Greetings from Riyadh and another day of sun (albeit rather dusty)!
The other weekend we headed off to visit Al Masmak Fort which is the centre of old Riyadh. Built of mud and clay in 1865 the fort is where the rulers of Riyadh lived. It was stormed in 1902 by King Abdul-Aziz who went on to found the modern day Kingdom of Saudi Arabia – ie he is a V BIG DEAL in KSA!!
Back in 1902 the population of Riyadh was just 8,000 – today it is over 8 million (oil wealth) – a HUGE population jump in just over 100 years and still growing.
Visitors can wander around the Masmak fort where there are displays on the history of KSA including the succession of kings dating back to Abdul-Aziz. Inside the thick mud walls make the fort cool in the summer and warm in the winter. They have also recreated an traditional meeting room covered in thick carpets and cushions and the walls decorated with swords.
Outside the fort you can take in the view with a cup of Arabian coffee – qahwa (made with green unground coffee beans and flavoured with cardamom) and couple of juicy dates! (Note the typical Arabian style coffee pot with the oversized spout).
Back in 1902 Riyadh was surrounded by a fortified wall which King Abul Aziz and his men had to scale before storming the fort. Very little of the walls remain – except for one small portion with one of the original city gates:
In contrast to our trip to the fort we decided to make a rather more contemporary outing to the popular fast food phenomenon that is Nando’s. We are partial to the odd cheeky Nando’s at home – given our love of all things Portuguese and the child in everyone I think is still thrilled by a bottomless fizzy drink. We were interested to see how Nando’s operates in Saudi – and, it’s not the same!!
It’s table service (self serve is not really a Saudi thing) and there are no bottomless fizzy drinks :0( . Also the half chicken came served on a skewer. Suffice to say I think we will be giving Nando’s a miss until we are back in Belfast!!
Afterwards we went into the huge nearby Riyadh Park Mall which was absolutely BUZZING. It is also home to one of the first cinemas opened in Riyadh last year, after a 35 year ban on public screenings, which draws a young crowd. Apparently there are plans to open 600 screens across the country in the next five years.
Finally I spotted the sign below at another plaza… it’s a different take on the recent fashion for wearing pyjamas at home ;0)
And that’s all for this week’s update! I hope you enjoyed it, until next time,