Al-Urma mountain range: A lofty landmark at the King Khalid Royal Reserve

Sedimentary rocks make up Al-urma mountain range. (Supplied)
Sedimentary rocks make up Al-urma mountain range. (Supplied)
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Updated 17 September 2023

Al-Urma mountain range: A lofty landmark at the King Khalid Royal Reserve

Sedimentary rocks make up Al-urma mountain range. (Supplied)
  • Al-Urma’s valleys are surrounded by lowlands and floodplains, including Al-Batin in the western part

RIYADH: The King Khalid Royal Reserve covers 1,162 sq. km and is situated northeast of the capital city of Riyadh. It is managed by the Imam Abdulaziz bin Mohammed Royal Reserve Development Authority and has natural attractions, structures, and geological formations that make it a distinctive and alluring tourist destination.

The Khashm Al-Thumama, which rises 810 meters above sea level and is regarded as the most significant khashm in the reserve, is the tallest peak in the Al-Urma mountain range, which spans around 700 km in the east-central region of the Arabian Peninsula.

Sedimentary rocks make up Al-urma mountain range. (SPA)

Sedimentary rocks, some of which are dazzling white in color, make up the mountain range. These rocks break down into white sand that covers several valleys and reefs, including Al-Thumama Valley, as a result of factors related to erosion which creates white valleys with acacia trees and other vegetation. These rocks distinguish themselves from the light brown sedimentary rocks of other groups.

Al-Thumama is attractive for ecotourism activities. It boasts several species of wild trees and shrubs, along with rock formations and cavities filled with white sand, reflecting the beauty of the natural environment.

Sedimentary rocks make up Al-urma mountain range. (SPA)

Additionally, it features paved mountain climbing trails constructed in accordance with international standards and specifications that cover environmental sustainability and visitor safety.

Al-Urma’s valleys are surrounded by lowlands and floodplains, including Al-Batin in the western part. However, most of them are situated in the eastern portion, in places like the Khuraim and Umm Al-Qata floodplains in the royal reserve.

Before arriving at its destination and irrigating the ground, water travels through the valleys for many kilometers. The ground is covered later in the year with seasonal and pastoral plants.

The authority launched Urma Winter Season last year and has adopted Urma as a trademark, registering it with the Saudi Authority for Intellectual Property.

It carries great geological significance, with its rocks telling historic tales while featuring stone inscriptions thousands of years old.


Saudi Arabia border guards thwart attempt to smuggle 130kg of qat

Saudi Arabia border guards thwart attempt to smuggle 130kg of qat
Updated 11 sec ago

Saudi Arabia border guards thwart attempt to smuggle 130kg of qat

Saudi Arabia border guards thwart attempt to smuggle 130kg of qat

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s border guards in the Jazan region have foiled an attempt to smuggle 130 kg of the narcotic qat into the Kingdom, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, agents from the General Directorate of Narcotics Control arrested two Saudi Arabia nationals in Jazan for attempting to sell hashish, methamphetamine, and pills subject to medical regulations.

They were referred to the Kingdom’s Public Prosecution authority.

Maintaining family traditions and ties plays an important role in Riyadh social life

Maintaining family traditions and ties plays an important role in Riyadh social life
Updated 03 October 2023

Maintaining family traditions and ties plays an important role in Riyadh social life

Maintaining family traditions and ties plays an important role in Riyadh social life
  • From sports to desert picnics, Saudis have wide choice when it comes to spending quality time with their families
  • Family is a central pillar of residents of Saudi capital, forming the basis of most people’s social circle

RIYADH: Every Friday, Abdullah Al-Sulaiman dresses in his favorite clothes and takes his family to his grandfather’s house to meets all his family members and enjoy the weather in the backyard while drinking tea and mamool (cookies). 

Upholding family traditions and maintaining kinship ties are an integral part of Saudi society and culture that is passed down from one generation to the next.

Residents of Riyadh shared with Arab News how much they value spending quality time with their families.  

“Family is a central pillar of Saudi Arabian society, forming the basis of most people’s social circle. Every Friday is a family day, I usually spend it at my grandfather’s house where all my uncles and aunts come with their children,” Al-Sulaiman said.   

Some families have a designated room, called a majilis, in their house, where important family matters are discussed and guests are welcomed for socializing. 

Mutlaq Al-Jabaa, a resident of Riyadh, enjoys driving his family around the city. “We enjoy cruising around Riyadh, so I drive them around the city, or we rent a recreation center chalet that has a pool and entertainment consoles for the whole family to get together and have fun.” 

In Saudi Arabia, it is common to rent an istiraha, or chalet, a place for a temporary stay that often has a pool, a large living room for families to gather, and a garden with a play area for children.    

