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Riyadh (الرياض) is the capital and largest city in Saudi Arabia and is located in the central part of the country on a high plateau. It has about 4.7 million inhabitants and people have been living in this relatively fertile area in the desert since over 1,500 years. The city has seen massive growth in population and 20 years ago the city had only about a third of the amount of people living within its boundaries compared to the present situation. Nowadays, it is a busy commercial city and the economical heart of the country, despite its location far away from most other populated coastal areas. Very few travellers visit the city, as most foreigners are here on a business visit or are working in some of the industries of the country.
All Saudi Muslims celebrate the birthday of their Prophet, Mohammad, by elaborately decorating their homes and mosques. Children recite poems about the Prophet, while older Saudis tell stories about Mohammad’s life and accomplishments. Large feasts and street processions are among Milad al-Nabi’s other traditional activities. The date of Milad al-Nabi varies from year to year according to the Islamic calendar.
The country’s only secular public holiday takes place each September 23 on the anniversary of Saudi Arabia’s 1932 founding. Although many Saudis still choose to quietly celebrate this formerly low-key holiday at home, growing numbers of young Saudis have chosen to express their national pride more overtly by singing, dancing, honking car horns, and waving Saudi flags.
Like their Muslim counterparts in other nations, Saudis mark the final day of the fasting month of Ramadan with this three-day religious festival. Eid ul-Fitr begins with a small morning meal and quiet prayers, and continues with larger feasts and livelier celebrations among family and friends. Saudi children receive money and elaborately decorated gift bags from adults, several shopkeepers add free gifts to all purchases, and Saudi men secretly leave large bags of food on strangers’ doorsteps during this festive time of year.
This important Muslim festival lasts four days and marks the moment when Ibrahim was willing to sacrifice Ismael, his son, for Allah. Today, most Saudi families celebrate Eid al-Adha by dressing up in their finest clothing, saying special prayers, and slaughtering lambs to share their meat with everyone.
Because of its elevation, temperatures are somewhat lower than other parts of the desert and during the February to April period even some light showers are possible, sometimes with hail! In general though it is a dry and sunny places, with temperatures hitting 45 °C in summer, but with some frost recorded in January every now and then.
Riyadh-King Khalid International Airport (RUH), located 35 kilometres north of Riyadh receives flights from other places in the country as well as international flights. The main carrier is Saudi Arabian Airlines. There are 3 terminals at King Khalid International Airport. Terminal 1 is used for all international flights, except those operated by Saudi Arabian Airlines, terminal 2 is used by Saudi Arabian Airlines for their international flights and terminal 3 is used for all domestic flights.
|Coral Al Hamra Riyadh||King Abdullah Road||hotel||-|
|Coral Gulf Hotel||King Abdul Aziz Street Ministries Area (South) Opposite Ministry of Defense||hotel||-|
|Coral International Hotel Al Khobar||King Abdullah St Al Khobar||hotel||-|
|Coral Olaya Hotel Riyadh||Olaya Street||hotel||-|
|Coral Plaza Al Ahsa||King Fahd Street||hotel||-|
|Coral Suliemaniah||Mousa bin Nossair Road opposite Al-Jazeera Hyper||hotel||-|
|CORP Executive Hotel Deira||Al Batha Street||hotel||-|
Internet cafes abound in major Saudi cities, and many shopping malls feature a gaming parlor or two. Rates are around SR5/hour.
While Internet in Saudi Arabia is cordoned off by a filter, it aims primarily at pornography, non-Islamic religious and domestic political sites in Arabic, and (from the traveller's point of view) is nowhere near as strict as, say, China's. Google, Skype, Wikipedia, all major webmail providers etc. are all accessible.
See also International Telephone Calls
The three mobile operators in Saudi, incumbent Al Jawal, Emirati rival Mobily and Kuwaiti newcomer Zain (Vodafone Network) are fiercely competitive, with good coverage (in populated areas) and good pricing. A starter pack with prepaid SIM and talktime starts from about SR 75, and you can sign up in most any larger mobile shop (bring your passport). Local calls are under SR 0.5/minute, while calls overseas are around or less than SR 2/min.
And yes, you can bring in your own phone: despite grumblings from the clerics, both camera phones and multimedia messaging (MMS) are now legal.
Saudi Post has a good network of post offices around the country, but offices are closed Thursday and Friday. Stamps for postcards to anywhere in the world cost SR4. The bigger problem is actually finding postcards, as the mutawwa periodically crack down on the celebration of non-Islamic holidays like Valentine's Day, Christmas or even birthdays, causing all cards of any sort to disappear from bookstores! Your best bet is thus gift shops in major hotels. Mail coming in to the country from overseas is notoriously unreliable. Stories abound of things arriving months after they were sent or never arriving at all. There are branches of DHL, FedEx and UPS operating throughout the kingdom, so a good rule of thumb is to have anything important sent through those channels.
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