Coffee & Drink in Riyadh
With alcohol, cinema and nightclubs all banned, due to Saudi Arabia being an Islamic country, Riyadh's nightlife is limited. Even that mainstay of the Arab street, shisha (water pipe) cafes, are banned from the center of town — although they can be found just outside city limits at Thumamah St, about 10km away from the center off the road to the airport. Ask a local (or any taxi driver) for his favorite. One place you can go for coffee is in coffee shops, which can be found in abundance throughout the city, particularly on Tahlia St (officially Prince Mohammed Bin Abdul Aziz St) in Olaya.
For the foreign workers (the expats) the social life can be quite rich however. There are always a good party going on in the embassy area or in one of the compounds. In case you run into it, especially within expat communities, Saudi champagne, a non-alcoholic drink, typically a mix of Sprite and apple cider is available.
- The Globe, Al-Faisaliah (entry via South Lobby), +966-1-2732000. Suspended 240 meters above Riyadh in the giant glass ball of the al-Faisaliah building, the Globe is the hippest cafe-restaurant and probably the single best splurge in town. So dimly lit at night that the waiters fade into the shadows, you can settle back in a plush leather seat, order a bottle of (non-alcoholic) bubbly, puff on a Cohiba and watch the lights of the city twinkle below. Reservations required, but they'll make one for you at the lobby if there's space. On the way out, stop at "the experience" level outdoor viewing platform. Day SR100, night SR170 minimum charge, dinner SR175.
- Scoler Express, Khozama Center, +96614622780. One of half a dozen cafes in the alley between al-Faisaliah and the Khozama Hotel, this is the only one that's not an obvious chain outlet. The menu has a good range of drinks hot, cold, caffeinated and juicy, including espressos made with fancy Tonino Lamborghini gear, and the outdoor seating is cooled down with a nifty water spraying system. SR10.