Top 13 Ways for an Expat SAHM to Fight Boredom in Riyadh

By: Tiffany Wacaser

Congratulations, you’ve made it to Riyadh! Your kids are now in school and hopefully your shipment has arrived and is unpacked. You may have overcome jet lag and are starting to feel slightly human again. Now that’s all done, what are you going to do as a woman of leisure in a city where women can’t drive and you have to wear a black robe over your cute clothes and bake in the desert heat? Or in other words, how will you keep yourself occupied to stave off a bout of insanity?

I have good news for you. There are plenty of things to do in Riyadh if you are willing to be creative and step out of your comfort zone.

  1. Lounge by the pool. Let’s be honest, how many of you ever got to lounge by a pool on a regular basis back home? I certainly didn’t have that luxury. Since you’re here and hopefully have a nice pool in your villa or compound, why not enjoy it? Work it into your daily schedule and then brag to your girlfriends.

    Lounging by the pool is a delightful luxury not to be missed or under-rated
    Lounging by the pool is a delightful luxury not to be missed or under-rated


  2. Get fit. I don’t know about you but I kept myself so crazy busy back in New York that getting fit and healthy were very low on my priority list. Most compounds offer great gyms. How many of you have access to a great gym in your backyard? The convenience can’t be beat. If you aren’t a treadmill/weight machine kind of girl, many compounds offer great fitness classes. Check with your recreation department. There are zumba classes, body boot camps, water aerobics, etc. There are also nutritionists available in Riyadh that will help you analyze your diet and put you on track eating healthy meals. One of my favorites is a lovely girl living in Riyadh running a site called www.4evafitness.co.uk. For a fee, Celia will help you get on a healthy diet.

  3. Take a class. Now is the time to learn to do something new. If you’ve always wanted to paint, this is the time to find a teacher. I’ve seen cooking courses, painting classes, language classes, piano lessons, etc. The expat women in Riyadh have a wide variety of experiences and skills. Many of these talented women offer private and group lessons to teach you some interesting skills and hobbies. Check your compound recreation department.

  4. Go on a tour. Within Riyadh, Haya Tours offers a variety of tours designed to give expats an exclusive peek into the inner workings of the Kingdom. Haya Tours is owned and operated by a Saudi women who is keen to help expats explore and discover all that Saudi Arabia has to offer. Through Haya Tours you can camp in the desert, visit a date market, go to a Camel Beauty Contest, or enjoy an exclusive tour through the Shura Council building where you get to learn the inner workings of the consultative council to the King. Haya Tours can be found at www.hayatour.com.

    Standing by a Saudi flag in one of the reception rooms of the Shura Council, the 150 member consultative group to the King
    Standing by a Saudi flag in one of the reception rooms of the Shura Council, the 150 member consultative group to the King


  5. Go to a coffee morning at a compound. Many of the larger compounds within Riyadh host monthly coffee mornings. Some coffee mornings, like the Ishbilla Coffee Morning and Seder Coffee Morning have a great breakfast with a few vendors. Kingdom Coffee Morning is the largest bazaar. The focus isn’t on the food, but rather the vendors. Coffee Mornings are a great place to meet other women from other compounds, shop, and relax.

    At the Kingdom Coffee Morning this vendor sells framed daggers. One of many vendors at the coffee morning, this is the place to pick up souvenirs for your family
    At the Kingdom Coffee Morning this vendor sells framed daggers. One of many vendors at the coffee morning, this is the place to pick up souvenirs for your family


  6. Teach a class. If you have a special skill or talent, why not share it with Saudi women or other fellow expats? I have friends who teach yoga, fitness classes, cooking classes, language courses, piano, art, sewing, etc. You can make a little money and sharpen your skills.

  7. Get caught up on your to-do list. In Riyadh, you will likely have more time on your hands, especially if you hire a helper to help with cleaning. This is your time to catch up on something you always put off in your home country. Have a list of books that you’ve been dying to read that you never read? Now is the time to tackle it. What about finally making that baby book for your 18-year old? Carpe Diem, baby. Maybe you have knitting projects that you’ve had lying in a basket for years. Why not finish them now and foist them off on unsuspecting relatives? Enjoy this period with unprecedented amounts of free time. You’ll never have it again!

  8. Travel. Riyadh is a great jumping off point for travel to so many different countries, especially within Asia. Surf the web a bit, dream of far-off lands and book a ticket. You won’t regret it. Many expats also find they have more discretionary money for travel so enjoy it while you can.

