to a foreigner is much more acceptable as it doesn’t put shame on a family, as its similar to a male conquest in some sort so it doesn’t give the tribe shame as much.
    which this is not how meta tribes acts, since meta tribes are much more paranoid about their safety, they reject foreigners even more.
    i hope that didnt offend you in anyways, its just that in the comments i have seen people give examples of that situation, where situations can be a lot tougher for meta tribes men and women”


  • LaylaJanuary 8, 2013 - 11:11 am

    Of course all Saudi families are different and we cannot generalize anything..I know of mixed families that have taken the foreign wives under their wings and treated them as part of the tribe, but on the other hand I know those who have been rejected and remain to be so after many decades.

    I would say from my observations that something in between these two extremes is the norm, whereas the foreign wife and children are accepted, but they are not treated the same as the tribe members.ReplyCancel

  • Jerry Mc KennaJanuary 8, 2013 - 9:32 pm

    The man sounds lonely. It is too bad that Saudi Arabia doesn’t allow young people meet each other and socialize.ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousJanuary 8, 2013 - 7:57 pm

    I’m non-saudi and my parents had a hard time when i told them of the saudi guy i wanted ot marry, they had certain expectations an dreasoning of whom i would marry, his parents did too.

    we still went ahead and got married, after when you find your soulmate you have to grasp it with both hands.

    my parents accepted our decision and celebrated with us, his didn’t till date we are civil with them, but never close, they still see me as the outsider and i in turn have tried a bit to accomodate them and in the end gave up why change . they have to accept me for who i am, just like my parents accepted my husband for who he was.

    my in-laws worry about their tribe’s talk, they choose IMO their tribe over the happiness of their son. and now after 2 decades+ they want to be a part of our lives, our children are grown and with no contact with them they will not find it easy to mix as they do with my family. sad , so sad.
    i think there are both extremes in saudi but most cases fall in between the love or hatred as acknowledge the marriage but the wife could never be one of them???ReplyCancel

  • Beneath The BurqaJanuary 9, 2013 - 3:49 am

    Salaam, I loved reading this post. It gave me a real insight from a males prospectus. I’m from the UK and a muslim, and its not only Saudi’s that have these issues. These issues affect everyone. My mom + pops are from big cultural tribes and they are not very cultural in comparison to many others. I mean they are hugely supportive of my siblings decisions to marry ‘out’. So in that sense we(me + my siblings) are fortunate but me being the youngest it is strange for me to say but they are oddly more ‘stricter’ on my choice of a partner… Which I haven’t yet discovered why! But I’m not married yet, surely they’ll lighten up if that time ever comes. As for my uncles/aunties they are somewhat VERY tribal and BIG on culture with some silly views.

    But Inshallah this Anonymous Saudi Male will find his perfect other half!!

    P.S. You can always have more than one missus ;)ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousJanuary 11, 2013 - 6:42 pm

    Bravo, amazing!

    Teresa in AmericaReplyCancel

  • yamaamaa.comJanuary 13, 2013 - 10:07 am

    I am from a very very tribal family and my sister married a non tribal man from another Arab country. My parents were totally fine with the idea it was everyone else who has hissy fits. In the end she’s married and has a child and is happy and everyone will just have to deal with it. I think by stopping ourselves doing something that is not illegal or against our religion just to please other people is wrong. it will keep your life stunted and for what? To stay alone? Since her marriage 4 other people from our tribe, mostly women, married the people they wanted to and some of the families were happy and some weren’t but the world didn’t end. they werent shunned or hated and people just dealt with it.ReplyCancel

  • LaylaJanuary 16, 2013 - 12:34 pm

    thanks mama B for the insight, you’re right people just think too much about what others will think about them, while wasting their lives in the meanwhile
    ..So maybe the one that does it first in the tribe has it the roughest, and sort of paves the path for others..ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousFebruary 15, 2013 - 9:30 am

    It is sad that to this day and age such issues still exist in societies. I belive this happens in other tribal regions, eg. pakistan, africa, india ( the caste system), etc

    It is time that more effort is put into educating societies to a more globalised, non-tribal viewpoints for their own progress.


  • AnonymousMarch 2, 2013 - 3:54 am

    assalamualaikum wr wb,

    who takes all these photos? is it u?
    is ur husband ok with u taking photo’s of random men?


  • LaylaMarch 2, 2013 - 1:37 pm

    wa aleikum salaam,

    Yes it’s me, who else :) I’m a photographer and I shoot just about everything, including men.

    And don’t worry he is perfectly fine with my photography and in fact very proud of me :)


  • LaylaMarch 8, 2013 - 8:25 pm

    Dianne he wanted to send you this message:
    “its really hard for us to accept our emotions, we are ashamed of them because we cannot break free out of them. its hard to admit these things sometimes as we feel like people would never understand them. I am sorry you had to be on the other end of a relationships i have been in. your hug is very precious.”ReplyCancel

  • erin S leeMarch 11, 2013 - 11:13 pm

    This is an amazing story. I am an American Jewish woman and cannot pretend to understand the plight of women and men in Saudi Arabia. Women are not the only one’s who have feeling and emotion. The greatest of men must as well. I too know what it is like to search for someone who will not turn away because your ideas and beliefs may be outside the norm of what you are “supposed to think”. I cannot pretend to be someone I am not, nor can I accept those who wish for me to be. We love our parents and our families, we feel we owe them. In truth, we owe ourselves. One life, one life to be happy. If I never find my happiness, I will know that I stopped at nothing to try. This man must try to find happiness. Sometimes happiness is not in the box we thought it would be. You can be yourself and there is someone who will love you for it, not in spite of it.ReplyCancel

  • LaylaMarch 25, 2013 - 1:16 pm

    Thank you anoxx so much for taking the time to comment and sharing your views, I did read your posts on marriage :) I’ve given a heads up to Mr. Anonymous and he will be replying to your comment soon inshallah he’s on vacation right now!ReplyCancel

  • LaylaMay 13, 2013 - 12:42 pm

    Anon Saudi reply to anoxxx;

    hey buddy, I am sorry to hear you were going through the same things I was going through, I just didn’t want to say it in the post as I didnt know who would be reading it. You are right by the way, tribal families do except foreign “western” ladies into the family much more than excepting a non-tribal saudi into it. I am sad to hear that you are giving up, stay strong to your believes and never settle. take a long vacation just like i did and come back strong for another round of the fight., wish you all the bestReplyCancel

  • LaylaMay 13, 2013 - 12:42 pm

    Anon Saudi to prettyinblackandpink:

    thank you very much for your compliments, i really appreciate them. i am glad you dont feel alone with Anoxxx and I around. we are a buch and we operate in the shadows.ReplyCancel

  • LaylaMay 13, 2013 - 12:43 pm

    thank you everyone for all your comments, i really didnt expect such a response. it really encourages me to write more. I also dont want to appear whiny and I am trying to write more analytical articles, i really hope you like them more than this sappy story.

    to all who told me to follow my heart, I would love to, and I am trying. But seriously not able to find a place to rent in a compound because I am saudi (even though I do hold dual citizenship status with an american nationality) is really getting in the way of my happiness, and paying over 100k for key money or a bribe to get a place in the DQ is just out of the question. Thank you all

    Anonymous Saudi ManReplyCancel

  • finnesinsidesaudiJanuary 29, 2014 - 3:09 am

    It is terrible to hear this story. something similar happened with one of my friend. however, he has now settled in UK and married his love after 2-3 years of convincing family. he resigned from his government job and staying in europe now. however, his story was same as yours. wish you luck brother! whats the status now? have u again fallen in love? or found true match for your deep love?ReplyCancel

