Giving Directions in Riyadh

directions001Fortunately all of the main thoroughfares of Riyadh are generally well marked. And by well marked I mean that street names have been designated as well as having well-known landmarks. But if one happens to live in a typical residential neighborhood or going to visit someone in a typical Riyadh neighborhood, then navigation can begin to get challenging. Why’s that you may ask? Well, I have learned that there are many residential neighborhoods where there are no street signs or any visible indication of what the street is called. In addition, the houses may not even have house numbers. As a result it becomes imperative to learn how to give directions with precise land marks.

For example, I have a good friend who lives off of the King Khalid Highway. In order to get to her house I know I have to take Exit “X”, make an immediate u-turn and then take the first road to the right (and of course there is no road sign). Then I proceed to the 3rd road to the right and turn. I follow this road and after passing the first mosque, I then take the next road to the left. Her villa is the 5th villa on the right. These are typical of driving instructions in Riyadh!

*actual directions have been modified to protect privacy

43 Responses

  1. Well, giving directions in Riyadh certainly has not changed over the years. I have to admit, however, that I found the technique rather efficient, and certainly easier than reading a map.

    My daughters have gotten modernly Americanized during the ten years we’ve been in the USA. They simply plug an address into their GPS devices.

    I am appalled. I’ll take the Riyadh method, any day!

  2. With one modification, however. Instead of “turn right at the mosque, then left at the shawerma stand,” I’d rather hear “turn north at the mosque, then west at the shawerma stand.” That way, getting lost is less likely.

  3. Marahm-are you sure about the risks of getting lost? Many people are cardinal directions challenge!

    born where north is toward the lake, now living where south is toward the lake, still have to point myself toward the lake:-)

  4. im the sort of person the compass was made for…and thats just to keep me entertained with its little wheelybobber while I stand there scratching my head in frustration.

    I get lost in the mall?

  5. Oh, I suppose many people are directionally challenged, indeed! I hadn’t thought of that. However, anyone who confuses north with south will also confuse right with left. Hm… maybe street names, and maps, are not such a bad idea after all.

    I can’t imagine Riyadh ever naming any but its busiest streets. Why would city planners want to make it easy for people to find each other?

  6. I found it much easier to get around ANYWHERE if the vehicle I’m in has that digital compass but you’ll find most folks who give directions here will tell you left and right rather than north, south, etc.

  7. Yes marahm, too much of reliance on technology to take us places sometimes does lead to disasters. There are enough stories on the net of people driving off their vehicles into rivers/trees by just relying on their GPS co-ordinates.

    check this link out

  8. I looooove my GPS!
    Actually, It’s about high time I write a post on it!
    Anyway Riyad being as it is getting a gps-map reference might be more useful than directions. ?

  9. Marahm-I apologize, but I must beg to differ on this exceedingly important point (especially at this particular global juncture in time). :)

    Some people who are cardinally directionally challenged are better at left/right directions being monodextrous, like myself. The ambidextrous are indeed impaired, like my father, whilst (love that british whilst) some, like my sister, came handily (all puns intended) with a birthmark on the palm of one of their ambidextrous hands that provides a lifelong reference.?

    Rasputin- LOL . I have been in the backseat when a friend kept reorienting her husband to the GPS directions, while he kept saying “Chiara knows the campus, how do I get off campus to the main street, Chiara?”. In fact, if she had looked up, she would have known the same. Fortunately there were no rivers or wayward trees nearby!:)

    Back to Riyadh-it sounds as though Riyadhis (? gr, ?sp) have developed the most functionally adaptive system of giving directions. In similar settings the adjunctive method (before cell phones) was to stop and ask along the way for the x neighbourhood, and then the house of x “you know the one with the really tall son, and the daughter who is doctor”. Maids are very good for this type of recognition and help.:)

  10. Be careful you don’t become indoctrinated into your GPS.

    You are trusting it to give you the direction accurately, but it too may malfunction and take you where you did not intend to go. Be sure you know both ways, how to get there without it and where the GPS will direct you. That way you will know for sure.?

  11. Susan, oh, yes, I always check on the map, and then use my GPS as sort of back-up rather. Also, they can send you via some pretty weird tourist scenic routes, no, I always know where I’m going for myself as well!?
    However I must say my new one is véry good!

  12. Oh Chiara! I can do things with both my left and right hand … although not always the same things.

    Sometimes when I say, go to the right, I hold up my left hand, because I guess, we know the right-side of the brain controls the left side of the body.

    To which it’s also posited that those who are left handed are in their right minds.?

