Shopping malls and the more traditional souks are the primary source of entertainment in Saudi Arabia, serving a much wider societal function than perhaps they would do in Europe or the US.
Because of this, the country is home to some very impressive shopping malls that cater for the needs of the whole family and include facilities such as ice rinks and rollercoaster rides.
Saudi Arabian souks are also certainly worth a visit and contain a huge array of goods ranging from gold to spices to carpets to camel milk, all of which can be bought at a fraction of the price that you would pay in the malls. Haggling is expected – and recommended – as an expatriate you will never be offered the ‘final price’ in the first instance!
There are many good places to eat in Saudi Arabia and a huge variety of international cuisine is available, including many international branded chain restaurants, all levels of pricing, and some very high-end fine dining experiences.
Aside from shopping and eating out, traditional sports and pastimes such as camel racing, falconry and watersport activities are also popular. There are also many more familiar international sporting activities, particularly soccer and the Saudi Professional League (sponsored by Abdul Latif Jameel) which is the largest and most popular football league in the region. Music and dance have always played an important role in Saudi Arabian life. Bedouin poetry, known as nabati, is still very popular and instrumental folk music using percussion instruments are often performed and well worth watching. Also, many people regularly enjoy entertaining friends and family at home.
Within the residential communities (or compounds) there are a wide variety of leisure and social activities available including the opportunity to play sports and mix socially with other expatriates. Apart from the very hot summer months, Saudi Arabia’s year-round sunshine and climate means that children can enjoy outdoor living for most of the year with tennis clubs, swimming pools, adventure playgrounds etc. a normal part of daily life within the communities.
Lastly, escaping the confines of the compounds or city life by camping and/or off-roading in the desert is also a popular pastime. Desert camping between the sand dunes is one of the experiences that you should not miss while you are here. There are also plenty of parks, which are perfect for picnics or relaxing for a few hours.