  • AmalMay 9, 2014 - 1:32 pm

    I would like to share my story, I am in love with a saudi guy who used to study in the US. He’s an amazing person. But in a way or another we are a little different in the way we think. Im lebanese, and i consider myself to be a little open-minded where he tends to be a little conservative. Another big issue is my parents and my big Family. We are from different religions and it is strictly forbiden in mine to marry someone from outside( Like no one will talk to me).
    Plus I have some fear inside me that i wouldnt be able to adapt to the life style in Saudi Arabia. So my life is really not stable nowadays. Can someone give me an advise?ReplyCancel

    • LaylaMay 12, 2014 - 11:22 am

      Thanks for sharing! You could always ask advice on our facebook group where we have lots of different age women married to saudis..it’s called Susie of Arabia.ReplyCancel

  • LLWJune 17, 2014 - 4:53 pm

    Very interesting article and comments. It really helped explain my ex Saudi. I never knew why he didn’t fight his family to accept me, but now I fully understand. I’ve read many blogs and other information that only talks about the female side of marriage in KSA. Some put a very negative light on male Saudis like they are a bunch of players and liars. This article really helps clear some of the misconceptions about male Saudis and how they may feel. I hope that others open up in the future. It would really give a more rounded perspective on life in KSA. Thanks for sharing your story and I hope you find a solution to your situation. Nothing is more miserable than feeling alone.ReplyCancel

    • LaylaJune 22, 2014 - 3:46 am

      hey there, thanks for the comment. True that, we often just here the female part of the story and sometimes it might be really harsh on the saudi guys. You will be hearing an update post form him in the near future, inshallah ;)ReplyCancel

  • Adriana RochaJuly 30, 2014 - 7:56 am

    Love this! Go on and meet outside your Tribe! ReplyCancel

  • […] 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.) […]ReplyCancel

  • […] 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 […]ReplyCancel

  • MJSeptember 15, 2014 - 1:57 pm


  • MjOctober 4, 2014 - 6:35 pm

    Thanks guysReplyCancel

  • anonimo glJanuary 6, 2016 - 6:05 pm

    Thank you! You cant image how this post helps me.. becaise I was in a relationship with a saudi arabian men and he was very lovely and we were really in love, but one day he travelled to his country and called me and only he told me that he will get married with a girl that his parents choose for him… for me it was terrible and I am sad and i didnt understand many things because he never told me aboit this things… thank you! Now i know his possible situation and is really hard and now i can understand why before his travel was crying so much :( … is obviusly that never we can be together :(ReplyCancel

  • RoxanneFebruary 29, 2016 - 9:45 pm
  • RoxanneFebruary 29, 2016 - 9:50 pm

    Hi it breaks my heart reading this post because im currently inlove with a saudi man. Im a non muslim nurse working in a clinic and last year june 2015 a saudi family requested me to stay on their family to take care of their father it lasted 3 months until he died. During my stay there i meet all members of the family and the saudi man i secretly like. He is single 38 yrs old. He before tells me like im a little sister to her or like his sister named jawaher. His mother on the otherhanf ask me to marry him for few times. Ofcourse i refuse reason out and tell to his mom that im still a young and his son always tell that im like a sister to him. Yes, i like him secretly before but i dont want to marry that fast. Its only been 3 months during that time. after his father died i go back to the clinic where i was working before. I still have contact to his family. Even im not on there house we still talk until today. Then this feb 14, 2016 i decided to tell to that man that i like him since before, that i have a crush on him. Blah. Blah. Blah. I was surprised by his reply he said that he like me too! That he loved me and was waiting for the right time to tell to me. He said he did not tell because he taught that i would be angry to him or avoid him. I was happy when he said that. But what makes me confused is this. He also tells me that he keep this as a secret and ask me to keep this secret between the two of us. We talk on whatsup snapchat. And been using line app for video chat for 3 times already now. I always message him. We are in a relationship now for 3 weeks. And during the first week it was okay because he always replies to my message. The succeding weeks till now , is confusing and makes me feel unstable or doubt if he really love me. Why? Because he will only message me if i start messaging him. Or it depends if he wants to reply. Sometimes he replies but only with stickers or emoji ???. Or somethimes my messege is seen/read. Sometimes i think if did wrong to him. I want to talk to himBut i dont want to be annoying. What can you see about our relationship. Is there any potential. Why do you think he wants our relationship secret. Do you think he is serious or he only wants a fling? Its been only 3 weeks in a relationship. But i dont know maybe saudi man dont talk much or not sweet to text message. I try to understand but i feel ignored. Unloved. ?ReplyCancel

  • Anony ConvertNovember 19, 2016 - 8:01 am

    To all girls who think they can be with an Arab man from the gulf, even if speaking to them in a Halal way, please don’t even try it. I learned this the hard way. As a convert, I do not have any options to marry Muslims at all since most Muslims prefer to marry within their tribes, or their families, or with other Muslims because of compatibility issues. Converts to Islam (despite how much Muslims say they adore you) have a hard time marrying into a Muslim family. I was talking to a man from Kuwait for over 4 years and getting to know him. He kept telling me that I was the only one for him, etc. We met each other and then he had to go back to his country. I helped him with his homework, his work, his personal issues, everything that he asked me I was there helping him because I had developed feelings for him, I was an idiot.

    He stopped talking to me after I flipped out at him when he told me he wouldn’t give me the picture we took together when we met because he thought I would blackmail him, or that I would send that picture to his future wife, when he got married. I was crushed, I am still recovering it, but Allah sent this situation to me so that I would never ever develop feelings for someone outside of marriage.

    I don’t know how I will get married, considering that my family is not Muslim. At least with you being Muslim and being part of a community you have more choices to get married. I would take an arranged marriage anyday over being rejected because my family happens to be non-Muslim.

    Talk about being accepted into the Muslim community.

    Best regardsReplyCancel

  • Darbawiya-The Saudi Punks | Blue AbayaJanuary 28, 2018 - 11:31 pm

    […] 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.) […]ReplyCancel

  • ZJuly 31, 2020 - 9:44 pm

    I’m reading this in 2020 during COVID-19 pandemic lol. I love this post. I hope this guy from 2013 found a mate. If not, I’m available.ReplyCancel

  • JezApril 7, 2021 - 7:11 am

    This is such a relatable story. I can only hope that in time, things will change as the dynamic world does. Strongly held conservative beliefs, creeds, and cultural structure do impact individual lives negatively. I loved someone from a shared belief system as the author of this blog has and it broke my heart so deeply when he told me, that WE/US is beyond impossible because his parents, his family with strongly disapprove and never did it happen in their family history to have an outsider. What a sad reality. Best wishes to you Mister!ReplyCancel

Happy New Year 2013 to Blue Abaya readers!

2012 was a great year for Blue Abaya and I want to thank all my readers for the continuous support and positive feedback. I could not have done without you! There are moments when I feel exhausted and discouraged but your comments and encouragement to continue have given me the motivation to try and make Blue Abaya even better, interesting and more useful in 2013.

2012 Blue Abaya came as a finalist in the annual Bloggies Awards in the Best Asian and Middle Eastern category. Blue Abaya won the Gold medal at the Expats Blogs Awards for Best Saudi Expat Blog of the year 2012! Thank you again for the votes!

In case you missed any here are some favorite posts and highlights from 2012.

Check out the popular desert trek guide to Edge of the World here.

Princess And The Pimple: Story of a Saudi Princess who wakes up one morning with a huge pimple on her face. Her mother takes her to the emergency room VIP section where the royal pimple receives more medical attention than the dying baby next door.

Another funny story of the royal family check Royal Morgue

Read an Expat’s Tale From A Saudi Jail post to hear how one of my friends got arrested by the Saudi religious police. She found herself thrown into a Saudi jail where she was harassed by the Saudi female guards and not allowed any contact with the outside world.

