As experience shows, the brighter the sun shines somewhere – the more photos are taken…
So when in the capital of sunny Saudi Arabia, a great many pics are taken. Even more if you get to the top of a skyscraper here…
And we got up to the top of Kingdom Centre, one of the country’s tallest buildings, which weighs in at more than 300 meters high ->
At the very top there’s a bridge that’s open to tourists ->
// Those little black dots? Industrial climbers? Or are they washing the windows? )
And this is what it’s like inside:
Woah views ->
To get the right impression of a city, I reckon you must walk around it. Alas, Riyadh’s not suitable for walking since it’s just so hot – sometimes +45⁰С. Also (probably because of the heat) the city’s just not set up for pedestrians – it’s pretty much car-only. There wasn’t even any public transport here until recently, as everyone just drove. But that’s changing…
Riyadh is a city you view from well air-conditioned buildings:
Bizarre empty patches on land that seems to have prime real-estate potential…
The first time I was here in the Saudi capital was in 2013 (photos only; Russian text) – nine years ago – and I was at the top of this same tower back then too. So what’s changed? I’ll let you see for yourself (spot the difference)…
Not much different, right? Ah – construction of that there white rectangular tower block in the foreground’s been completed. And a few skyscrapers toward the back end of the central strip have appeared too. But that’s about it. One thing hasn’t changed: the traffic jams ->
To the left – the sprawl of low buildings has stayed much the same:
Meanwhile here’s something I was surprised at. The vacant lots with the odd bit of unfinished construction – still there as they were in 2013! ->
Another few additions:
In the Kingdom as a whole though there have been changes – tectonic ones. You can’t see them from the skyscrapers, but you can if you get back on the ground – and go somewhere like the MENA Information Security Conference…
Here’s our stand there:
I obliged, as per – working the tongue and hands, telling folks about the cyber-present and the cyber-future. It’s just what I do…
In the audience I noticed something that in the past was conspicuously absent in Saudi: women! Indeed, the fairer sex (can I still say that?!) are getting more and more freedom. Good!
In 2013 I was fairly taken aback by how certain things were here. Of course I’d heard of the “local specific”, but it’s only when you see it with your own eyes that it kinda hits you. For example, at the hotel we were staying at there were two bars. One was strictly for men only, the other – strictly for women only. And when we walked past the various boutiques there selling clothes and accessories, they were single-sex too – and not just in terms of what was on sale, but also of being allowed in. I gave a speech at the university – and the audience was made up of just men. At the end questions were taken from the “female contingent”, but… they were in the next room watching the proceedings on a TV screen! That was all in 2013…
Fast-forward to 2022, and all that’s changed. Ladies can go where they like with no restrictions whatsoever, and headscarves are no longer mandatory. Around a hundred kilometers from the capital in a small town we witnessed women out and about: they were dressed hijabs, but they were unaccompanied by men. That was simply impossible in the past.
Another welcome +1: women are allowed to drive cars. I saw one such lady behind the wheel myself – curiously, stopped in the road with her hazard lights on, on the phone no doubt seeking roadside assistance (and causing a traffic jam behind her!).
I was told how, since the change to the law re women drivers, sales of Chinese cars have gone up sharply. Apparently, insurance for Chinese cars doesn’t have any restrictions on women drivers, or something like that (if anyone can confirm this or otherwise – please > the comments:).
But it’s not just gender-based progress that’s noticeable these days. The whole economy is undergoing a transformation. And that includes the country’s big plans to become one of the cyber-oases of the modern world. But I told you about that in my post from early February when I was last here. Of course this means I come here more often of late for conferences and meetings. All very interesting; all very promising – including on the cyber immunity front.
Meanwhile, back at the top of the tower… what can we see? Traffic jams! Not the worst in the world, but still unpleasant. I kinda dreaded the drive back to the hotel.
The density of the construction here – off the scale. Where are the parks?! Still, with temperatures like this – who needs them? )
These guys scaling the outside of the skyscraper (it seems – repairing the window frames). Just looking at them gives me the willies ->
That’s all for today folks from Saudi, but I’ll be back with more tomorrow!…
All the pics from Saudi Arabia are here.