Riyadh means "garden" in Arabic, which is somewhat ironic considering that the region receives about four inches of rain a year. However, there are plenty of palm trees to add a bit of color! The air always feels dusty, and we constantly feel dry. We drink a lot of water and use lotion and chapstick like crazy. Walking outside at mid-day is very hot (especially when wearing a black abaya, let me tell you!). The sun is so bright that we have to carry sunglasses with us, and sunhats for the kids. The good news is that as the sun sets, the city cools quickly. Evenings are quite pleasant.
The city is not what I'd call beautiful, though there are landscaped areas with palms and fancy buildings. Grass is a luxury. Driving on the main roads gives me a flashing array of barbers, grocery stores, video game stores, KFC, ATMs, malls, newspaper stands, - and then every once in awhile, everything gives way to the encroaching desert - a flat expanse of brown sand. The city is also marred with construction everywhere - cranes, piles of rubble, and buildings in progress.
Here are some photos of the area right around our hotel, by Granada Mall. You can see many nice villas, private homes with walled courtyards, often with perfectly groomed trees and nice cars in front.
Starting off from our hotel for a brief walk.
Some fancy villas:
The mosque up close. Note the speakers on top, to broadcast the Call to Prayer to our very hotel. Traditionally, the Call to Prayer was sung by a real person called muezzin - I'm sure that would be beautiful.
Gravel and sand.
A little bit greener here ...
Heading back toward our air-conditioned hotel.
There you have it! One sneak peek at a very small area in a very big city. More pictures to come.