2012 our dreams came true and we finally found an apartment inside the Diplomatic Quarters. Moving in was nothing short of a nightmare! Read the hilariously horrible ordeal here: http://blueabaya.com/2012/04/move-from-hell.html

Saudi Dude’s Guide To Finnish Coffee Drinking Ceremony. Learn the crazy coffee drinking ritual of Finns, complete with guide how not to get stabbed while greeting a Finnish man.

Ramadan Junk Food And Fungus burgers.
Saudi -Arabia has a big problem with junk food. Check out the Hardee’s fungus burger too!

Find out what the Saudi Post Chocolate Monster did with my chocolates this time!

We were blessed with a son in 2012 and my husband is and has been such a great father and support for me that I dedicated a post to him:
We Love You, Baba



Now it’s your turn!

I want to hear from you readers what kind of posts would you like to see more or less of in 2013?
Do you like the local guides and to hear about my travels around Saudi-Arabia and the ME?
What about the cultural comparison posts where I highlight the fascinating differences between the polar opposites Finland and Saudi-Arabia?
How about posts about current happenings and on goings and health care sector related articles?
Or perhaps more of real life stories and rants from life in the Kingdom?

I would really appreciate the feedback!

A few exciting plans are coming up for Blue Abaya in the future..stay tuned..

I wish everyone a fantastic year 2013!

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  • CiaraJanuary 2, 2013 - 4:01 pm

    Hi Laylah.

    Many happy returns for 2013.

    I have read your blog for the past number of weeks (and delved into the archives) as a move to Saudi has been on the cards for my husband and myself. We found out yesterday (1st January) that the move is definite… an auspicious start to the New Year!

    We are open to having an adventure, and resigned that things won’t always go as smoothly as we would like!!

    Your blog has been a great source of practical information as well as a comfort that in fact Saudi has some very definite differences to where we are from (Ireland) but indeed below the surface probably many similarities!!

    Keep up the good work for 2013! On a personal note I would love to hear from you about maternity options in Saudi Arabia as adding to our family is also a goal for 2013, and having a first child is a scary enough prospect without the added idea of doing it so far away from home and family support!!

    I look forward to continue reading!


    • LaylaJanuary 3, 2013 - 6:46 pm

      Hi Ciara and thanks for the comment! I’m glad you’ve found Blue Abaya useful and hopefully it will remain a good source of information for you once you’ve relocated over here :)

      I have had so many requests about the maternity and childbirth options in Saudi that I ave planned a post on this in the near future, inshallah when I have more time on my hands from my very demanding kids :)

  • IldiJanuary 2, 2013 - 9:21 pm

    HI Laylah, happy new year for u too! Thank you for awesome work dear!
    Do you plan to write ‘Tuesday ten’ posts again? I would be happy to read them again in new topics.
    Take care,

    • LaylaJanuary 3, 2013 - 6:50 pm

      Hi Ildi! Not sure if I would be doing the Tuesday Ten posts again they do take some while to make because they each contain ten photos which all have to be watermarked and some maybe edited a little, so it’s very time consuming..plus my life is really not that interesting right now, it consists of feeding, dressing, playing with and putting my kids to sleep.On top of that I spend a lot of time rocking, swinging, singing, bouncing, walking around with our very fussy infant 24/7. Not so exciting at all right :D Maybe when our life becomes more normal again and I get out of the house more (other than to the park) I will start again!ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousJanuary 2, 2013 - 11:24 pm

    SubhanAllah, how the year has passed! That was horrible, the story of the Princess and the Pimple.

    By the way, I sent you an email (about dentistry). It would be great if you could answer it. Jazakillahu khair!ReplyCancel

    • LaylaJanuary 3, 2013 - 6:58 pm

      Hi there! Sorry, I am dragging way behind in replying to my emails so I haven’t had time to get back to you on that. I can tell you right now that dentistry here in general is not as good as it is in Europe or west..I have some friends who wait until they get back to their home countries to have things done. For example a friend of mine told me just yesterday she had regular cleaning here in Saudi (in top hospital) for years, then had it done once back home in Canada and the dr there was horrified at the quality said they never had even cleaned under the gums which had caused huge problem and took four sessions to fix. Personally I had one of my tooth fillings come off and then refilled by three different dentists here (all were arabs) and the filling came off every time about a month after it was done, so now I’m waiting to do it in Finland even though its way more expensive there. I could tell you countless other examples of how poor the care is here but maybe you catch the drift..so have your check up and cleaning done before you come here, or do it on holidays.ReplyCancel

  • JennyJanuary 3, 2013 - 4:52 am

    I enjoy all your posts and think you have a nice mix of topics.

    But if you’d like some requests, here’s mine: You had a picture on your photo blog a while back of an outdoor scene where the men were all praying while the women sit on park benches. I thought that was surprising and very strange and it really piqued my interest. Why is it that women (generally) do not pray in public? Would it be frowned upon if one of the women got down and prayed just like the men were doing in that square? Isn’t performing salat taken quite seriously by most Saudis? I assume these women don’t skip it entirely but pray when they get home, but if this is okay then why wouldn’t it be okay to routinely save all your prayers for the end of the day? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.ReplyCancel

    • LaylaJanuary 3, 2013 - 7:02 pm

      Hi Jenny thanks for the feedback!!
      In general if women do pray in public they will seek a spot where there’ a wall behind them, in other words, that men can’t walk behind them because of the awkward position, which is very much understandable. Sometimes you will see women praying in malls during prayer times. Most malls do have ladies mosque in them..but regardless you will see some women just stop in their footsteps and take out their prayer mats and pray on the corridors, next to the wall for more privacy. At least this is my observation, that they rather do it later in privacy (or not at all who knows) than do it in front of men.

  • AnonymousJanuary 4, 2013 - 1:51 am

    Happy New Year!
    I basicly enjoy reading what ever you write!
    But since you asked…I especially enjoy reading about your real life stories and rants from life in the Kingdom and perhaps anything related to the visual art scene?.
    As a Canadian expat, I can relate and take every opprotunity to share your blog with friends. I think your blog helps bring a fresh perspective to day to day life in KSA. You are certainly unique and have a finger on the pulse of KSA society regarding what is changing and what remains the same. IMHO You rock! :)

    • Umm GamarJanuary 5, 2013 - 2:01 am

      I second that anon. More of your stories about your own experience please Allah dear. Perhaps about your lil prince and pray do tell me how you wean your baby of breastmilk…I would love to continue bfing my daughter but just in case of my milk supply drying up. Happy 2013!ReplyCancel

    • Umm GamarJanuary 5, 2013 - 12:24 pm

      I meant Laylah dear. Darn automatic correction.ReplyCancel

  • Aafke-ArtJanuary 5, 2013 - 10:07 am

    Happy New Year, and I would like to see more pictures of horses!ReplyCancel

  • Jerry Mc KennaJanuary 7, 2013 - 2:25 am

    I love all your posts, but if I had to pick one it would be about the morgue.ReplyCancel

  • Saudi Expat NewsDecember 20, 2018 - 10:44 am

    You are on top for Sure..ReplyCancel

Christmas decorations such as trees, ornaments and other holiday season decorations are pretty much non-existent in public during the holiday season in Saudi Arabia. Christmas is viewed as strictly a Christian religious holiday and all items that celebrate it are supposed to be forbidden here. Christmas trees are viewed as religious or pagan symbols by many people around this neck of the woods and would most certainly be confiscated by the notorious Saudi religious cops were they to come across any. Despite the lack of holiday spirit in the public sphere, many expats and even locals celebrate the holidays in the privacy of their homes. Compounds will have Christmas bazaars going on starting from November where all the decorations can be found and bought. Scroll down to read where you can get christmas trees in Riyadh and how I found mine from the Black Market half-accidentally.

Oh Christmas tree, O Christmas tree!
Thou tree most fair and lovely!
The sight of thee at Christmastide
Spreads hope and gladness far and wide
Oh Christmas tree, O Christmas tree
Thou tree most fair and lovely!

