8 Memories of Riyadh from 1990’s which cannot be faded

Riyadh is the capital of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia now. It has a wide range of different skyscrapers that are the highlight of the city. You can find almost every single brand outlet here whether it be Debenhams, GUCCI or just the usual Nike. Now, the city of Riyadh has been so much advanced than it ever was all within a period of twenty years. Hard to believe I suppose, right? Now it is much easier to fit in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia especially for the expatriates that are supposed to start their new lives that are funded by their work in the Kingdom. They might not find the food that they want to eat, that they used to back in their own country but now they can make their way to McDonald’s or KFC or subway to enjoy much of the taste.[irp]

Somehow we always have a look back to the old days that may not have been so good but they somehow always turn up to be better than the ones we have now. Ever thought about your throwback? How your country or state or city was at the time when you were a kid? During those days, you probably had the statement of being called a kid when you were happy enough with a few toys. Now maybe your kids will never be happy until or unless they do not have the latest iPhone only at the age of 10! Similarly, the city of Riyadh was much peaceful and calm. To talk about the features and highlights of the times in the early 90’s, today’s read will genuinely make you miss a few of those good old days!

1-Since there were very few cars in the city you could make plans from traveling to one end of the city to the other within 20 minutes! You weren’t enjoying your ride through underground road networks but because there was only a few cars and thus extremely light traffic. Ever wondered on counting the number of cars registered to every Saudi now? Every Saudi now has minimum one and maximum up to as many as he can afford. So much for the light traffic back in the day.

2-You may remember that most of the cars in the city of Riyadh or in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia were generally white in color. They weren’t painted Black or Turquoise or Red or Magenta. They were plain and simply white!

3-During those days there were only two big malls that always grasped the attention of the citizens, one of them being the Al Akaria Mall and the other one being the Shola Mall. Later, to give a competition to these two was the Al Faisaliyah Center that was constructed in 1998 and opened in 2000.

4-For most of the Expatriates, the easiest way to call home was using the Call Cabins that were available in Batha since cell phones did not exist then. When cell phones did later come into existence, a person could only have five pre-registered numbers only. How many contacts do we each have in our address book or cell phone now?

5-The famous Jarir Bookstore used to sell out censored “Archie” comic books where the female characters were painted black to keep alive their modesty. So, one may somehow cover the characters in black just to see how they looked in Abayas!

6-The Saudi Channel wouldn’t resume the shows after the never-ending commercials! That was always a frustration for everyone, trust me on that!

7-For all the Pilipino expatriates that Magazines and Newspapers such as Liwayway were a week old, however, that was the latest they had. Now we have TFC that never existed before 1995.

8-We could easily explore the Old Dirah without any supervision though now everyone can. Since many people didn’t travel to the city there was less likely damage to spoil the National Landmark.  What else ways do you remember the old city of Riyadh? Sometimes change is good, sometimes not. Sometimes it’s just how things are better off, don’t you agree?

Xerxes Setna: I remember in the mid-90s working on Pepsi-Cola Road and the only Western place to eat within walking distance was Pizza Hut.

Five days a week for 11 months I ate there, on day six we'd go to the Holiday Inn or Marriott (I think), to have one of their fantastic buffet lunches – fortunately, I was young and active so putting on weight wasn't an issue back then. I remember the censorship – buying music cassettes and CDs with female artists covered in black ink as you've described. And yes, most of the cars were white!