  13. While I’m not in Riyadh, what are the directions to the little different emoticons? Chiara, you said you found some new ones? Please? I’m getting tired of these same two …

  14. Susan I have made a list on the bottom of this page on my Dutch blog. Enjoy!

  15. Susan- I finally got the winky down? , after some google searching but probably the best, most useful summary is Aafke’s which she shared on another blog. I think if we all respect that the green evil smiley is hers alone in our little community, in the interest of improved communication, she would consent to sharing the following from her Dutch-language blog:

    : ) wordt
    ; ) wordt
    : x wordt
    : ( wordt
    : D wordt
    : P wordt

    Re: dexterity I am ambidextrous for some things as learned behaviours (like touch typing, piano playing, surgical assisting), but definitely right dominant (thanks to mom). On the other hand (oh dear another pun), thanks to my father I am a left breathing swimmer, and a left legged synchronized swimmer). My sister on the on the hand (can’t resist), used to change hands an handwriting to match that of her favourite primary school teacher from year to year.?

  16. Ah the cut and paste job didn’t work so well, another attempt

    : ) wordt :)
    ; ) wordt ?
    : x wordt ?
    : ( wordt ?
    : D wordt ?
    : P wordt ?

  17. Thank ya!

  18. Thanks Aafke, my consent issues are now relieved. The miracle of simultaneous international commenting!

  19. Chiara said: “Susan– I finally got the winky down”

    In light of recent side-bar comments, I’m not even goin’ there! lol

  20. I have to think about the things I do left and/or right handed.

    Tennis – left and right
    Ping Pong – left and right
    Swimming – left breather, primarily
    Rifle – stock on right shoulder, but left-eyed
    Pistol – left and left
    Fencing – left and right
    Archery – left and right
    Write – left
    Dining – Continental, left of course – but can eat with my right too?
    Typing – as per instruction

  21. I had found out the evil green smiley later, funny i just updated the page with these two:

    : oops : becomes ?
    and the famous wicked greensmiley
    : mrgreen : becomes:mrgreen:

    Don’t want to hog anything good to myself!

  22. And I don’t know if this one works on wordpress:

    : roll : ?

  23. yes, it does!

  24. ”Giving directions on smileys”

  25. I trying to learn archery both left and right, becasue I want to be able to do it from horseback!

  26. I like my husband’s way of finding his way…he will engage a taxi and follow the taxi whether in Saudi, USA or any other country!

  27. American Bedu-an excellent system. Most taxi drivers know, or can radio a buddy, or stop and ask!

  28. It’s suggested to start on a smaller horse then. You won’t fall off as far!

    Which reminds me. Mounting the horse on the left. I remember when I was first learning, I pushed up with my right leg too hard and went straight over the other side, landed on the ground on the right!

    Was about to go around the back of the horse to try again, and my instructor said to me, no, don’t go around the back of the horse, he may kick you because he’s still laughing about the way you tried to get on his back.?

  29. Aafke, almost forgot, you’ve looked into the nomadic Mongolians and their horses, yes?

  30. Susan, yes, That’s why I have a tradition style Mongolian/chinese recurve bow.
    And I allready have a little chit of a horse! All the girls with their big Dutch warmbloods look down on me!

    Ofcourse the Tarq beats all those big warmbloods and Frisians all over the meadow, he is the absolute boss!

  31. lol i always thought it happens cause its Madina, i thought it would be much better in the capital. well think it would take another decade to improve that.

  32. at least lordhexter!

  33. Remember that Arabs consider the left hand the sinister hand…a no no for eating…handing things to others and being all together to touchy feely with it isnt taken to kindly either…so just remember when giving directions…dont be too flamboyant with the lefty…it might be taken the wrong way?

    About the only thing I can do left handed with any amount of dexterity is the middle finger salute to annoying idiots attempting to drive their cars in my personal space… :mr green:

  34. mr green evil smiley didnt work?

  35. I only works for Aafke. I’ve tried it in the past too. :mrgreen:

  36. got it-no spacing including mrgreen

  37. Yes, some say that but some also say it’s a sign of genius (I don’t know about that!).

  38. :mrgreen:

  39. Giving directions here reminds me of back in the U.S. I could never remember street names so I gave directions by landmarks like turn right at the corner with the walgreens on one side and the coldstone across the street. I also learned my way around that way. Driving through Phoenix was always interesting.

  40. Typical directions in Ireland go something like “Do you see that turn off to the left down there – well, don’t take that.” However, it’s a small enough place that even when you’re lost, you’re not that far from where you need to be.

  41. Oh I thought typical directions in Ireland were “you go 100 yds and turn left, when you get 100 yds turn right, 100 yds straight then at the bottom of the hill go 100 yds left again”. Maybe those are the directions for a french-looking canadian tourist with american-looking moroccan tourist trying to find their way in Coook (or Cork as I foolishly called it):-)

  42. […] streets in Saudi Arabia continue to be unnamed.  And not all the homes will have house numbers either.  It certainly can make navigating in […]

  43. Hi, here is a new way to easily locate places in countries that does not have an efficient postal code system, you might be interested in it. It is called Makaney Code it is a non-profit project, here is the website: If GPS systems started supporting such code life will be much easier in traveling..thanks for the blog.

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