Saudi version:
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree!
thou tree most scarce and forbidden
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree!
where are thy branches hidden?
The sight of thee in Saudi-land
Spreads fear and loathing in the sand.

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree!

Thou tree most scarce and forbidden.

The only Christmas tree that I know of on public display in Riyadh was in Hayat mall and it was not even decorated. It’s pretty amazing how they pulled that one off without the Hai’a (Saudi religious police) having a say. Maybe there were too many women with nail polish around on that day for the religious police to notice anything else. My friend sent me this pic:

Christmas tree inside Hayat Mall in Riyadh Saudi Arabia.

I chuckled. How could the muttawa possibly miss this?

The only way I knew people got Christmas trees in Saudi was if they had shipped theirs in. Like my friend Nicole, also married to a Saudi, who managed to ship in a pretty large fake tree among her stuff from the States not so long ago. That’s why I had given up on the idea of ever having a tree here. But I knew I wanted one and especially because I want to share this childhood memory and Finnish holiday traditions with my children.

So here’s the story of how I found a “Black Market” christmas tree in Saudi Arabia.

How I found my own fake tree was by pure accident. I was in an area in Riyadh which could be called a ghetto, looking around for some decorations. We went there knowing they sell Christmas-sy decorations such as lights and those colorful frills people here use on Eid. I love having those beautiful lights in the house during the darker winter months.

I entered one of the shops that sells all sorts of tawdry stuff and plastic crap. In Finnish I would call it a rihkama store. The place was packed with people and I saw an entire shelf full of what could not be mistaken for anything else than Christmas ornaments. I was shocked a little but happy to have found them. Out of the blue I asked the salesman if they happened to have Christmas trees for sale.

The look on his face was as if I had just asked him for drugs.

The salesman turned red and whispered back to me, yes we do have as if he was letting me in on a state secret. I remained calm but inside I was now very excited. I had not expected this at all! Christmas trees for sale in Saudi-Arabia? No way!

I excitedly asked what sizes they had since I didn’t want to leave the store dragging a huge log behind me. He tried to show me the sizes with his hands while constantly eyeing the nearby Saudi customers with suspicion. He pretended to arrange some boxes around while doing it. I asked if the trees were decorated and did they have a stand. His nervous replies started to make me nervous too.

I told him I needed to see it before I could buy anything. The salesman hesitated but then motioned me to follow him. My heart was now beating faster as I realized my dream of having a cute little tree might come true after-all but at the same time I was nervous because the salesman was acting like we were about to commit a horrid crime.

It felt like he was a drug dealer about to show me his stash of cocaine.

The man walked to an aisle in the middle of the store fearfully glancing around, now visibly anxious and fidgety. He said “if any man with beard come, problem”.

I nodded and said mafi mushkila. He kneeled down and removed the screws that had been loosely placed on the bottom of the corridor shelves. The front came off and revealed the long cardboard boxes hidden inside.

Now two Saudi women walked by. The salesman scrambled quickly closing the door and stood up while I pretended to browse through the cheap alarm clocks on top of the shelf. I wondered what my husband would say about the tree.

The women finally left and the salesman opened the door again. I could see three different sizes of boxes. He asked me which one I wanted. I told him I would have to see the actual tree before purchasing, but I wanted the smallest one. He opened one of the boxes and showed me the top of the tree which in all honesty looked really darn crappy, but beggars are not choosers.

“Will you take it ma’m?” I told him yes, I will take “it”!

The man pulled the box out of its hiding place. Suddenly the box fell apart and a portion of the tree was now showing.

My heart almost stopped.

The salesman panicked and started shouting in Hindi to his co-worker while trying to hide the branches with his arms. The co-worker flew to rescue with two large white plastic bags.

With trembling hands they shoved the tree box in the plastic bag and placed another one on top covering all the green parts.

He told me he would take this “ahem” to the cashier to wait for me. Luckily it seemed as if the Saudi customers around the store were oblivious to our sneaky Christmas tree business and no bearded men were in sight.

With my heart still racing from the adrenaline rush this piece of green plastic had triggered, I tried to pick up some decorations for the tree. Strangely they were all out on display. I found colored pine cones, ball ornaments, frills and stars. One salesman even brought a big box of stars to me.

I wondered why it was acceptable to sell these ornaments but the actual tree was treated like the anti-christ.

When I was done I apprehensively approached the cashier. I tried to wait for a moment when there was no queue but that was not going to happen on a busy evening like this. When my turn came I quickly handed him the basket full of tree decorations. He glanced around from the corner of his eyes and took the things directly into a plastic bag.

Next I wondered how I was supposed to tell him about “it”. I said there was ‘ahem ahem’ something for me here. I tried to look for the white plastic bag and noticed it stashed behind his chair. The cashier did not understand my code language for hidden christmas tree so I had to point to the bag and say I think that was mine. “Oh OK ma’m”. He did not even touch the bag.

At this point my husband suddenly rushed into the store. My first thought was my husband came to warn me about approaching muttawa but he wanted me to hurry up because the children were crying in the car. I pointed to the tree bag saying that’s ours. He asked, “are you sure? Why is it there?” I told him yes I’m very sure. So then my husband just threw it on his shoulder unknowing it was in fact a Christmas tree.

I tried to act normal but couldn’t help laughing at the situation and the very pale face of the cashier. My husband with the tree hanging on his shoulder asked what’s in here anyways? Weren’t you supposed to buy some candles? I told him “oh, nothing special, I will tell you later.”

So we ran to the car parked close by with the Christmas tree on my husbands shoulder. He opened the back door and threw the bag in. We ran not because we had just purchased a black market Christmas tree but because of the crying babies, but admittedly it might have looked suspicious. I giggled about the experience for a long time and managed to keep the tree as a surprise for my husband.

The next day I set up the tree and decorations. Although very small, it didn’t look too bad at all. My husband laughed when he saw it and realized that he had been running around the ghetto with a Christmas tree on his back!

I was happy to have this little reminder of my own culture and family traditions in my Saudi home.

For me Christmas was never a religious holiday, it’s a family tradition and a strong part of our culture. It’s all about just spending quality time with family, sharing gifts, eating some traditional Finnish foods which I have come to love.  It all reminds me of my childhood and the most cherished moments I have with my family are all from the seasons holidays!


P.S. I’ve noticed a lot of people don’t realize that christmas for most people living in western countries, is actually a cultural celebration and family tradition more than it is a religious holiday.  I’ve even come across people who say celebrating christmas is like you’re worshipping a pagan god. Another misinformed belief is that having a tree has something to do with celebrating Jesus (pbuh) birthday which is not true.

Yes, there are people around the world who do celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday. They view Christmas as the birth date of baby Jesus (who is a Prophet in Islam too btw) For me personally and millions of others, the holiday has never had that aspect to it. Nowadays Christmas has become sadly very commercial and not as much the family holiday it used to be. Atheists and many people of other faiths (even Muslims) do celebrate Christmas too btw, which proves even more the point that it’s simply not a religious holiday for everyone.

P.P.S. If you’re looking for a tree in Riyadh you might want to check and ask around the riyaleen stores in Um alhammam area and Deerah souq. Go to the Filipino stores area in Batha Also check the compound christmas bazaars and coffee mornings. 
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  • IldiDecember 28, 2012 - 7:49 am

    Haha Laylah, you made my morning at office again – what a fun to read your humorous post! You wrote well, buying a Christmas tree in strict Saudi Arabia equal like you would bought drug! You are lucky finally you could manage your sercet business. :) All respect go by you, what you decide, you manage all!ReplyCancel

    • LaylahDecember 30, 2012 - 12:17 am

      Thanks Ildi!ReplyCancel

  • NoorDecember 28, 2012 - 7:50 am

    Wow I can not believe the mall had one and that you also managed to find one here where as it in Buttah?

