We, humans, have an intrinsic emotional need to connect with nature (also known as biophilia) and this has been repeatedly proven through researches or reviews such as “Health benefits of urban vegetation and green space: Research roundup”; “Environmental Benefits of Green Space – Project Evergreen”; “Health benefits of green spaces in the living environment: A systematic review of epidemiological studies”; and so forth. Such that urban planning, which is a relatively new profession by the way, has emerged from concerns for health and well-being through preventing illnesses and diseases that have something to do with substandard sanitation, exposure to different kinds of environmental pollution, and even overcrowding.
As the world’s concrete jungles continue to grow, pushing on valuing green space in cities is imperative. But it should also be noted that there are certain parts of the world such as Riyadh or other cities in the Middle East where access to vegetated parks could be a challenge because the topography is predominantly desert. Cases like this make the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia worthy of a commendation for making its people (natives and expats alike) feel like there is no desert in the country through its already numerous nature spots.
The benefits of a public green space in cities include an increased level of or opportunities for physical activities, better perceived general health, reduced stress levels, reduced depression, recovery from attention fatigue, among others. The best thing that comes out of these is reduced healthcare.
It is one thing to consider those benefits when visiting a nature park. Witnessing its beauty is another. Either way, paying a visit is surely a worthwhile or win-win experience. Here are the top five (5) public spots for nature lovers in Riyadh in aesthetical order:
5. Wadi Hanifa, Al Masani (Map)
Wadi Hanifa is a narrow valley that showcases the ruins of the old city of Diriyah, which is actually a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the historical Alealb Water Dam. A perfect picnic spot most especially for the locals. It boasts approximately 30,000 verdant desert trees (tamarisk, needle bush, acacia tortilis, Acacia gerrardii, fluffy fountain grass, saltbush, and the common boxthorn) in the middle of the valley; 7,000 date palms along hiking areas and pathways; flowing water channel; and natural landscapes (“Coffee Pot in the Arab Culture“).
If you want a quality time with loved ones with the aid of gentle breeze from the lake and lovely birds chirping on trees, this spot is the place to be (“In Search of A Rebound “).
4. Al Haeer (Khamsa Khamsa), Al Ghnamiah (Map)
Al Haeer, more popularly known as Khamsa Khamsa and originally a school for horseback riding, is defined by its laid-back atmosphere. It will make a visitor appreciate simple things like seeing people singing at the karaoke bar, playing billiards, merrymaking inside nipa huts, eating Asian dishes, getting a breath of fresh air under the trees, and a whole heap more. No wonder, the place became the most favorite spot of Asians particularly Filipinos (The Alpha Dogs’ Typical Day Out at Kamsa Ashra Park).
Anyone who sees a boscage of viriscent trees such as acacias and date palms enveloping the walkways, a well-scythed sward, and a signage showing “abaya–free zone” will smile (“A Day With Dates At Khamsa Khamsa“).
It is always refreshing to see something as green as the palm’s leaves, to witness people chilling out, or just to inhale a trophic air from the woodland.
3. King Abdulaziz Historical Centre, King Faisal Road, Al Murabba Quarter (Map)
King Abdulaziz Historical Centre (KAHC) is a national landmark. It exhibits the Arabian Peninsula history and is considered a reminder of the divine blessing upon the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
It has a total area of over 440,000 m2 bordered by Prince Abdullah bin Jalawi bin Turki Street on its west, King Faisal Street on its east, Al-Delam Street on its north, and Al-Foutah Garden on its southern side.
This Centre is the home to the bushiest public park in the city proper; Al-Murabba Palace; Traditional Mud Buildings; Darat Al-Malik Abdulaziz; King Abdulaziz Public Library; King Abdulaziz Mosque; King Abdulaziz Auditorium; a modern road network and walkways; the most notable landmarks in the Kingdom (Riyadh Water Tower); and the National Museum (“Street Photography in Dirah“). The last two items are the dynamic duo of the whole Centre.
KAHC never fails to tempt visitors with its cultural and historical flair as well as pieces of lavish Middle-Eastern architecture that harmoniously dance with the elements of nature. It is the place in the city “city” that gives you that genuine feeling of being in a tropical spot.
2. Rawdat Khuraim, Wildlife Sanctuary (Map)
Rawdhat Khuraim is basically a wildlife park established in 2005. It is not only famous in Riyadh but the whole Kingdom because of its nature reserves that blooms during spring—the best time to visit the place. It is now one of the Kingdom’s most favorite camping grounds and undoubtedly a sought-after spot for wildlife and sunset/sunrise photographers from the capital city.
It offers an expanse of large and nearly ubiquitous family of desert monocotyledonous flowering plants.
Rawdat Khuraim is considered the King’s Forest after it was formally opened to the public on January 22, 2005.
According to Samirad, the Saudi Arabian Market Information Resource, there is an estimated 132 species of wild plants and 42 species of fauna in the forest. A lot of them are in the very open area of the King’s Forest (Small and Big Wonders at the King’s Forest“).
Enjoying and respecting the wildlife and environment at the King’s Forest make for a surely awesome weekend getaway.
1. Wadi Namar, Al Warad, Namar (Map)
Wadi Namar, is an area around the lake of Namar dam, which is 50 meters deep and 2,000 meters long, from the southern side of Al Warad.
This attraction turned into a favorite hang-out of weekend revelers upon its public opening in 2012.
A place with an eldritch beauty all of its own best describes Wadi Namar. A broad span of Namarian azure sky is gashed above it, making it appear like a nature’s arena in most pictures on the internet.
The basin of the valley magnifies all sounds, from cantillating birds to bubbling streams. The visage of the lake is cladding-clear and placid, flanked by an avenue of date palm trees, and hemmed by precipitous hills.
Aside from the indispensable nature treats it provides, it is a great place for picnic.
A trip down Wadi Namar is a perfect “seize the day” moment. The place is an absolute haven especially for city dwellers (Wadi Namar And Its Hidden Paradise).
These five natural bounties are not only testaments but reminders to a graceful and symbiotic relationship between man and nature. As we go on visiting, appreciating, and using these places and their counterparts or equivalents across the globe, let us not forget our responsibility to nature: to take care of it. Nature is the one thing we all share and have mutual interest in.
Let us not throw things as if people are always ready to them pick up (“The Struggling Servant of Mother Nature“). Let us not forget to recycle (“No Matter What, Recycling is Worth the Effort“). Let us not waste things like disposable plastic cups, plates, spoons and forks as well as paper cups, plates, and towels. Let us not ignore the importance of cooking your own food (“Why Cooking Your Own Food is Good for You and the Environment“) and growing your own food (“What’s the environmental impact of growing your own food?“). Let us minimize the use of plastic bags or avoid buying those in the stores whenever and wherever necessary (“No Plastic Bags Policy”). And, let us start getting involved in community efforts to save the environment (“20 Easy Ways to Participate in Local Community Efforts to Save the Environment“).
References and Related Articles
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia – 10 Awesome Things to Do (twomonkeystravelgroup.com)
10 Best Travel Destinations In Riyadh (traveltourxp.com)
Saudi Arabia looking to attract visitors for adventure and nature tourism (lonelyplanet.com)
5 Awesome Things To Enjoy in Saudi Arabia (ofwfamilyconnect.com)