Start your morning at Al Bustan Restaurant with a sumptuous breakfast while gazing out onto our tropical garden. Then you can test your putting skills by playing a round on our own nine-hole golf course. For greenery of a different kind, take the 10-minute drive to Al Salam Park, where you can stroll among lawns and palm trees surrounding a beautiful man-made lake. From there, head to nearby Al Musmak Fortress, a mud brick citadel dating from 1865 that is now a fascinating historical museum.
Head to the Olaya District, Riyadh's commercial heart and try some authentic local dishes at Najd Village. If you're feeling adventurous, try the traditional Saudi way of dining, which involves squatting on the carpeted floor. After eating, you can shop for designer goods in the district's luxury boutiques or go for a camel ride in nearby Al Thumama Park. Then visit King Abdul Aziz Historical Centre, where you'll find the National Museum of Antiquities and Al Murabba Palace, built in 1934.
If you want to sample local life, head to a café and order an Arabic coffee with a shisha, the iconic water pipe also known locally as a "hubbly bubbly." Then browse for Arabian arts and crafts, such as finely worked silverware and hand-woven carpets at the Souk Al-Zal, the oldest market in Riyadh. Back at the hotel you can refresh yourself with a dip in our indoor or outdoor pool, before finishing the day with mouthwatering fusion cuisine at Mondo restaurant.
Al Masmak Fortress
Located in the heart of Riyadh in the city’s old quarter, is the 150-year-old Al Masmak Fortress. A vast clay and mud-brick citadel that witnessed the rise of a kingdom, Al Masmak serves as a proud reminder of Saudi Arabia’s storied history. Its capture by King Abdul Aziz in 1902 marked the first step towards the consolidation of the Kingdom under the Saud name and the founding of the Saudi nation as we know it today. Built in 1865, the fortress has served many purposes. While originally used to house the garrisons that protected the city, it later served as an ammunition warehouse following the raid by King Abdul Aziz and, later still, as a prison.
Ushaiger Heritage Village
Hidden in the heart of the Najd, an oasis-dotted region 200 km northwest of Riyadh, Ushaiger Heritage Village provides a glimpse of a slow-paced Saudi society of old. Bedouins first settled here 1,500 years ago and Ushaiger quickly became a popular stopping point for pilgrims crossing to Makkah, thanks to its springs and low-brimmed olive and palm groves. But far from being a dusty, deserted museum piece, Ushaiger – which, in a naming quirk, means ‘little blonde’ to reflect the nearby red mountain that looms over the yellow mud houses – still has a small community of residents, making use of its schools, shops and mosques. To walk its narrow lanes is to enter a living museum, draped with traces of an ancient way of life. Encased in thick walls, Ushaiger is a labyrinth of winding alleyways, shaded pathways and timber-framed walkways, crossing between hundreds of mud houses. The village is divided into districts and bisected by groves of palm trees, and includes a cluster of beautifully renovated houses. These offer a stunning example of Najdi architecture, with its distinctive triangular windows and roofs, and ornately carved wooden doors. Some still bear the names of the families who lived there
Curved along the outskirts of Riyadh, and formed on the oasis that spilt from the banks of Wadi Hanifa, Ad Diriyah’s mud-brick walls once housed a thriving desert city that was a powerhouse of culture and commerce. Its Al Turaif district, the area’s citadel-marked primary quarter, was the original seat of power for the Kingdom’s Al Saud family. In 1745, the city was named the country’s capital, laying the foundations for what would later become a unified Saudi Arabia. Ad Diriyah fell in late 1818 at the end of the Wahhabi war and was succeeded as the nation’s capital by the nearby settlement of Riyadh. The ruins of Al Turaif were designated a UNESCO Heritage Site in 2010 and the area has since been the subject of a painstaking restoration plan aimed at bringing its historical legacy back to life. While work at Ad Diriyah is still under way, there are ample heritage-rich sites that are open to the public.
The National Museum of Saudi Arabia
Set aside a day to explore centuries of Arabian prehistory, history, culture and art at the Kingdom’s biggest and most entertaining museum. Housed within striking modernist architecture and flower-wreathed gardens, the National Museum exhibits everything from Neolithic rock art, to replicas of the buildings of old Jeddah, as well as transporting visitors on a magically interactive tour of the ages. Come on weekdays for a less crowded experience, and take your time exploring the museum’s eight halls. While a regular rotation of activities, guest exhibitions and programmes keeps the content fresh, here’s a sample of the permanent collections on offer to delve into.
Al Murabba Palace
Close to Riyadh’s National Museum you’ll find the beautiful Murabba Palace, the former home and court of King Abdul Aziz, founder of modern Saudi Arabia, and a monument to the city’s captivating past. Constructed outside the walls of the old city of Riyadh, on what had previously been used as farmland during the winter months, Murabba Palace marked the first major expansion of the city as the country teetered on the brink of a new era of prosperity. The palace, where the King lived from its completion in 1938 until his death in 1953, was built in the traditional Najdean style, with vast palm frond layered walls and ceilings and rooms arranged around a breezy central courtyard. Plan your visit in spring or winter, and you can wander the palace’s rolling green gardens, which spread over several hectares. But the real treasures are inside, where you’ll find plenty of memorabilia in the King Abdul Aziz Historical Center, including personal belongings of King Abdulaziz – right down to his spectacles – as well as photographs of meetings he conducted with statesman all over the world. Tear yourself away from the multimedia displays, and you can also see a Rolls-Royce that was presented to the King by Winston Churchill in 1946. As you tour the two-storey building, look out for the King’s personal lift – the first in the country when it was installed in 1948 due to his arthritis, which had made it impossible for him to use the stairs. History aficionados will revel in the palace’s archives, which, thanks to its role as the hub of the country’s administrative decisions at the time, include a trove of historical documents relating to a pivotal point in Saudi Arabia’s history, as well as recordings of the King’s speeches.