    My family sent Talal some gifts but I did not do anything. I do not want to confuse the poor kid as it is with his Saudi/American families.ReplyCancel

    • LaylahDecember 30, 2012 - 12:18 am

      Noor I'm still shocked also because HAyat mall is the favorite hangout place of Hai'a so how come they didn't notice THAT HUGE THING lol
      they really must have been preoccupied with the women.ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousDecember 28, 2012 - 2:35 pm

    This reminds me of Nuh and his people. They were the First Nation to commit shirk. They thought what they were doing was good. Who was Nuh to tell them that they were wrong? How dare he try to impose his interpretation on them.

    Nuh preached to his peole for 950, to no avail, except a few.

    May Allaah guide you and maybe your followers will be guide, too, ameen.

    Wish you the best.ReplyCancel

    • LaylahDecember 29, 2012 - 11:24 pm

      Really, reminds you of Nuh and his people eh? Are you sort of trying to "subtly" say I'm committing shirk?

      When I come across Muslims like you I feel ashamed. Really ashamed..

      You didn't even have the decency to leave your name, but I know who you are..UMM..

    • AmeeraJune 10, 2016 - 6:44 am

      girl get a grip. Let her celebrate her culture.ReplyCancel

    • SaudiGirlDecember 10, 2016 - 9:57 pm

      People are free to do whatever they want including Muslims. Even if this is a sin, it’s not your sin. By your logic, we’re imitating the ‘kuffar’ by using technology and western clothes. Please leave us (other Muslims) who choose to celebrate alone. I want to have a good time with my family and friends. It has nothing to do with imitating Christian people, most westerners and specifically northern Europeans aren’t even Christians.ReplyCancel

  • bigstick1December 29, 2012 - 2:47 am

    I heard the Saudi authorities arrested 41 people on a private compound for just planning a private Christmas party in a private home.

    So kudos for pulling it off.

    Take care and be careful on you next caper. :)


    • LaylahDecember 29, 2012 - 11:30 pm

      Yes I heard something like this too. I also heard Home Center was selling christmas trees openly :pReplyCancel

  • AnonymousDecember 29, 2012 - 1:27 am

    In regards to the children what would you say to them? (i know their young but as they grow) Would you call it another Eid yet it has no islamic relevance? just curious as i know some sisters who totally avoid it to not confuse their children as it becomes hard to explain the xmas holiday without them later finding out that it actually is the celebration of Jesus’s birth date. Your thoughts would be appreciate.

    • LaylahDecember 29, 2012 - 11:28 pm

      Angie-No I would not call it another Eid because that's not what it is. I would call it what it is and explain to them. Kids are smart and they won't be confused about it when explained properly.
      I don't see what harm there is in them finding out that yes SOME people out there do celebrate christmas as a religious holiday, of Jesus birth date. Fact is we do not, even though weReplyCancel

  • SoileDecember 29, 2012 - 11:18 am

    Funny story :-)

    I read Nicole’s blog post too, and the link she had to somebody explaining their view on Christmas celebrations. I thought it was really spot on. My mother is really religious (christian), while the rest of us aren’t. She has never imposed it on us, though we were in Sunday-school as kids. My mum celebrates Christmas for it’s true meaning, for the rest of us it’s just a time to enjoy good food and some special time in the company of our families, and a time to be grateful for what we have. I don’t see why it would be a problem for Laylah to take the cultural aspect of Christmas from her past, and integrate it to her new life, and create a different tradition for her family.

    BTW, when I was in Saudi and dating a guy, he really wanted to get me a red rose for Valentine’s Day. He managed, but also described it as almost like buying drugs :-)ReplyCancel

    • LaylahDecember 29, 2012 - 11:31 pm

      Yes I agree with everything Nicole wrote she said it so well!ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousDecember 29, 2012 - 12:49 pm

    I don’t understand how it would be confusing for the children to celebrate also Christmas. I live in another Muslim country and here Muslims celebrate Christmas, too. After all, Jesus is one of the Prophets in Islam. This is also why I find it weird that Saudi Arabia is banning it.

    Anyway, merry Christmas to all, and a happy new year.ReplyCancel

    • LaylahDecember 29, 2012 - 11:32 pm

      Thanks, same to you! Which country is that?ReplyCancel

  • bigstick1December 29, 2012 - 5:48 pm

    To Anonymous December 29, 2012 4:27 am

    It is the celebration of the winter solstices and on the third day the sun rises again. Now remember that as the third day the sun rises again winter solstice lasts for three days typically from December 21 to the 24. So the sun is born again on the 25th. It shouldn't surprise you that when Christ died he rose again after 3 days if youReplyCancel

    • LaylahDecember 29, 2012 - 11:43 pm

      Bigstick-wow that is lot of info on the history of Christmas! I'm having an information overload over here :)
      Question, do you as an atheist celebrate christmas? I know many atheists that do.

      Honestly I don't even care about where the origins of some traditions are from. Too much to think about when all I want is to spend some quality time with family eating nice foods,ReplyCancel

  • DianneCDecember 29, 2012 - 2:52 pm

    Well at least my efforts to get a tree in Jeddah were not quite so exciting – although there was the trip to the second floor, far back corner, through the locked gate and into the secret locked back storage room where they were assembled (along with other things containing Santa etc) for you to view and choose. Then it was all wrapped in newspaper and taken to the register in a similar pantomimeReplyCancel

    • LaylahDecember 29, 2012 - 11:38 pm

      DianneC-that sounds funny! I guess muttawa need more courses on what christmas decorations look like :pReplyCancel

  • LaylahDecember 29, 2012 - 11:36 pm

    Lisa Mayr-Funny enough most of the judgmental and "holier than thou" people commenting and judging me here are people who used to celebrate christmas themselves. Saudis are much more tolerant and open minded than these people. They are converts from western countries whose favorite hobby is to put others down and give Islam and Muslims a bad name in the process. So they are actuallyReplyCancel

  • HopeDecember 29, 2012 - 8:53 pm

    What happens in someone's private home is their business. I am not sure why people are always interfering with people's own personal life. Layla has explained that Christmas has no religious significance and its all culture and tradition. For her, having a christmas tree brings warm memories of her childhood, her family and her homecountry. Her husband had no issue and understands theReplyCancel

  • bigstick1December 30, 2012 - 12:33 am


    Yes I celebrate humanity's events which encapsulates our past, present and future. I just don't agree with some of the associated beliefs. :)

    Visit my site as I have putting up some stuff that you might like. :)

    This is a time worth celebrating as it is a time of family, good friends and enjoyment of the fleeting moments of life that we haveReplyCancel

  • AnonymousDecember 29, 2012 - 11:00 pm

    Christmas Tree is traditionally a symbol of eternal life and the lights and
    the star on top of the tree symbolize the birth of Jesus Christ. We give gifts just like the 3 wize man gave gifts to baby Jesus. Christmas is a Christian Holiday. Nowadays lot of people just forget the true meaning and just do the comercial side and call it "cultural"… SAD

    • LaylahDecember 30, 2012 - 12:16 am

      If it's a christian holiday why do atheists in western countries celebrate it?
      What's commercial about spending quality time with the family?ReplyCancel

    • SandyJanuary 3, 2013 - 8:23 pm

      Read up on the Saturnalia, Winter Solstice practices, the feast of St. Nicholas, the Epiphany and Yule Christmas traditions are borrowed from other practices.

