Finding your way around Riyadh should not be too difficult given the large number of identifiable landmarks which can be seen from many parts of the city.
But one of the best ways of getting your bearings is to take a drive, one Friday morning when the roads are virtually empty, around the ring road system of Riyadh. The total journey is almost exactly 50 kms and it’s a good way to get a feel for the different parts of the capital.
Were you to start from junction 1 (the turn off for Dir’iyyah) you would pass the main north-south artery – King Fahd highway – at junction 4, SACO and Carrefour stores at junction 5, and at junction 8 the turn offs northwards to the airport, eastbound to Dammam and southwards to Al Kharj.
Going south down the Eastern Ring Road, you pass the Granada shopping complex (Carrefour, eXtra and Debenhams) at junction 9, Saqr Al Jazeera Museum at junction 10, the Garmin (GPS) Souq at junction 12 and at junction 13 turn offs eastbound to Dammam and the King Fahd Stadium and westbound to Makkah.
Continuing onwards, there is the large Al Rajhi Mosque at junction 15, the large Rimmel shopping complex which has IKEA and a HyperPanda at junction 16/17, and then at junction 18 you would continue southbound if you wanted to go to Al Kharj, but for now we’ll turn westbound onto the southern ring road.
Shortly you will pass the large cement works on your left and then at junction 20, the turn off southbound for Al Hair. On your right is the Manfouha open air souq. Continue on the southern ring road at junction 22, resisting the temptation to go up King Fahd Highway, and discover some of the residential areas of which most tourists are totally unaware. You will pass a Géant hypermarket near junction 27 and shortly after, cross over a suspension bridge known to many as the Angels bridge, due to its night-time lighting.
You now turn northwards up the Makkah road, past the King Abdul Aziz Conference Centre on your right, joining King Khaled Highway near the Diplomatic Quarters, passing the King Khaled Eye Specialist Hospital on your right, and soon afterwards the King Sa’ud University campus, before arriving once again at junction 1.
Apart from the ring roads themselves, the main north-south arteries are:
King Fahd Road (known universally as King Fahd Highway) which heads up to Qassim in the north and south through the old town to the southern ring road, carries more than half a million cars daily;
Olaya Street, down which you can reach the Kingdom (Mamlaka) Centre, Faisaliah, Al Akariah, the Kuwaiti Souq and the computer souq;
Takhasussi Street, which passes Euromarché and is a good alternative to King Fahd Highway when it gets very busy;
Al Amir Turki Bin Abdul Aziz Al Awwal (named after the first son of King Abdul Aziz who died in a flu epidemic) which is one of the fastest of the north-south routes;
King Abdul Aziz Road (known as Old Airport Road and, at its southern end, Ministry Alley) which runs from Kingdom Hospital in the north past the old airport and down past many of the ministry buildings;
King Faisal Street, which is a continuation of Olaya Street, runs past the Interior Ministry and on past the Murabba Palace area to Batha’a;
Al Amir Abdulaziz Ibn Musa’id ibn Jalawi Street – better known as Dabbab Street – is named after Fahd bin Jalawi who threw the famous spear at the door of the Musmak Fort in 1902. Here you will find the Riyadh Chamber of Commerce building.
King Khaled Road forms the northern end of the western ring road before turning south eastwards towards the old town;
Salah Ad Din Al Ayubi Street is known as Sitteen Street. Sitteen means ‘60’ and it was the planners who referred to it as ‘60 street’ before it was given an official name, since it is exactly 60 metres wide.
The main east-west arteries are:
Makkah Road, which becomes Khureis Road heading eastwards, and goes past the car souq area towards the King Fahd Stadium;
King Abdullah Road, which links junction 10 on the eastern ring road with the King Saud University campus;
Orouba Road, starting at the DQ and working its way eastwards past King Khaled Eye Specialist Hospital and Kingdom Centre to the old airport, which is now an RSAF base;
Al Ma’ther Road passes a number of ministries, past the Intercontinental Hotel and out towards the Olympic complex.
Amir Muhammed Bin Abdul Aziz Street, known as Tahlia Street (‘Tahlia’ means desalination plant), crosses King Fahd and Olaya Street just north of the Faisaliah tower.
Amir Sultan bin Abdul Aziz Street is known as Thalatheen (30) Street, as it is 30 metres wide.
Amir Sultan bin Salman Street is named after the first Saudi astronaut who flew on the shuttle in 1986.