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Expat Life in Saudi Arabia
It’s a common misconception that there is no social life for expats in Saudi Arabia. Like any country, life is what you make of it. If you’re open to invitations, trying new things & meeting new people, you’ll be amazed at what’s on offer. Behind the veiled curtain the media portrays, Saudi Arabia has an incredibly active social scene where one can be as active or as quiet as one likes.
One of the best ways to make new friends when you arrive in a new country, is to join a sporting team. Depending on what suits you there’s a number of clubs and associations around the country available to new arrivals.
Gaelic Athletic Association
The Gaelic Football club is located in Riyadh & runs across the Middle East with teams travelling to neighbouring Middle Eastern countries for championship matches. The club also has a Hurling and Camogie base for those wanting to branch out from football.
Riyadh Road Runners
The athletic club has been running since 1978 with branches in the coastal cities of Dharhan & Jeddah. The club focuses on marathons, cycling and triathlons and hosts races with approximately 250 -300 participants.
Scuba Diving Clubs
If you live in Jeddah or love to dive you can’t go past the dive scene on the Red Sea. There’s an array of clubs available with people going out each weekend to explore what the relatively untouched coastline has to offer. Once you arrive in the country, you’ll soon find a club that suits you, just ask around.
Latin dancing is surprisingly popular in the Middle East with many festivals being held around the region. Saudi itself has a growing dance scene with many compounds hosting classes and salsa clubs popping up across the region. Ask around and you’ll find a club or dance school near you. Great way to meet people and get the endorphins pumping.
If you’re just looking for a bit of fun, try BOUNCE, a theme park filled with wall to wall trampolines. Embrace your inner child and jump around. Its good exercise and most importantly will have you laughing with joy.
Yoga, Pilates, hiking, hockey, rock climbing, badminton, tennis, volleyball and other sports are all available in the Kingdom along with a multitude of other sporting activities. Just ask around and you’ll soon discover what you’re looking for.
With the country slowly opening up, you’ll find there’s a lot more locally run festivals available providing you with the opportunity to appreciate the local culture.
Arguably the largest cultural festival in Saudi, it takes place over two weeks in February each year. Expect to see traditional sword dances, horse and camel races, local arts and crafts, songs and poetry, falconry & delicious food – it’s the best way to learn more about the Saudi culture and experience what the country you’ve chosen to live in has to offer.
Riyadh Season was a 3 month festival covering a variety of themes to celebrate the social life of Saudi. 31 restaurants had pop up stalls to satisfy the culinary tastes of foodies. Concerts were held across the city, including local Arabian stars as well as famous Korean pop band BTS. Winter Wonderland from London was created with spouting ice-skating rinks, Ferris wheels and fairground rides. Theatre lovers could enjoy plays such as The Wizard of Oz & King Lear. The festival had something for everyone and is sure to be back again this year.
As part of the major car racing event E-Prix, a massive music festival was held in Saudi. Stars included Enrique Iglesias, Amr Diab, David Guetta, One Republic and the Black Eyed Peas all performing to a sold out crowd.
It’s a fantastic time to be on the ground in Saudi as you watch the country change before your eyes. A lot has been invested with a string of cultural events planned for the coming months and years.
Many embassies will have events which expats are welcome to join. You’ll need to contact the embassy and be on their event mailing list. Some embassies are open to all expats, others will require you to be the “plus one” to someone from their country. Europe month is one of the more popular events held by the Embassies in Saudi with concerts ad different cultural events being held throughout the month of July. Ladies, when packing your bags, make sure you bring at least 1-2 ball gowns, embassy balls are held throughout the year. You’ll also find the Australian and New Zealand embassies hosting their own events. If you’re from one of these countries, reach out and ask to be on the mailing list.
Art, Food & Entertainment
A decade ago, Saudi had almost no art galleries. Fast forward to now and local artists are flourishing. From traditional, to abstract, to graffiti more and more art is popping up across the city. Check out where to find the best art galleries here. If you’re interested in more textile forms of art, take a look at Saudi Design week where modern design meets traditional Islamic craft.
If you’re living in one of the major cities – Riyadh or Jeddah, there is an array of restaurants and dining options for you. From local street food, food trucks and fine dining there’s plenty of opportunity to explore the culinary delights of Saudi. A popular place is The Boulevard where many expats go for a night out and to experience the local atmosphere.
There’s all forms of entertainment popping up across Saudi as it begins to diversify and become more tourist friendly. One of the more popular forms of entertainment – Escape Rooms. Put your mind to the test and figure out this puzzle to reach the end of the maze.
There’s so much to explore in the country itself, too much to list in this article. For more info on domestic travel check out our Domestic Travel blog here.
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