  • Umm GamarDecember 30, 2012 - 9:52 am

    Salam Laylah, I dont think it is fair to say Muslims who wish to remind you have miserable lives. I for one hold the belief that any culture that conflicts with Islam is Haram whether it used to be my culture or not. Islam for me is more valueble than any past cultures Christmas or what not. Islam has its own holidays and being Muslims we should remember the prophet commands us to distinguishReplyCancel

    • LaylahDecember 30, 2012 - 11:57 am

      There are people that come to this blog and comment without any respect for other opinions (yes people can have different opinions on things such as what is "proper" hijab or what does christmas mean)and you don't get to always see all those miserable comments because I delete many. Also there's some that come just for the purpose to judge me. So yes I think there'sReplyCancel

    • LaylahDecember 30, 2012 - 12:07 pm

      Umm Gamar you are twisting my words I did not say ALL Muslims who say that have miserable lives. I think you know me better than that. Like I said before I meant those rude know it all holier than thou attitude muslims that can sometimes be seen here. Nothing wrong with someone nicely saying things, but it won’t change my opinions.

      For example the person that commented as anon that talked about shirk is very judgmental.

      We obviously disagree on this matter but I respect your opinion.ReplyCancel

    • Umm GamarDecember 30, 2012 - 9:58 am

      One more thing, I think cultures are so beautiful and appreciate them.but we should always be careful to avoid cultures that goes out of the folds of Islam. There are good and bad aspects of culture but for us Muslims, Islam comes first. And Christmas, unfortunately, goes against the aqeedah in Islam even if the niyah is just to have fun as due to its origins. It shouldnt matter if the atheistsReplyCancel

    • Umm GamarDecember 30, 2012 - 5:24 pm

      I don’t mean to offend you Allah, I do know you better than that. I too dislike when fellow Muslims judge and give advice in a rude way as it turns people away from Islam. Well, as long as we are here I wish you all the happiest of times ;-)
      excuse my poor comment as I’m in bed feeling foggy.ReplyCancel

    • SandyJanuary 3, 2013 - 8:20 pm

      Assalamu Alaikum,
      It would seem to me that you should start your own blog if you would like to present your own understanding of Islam -rather than to presume you understand it better than the writer of this blog. I am sure you believe you are more correct than Layla- but I see no reason to believe that is true. I see a very judgemental post full of preaching to someone who does not appear to be in need of – or to have asked for any guidance and from someone who doesn’t seem qualified to give it especially when she wasn’t asked.ReplyCancel

  • Jerry Mc KennaDecember 30, 2012 - 11:42 pm

    It looks as if many Muslims wish to find fault with anything that can be considered fun, even if it isn’t being done for religious reasons. Given the importance of old religions in most cultures one can probably find a religious root for most everything. The names of the days of the week come from various no longer worshipped deities. Should that be an issue?
    The Islamic hajj is a holdover from pre-islamic Arabia, so it too has pagan roots. So, Muslims, chill out and allow others to have a bit of fun.ReplyCancel

    • LaylahJanuary 2, 2013 - 9:22 pm

      Hi Jerry thanks for the comment. indeed if we start looking at things more closely and analyzing many would be an issue. What about TV? Is that not an issue with the images?And how about the WWW full of images and mixing with men! What are these people doing online, it’s a western innovation anyways.

      I wish people would just live and let live.

  • AnonymousDecember 30, 2012 - 8:57 pm

    This is great. Girl power! lol.ReplyCancel

  • JeanDecember 31, 2012 - 6:40 pm

    I really enjoyed this post…about a harmless fake tree. :)

    Wishing you a pleasant Christmas and holiday with your family. We just returned from several days of mountain snowshoeing in the Canadian Rockies.ReplyCancel

    • LaylahJanuary 2, 2013 - 9:23 pm

      Hi there Jean,indeed harmless, same to you!ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousJanuary 1, 2013 - 6:27 pm

    Dear Laylah, it’s wonderful that you take the best from the european culture for yours and your family life.
    Some people do not understadn how so called Christmas (I mean THAT special time) is important for our culture and how strong it gathers the families. Such holidays are necessary for the society. This context of Christmas is really unique and valuable. We grow up waiting for these special days, for the atmosphere of love, forgiveness, peacemaking and calm reflection on the meaning of life. Nobody should judge it.

    I am muslim, but I use to celebrate the Christmas just for the reasons above. This is a part of my tradition independent of religion. I prepare the traditional meals and set my tree up for joy and family time. I had never believed before in Jesus’s birthday, in my family we had used to avoid the church’s celebration with it’s pathetic climat. But it’s important for other people and I can understand and respect it.

    God is mercyful so be the same if you have a problem with acceptation or understanding of differences :)

    With all my love from Poland


    • LaylahJanuary 2, 2013 - 9:28 pm

      Hi Nadia thanks for the comment! Celebrating christmas brings joy and warm memories to me..only God knows our intentions and sees into hearts.ReplyCancel

  • LaylahJanuary 2, 2013 - 9:17 pm

    Hey there Steven thanks!ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousJanuary 4, 2013 - 9:08 pm

    Hahahaha ….. !!! So funny story ! Greetings and wishes from Athens ! We’re (still) celebrating Christmas and New Year ! I wish to you next year to be at your beautiful country to celebrate real X”mas ! Yassu ! (Bye)ReplyCancel

  • LaylaJanuary 5, 2013 - 12:43 am

    Umm Muawiyah- wa aleikum salaam.
    I waited many days to calm down before I allowed myself to reply to your judgmental comments because they really upset me.Not only because of how your tone is so condescending but because how you present Muslims to the world.

    First I thought I won’t publish them at all, then I thought what the heck, let the world see what kind of “sisters advising other sisters in Islam” there can be.

    BTW do you realize that already THOUSANDS of people read your comments, and you have possibly put off HUNDREDS of people off Islam by your judgmental comments?
    Think about it..And more will come..

    First off I want to comment on “may Allah guide Layla and her followers”. What are you exactly implying here? That I’m some sort of cult leader? Had to laugh out loud at that one!

    Then you mention shirk. Did you not know that it’s pretty much the worst thing you can falsely accuse someone of? Or you think that does not apply to you since you seem to think of yourself so highly.

    We all learn new things all the time. You don’t have to talk to me like I have no clue about anything. Just because I practice Islam different than you, doesn’t mean I’m totally clueless. I’m not an expert on anything and haven’t claimed to be, but I don’t go on other people’s sites and start judging them on how they practice.
    I’m not that kind of person you see.

    You are saying all these things because I don’t happen to think like you do. I’m not a Salafi.
    It seems to me Salafis only accept one way of thinking and everything and everyone else is just wrong and need “reminding and correcting”.
    And they even think they are earning brownie points for doing so when actually they are only doing a disfavor.

    I have no idea why you are dragging the muttawa into this monologue of yours, not even going to start on that one.

    You said:
    “I do wonder why so many people move to Saudi, complain about the society knowing full and well how the society functions. Why not move to other Muslim countries who (may Allah guide them as well) allow the things you or others so desire…. fingernail polish in public, hair exposed, tight jeans being worn by the youth (male at that), etc.”

    No seriously where did you come up with that one?Seems like you DO read my blog more than you are trying to make it seem like here :)

    I myself do wonder why so many people come to this blog, complain about the way I see things knowing full and well it is different from what they think is the one and only truth. Why not move to other blogs that (may Allah guide them as well) allow the things you or others so desire….wearing black gloves in public, backbiting, judging people less holy etc.

    If something other people do in the privacy of their homes can somehow offend you then..I’m sorry but that is your own personal issue you might want to deal with in the privacy of your own head.

    The world already is full of Muslims that need to take a huge dose of CHILL PILLS, swallow and then mind their own business.

  • LaylaJanuary 5, 2013 - 1:07 am

    Umm Muawiya-This comment of yours really sums up how you think of Muslims who think in any other way than you do. It is just so condescending and arrogant, I feel even a little sorry for you.

    “Some times there are others who know more than we do about Islam. So, advise may go over our heads because they have an understanding about certain principles in the religion that some of us don’t have. You do seem to take a strong position against the Muslims as opposed to the Christians even in this post. It may be because their comments are in line with how you feel about Christmas or the responses on your blog.”

