Lieutenant Colonel, US Army (Retired), MS, PMP, LSSMBB
Diplomatic Quarters (DQ) Wadi Walk
Designed and constructed in the mid to late 1970s, the Diplomatic Quarter (more popularly known as ‘The DQ’) is home to foreign embassies, international organizations, residencies, retail malls and parks. It is one of Riyadh’s greenest areas and is considered an architectural model for other Islamic cities.
Located on the western edge of the Saudi capital, the DQ borders the Wadi Hanifah.
Encircling the area, the DQ’s perimeter is approximately 30 kilometers (18 miles) in length.
Within that perimeter is an 11 mile ‘Wadi Walk,’ a trail constructed primarily of natural stone that serves as a walking, jogging or bike trail.
In the 1980s and 1990s, these trails were popular with Saudi families, who love picnics. Unfortunately, following the 9/11 attacks in the United States, an upswing in terrorism within the KSA led to restricted access to the DQ. This has resulted in a relatively ‘empty’ Wadi Walk ever since.
Along this walk are stone structures, shaded walkways covered by Pergolas, seating and picnic areas, exercise stations, parks and, most impressive of all, sweeping natural and urban vistas that provide an opportunity to observe spectacular sunset views…or the Ritz Carlton…and cool evening breezes.
In addition along the walk, one will come across water channels, fountains and indigenous plants and trees grown from seed gathered in the desert…scented flowers, shrubs and trees such as jasmine and palm trees that attract numerous birds to include bee-eaters, bitterns, mynahs, palm doves and yellow-vented bulbuls. Such nature creates an exceptionally idyllic, tranquil and relaxing natural and open air experience. It’s an amazing ambiance one will remember for quite some time.
The Wadi Walk can be accessed at multiple locations from within the DQ. Just look for the WALKING TRAIL signs along the perimeter. Easiest access, however, is in the vicinity of either Traffic Circle 1 (North end gate to DQ), Traffic Circle 6 (South end gate to DQ), the Diplomatic Security Special Forces (DSSF) Headquarters or the Tuwaiq Palace.
While photography is generally ‘frowned upon’ and questioned if observed within the DQ by the Saudi Diplomatic Security Special Forces (DSSF), it can be done as long as one does so prudently.
In general, as long as one does not (1) take photos of the DQ entrance gates, (2) DQ embassies and facilities or (3) walk around with a camera in the open, one can take some memorable shots.
Bottom line, when not taking a surreptitious shot, keep the camera hidden in your pocket or backpack.
WADI WALK TIPS
If associated with the US Embassy, there is a club that sponsors a weekend walk nearly every week.
Depending on stops along the way, the walk along the entire 11 mile path can take 3 – 4 hours.
Hydrate a bit before the start and ensure to bring water.
Restrooms are available in most of the park areas along the way.
For protection from the sun, a hat and sunscreen are highly encouraged.
Always a good idea to bring a cell phone.
While the Wadi Walk is a well laid out path, it is encouraged that one wear comfortable walking/hiking shoes.
Given the length of the walk, one may wish to bring an energy bar or two.
Given the sun and potential heat, light color clothing and long sleeves are recommended.
Given the multiple Wadi Walk access points, one need not traverse the entire circuit in one day; stop along the way, explore, exit, and return another day.