Riyadh Season - a huge city wide series of events. The “Saudi Seasons” program represents a new initiative launched by the Saudi Commission of Tourism and Heritage (SCTH) in 2019 and includes 11 seasons across various regions of the Kingdom. Riyadh Season is 1 of 11 "seasons" around Saudi Arabia. Winter Wonderland and Riyadh Boulevard are 2 events we attended during the "season." Strangely, as foreigners, we were one of the first people to attend this event in all of it's history because it just started!
Riyadh Boulevard = a combination of restaurant week and food truck park in the sense that all the participating restaurants are given temporary dining areas in a giant space next to each other. Like having a full blown restaurant inside a stadium.
Winter Wonderland was like a winter theme park. It was adapted from the UK events and similar events around the world. This event, spanning weeks, has boardwalk games and roller coasters and food parks, live performances (in English and Arabic) and other cool events. It's like going to Disney or Six Flags.
Each event was heavily attended, which was awesome to see. Although sometimes it didn't seem that way because of how big the area was that hosted each event. People could be spread throughout the "park." Men, women, children - mostly locals it seemed - were all enjoying a night out in the cooler air, taking in the amazing sights setup for the season, and partaking in the food, games, and music. These events went well into the late night hours. I'm pretty sure one night we didn't get back to our hotel until 1AM at least. No one looked at us strangely. In fact, again, we felt welcomed. We were smiled at. Some tried to talk to us to test their English. We answered with a shukraan - thank you in our terrible Western-sounding Arabic. We were given an extra turn at the ball toss game.
One thing that was very evident was how new the event was to people. Everyone around us had the look of awe, amazement, and wonder of how this was going to work. But we all managed together. We navigated the parks, stalls, entertainment, eating venues, and all the seasons had to offer.
|Theme park-like atmosphere at Winter Wonderland|
|Under a canopy at Boulevard|
|The Boulevard, which is like a half moon around a man-made lake, of pop-up restaurants.|
|Traditional singing and dancing in front of a pop-up restaurant at Boulevard|
And, like all things in life, there are good and bad sides to adopting something that is different from traditional culture. It's good to see Saudis open up to other cultures. And it's even better that foreigners see, feel, experience, and appreciate the Saudis.