The difference between Riyadh’s two principal neighborhoods is day and night. Literally.
Daytime Riyadh bakes in the desert heat, its modern skyline often blotted by heat haze, sand storms and pollution. From May to September, temperatures typically soar above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Locals and visitors do their best to reduce their exposure to the vicious sun, taking refuge in air-conditioned buildings and traveling between them in air-conditioned vehicles.
After sunset, the temperature drops by 10 degrees or more, and a new city blossoms. Sidewalks and parks that, during the day, are sun-bleached and empty suddenly flood with people and color. The city lights up with neon and the sounds of families out strolling.
The World Sights Park just east of downtown, beside the Eastern Ring Road, proves a particularly charming place in which to mingle with locals. Here a trail leads you among spot-lit scaled replicas of famous international landmarks — the Taj Mahal, the Eiffel Tower, Egypt’s pyramids, Rome’s Coliseum — as well as a cluster of familiar Riyadh buildings.
Close by, the Saqer-Aljazirah Aviation Museum displays an excellent collection of aircraft and memorabilia spanning the entire history of aviation in Saudi Arabia. The exhibits are housed both indoors and in the surrounding gardens. Arrive in the hour before sundown to see the planes outside in the best light. The museum is open 4–8 p.m.