BLOG: Contemporary art spaces in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Jan 2, 2015 7:06PM

Saudi Arabia: the enigmatic nation whose norm is always met with incredulous looks. There are family sections in restaurants where single men aren’t allowed to enter. Everyone has apps downloaded onto their smartphones that alert them when it is time for the five daily prayers (according to Muslim customs), as the entire country temporarily shuts down in observance of the ritual. And, yes, the abayas (a robe-like over-garment) is mandatory for women to wear in their everyday life.

In contrast to Jeddah, the urban and resort center of Saudi Arabia, Riyadh—the nation’s capital—is known as a notoriously conservative city. Landlocked and sitting atop a large plateau, Riyadh is the country’s largest city, and the epicenter of the Saudi royal family. An increasingly sprawling metropolis, the combination of Riyadh’s grid plan and chaotic traffic ensures that jams, gridlock and terrible parking are all mainstays of the city. The Olaya district—home to ’the iconic Kingdom Tower and Al Faisaliyah Tower and numerous shopping malls—is the commercial hub of Riyadh.