In cooler months, Al-Jabaa said that most families in Riyadh also enjoy outdoor activities, such as picnics in the desert around Wadi Hanifa and other locations. “It is called kashta. On cold winter nights, we go to the desert and bring chairs, tea, food, wood and a small carpet to sit and enjoy the weather, and we like to burn firewood for warmth.”   

Other popular family activities include camping, desert safari tours, camel rides, sandboarding, quad biking and stargazing — all offering unique experiences in nature while boosting economic prospects for local businesses.  

“We prefer to gather in a camp in the desert where the guys play the card game baloot, and the women enjoy sitting and sipping tea or Saudi coffee while watching the children run around,” Al-Sulaiman said.   

Taking part in sports, such as soccer, horse racing and falconry, are also an essential part of family tradition in Riyadh. 

Nouf Al-Humaidi likes to rent a farm with a stable to teach children horseback riding.

“Saudis are well connected to horses, and in my family we like to teach children from a young age how to ride horses so when they grow up, they can decide if they want to do it as a sport. Children also are very excited when they see farm animals, and they learn a lot on how to make milk and how to collect eggs.”   

During Ramadan, families, mostly during weekends, host iftar at their homes for friends and families. Eid Al-Fitr and Eid Al-Adha — two of the most important religious holidays in the Islamic calendar — are joyous occasions for extended families to gather to celebrate, exchange gifts, and enjoy traditional food and drink.   

Hanouf Al-Salama said that her father has a farm where family members and their children gather to enjoy nature and collect dates.

“We make Saudi coffee for the family to drink with the dates; we like to hold a competition for the children to see who can collect the most dates. We also have a barbecue, where the men of the family often cook the meat,” Al-Salama said.   

Riyadh emerging as an international cuisine hub

Riyadh emerging as an international cuisine hub
Updated 03 October 2023

Riyadh emerging as an international cuisine hub

Riyadh emerging as an international cuisine hub
  • “Gastronomic explosion” has accompanied Saudi capital’s transition from administrative capital to vibrant metropolis
  • Experts see immense potential benefits for Riyadh, and the Kingdom as a whole, from global expertise and exposure

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s capital is experiencing what is best described as a “gastronomic explosion.”

International brands have entered the market alongside proliferating homegrown Saudi restaurants and street food, contributing to the growing cultural diversity of Riyadh.

Until recently, Riyadh’s culinary scene was dominated by a few local restaurants offering predominantly Saudi and traditional Najdi cuisine, which hails from the historical region encompassing modern-day Riyadh, Qassim and Hail. This included warm and hearty stews, rich meat dishes, and savory regional specialties that have been a staple in traditional restaurants for decades.

The transformation began with the Saudi Vision 2030 economic and social plan in 2016, which has gained significant momentum since 2021 as the pandemic has waned. Riyadh has seen a surge in international chefs and eateries, accompanied by an increasing influx of tourists and expatriates.

Today, Saudi Arabia boasts a range of restaurants from around the world, catering to diverse tastes and budgets, both in fine dining and street food.

Simultaneously, Riyadh, transitioning from being solely an administrative hub to a vibrant cosmopolitan metropolis, attracts talent from across the globe. This includes restaurants and chefs eager to tap into what could potentially become the Middle East’s largest culinary market.

Vision 2030 aims to boost household spending on cultural and entertainment activities to 6 percent, a significant increase from the initial 2.9 percent when the plan was unveiled in 2016.

Among the latest international arrivals are Spago Riyadh, from the renowned celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck, Flamingo Room by Tashas, a concept store and eatery from the celebrated South African chef, and Mr. Chow, the Chinese restaurant specializing in authentic Beijing cuisine, founded by British-Chinese restaurateur Michael Chow, set to open in early October.

Other newcomers include Ferdi Restaurant, famous for its Parisian burgers, and La Petite Maison, offering cuisine from the Cote d’Azur, among others.

Cool Inc, a Saudi lifestyle curator, is behind the launch of La Petite Maison, Ferdi, Spago, and Cut by Wolfgang Puck, with plans announced in late 2022 for openings such as Scott’s, Sexy Fish, Wagyumafia, Gymkhana, and Madeo.

Natasha Sideris, CEO and founder of Tashas Group, expressed her enthusiasm for the evolving culinary scene in Riyadh, noting the city’s transition from a limited dining market to a flourishing landscape with international brands and innovative local concepts.

Riyadh’s newest addition, Flamingo Room by Tashas, is located in the vibrant Diriyah neighborhood, offering a multi-faceted experience that includes Tashas restaurant, Collective Africa (a retail concept store), the African Lounge, and The Stargaze Garden (a rooftop dining space).

