Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Riyadh's Hidden Gems-The Diplomatic Quarter Gardens

Riyadh's expatriates are always looking for new and exciting things to do on weekends.  There are many places in and around Riyadh which are mostly unknown to the public and expats. One of them is the Diplomatic Quarter parks, the most relaxing and serene places within the city limits. Clean, green surroundings, open spaces to walk freely in and let the children play outdoors are a rarity in the desert Kingdom. All this can be found in the Diplomatic Quarters, just a five minute drive from the Riyadh city center.

Here's my article on the DQ parks including directions how to find one of the most beautiful and scenic ones with plenty of activities for the little ones to enjoy as well.  This article was published in the Women's Skills Bureau February Newsletter:
Riyadh’s hidden gems-the Diplomatic Quarter gardens

The Diplomatic Quarters hosts some of the most beautiful, green landscape and fascinating architecture in Riyadh. The Diplomatic Quarters was built on the edge of Wadi Hanifa in the 1970’s as living quarters for diplomats and the embassy area. Today the “DQ” is like a Green Eden midst the harsh surrounding desert, its parks like a refuge from the pollution and noise of bustling Riyadh.

What many if not most expats miss from our home countries is being able to walk, those free open spaces and green scenery. All of these can be found in the Diplomatic Quarters gardens. The entire DQ is an abaya free zone and resident expats can often be seen in regular clothing here. Unlike the rest of Riyadh public parks, the DQ parks are well maintained and trash-free.

There are over 30 parks, deemed gardens in the DQ, scattered over the different residential areas and along the walking track. The track is about 20 km long and runs around the entire perimeter of the DQ. Views from the walking trail down to the Wadi Hanifa valley and its hundreds of date palm trees are spectacular. The edge of the wadi itself resembles a canyon, creating a stark contrast with the sea of palm trees below. In the distance, the palaces and mosques of old Diriyah can be seen.  All that can be heard is the song of birds and the sound of a cooling breeze from the wadi.

The gardens were designed by a group of international landscape architects, their aim to preserve the natural environment using only native plants and natural materials. The seeds for the plants were gathered in the deserts and then planted in the gardens and all around the DQ area. The idea was to create a sustainable environment keeping in mind the natural flow of water and the existing formations in the landscape.

All of the plants that have been used in the DQ parks are endemic to the Arabian peninsula. Juniper, Acacia trees, Aloe Vera, Jasmine, Fig trees, Jujube trees, Prickly Pear cactus, and many others. The gardens have different flowers in bloom year round.

The gardens have been designed to have something for everyone. There are tranquil and serene areas for a more peaceful experience as well as children’s playgrounds, football fields, basketball courts and skating rinks to please the more active visitors.

There are grass fields, fountains, picnic areas, pavilions, courtyards, benches, shaded walkways, private seating areas, beautiful fragrant flowers and interesting rock formations for the visitors to enjoy. Each park has a distinct theme in design and vegetation which makes discovering new parks interesting and rewarding.

What makes the parks even more relaxing is the presence of water. The countless fountains, water channels and waterfalls create a constant calming sound of running water. This is like music to the ears for Riyadh’s desert dwellers.  Every park has at least one fountain and the larger ones have sections of the park completely dedicated to different kinds of fountains.

For families with children these gardens make for an enjoyable day out. Children of all ages will enjoy the playgrounds which have everything from swings, slides and suspension bridges to imaginative climbing gyms. The grass fields are perfect for running around and picnics. The largest parks have mosques adjacent to them and all parks have toilet facilities.

The best time to visit the gardens is in the mornings or late afternoons when lots of children come to the playgrounds. They’re open all day and everyday of the week and open to everyone, free of charge. The easiest way to pass the DQ security is to say you’re visiting your embassy during working hours and on evenings the sports club or ladies spa there.
Here are directions to the “Al Aarudh” garden, one of the largest in the Diplomatic Quarters with three different playground areas, two fountain areas, a grass field and mosque. Enter DQ from the North gate (access from Mecca rd.) immediately after entering you will see roundabout number 1. Go around it so that you take a left (the third exit) and continue on this street which goes into Hajar residential area. Drive on this street past the Indian and Guinean embassies on your right until you see the walls of the garden and shortly after the entrance to the park also on the right hand side. Park your car anywhere on the street.

WSB Newsletter can be downloaded from here:


Ildi said...

Dear Laylah, this garden is beautiful! I love the flowers, especially the yellow-purple bush! What a peaceful park to go with family and hung up. What kind o birds are there, do you hear birds tweets too? :)

As for your blog design, won't you use the blue abaya pattern at right-left side? I loved it but realised they disappeared. The new navigation bar is very good, and many new links have been added, thanks! :D Take care!

Layla said...

