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What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Within the country we traveled to Jeddah, much less conservative than Riyadh and a beautiful city on the Red Sea; to Mada'in Saleh near Medina, a fascinating necropolis built by the Nabateans, who also built Petra in Jordan; to the mountainous province of Asir, which was a breath of cool, fresh air with fantastic scenery; and to Dhahran in the eastern provinces, where Desert Design, a great Saudi handcraft store, is located. We also went north on a tour to a camel beauty pageant, which was a most unique and enjoyable experience.
We also traveled around the Gulf, twice to Oman (my favorite country in the region), to Doha several times (gorgeous city architecturally), and to Bahrain and the Emirates (the grand mosque is a must-see in Abu Dhabi). We had been to Kuwait before and saw absolutely no reason to return.
As to my best experience during our three years in Saudi Arabia, it was without doubt one day in Diriyah, an old city in Riyadh, where I had been photographing the gate to a private home. Suddenly a man drove up and started speaking to me in Arabic. I didn't understand and thought I must have done something wrong (and headed to our car), but he said, "Wait, my brother will talk to you." His brother was the patriarch and spoke fluent English, and he invited us into their home for lunch and to spend the afternoon visiting in their garden. I don't think I've ever experienced such hospitality from total strangers, and it's an experience I'll always treasure. We had several other similar encounters, and all were enjoyable, but I'll never forget that one. - Oct 13, 2017
The highlights for us have been the wonderful friends we've made here, the access to nature via the Wadi Trail (manmade, but it's still great), the relative ease of life and living in the DQ. We also drove across the desert to Bahrain and it was super interesting (and slightly depressing) - lots of camels and really got to see the landscape. - Jan 19, 2017
Visiting Mada‚ in Saleh and seeing the remains of the Hedjaz Railway built by the Ottoman Turks and destroyed by Lawrence of Arabia. - May 20, 2016
Comparing how poor people live back home with the way real poor people live here. Experiencing life under a government sponsored religion. Seeing how the US is perceived from many different points of view. Meeting my wife here. - Nov 9, 2015
Familiarizing with culture, meeting members of the Saudi Royal family. - Oct 27, 2015
You have to really work hard to get outside of the American community and diplomatic circuit to meet Saudis. The Saudis I have met have been extremely kind, welcoming, and generous. Really great people. But, it is very difficult to make friends with them. The diplomatic community is huge and since there is not much to do here, you can easily become friends with other diplomats and even ambassadors of other countries. As a junior-level officer this was a pretty cool perk. - Oct 15, 2015
Desert picnics, the annual King's horse races, the Janadriyah Cultural Festival. - Jan 23, 2015
The dates taste really good, birthday parties at Prince/Princess palaces, other Embassy families. We get to know other expats on DQ. Weather is nice half the year. - Sep 28, 2014
The best places we have visited so far have been the old city of Diriyah (a UNESCO World Heritage site), which is 10 minutes from where we live on the Diplomatic Quarter. On several occasions we were invited in off the street by Saudi families for lunch or tea -- the hospitality of these people is rivaled by none! We also spent a long weekend in Jeddah, which was delightful -- a beautiful city on the Red Sea that is not as conservative as Riyadh. - Mar 26, 2014
Driving out in the countryside, experiencing the sites and sounds. There are lots of day trips right outside of Riyadh. - Dec 4, 2013
The ease of travel to other places in the Middle East such as Dubai. - Oct 9, 2013
Expat friendships are the highlight, but also travels within Saudi and encounters with locals, who are usually friendly if you show some interest in their culture. - Mar 17, 2013
Enjoy the family walks along the DQ waddi when weather cooperates - Apr 7, 2011
I really can't think of anything. - Mar 29, 2010