cultural differences cultural observations day in the life of a saudi expat Lost in Riyadh-Blog

Riyadh Spring Festival


Friday morning in Riyadh. I have two days to myself so what could I possibly be doing? Homework I guess, but as you may have read previously, I have recently discovered an interest in going outside and just walking around town wherever there is a sidewalk.

One of my friends mentioned the Riyadh Spring Festival to me, so I thought: Great! Let’s get outside, look at flowers and mix into the crowd of locals. So I called a driver or better a private taxi service. I would later be called a fool for doing so, instead of hailing a cab on the street but I did not know that yet.

“Who gave you my number??!”, the driver asked after I called back to tell him I want to be picked up again at the King Abdullah Park after two hours.

“You did”, I said. “You drove me to school once and said that if I need a ride I should call you.”

Yeah drivers can be strange sometimes. That is something I still not have gotten used to and the absence of taximeters makes me feel even more helpless. Sometimes my Spanish teacher says that I am too German. Guess he’s right.

Wearing my new, black and violet abaya, my hair covered under a blue turban I found myself driving down the road to the district of Al Malaz. It is just a random part of town but you can’t believe how fascinating that could be. Especially at the sight of propper sidewalks and people going down the road on a bicycle. In these moments, even the traffic jam won’t bother you as much.

That spring festival was a sweet idea if you ask me.  Families finally had one more reason to take their kids outside and let them enjoy themselves. Now, I assume that the average Western person is used to more spectacular things and wouldn’t find it all that exciting but I think it really depends on why you go to places.

And before you start wondering; Yes, I did go by myself and see there…nothing happened! I’m well and happy!!

I am an observing person. I like to mix into crowds and watch people do whatever they are doing. In that aspect, this opportunity was quite perfect.

That festival reminded me of something like a smaller version of Germany’s Grüne Woche meaning “green week”. A large stage, a couple of food court items, some pavillions and of course- flowers! For a place as hot and dry like Riyadh, there were amazingly many flowers.

Ladiea and gentlemen, I present to you the largest flower bed you will probably find in this whole region. 36000 something flowers I believe.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the largest flower bed you will probably find in this whole region. 36000 something flowers I believe.


and here a little overview of what kinds of flowers there actually were:


The flower pictures are especially dedicated to my grandmother, who loves flowers just as much as I do…


Is that the number 940 I see? I guess so.

Is that the number 940 I see? I guess so.


I guess that I would have found the whole thing more enjoyable if I had kids or little siblings that I could have brought along with me but it was very lovely to watch all those Saudi families come together and have a picnic. One of the interesting things is that they can settle down pretty much everywhere. It’s not like there is one specific area where everybody has to sit.  Here, if there is a free spot, you just take it and spread out your carpet and pillows and coffee pots RIGHT THERE, be it on a spot of grass or in the middle of a square. It’s all fair game.

That was also an opportunity for me, as you can see, to get out my camera and actually make use of it anywhere other than the desert. I was not the only one to do so. Several people were walking around, taking pictures either with their phones, the size of a mini tablet, or DSLR cameras like mine. You think smartphones are banned in Saudi Arabia? Nonsense! They are everywhere. They are so widely spread that there even are charging stations for them in the parks. Not sure whether that is a smart, helpful idea or just a sign for our society being swallowed by modern technology.


I also saw Saudi men holding their children and showing them things around the place. There were siblings walking around and husbands holding their wives’ hands as they were walking along the huge flower bed. Yes, here the people do just simple everyday life things like we would do them. Even married people holding hands. For some things they just have a different way of doing them.

They also have a different ideas about plush costumes that are there to amuse the children. Spongebob, Barney and the Tele Tubbies? Nah! BORING! How about a Saudi instead? 🙂


A while before I was about to leave, the call for prayer filled the atmosphere. I don’t know about the rest of you but I think there is something quite stunning about watching people pray in unison. I may not be religious but it nevertheless manages to fascinte me every time.



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