So every year for about 2 weeks, the Saudi's throw a huge festival on the outskirts of Riyadh. Its country fair meets expo minus the rides and alcohol. Oh, and all the women are covered. Its got a very happy vibe, and the locals will come up and chat with you, ask where you are from, and welcome you to their country. Men will outright stare (as per usual) and try and get the courage to walk past you and say "Hello" or "Welcome" once you have already passed them. The admission is free, but as with most things in like it comes with a price. The price in this case is getting hassled by the Muttawa (aka religious police) who are staking out the front of the joint. Whattodo?? Cover your hair for 30 seconds till you pass them and are out of sight, and then unleash your blond locks on the unsuspecting and intrigued population.
The festival is very much worth the visit!! It is about the only chance you can get living in Saudi Arabia where you are openly allowed to take photos. This was actually my main reason for going!! The festival is set up along long streets with different food stalls, vendors, and buildings that you can visit. Many of the buildings are related to the Ministries and social programs/ technologies within the Kingdom. We visited the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Justice, and the Presidency of Meteorology and Environment. Mostly everything is in Arabic. The tents/buildings are ornately decorated in true Saudi fashion, with dying flower arrangements adorning every possible surface. We entered the Ministry of Hajj showcasing all things Hajj related and were offered ZamZam water- the holy water from Mecca. Pilgrims bring the water home with them after attending Hajj, and it is believed to have healing powers. Often patients in hospital have jugs of it in their room. That being said I would take a pass on it if someone offers it to you- if has the most peculiar mineral taste to it, and instead of healing properties, it just tasted like what I imagine bathing water tastes like. Saudi bathing water. We took a stroll past the Saudi Human Rights Commission. I have a lot to say about this, but won't at present time.
We did a little shopping. There are local crafts such as pottery or weaving available for purchase. Mostly we just wandered, and interacted with the locals. We were asked to have our photos taken numerous times. Many, many ladies approached us asking where we were from, and saying how beautiful our hair was. All in all, a really great Saudi experience!!