  9. Start a small business. There are so many opportunities for small businesses. The coffee morning bazaars are filled with entrepreneurs who are sharing their skills by creating great products like homemade balms and creams, jams, framed photo prints, holiday items, etc.

  10. Get involved. I can’t stress this one enough. There are so many great organizations to join. Being involved with an organization will you make friends and be involved in something meaningful. The Women’s Skills Bureau is an organization designed to help expat women in Riyadh not only find work within KSA but also settle in. You can find more information about them at http://www.wsb-ksa.com/. WSB isn’t the only organization for women within Riyadh as many nationalities host women’s groups and organization. Look around and you’ll find a worthy place to contribute your talents and skills.

  11. Shopping. Riyadh boasts some exceptional shopping. There are many malls to choose from offering some really great shops. If you a designer snob, you will discover paradise at the malls. The best part is that these shops feature some great sales that you shouldn’t miss.

  12. Enjoy the outdoor activities Riyadh offers. Okay, I know Riyadh regularly hits insanely hot temps in the summer. However, winter and spring are really quite nice for outdoor activities. You can go hiking out in the desert and lose that abaya for a few hours. The desert isn’t just rolling sand dunes, which are lovely and fun, but also has some unique geological sites that are interesting to explore. My kids love looking for marine fossils and rocks in the desert. There are a few riding schools where you can ride horses. You can golf at the InterContinental Hotel or Arizona Golf Resort Compound. And don’t forget swimming. Swimming is practically a year-round activity, especially with a heated pool for the cooler months. On Christmas morning last year, our family enjoyed an hour swimming and splashing in the pool, just because we could

  13. Explore the city. Riyadh has a great National Museum filled with art and history of Saudi Arabia. Be sure to check the hours for families as you’ll be denied admittance if you try and go during the men-only hours. Don’t miss Janadriyah Cultural Festival which celebrates and shares the unique culture of Saudi Arabia. Held in the spring, this two-week festival is packed with food, dancing, music, historical displays, and regional displays which are really breathtaking.

    At the Janadriyah Festival, this man shows how netting was done for a ship
    At the Janadriyah Festival, this man shows how netting was done for a ship


Moving to Riyadh does not have to be a sentence of boredom and despair. Get creative and enjoy your time to explore, relax, and have fun. Be sure to network with women and men in your compound and other school parents to learn about organizations and events that interest you. You’ll be surprised at how quickly you’ll find meaningful ways to pass your time in Riyadh.

About the author

Expat Blog ListingTiffany Wacaser is an American expat living in Saudi Arabia. Blog description: A family of seven exploring Riyadh through the mundane and extraordinary.
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Contest Comments » There are 7 comments

Rich McClellan wrote 6 years ago:

Awesome article. Thanks!

Joanne Green wrote 6 years ago:

Great writing! Love it, love it, love it!

Martha Rey wrote 6 years ago:

Great article! Big help for people like me who arrived to Riyadh without any information on what was possible to do but with good enough information on the limitations we had as a women. Thank you so much for a fun read and for passing all the good info and advices.

Cathy wrote 6 years ago:

Friends back home should read this to see part,of life here.

Lori wrote 6 years ago:

You've hit on the attitude needed to make living in Riyadh (and many other 'foreign' locales) an enjoyable experience! Curiosity, a sense of adventure and a willingness to share your interests, skills and talents with others. Will definitely share with expats considering a move to Riyadh.

Celia Samater wrote 6 years ago:

Great read Tiffany - there are a lot of things to do in Riyadh if you embrace what is on offer. Your positivity shines through!! Thank you for the recommendation. Celia x

Hafizah wrote 6 years ago:

Thank You for the article very helpful to many! I am a Muslim woman and I really don't understand the no driving for women rule even my stepdad who has studied Islamic studies his whole life doesn't get it and I can't wait till I can drive here since my family is living here and I'm turning sixteen next year Insha'Allah! I was a little offended when you mentioned having to wear a black robe and not being able to show off your cute clothes because in many compounds you don't have to wear the ABAYA (black robe) and definitely not in women centers as well as some malls such as hayaat mall and panorama mall, I personally really appreciate the rule it makes me feel more equal to other women, it helps me respect them more and I really feel honored and protected and I feel that my sisters are as well. Well thanks again for the article, bye!

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