The photos have been taken from various different gardens I think from at least 10 different ones that we like to go to.
Down the wadi there are lots of birds (there's a stream there)herons, have seen hawks and eagles, all sorts ducks (sorry don't know names):)

As for the design, for now it's looking more simple because that was the vision of the designer. Maybe I will add the blue abaya pattern back someday because other people have been asking for it too :)

Anonymous said...

You really are an accomplished photographer. What kind of equipment do you use?

I'm new to your blog, and find it all very fascinating.

I've become semi-obsessed with Saudi the last month or so, after having read Siege of Mecca, a book about Juhayman. Just finished The Kingdom, and now reading Inside the Kingdom. Any books on life in Saudi you would recommend?

Glenn in Canada

Layla said...

Thank you so much Glenn I am flattered by your comment!
I use a NikonD90.

I would recommend the Land of the Invisible Women by Qanta Ahmed and the Burning Veil by Jean Grant for starters!
Also the Girls of Riyadh might be worth reading, it's a true and interesting story, but not that well written imho..

Anonymous said...

In Riyadh for a few weeks...any suggestions as to what we should do?

Carol-Anne said...

I totally agree with Glenn - your photos are stunning! Looking at them made me wonder how you learned to take such great shots. I would love to be good at photography but dont really think that I have the eye for it.

Layla said...

hmm, well it all depends on what you like to do in general, and do you have kids?
Have a look around Blue Abaya for some tips!
You can start here: http://blueabaya.blogspot.com/2012/06/summer-is-here-what-to-do.html

Fridays are great at the Equestrian Club horse races next to Janadriya!

Have you discovered Blue Abaya on Facebook? Lots of info and tips on there as well:http://www.facebook.com/BlueAbayaBlog

Layla said...

Thanks so much Carol-Anne! I guess I just learned by doing it for years, but I would love to take a course and learn more :)

Anonymous said...

Hello Dear Writer

I am glad to find your blog on the net.
I am a european woman married with an arab man,living in muslim country (like you), so i like to read your posts, coz themes touch problems of my daily life.
I would like to ask you (if you don't mind), is that small girl on pics your daughter?:)
We don't have kids, but my husband said he want me to be pregnant this year, so i am wondering how will it look like: "mix": white mother+ arab father. Kid looks more arabic or more white?
I am afraid if kid will look to much arabic, i will not be able take him (or her) to my fatherland country, coz people will disturbe coz of "not white" colourskin:(
I am sorry, my question doesnt touch the theme of post, but i wish you will answer, coz i have noone who i can ask (i dont work, almost all time stay inside house- go outside maybe 3 times per month, also dont see people, only my husband sisters, and they don't speak englisch much).
Anyway, your blog is very nice, and beaufifull pictures:)

I am sorry coz of my englisch, its not so well, but i wish you will understand me.

Greetings for you:)


Jerry Mc Kenna said...

I hadn't realized until reading the entire article there was no trash in the pictures. Given how important cleaniness is to their religious practice, I never understand why I always see trash in Saudi photos.

Layla said...

Hi there Juliette!
Well to answer your question, yes some of the pics you can see my daughter, she's 22 months old now.
My daughter looks a lot like me but has darker features like brown eyes and light brown hair. In Saudi people will say she's very blonde and white, but then in Finland she's not considered blond or white at all, but rather a brunette :) It's all in the eyes of the beholder so to say.
Some arab-white kids look more arab, others look more "international" ie not specifically have facial features typical to either of their parents home countries..

Layla said...

These parks are a real exception in that regard Jerry. Sometimes on weekends when I see a large group of (sorry to say but mostly Saudi or Arab families) come to these park they leave behind masses of trash..literally trash the place. ugh. The workers clean up after them of course, but it seems as if westerners are the only ones who actually pick up trash and use the trash cans..it comes so naturally for us.
More awareness is needed in this regard!

Anonymous said...

Don't you think its more important for those people in your home country to worry about the baby's health rather then what skin colour it will have?
Im sure if your married to an arab that they will be expecting the baby to not be western looking at all.
I think you shouldn't worry about what people think because even if your baby is the whitest of white or the blackest of black they would still have something to talk about. There are bigger things in life to worry about then skin colour.

ummahzy said...

Sad to think that after looking at all the beautiful pictures in this post there are still people who worry about skin color. Sad to think that someone would think that photos of a child whose parents come from two different ethnic groups would be an indicator of how her children would look. Heredity is a funny thing. We don't always get what other people get and we don't always get what we wish for. I come from a multicultural society (and a multicultural family) but find that here in the kingdom my awareness of racism makes me hyper sensitive about skin color. When I find myself caught up that ignorance I think I'll just take a stroll through Blue Abaya's DQ garden post (or the gardens themselves) and remind myself of the beauty creation in all of its shades.

Layla said...

I have to agree with Noor and Ummahzy, there are much more important things to think about in this world.
You will love your child no matter what color they are. If anyone has a problem with the "color" that's their loss and feel sorry for them for their ignorance.

I think mixed race children are always very beautiful and have unique features :)