Travel Postcard: 48 hours in the Saudi capital Riyadh

Fri Jan 7, 2011 8:08am EST
 
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By Ulf Laessing

RIYADH (Reuters Life!) - Saudi Arabia's capital Riyadh is a growing city of over four million, combining the flair of a financial center with a traditional desert lifestyle as it is home to one of the biggest Arab camel markets.

The desert city is a showcase of the kingdom's struggle to balance modernization while preserving its conservative Muslim traditions. Many elegant shopping malls and restaurants have sprung up but cinemas, bars and even water pipes are banned -- and don't even think about getting an alcoholic drink in Riyadh.

Reuters correspondents with local knowledge help visitors get the most out of a two-day visit. The weekend in Saudi Arabia is on Thursday and Friday. Shops close during prayer times, and on Friday only open after five in the afternoon.

With sights scattered around we recommend renting a car -- a cheap alternative to taxis with a car costing as little as $20 a day. Plenty of rental firms are located in the central Olaya street. Most historical sights have road signs in English.

THURSDAY

10 a.m. - Start your exploration with a visit to the National Museum and the few remains of the old city. The museum showcases the history of the Arabian Peninsula and the kingdom's history -- all displays are in English.

It's open every day but best to call the tourist hotline (01 402 9500) as the museum has special family visiting times during which single men may be banned from entry.

The National Museum is in the old city where you will still find some old mud houses or remains of the city wall from the pre-oil era when Riyadh was just a small dusty town.   Continued...