Whenever one thinks of Riyadh the first thought that comes to mind is that of a typical concrete metropolis surrounded by blankets of sandy dunes. That, however, would not be the most accurate description, as just adjacent to the city you will come across something so disparate from what is expected of a desert metropolis like Riyadh; a 120-kilometer long valley known as Wadi Hanifa. The long valley boasts of beautiful ponds, luxuriant trees and exquisite landscapes.
Having visited some of the huge malls, forts and museums during our stay in Riyadh, we were looking for something new and with a few good words from friends who had visited the area before, Wadi Hanifa seemed like the perfect place to visit for our excursion.
The valley is mainly divided in two portions, one in the north of Riyadh and the other in the south. The northern portion is accessible via the western ring road and then on to the Wadi Hanifa road and this runs through most of the northern portion of the valley and gives a nice glimpse of the valley. There are many villages situated on this road and it can give a great insight into the diminishing village life.
After having a wonderful drive on the northern part it was time for us to head out towards to the southern part of the valley which is where most of the ponds are located and it is the more greener portion of the valley. The southern part is accessible via the southern ring road and then on to the Wadi Hanifa road. Please note thought that this road somehow also has the same name as the road to access the northern portion of the valley but there is no link between the two.
In the southern portion of the valley we came across one of the biggest dams I have ever seen. Even though we were there at a time when the floodgates were closed, it was still a sight worth seeing. There are many spots in and around the valley that you can easily find which provide an amazing view of the landscape, these spots are ideal for getting your grill out and having a good old fashioned barbecue – we know we did!
Soon after we continued on our journey going south we came across plenty of parks with loads of recreational activities available in them. These parks are almost always filled with families having barbeques and children playing around.
Other things to look for in the area are the date palm plantations which are being cultivated on the banks of the Wadi, as well as the nice hilly areas which provide an opportunity to gaze at the mesmerizing sunset – it was perhaps the best sunset that I’d ever seen in Riyadh.
The valley takes its name from the ancient Arab tribe of Banu Hanifa, who were the principal tribe in the area at the dawn of Islam, though in those days the valley was better known as Al Irdh.
Personally speaking, I enjoyed the southern part of the valley more as it has more to offer so I would suggest that you visit the northern part first and then come down to the southern part – as the saying goes “save the best for the last.”
On the whole it was a nice change for us after being in Riyadh for quite some days. It was surprising for us that such a place existed and as we did not know what to expect from it, that made it even more memorable for us. It’s a nice way to relax, breathe some fresh air, and it’s the sort of place that people from all age groups can enjoy.