Yes, you can travel to Saudi Arabia (most people) and yes it is safe. It was a delight to have an opportunity to visit a country that has changed enormously the past 2 decades and see it first hand.
I had an amazing opportunity to speak at BlackHat MEA and it was an amazing experience. I do want to call out the overall conference organizations, staff and logistics which made the experience rewarding for all stakeholders.
Riyadh is becoming a major economic hub for the whole region,
…and BlackHat MEA had in excess of 10,000 people per day attending.
A LOT has changed in this country and I must honestly say and evangelize that the reality is much different than the perceptions many have of the country and in media.
There is the normal cautionary and nervous anxiety when you arrive, but within minutes, you realize it is a modern country and operates much more familiar than many would expect. Riyadh is a modern and clean city and its architecture, design and style stand out the moment you exit the airport.
I was fortunate and was able to use the local conference “shuttle cars” but you can get around anywhere using Uber just like every other modern city.
The hotels have everything you need and are comfortable for everyone.
The only restrictions are spas, gyms, fitness centers, pools, prayer rooms, etc. are segmented by gender. and many people may ask, what about attire? In general, everyone is free to choose and although most locals and visitors tend to be conservative, there are no strict barriers.
If you have a favorite fast food (Western) restaurant, they are ALL here in Riyadh. Everything. Believe it or not, there is even a Chuckie Cheese pizza joint next to the Hilton Residences.
Myself, I wanted to explore and try out some of the local cuisine and restaurants.
One great restaurant (although a little pricey) is the Sulhail Restaurant. The interior design, the staff and all the local food delicacies around Saudi Arabia were AMAZING. Highly recommended.
Another great restaurant was the Library Club. I did not take any pictures, but the food and atmosphere were amazing. You do need to be ready that many residents in the country are smokers and the water pipes are used and popular in many restaurants.
Note: nobody eats out before 8:30 PM, so expect much later meals, dining and overall events. Most things start much later in the day, and many will not return home or return to the hotel before 11 PM.
The traffic is pretty bad in Riyadh, but not as bad as many other emerging countries. The mitigation is you get to see some amazing buildings, architectures and designs. I am not sure I saw a single piece of trash or debris laying out in the city which is very different than many other middle eastern countries.
Some great artwork, murals and “graffiti” was always intriguing to see. There is now growing interest, demand, and venues where music, concerts, etc. are all now occurring in Saudi Arabia which did not exist 5 years ago.
For those of you who know me, of course I went running! You can wear shorts and normal running clothes. No restrictions for men, but woman also run, but do need to wear more conservative running clothes. It is not too hot early in the mornings and is very delightful to explore parts of the city when there are almost no cars at 6AM 🙂
Another country checked off my list and proud to add to my continually growing collection! Some of my other favorite running spots:
- Tel Aviv
- Suzhou China
- Dominican Republic
- St. Lucia
- Casearea, Israel
- Hanoi, Vietnam
- Hakone, Japan
- Rural China
- Waikiki Hawaii
- Quito Ecuador
- Seoul Korea
Yes, most people will need a visa. Check out iVisa which is my choice when planning and booking my business and personal travel with my family!