In June of this year, Riyadh introduced Via Mercato, a luxury culinary destination housed in the upscale dining complex, Via Riyadh. It features artisanal and specialty foods from around the world, drawing attention on social media with the appearance of actress Sofia Vergara amid its sleek, architecturally striking design.

Matthew Lawson, general manager for Via Mercato, attributed Riyadh’s emergence as a culinary capital to at least three factors: a surge in tourism; heavy investments in the hospitality and food industries; and an increasingly cosmopolitan and sophisticated local population seeking diverse culinary experiences.

Via Mercato’s luxury market offers a wide range of artisanal and specialty food products, including baked goods, cheeses and Japanese delicacies. Additionally, it features a caviar bar, pizzeria, rotisserie and a cheese shop, all with personalized service and expert guidance from knowledgeable staff.

For those seeking more casual and adventurous fare, Riyadh boasts a growing choice of street cuisine, including both local Saudi dishes and international flavors. Despite the city’s reputation for a car-centric lifestyle, there are vibrant outdoor areas where residents and visitors alike explore new culinary experiences.

Options include Thai Soi, Barbar Riyadh (a Lebanese street food restaurant), and various eateries serving local Saudi and Arabic specialties such as baleela, koshari and manto.

Each month sees the opening of several high-end global restaurants and street food joints in Riyadh, underlining the city’s increasing appeal to food enthusiasts locally, regionally and internationally.

As the culinary landscape expands, there is a growing interest among Riyadh residents in making the most of the “gastronomic explosion.”

The establishment of the Culinary Arts Commission under the Saudi Ministry of Culture reflects this trend. The mission of the body includes rating restaurants, dishes and chefs, establishing culinary arts regulations, and promoting both Saudi and international culinary traditions. It also aims to document recipes and share them to introduce Saudi cuisine globally.

Matthew Lawson emphasized the importance of facilitating culinary exchanges and collaborations with chefs and institutions worldwide, highlighting the potential to bring global expertise and exposure to the Kingdom. This local and international exchange is a pivotal factor in Riyadh’s ascent as an international culinary destination.

How Riyadh’s MDL Beast Festival became a musical extravaganza like no other

How Riyadh’s MDL Beast Festival became a musical extravaganza like no other
Updated 03 October 2023

How Riyadh’s MDL Beast Festival became a musical extravaganza like no other

How Riyadh’s MDL Beast Festival became a musical extravaganza like no other
  • Held in Riyadh since 2019, the event offers a multi-sensory experience with music, food and interactive activities
  • A number of famous international singers and DJs have performed on the Big Beast stage at Soundstorm

RIYADH: The MDL Beast Festival, known as Soundstorm, is the biggest music and culture festival in the Middle East. Held in Riyadh since 2019, it offers a multi-sensory experience with music, food and interactive activities.

Organized by the General Entertainment Authority, the three-day event is a highlight of Riyadh Season and showcases more than 100 international DJs and Arab stars.

Soundstorm has featured over 200 artists across seven stages: Big Beast, Down Beast, Dance Beast and four underground stages.

Here are some notable international singers and DJs who have performed on the Big Beast stage at Soundstorm.

DJ Khaled

DJ Khaled is a Palestinian US DJ. He is famous for his catchphrase “Another one” and his hit songs and albums. He performed at the DJ Khaled and Friends event alongside artists like Busta Rhymes, Future, T.I., Rick Ross and more.

Post Malone

Post Malone, a US singer, rapper, songwriter and record producer, captivated audiences with his diverse vocal range during his performance at the festival.

Bruno Mars

Bruno Mars, the talented US singer, is renowned for his electrifying stage presence. With his ability to seamlessly transition between various genres including pop, R&B, funk, soul, reggae, disco and rock, he wowed the crowd with his captivating performance on the Big Beast stage.


R3hab, the Dutch Moroccan DJ and music producer, is a regular performer in Saudi Arabia. He is famous for remixing popular artists like Rihanna, Drake, Taylor Swift and Calvin Harris, as well as creating his own hit anthems like “All Around The World (La La La)” and “Lullaby.” His awe-inspiring performances on the Big Beast stage left the audience amazed.


Tiesto, the Dutch DJ and Grammy award-winning electronic music producer, impressed the audience on the Big Beast stage. He also performed at the Jeddah Grand Prix event.


Zedd, the German DJ, record producer and songwriter, has collaborated with renowned singers such as Selena Gomez, Ke$ha, Hayley Williams and more.

DJ Snake

DJ Snake, the French music producer and DJ, gained worldwide fame in 2013 with his instrumental-focused single “Turn Down for What” featuring Lil Jon. He has produced other popular tracks including “Taki Taki,” “Lean On” and “Let Me Love You.”

