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Traveller's diary: Riyadh


Traveller's diary: Riyadh

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Auctions can be dangerous places, scratch your nose or move an arm and you could land yourself with a costly bill for an old coffee pot of dubious provenance. Our hands stayed firmly by our sides as we filmed an open-air auction in the centre of Riyadh.

Under the hammer a variety of goods all of course claimed by the auctioneer to be authentic antiques. He commanded the small square and the pace of the bidding, shouting and cajoling the crowd into parting with their cash.

This was a unique corner of the capital of Riyadh where men gathered to do business, swap stories and drink tea. No one was quite sure when the auction was first held here but were certain its origins go back generations.

Shopping of course doesn’t have to be at an auction there is a great spread of malls including in The Kingdom Tower one of Saudi Arabia’s most spectacular properties. We took a sight seeing trip up the 65 storey 300 metre skyscraper to the viewing bridge. It is the world’s third largest building.

Coming to terms with the slight sway – and it wasn’t a windy day took a few minutes so too did loosening our grips on the handrail! It is times like this you realise if you are built for heights. I am not. But what a stunning view stretching across the capital of the Kingdom.

This is a city that has mushroomed from a population of 150,000 in 1950 to over five million today. Riyadh is a city on the move and claimed to be one of the fastest growing in the world. The constant momentum across the vast area is the abiding memory from the viewing platform enhanced by the fact the light was fading and everywhere lights were coming on.

Time for a snack and a spot of window shopping in the mall below which included a visit to a jewellers. There we were shown a diamond ring. It was breathtaking and the price reflected its beauty – over a million euros.

Perhaps that is the city’s unique charm – a place where you can spend over a million euros on a diamond or try and pinch a bargain at a traditional auction and enjoy a cup of tea with the locals.

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