Winter Wonderland: Exploring Saudi Arabia’s Seasonal Activities 

Madain Saleh rocks in KSA at night

When someone mentions Saudi Arabia, the first things to pop in our minds are probably a hot, desert landscape with majestic dunes, sprawling modern cities with huge skyscrapers, and luxury. But Saudi Arabia has so much more for everyone to experience all year-round. Yes, even in the winter! 
Winter in Saudi Arabia may not be the snowy, picturesque image of winter decades that the media have imprinted upon us, but it still is winter, peaking in December and January. Temperatures drop to a cool 68o degrees Fahrenheit (20o Celsius) during the day, with nights being a lot colder. 

That hot desert that you are picturing can become legitimately freezing during winter nights. However, if you dress warmly, you’ll be able to experience stargazing in some of the crisper, most breath-taking open skies, away from the light pollution of the city. Or for a cozy experience, grab some friends and camp around a bonfire! 

Chilling Adventures

And while you’re there, you might want to follow the world-famous Dakar rally (formerly known as the Paris-Dakar), a grueling desert race of determination and endurance that has excited generations of fans. Or if you’re brave enough, participate in the race yourself? Racing is only one of the many sports activities you can engage in during the Saudi winter months. 

While sand dunes are not quite skiing material, you’d be wrong to assume skiing is off the table entirely. You can ski, ice skate and more, as close as a few minutes away from your Antara residence. All you’d need to do is visit the Mall of Saudi, or any other one places that host one of the many man-made, indoors winter sports venues.  

Or better yet, go to one of the snowy northern mountain areas for some adventurous, albeit chilly, snow-hiking and camping.  In January, consider Jebel Fihrayn north of Riyadh, or Jabal Sawda in the Asir region for some fresh snow. If you’re particularly lucky, you might even witness snow-covered sand dunes, a magnificent, once-in-a-lifetime sight, let alone a once-in-a-lifetime trek. 

Winter Wonderland

If you’d rather not take it to extremes, though, you can enjoy the mild winter weather right in the middle of Riyadh with all the activities you can enjoy throughout the year, in addition to the Riyadh Winter Wonderland festival that elicits imagery not typically associated with the Middle East, or the luminous Riyadh Winter Lights festival that lights up the entire city into one magical light show. Or if you don’t mind the trip, you could experience and enjoy the Saudi culture in The Janadriyah festival at the tail end of winter or early spring. 
Winter in Saudi Arabia is a very different, but equally rich and diverse experience as summer in Saudi Arabia. So, if you’re planning on visiting or moving to Riyadh, forget the stereotypes, and make sure to also pack a coat.