Steve Aoki

Steve Aoki, the US DJ and music producer, is known for his EDM and big house style. He has collaborated with notable artists such as BTS, Louis Tomlinson, Iggy Azalea and Fall Out Boy. Aoki has been performing in Saudi Arabia since 2019, including shows in Jeddah and three appearances at Soundstorm.


Hardwell, the Dutch superstar DJ and founder of Revealed Recordings, was voted the world’s no. 1 DJ by DJ Mag in 2013 and 2014. He is renowned for his electrifying performances at music festivals such as Ultra Music Festival, Sunburn and Tomorrowland.


Afrojack, the Dutch DJ, music producer and remixer, consistently ranks among the top 10 artists in DJ Mag’s Top 100 DJs list. He has produced hits such as “Turn Up the Speakers,” “Ten Feet Tall,” “Take Over Control” and more.


Marshmello, the US DJ and producer recognized for his iconic marshmallow-shaped headpiece, has achieved great success with his songs “Silence,” “Wolves,” “Friends,” “Happier” and “Alone.” Marshmello has also made notable appearances at Jeddah Season and Riyadh Season.

Traditional dishes of Riyadh that locals can never forget

Traditional dishes of Riyadh that locals can never forget
Updated 03 October 2023

Traditional dishes of Riyadh that locals can never forget

Traditional dishes of Riyadh that locals can never forget
  • Many traditional Riyadh dishes are served in local restaurants, even those ostensibly dedicated to foreign cuisine
  • Local dishes mostly consist of rice, flat breads, meat and a few spices boasting a richness of flavor

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is divided into 13 provinces, each with traditional local dishes passed from one generation to another. 

Each dish indicates the heritage of a region and the local foods tend to correspond with the availability of ingredients. Riyadh, the capital, has its own traditional dishes that locals take pride in. 

“It is easy to find local dishes of Riyadh in other regions in the Kingdom, but our local dishes taste different — and better — in Riyadh,” said Hessah Abdulaziz, a local resident. 

“I believe (this is) mainly because we are using locally grown vegetables, the same vegetables that were used when these dishes were first created.”

Local dishes in the capital mostly consist of rice, flat breads, meat, and a few spices boasting a richness of flavor. The most popular are matazeez, jareesh, qursan, and mathloutha.

Matazeez is a dish that comprises flat dumplings cooked in a stew of vegetables, tomatoes, meat, and spices. The dumpling dough is made from whole-wheat flour, oil, salt, and water, and is cut into flattened circles.

Jareesh is another beloved local dish that is made from ground wheat, cooked with rice, chopped, and fried onions, vegetables, and chicken.

Qursan is made up of thin layers of fresh bread smothered in a tomato-based vegetable sauce and topped with fresh onions and parsley.

Mathloutha is a popular offering in Riyadh, made up of three dishes in one, consisting of a mixture of rice, jareesh, and qursan. Because of the effort it requires, it is generally served on special occasions such as weddings and during Eid.

For those who have a sweet tooth, the Riyadh table offers a range of traditional deserts and snacks including hininy, mrahif, and kleija

Hininy consists of dates, butter, and brown bread topped with spices such as saffron and cardamom. The dish is usually prepared and eaten during winter.

Mrahif is consumed as a snack with either tea or coffee. It is similar in taste and texture to French crepes, and is prepared from a liquid dough on a frying pan, served with salty fillings made up of cooked green onion, parsley, and a few spices, or with a sweet filling, using ghee and honey.

Kleija is a popular sweet hollow cake, made of flour and stuffed with dates, honey, date molasses, sugar, or nuts. The fillings depend on personal preference, but every family in Riyadh has a jar or two of kleija in their fridge ready to be served.

Today, many traditional Riyadh dishes are found and served in local restaurants, even those ostensibly dedicated to foreign cuisine.

“Riyadh has countless Western restaurants that locals, including me, visit often, but there’s this tendency to have an authentic local dish every once in a while,” said Fahad Al-Mutairi, another resident.

The most popular Saudi restaurants in the capital are Al-Romansiah, Al-Saudi, Najd Village, and Suhail.

Al-Romansiah is a chain serving local dishes using the freshest ingredients. Mathloutha with chicken is their specialty, along with qursan and jareesh.

Al-Saudi is a traditional restaurant, bringing an authentic taste of Riyadh since 1994. It is known for its most delicious kabsa, a rice dish made with either chicken or lamb.

Najd Village is another popular place for local food and is certainly the most renowned. The restaurant serves a range of kabsa dishes and offers a true taste of matazeez.

Suhail is a stunning Saudi restaurant located in the old town, offering original and traditional local fare with a modern twist. It is known for its delicious jareesh, topped with caramelized onions and ghee.