Riyadh Marathon and a little-known visitor attraction

Hello and welcome back to Riyadh where it is another day of sun! We’ve had some very dusty days recently and one BIG sandstorm which engulfed Riyadh and lasted a whole day. The dust had the effect of a sepia filter, giving everywhere an orange tone and covering everywhere in a layer of dust and grime, and it smells, it’s horrible to think what we must have breathed in…

Anyway, part from the ‘excitement’ of the recent sandstorm I took part in the first ever Riyadh Marathon (not the full marathon but the 4K fun run) held on Saturday 5 March.

It was a big event attracting both local and international competitors. A group of women from our compound (the Wadi Runners) took up the challenge and began training from December for the 10K. (Unfortunately I suffered an ankle injury so had to revise my plans down to the 4k).

We went to the Marathon Village the day before to register and pick up our race packs. There was a great atmosphere with lots of stalls and challenges – (and mascots to have our photos taken with!) It definitely got us enthused and excited for the big event the following day.

The marathon placed a big emphasis on being inclusive for all ages, abilities etc and it attracted a large number of Saudi women to take part – a pretty big deal because until recently women were told exercise was un-modest, there was no P.E. even in schools and there were no public sporting events – and certainly no mixed public sporting events.

The dress code on the day was varied, some women wore abayas, some wore jogging abayas (a bit like a penguin onesie), and some wore long-sleeved lycra tops and leggings with baggy shorts and a baggy T-shirt over the top. With no official dress code our Wadi runners team chose to wear leggings and our own designed Wadi Runners pink and blue T-shirts which attracted a lot of attention – We were photographed, interviewed and filmed for TV and social media because we stood out in our brightly colored Ts!

There were some distinct Saudi touches to the event, Saudis aren’t given to public displays of emotion so the cheering crowds were little more subdued than usual, and when we crossed the finish line, along with water and bananas, there were dates, and date sweets on offer. There was also a stand giving competitors free plants which was a nice touch!

It was a really fun first Riyadh Marathon and hopefully the start of many more. I was delighted to take part in it, be a little bit part of the changing face of Saudi society.

I will certainly cherish my souvenir medal, certificate and T shirt! #Runderful #RiyadhMarathon

World Sights Park

My husband and I also recently visited a very quirky and little-known visitor attraction called the World Sights Park in Riyadh. I had never heard of it or seen any promotion about it, I just happened to catch sight of it one day as I drove past with my driver, so I looked it up on Google maps and discovered it was an actual bone fide visitor attraction, sited unobtrusively on the side of the major Eastern Ring Road.

It must have opened around 2010, but has the feel of a 1970s park forgotten in time! It can be found just south of Granada Mall. There is a small entrance fee (but as we were leaving it appeared the payment booth was closed and families were just walking).

It is open daily from 4pm and is definitely worth a visit for the novelty factor. It has model size recreations of some of the world’s most iconic buildings including the Colosseum, the Taj Mahal, the Great Wall of China, Sydney Opera House, the Treasury at Petra, two Dutch windmills, eight of the world’s most famous mosques, landmark buildings of Riyadh (including the airport), the pyramids and the top of Mount Everest…

The models have, over time lost their former lustre and need a bit of maintenance. They are a bit crumbly and their paintwork needs touched up. Each one has an information board with descriptions in Arabic and English – some of the English translations are very funny and provide their own entertainment – and certainly haven’t been updated since it was opened.

Overall the park has something of a charm from a time gone by.The gardens are nicely landscaped, and with the inclusion of so many Riyadh historic buildings, plus the mosques, it has a distinctly Saudi flavor. There is also a coffee shop, so you could easily put in an hour, or bring a picnic – and there’s lots of opportunity for comedy photos!

We visited just after it opened at 4.30pm so it was still light, but it might be worth visiting when it’s dark and the models are illuminated (their state of their disrepair might not be so obvious!).

There were some families walking around and taking it all in when we visited and I imagine when it opened it was probably quite a popular attraction especially given the context of Saudi Arabia back then, but today it feels a bit like a relic from the past, and given all the new developments and the emphasis on family entertainment with the big shiny Riyadh Season these days, I would strongly suggest going to see it before the developers move in and this little gem is ‘redeveloped’ like the former Al Hokair Land theme park across the road which is no more…

And that’s it for this blog – I hope you enjoyed the quick whirl around the World Sights Park and the insight from the Riyadh Marathon

Until next time, stay cool!

Anne :0)

Insta: anne.mcgrath248

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