Dubai Post 22: Welcome to the Kingdom

Well I have arrived in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and let’s just say it is a little different than Dubai.  It was not what I expected (more modern) but a culture shock none the less.  Here are some things about the city/culture that I have learned while I spent my time in Riyadh.

It is not as conservative as you think: The media depiction of the Middle East is completely different than how it actually is. Saudi Arabia is not what I was expecting and most likely not what you are expecting either.  Do not get me wrong, it is definitely different than what you are used but not Hollywood different.
The view from the plane.  It literally felt like we were going to land on sand. 

Riyadh is in the middle of the desert: As my flight was landing, all you could see was sand and square villages with no roads near them.  I later found out that they were Bedouin villages which explain the no roads part.   I thought my plane was going to touch down on sand but luckily, there was a patch of gravel.

Al Faisalliyah Center is one of the few noticeable buildings around town.  From
what I was told, a Prince woke up one morning and just wanted to build a tower.
A similar occurrence is happening now where a Prince is trying to build the largest
building in the world. 
Riyadh is becoming the epicenter of Saudi: One might wonder why this is happening since Riyadh is in the middle of the desert and a bottle of water costs more than gas (instead of oil pipelines they have water pipelines).  The reason behind this transformation is because Riyadh is where the royal family has its historical roots.  Although there is nothing around Riyadh, the royal family has the money and decided to build a major city here.

Since the royal family wants Riyadh to be the center of Saudi, they built the
government building here as well. It is shaped as something you would see out
of a Star Wars movie. 
Everyone is extremely friendly: The part the media misses out on about the Middle East.  Everyone I interacted with in Saudi Arabia was extremely friendly and wanted to carry on a conversation.  You are usually killed with kindness in every conversation.

The Kingdom Tower is the most recognizable building in Riyadh. 
There is horrible infrastructure: Riyadh was not always a bustling city of 7 million people; 15 years ago the city was not where it was today.  The royal family basically threw money at construction projects and told them to "just build".  They forgot the whole planning aspect and therefore led to a horribly planned city.

A picture of the major downtown area, yet this is a small part of the city.  Riyadh
is actually 80 square KM.  This was at the top of the Kingdom Tower and in the
distance you can see Al Faisalliyah Center.

Worst traffic in the world: Well due to the horrible infrastructure, there is awful traffic, everywhere!  This is not just rush hour traffic.  It starts at 6:30AM and goes until about 11:00PM as I have seen it.  If you thought Chicago or New York was bad, do not complain until you have seen Riyadh.  The worst part of it all is they have no public transportation or sidewalks so you have to drive.

No matter where you go or what the time of day is, there will be traffic. 
No surprise here, they are the worst drivers: A Saudi national himself complained that he is surrounded by the worst drivers in the world.  People do not look when changing lanes, they feel they can drive outside the lines and forget about trying to merge anywhere.  Everywhere you look there are accidents so buckle up.

A random building literally in the middle of no where. 
Saudi is trying to become more westernized: In my next post I will talk about the business dinner I went on but the client I was with was explaining Saudi’s westernization.  There are American restaurants everywhere you look, people are carrying iPhones and yes, you can wear shorts in Saudi (at certain places). Even women are trying to gain more rights such as the ability to drive, vote and they are starting to wear more westernized clothing.

A very small view of the women's only university the princess is making.
The actual size is a city in itself and it is also strikingly beautiful. 
All in all my first Saudi Arabian experience was a big success.  I got to see their culture and of course had successful client meetings. 


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