    I have never taken a position against “the Muslims”, that is just utter nonsense and your interpretation of things.
    Life is not about “us vs them” you know.

    “with knowledge you are assured to free yourself from the “hate mail” you have been receiving but more importantly you free yourself from making mistakes”

    Yes, Umm M, knowledge according to what YOU believe is correct.
    Why is it so hard to accept that people just believe differently? Is it for you to judge what is correct? You have your own conclusions, I have mine.
    Why can’t you just let it rest and leave it to that? WHY???
    The hate mail is never going to stop because it will always keep coming from people like you who just can’t respect others opinions.

    Unless I become a Salafi your kind will not be satisfied with what I write. There will always be something to nitpick on, trust me I have seen how sisters attack each other on online forums. Very sad. And extremely off-putting if not disgusting the amount of back biting and name calling I’ve seen on Muslim forums has been just unbelievable. All because of this same attitude.

    I’m so lucky I found Islam before I found the online bully muslims!

    SO you think I should use my blog to educate people about Islam? and if I’m not able then just to leave it off? So only blogs that preach your way of Islam are allowed? What about blogs that try to help people in other ways, such as how to live a more happy life in Saudi-Arabia? Trying to see the positives in life here and exploring this country that has a lot of hidden beauty to it are some of the things that I can write about with confidence. I am not a religious scholar and I have no intention to teach people about Islam here, because the internet is full of sites that can be visited for that purpose.ReplyCancel

  • UnderTheAbayaJanuary 5, 2013 - 5:29 pm

    Love the picture of your tree, Laylah! Maybe next year I’ll try to smuggle myself some lights or some decorations into the country, since we have year-round christmas stores back home.

    On another note, I’m always perplexed by Muslims who take it upon themselves to “advise” others, even when advice wasn’t asked or called for. Where I come from, that’s the number one criteria for being (for lack of a better word) an asshole. No one likes it when someone offers an unwanted or unsolicited opinion, be it toward their fashion preferences, their taste in music or film, their stance on politics, or their religious or cultural expressions. But nevertheless, converts have this terrible habit, almost like a disease that takes over the brain and does away with whatever manners their “kafir” society may have taught them before, of sticking their noses where they don’t belong and offering up their newly acquired knowledge. And I use the term knowledge lightly. Please, fellow Muslims, come to grips with the concept that with 1.2 billion of us on the globe, not EVERYONE will believe the same things that you do, not everyone will interpret Quran the same way that you do, and it is NONE of your business. You, not Laylah, are giving Islam a bad name. And YOU as well will have to answer for your actions, your words, and for turning people AWAY from Islam by acting like you know it all. Get a life. Seriously.ReplyCancel

  • Aafke-ArtJanuary 5, 2013 - 6:58 pm

    Great story!
    Sometimes I think life in SA must be so exciting, all these contraband objects and black market practices. You are brilliant for having scouted a christmas tree in Riyadh!

    And it looks lovely.
    And I am glad you are strong and steadfast enough in your belief that you can keep on enjoying your own cultural family celebrations.

    It is sad to see so many people who swap faiths and yet cannot muster the strength to really believe in it, and to see them flapping around the internet like great black bats trying to take the joy out of the life of other people because they are not as troubled in their minds and in their faith….

    I hope they can overcome their problems and start opening up again for a bit of fun every now and then…ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousJanuary 7, 2013 - 12:50 pm

    Well, Saudi is an Islamic state (well…) and I find it very unlikely that, for example,the Vatican would allow Islamic celebrations or Islamic symbols to be visible and certainly not pay for it with tax money or allow Muslims to wasit money on that while there are Muslims and other people who are starving… And yes; An elephamt os an elephant regardless of how you wish it to be a horse. Christmas is (nowadays at least) about celebrating Jesus’ birth, son of God and God himself who dies for our sins. That is shirk. There is nothing “subtle” about that :)ReplyCancel

  • LemmyJanuary 7, 2013 - 4:36 pm

    Good story.

    It is true though, most of the “Western Tradition” of Christmas is quite recent and what I call a “Coca-Cola Christmas”, but its a global synthesis of many traditions. The German Christmas tree is a quite recent adopted tradition, and was looked upon as “heathen” for quite long. Well, getting any cultural celebration internationally adapted has its slight problems, like with the Japanese cards depicting a crucified Santaclaus… They got a bit of it all wrong…

    If you go into Finland, the Yule-Goat is who you have visiting and the baby Jesus is a bit of a pasted-on addition. Well, the Yule-Goat only has his name left, and has put on the bishop’s red gear inherited by the coca-cola Santa. The “original” is with a turned fur coat and dons a scary mask with horns and beard…. now try pass that character these days!

    If you look at Finland, there was no tradition really of Halloween. People have recently picked up on it though, gives a good excuse to have some party and fancy dress in the darkest time of the year.

    Funny thing, but ever imagined if we reversed the roles? Imagine Finnish Muttawa. They would be promoting “Finnish culture”, or rather their idea of it, they would ban Eid as well, and during the fasting there would be mandatory public eating of bacon for people looking hungry!
    Now who could be objecting to that?
    Now if someone would start even suggesting banning Halloween in Finland, they would be deemed “racist”.

    Some Christian sects do not celebrate birthdays at all, and celebrating Christmas wouldn’t be “Christian” for them. The Communists wanted to get rid of religion, but in Russia a White-Clad old man with a flowing beard comes accompanied by a little child… be it “Frost Man” who is a shaman of the Siberian natives there synthesised with St.Nicholas or not. Its very dull without parties. I wonder if next we’ll start adapting other festivals like the Indian Holi – now thats colorful as well as fun!

    And no, I don’t celebrate Christmas, but if people wish to do so I don’t object. After all, their imaginary fellow in the sky might get angry and throw a hot stone on my head.ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousJanuary 7, 2013 - 8:35 pm

    Very funny post! I’m sorry you had to go to all that trouble just to get a Christmas tree, but I’m sure you appreciated it so much more for your effort! Special days mean different things to different people and whatever Christmas means to you, I hope you had a lovely day.

    Sophie (I come here and read and comment occasionally).ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousJanuary 9, 2013 - 10:46 am

    Dear Layla

    I understand its hard for you to leave Finnish culture behind you.Many warm memories.

    Still we should not put our culture and traditions before the law of God.Christmas is not a Muslim holiday and it never will be.

    I’ve enjoyed reading your blog for long time now.But your recent negativity towards religious people,teaching and morals of Islam have put me off.

    This life is just duniyah.Try to remember that.Be nicer to your readers who don’t agree with you and admit that you can be wrong too.Just like the readers!No one is perfect,sah?

    I wish you all the best in life.But I think it’s time for me to leave your blog.As unfortunately it brings not joy,but frustration into my heart.

    Take care and inchAllah you’ll find peace with your religion


    • RawyahDecember 12, 2013 - 12:16 am

      My thoughts exactly. We must always put belief before culture and tradition.
      A Christmas tree even though it was originally not part of Christmas, has now become one of it’s major symbols. Celebrating Christmas, which is a christian holiday, is against our beliefs as Muslims. We love all prophets and respect all religions but we do not celebrate their holidays nor do they celebrate ours.ReplyCancel

      • RawyahDecember 12, 2013 - 12:36 am

        Last sentence correction: We do not celebrate non muslim holidays and they do not celebrate ours.ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousJanuary 9, 2013 - 4:02 pm

    I write anonymously only cause I dont have an account here…
    Yes, Christmas is a Christian Holiday. Google that… If atheists in western countries celebrate it, like I said they just have forgotten the true meaning of Christmas. They just want the commercial side of it. To them it has nothing to do with religion.
    Yes, sadly lot of people really just care about that commercial stuff. Do you know how much money an average family spends that time of the year? If you want to spend quality time with your family, you should not need money to do that? Or Christmas. You should be able to spend your quality time with your family any weekend of the year.
    Christmas has another special meaning why people come together. I hope you teach your children that, since you think they will understand if they are properly explained.
    And if Christmas is a Cultural thing to YOU, dont say “most Finns”. That is simply not true. 80% of Finns are Christian and celebrate Christmas for its true meaning. If they dont go to church any other day of the year: at Christmas churches are full. You know, its “Cultural” what you make for dinner that night or how you decorate your house. Not WHY you celebrate Christmas.


