I have been to Ad’diriyah twice with my family but we always ended up skirting the historical district and end up in Wadi Hanifa. Translation: LOST. We usually circle the main Diriyah complex but realize that it’s still closed, or someone will inform us that we’re about to commit the sin of trespassing if we continue. Yes, they’re still renovating the area and the historical place is still closed to the public. We’ve heard though that a permission can be acquired. Wasta please? Jk.
Ad’Diriyah is where King Mohammad bin Abdulaziz founded the first Saudi state after forming an alliance with imam Mohammad bin Abdulwahad, who preached in a mosque in Diriyah. The renovation of Diriyah is overseen and done by the Arriyadh Development Authority. However, going to closed Diriyah is not for nothing because just beside it (or in front of it) is the Al Bujairi Quarter known as the gateway to Diriyah. This area has restaurants, cafes, art venues and parks. The event called The Gathering opened our eyes to the Al Bujairi in historical Diriyah. It’s a plaza surrounded with dining options. The area has empty spaces good for walking around and it also has lots with grass where a lot of families are having picnics. If you’re looking for something outside the Riyadh center which will remind you that Riyadh is still the garden oasis it was named for, then Al Bujairi is the place to go to and stroll.
The Al Bujairi Quarter has a central plaza where you’ll see most of the families hanging out on weekends. Most of the restaurants around the plaza are full of people. There’s a mix of traditional restaurants and modern ones. We saw Najd Village a popular Saudi restaurant, where you can eat traditional Saudi cuisine, Saudi style. On the floor with mats and cushions as seats. It’s one of the restaurants best to take your newly-arrived families and friends. It has two other branches but this one right here gives you a more proper ambiance, inside and outside of it. Don’t forget to order gahwa, or the Arabic coffee, and sip it before and after meals. Confession: we haven’t eaten in Najd Village and I’m not sure why we’re always putting it off. But if you already did, some feedback would be nice to send us along.
Another interesting restaurant is Bab Al Yemen. We heard the Tahlia branch is quite popular. Now this is another restaurant we are thinking of trying because it’ll be the first time we’ll encounter Yemeni cuisine. Wonder what’s good? The restaurant was packed when we were there a few weeks ago. Either it’s because of the huge crowd from The Gathering or the Al Bujairi is really a well-known place to visit during the weekend.
Other restaurants include a branch of Crepe Cafe and Baskin Robbins, perfect places to chill down after a warm stroll. There’s also Torta and More, a bakeshop known for their croissants and little dessert pastries. We saw women flocking it for boxes and boxes of bread. There’s Dr. Cafe which is near the front gate. There’s even a qahwa truck. Yep, instead of food truck, it’s only a drink truck. They only offer qahwa and coffee. It looks really cool.
Apart from all these restaurants, Al Bujairi has lots of spaces where families and friends can just roam around and enjoy a lazy weekend. I love the stepping terraces and water gardens in between and I like how people are just chillax. If you’re strapped for cash or just doesn’t want to eat in restaurants and want home-cooked meals then you can just bring your own food and your blanket and setup a place under the palms and above grassy patches and you’re good to go for a merry picnic.
There are also events in the place; it being a home to Saudi Arabia’s art scene. There are museums in the Dirriyah district and some of them are staging art events. Other organizations and companies also use the area for holding their own fun events like Empowerment Hub’s Yoga Retreat and an Antique Car Roadshow that happened a few weeks ago.
When in Al Bujairi, visitors get to have a front seat watching the Riyadh sunset. It’s so calming just watching the sun rays peak through the palm leaves and go down the horizon. It’s quiet (I’m sure you can find a corner that’s away from the hustle and bustle of the crowd) and green and tranquil that it’s an easy escape to the busy life in the city center. Don’t get too caught in the memories though as real life is waiting for you.
If you’re looking for your next quick weekend getaway, visit Al Bujairi district.