  • LaylaJanuary 9, 2013 - 7:50 pm

    Interesting comments, thank you everyone. I will not get into the debate anymore about what Christmas is, what it ‘really’ means or where it comes from because just reading this thread would have a person hearing about it for the first time VERY confused as to what the truth is..

    Why, because we all have our own perceptions, emotions and conclusions about this holiday.
    So lets all just leave it to that shall we :)


  • bigstick1January 10, 2013 - 3:43 am

    Interesting comments, thank you everyone. I will not get into the debate anymore about what Christmas is, what it ‘really’ means or where it comes from because just reading this thread would have a person hearing about it for the first time VERY confused as to what the truth is.


    Regarding this post above, I want to tell you that you have every right to discuss your perspectives and your perceptions as that is what freedom of expression and speech is all about.

    You have every right to your opinion and your space and your thoughts. This blog is about you and if the readers cannot accept that then they can simply turn the channel. You need to be true to who you are and what you believe in and your ways are not mine or someone else. Never forget that what makes you special is your thoughts, your experiences, and your perception of life. In this blog you have offered a great deal of yourself by inviting people into your inner circle. What you have given is also a gift to many people. That is how you should view it.

    As you and I have disagreed on many things and will continue to do so. I still respect your right to view it your way, even if at times that is frustrating. However I think you and I have agreed on a great deal of other things. It is these differences that make life interesting and in these differences we can strengthen commonalities and forge new and adventurous roads.

    The thing is………… you can’t do that if you allow others to put your flame out. It burns bright and it is worth burning.

    Take care.


  • The Belle VidaJanuary 25, 2013 - 2:27 pm

    this made me lol. haha so much drama over a plastic tree! i think some people need to calm down, its a tree, its not like you are going to church and praying. maybe if you explain u are celebrating the commercial side and not religious side people won’t feel the need to lecture..but they probably would anyway lol!ReplyCancel

  • LaylaJanuary 26, 2013 - 4:32 pm

    Thank you for this Bigstick and sorry for the late reply! I had wanted to reply sooner but had to run somewhere and then forgot..story of my life right now!
    Thank you for these encouraging and wise words!


  • DesertcanuckJanuary 29, 2013 - 3:18 pm

    Love the story of your Christmas tree purchase. It’s almost an exact play-by-play description of my Christmas tree purchase in 2011. I had some Australian friends visiting me in my home for Christmas and I was spending my first Christmas ever outside of Canada. I was so happy to find my little tree and to spirit it off into the trunk of my car. That little tree pretty much single-handedly saved my Christmas spirit that year. Your story put me straight back into the very same moment. Thank you!ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousFebruary 15, 2013 - 5:59 pm

    I am a stern Atheist, and like Layla, I am also from Finland.

    The Muslim lady who said here how us Atheists a “morally flimsy” , e.g, we have no morals whatsoever because we are not religious…..I find this extremely insulting to me as an Atheist.

    I try to live a good, modest life: I give money to charity every month, I respect nature and the environment, I volunteer in charity work, I don´t drink, smoke or do drugs and I deeply respect and cherish my husband & family.

    How dare you say these things, that we Atheists are “immoral”? Morality is what choices and deeds we do and make – not whether we believe in God or not.

    Also, most of us Atheists also celebrate Christmas. To the Christians it is indeed a Christian holiday, but we Atheists recognize the fact that this holiday has been celebrated in Europe far earlier, before Christianity even came here.

    Christmas to us is a celebration of family, of remembering of what´s good in our lives, it brings us all together and enjoy each other´s company, and it is also a celebration of our culture, heritage and a way to “return to our roots”. Many people also give charity for the poor during this time.

    You are a very devout Muslim – you should also respect the culture and traditions of others before judging them. You do far more damage to Islam with your condescending, and disrespectful remarks than any person who brings a Christmas tree to his home. I see that Miss Layla has a good heart and is a good, honest person. You are far more damaging to Islam that she is.

    If all the Muslims were like you, then I am indeed thankful and grateful that I am not a Muslim. Like Jesus Christ said,

    ““Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

    As Jesus is also highly respected prophet in Islam, I advise Umm Muawiya and others like her, to take heed of this and return to the core values of Islam – being respectful and show mercy to your fellow people.ReplyCancel

    • LaylaFebruary 16, 2013 - 9:41 am

      Thank you for your reply.
      Spot on.
      I will use this in a future post if that’s alright with you?ReplyCancel

  • AsiaAugust 20, 2013 - 8:12 am

    The comments on this post lies the very reason why we have horrifying wars and terrible human tragedies in this world.
    Why instead of forcing our own beliefs to other people, respect them and see them as an individual who has his/her own life experiences that are very different to our own?
    So what if a Muslim woman decided to buy a tree and spend quality time with her family. Does thatReplyCancel

  • W. DoerrDecember 24, 2014 - 7:59 pm

    Loved the article. Hated most of the comments…especially the ones composed by the poorly educated nitwits (like Umm Mu’awiyyah).

    Attention Saudis: When you run out of oil, you’re screwed. The world (even Muslim countries) hate your “leaders” and their closed-mindedness, outright cruelty, and lack of respect for others…the very people actually developing and operating your country while you eat dates and pick your toes.

    Royal Decree 44? You must be joking.ReplyCancel

  • […] meet secretly in private houses.  The wearing of a crucifix or cross is banned.  Even the humble Christmas tree is forbidden!  Religious police patrol the streets to enforce their interpretation of Islamic law. […]ReplyCancel

  • Wandering Expats RiyadhNovember 10, 2015 - 6:41 am

    The Wandering Expats are hosting their Second Annual ‘”That Special December Party.” Tickets Go on Sale November 16th 6-9 PM. Other dates of ticket sales to follow. Jarir Starbucks on King Abdullah Road. Only 50 tickets Available. 110 riyals each and a gender neutral gift worth 35 riyals.ReplyCancel

  • SaudiGirlDecember 10, 2016 - 10:03 pm

    I consider myself a Muslim Saudi culturally. I celebrate Eid as part of my Arabian culture (Eid after all is an Arabian pagan celbration prior to Islam). I’ll be celebrating the Christmas and New Year too and I don’t care at all what other Saudis\Muslims think of it. It is my life and I’ll do whatever to make me and my family happy, as long as I’m not hurting anyone no one should oppose to it.ReplyCancel

  • NoorDecember 14, 2016 - 1:23 pm

    Ha, you know it’s not as uncommon as we thought. We were at Nahkeel mall last weekend and almost all the windows have xmas decorations (without saying it) wrapped gifts, etc. I was like wow, cool. Although most people here don’t do xmas, I think they still find it pretty. We were able to carry a small tree from Dubai in. It’s little, but it had everything it needed and I think it’s pretty. :)ReplyCancel

    • Arabian LauraDecember 18, 2016 - 2:51 pm

      really! That’s nice to hear :) Haven’t been to that mall for ages. I want to see your tree :) you have a pc on instagram?ReplyCancel

  • AbdallahDecember 10, 2020 - 1:30 am

    I know this an old post but it’s the top result on google search, while it was hard finding one for a reasonable price? but was finally successful at Al Sae’ed shop?, below is the location for others benefit ?
    Got it for 175Sar with the height of 120CM.
    They have big ones too