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Forty years ago the
population of Arriyadh was just 100,000. Now it is 6.5 million. 64 percent are
Saudi citizens. The greatest number of the expatriates living and working in
the city are from Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Indonesia and Philippines. There
are also workers from Arab countries that include Yemen, Egypt, Sudan, Lebanon
and Syria. European, North American, South Africans, Russian, Antipodeans and
Chinese foreign personnels are engaged with vast range of new infrastructural
projects. Arriyadh has become one
of the most cosmopolitan cities in the Arab world. Wide range of cuisines can
be found in the city’s many eateries.
Riyadh has two national English language newspapers, the Saudi Gazette
and Arab News.
Saudi working hours reflect the movement in daytime temperatures. Most
government offices open at 7:30 am and close at 2:30 pm Private businesses tend
to work from 8:00 am until noon and then after a break reopen from 4:00 pm to
7:00 pm. Retail banks are open from 9:30 am until 4:30 pm with the exception of
an extended midday break. Shops and markets open until midnight or 11:00 pm.
All shops must close during prayer times. The prayer timings shift throughout
Arriyadh is very much a working capital, in which the business of
government for a country of 29 million people is interlaced with the activities
of commerce, industry, banking and finance, diplomacy and academia.
Because so much of the city is of recent construction, the ADA has been
able to co-ordinate and plan its expansion, to ensure a modern highway system
which includes two ring roads, the second of which, an eight-lane highway. A
third ring road is at the planning stage. The city’s main artery is King Fahad
Road, which runs roughly north to south alongside Olaya Street. Nevertheless, Arriyadh is not immune
from acute and growing traffic congestion throughout much of the day. Indeed
there are times, particularly during rush hours, when traffic becomes
gridlocked. Drivers stuck in their vehicles may not always appreciate it, but
their misfortune is a testament to the rapid success of one of the world’s
New Public Transport
System, consisting of a Metro of six inter-connecting lines, integrated with a
Bus Rapid Transit network, which will use dedicated highway lanes, will
revolutionize the way in which the people of Arriyadh and the hundreds of
thousands of visitors who come each year, will travel around the capital. By 2020, when the Public Transport
System will have been fully bedded in and citizens become used to its immense
advantages, the capital’s roads are going to be markedly less congested. The
minority, who still feel the need to travel by car, will be experiencing faster
journeys, generally free of the frustrations of traffic jams.
As it is, the ADA has invested for some years in traffic management
systems. Traffic light discipline has been much improved with extra displays
that countdown the seconds until the lights will change to green. The ADA was
also responsible for introducing the first “Saher” traffic cameras, which are
causing speeding drivers and light jumpers to review their behavior. Now used throughout
the Kingdom, the original ADA Saher system is beginning to have a significant
impact on driving standards in Saudi Arabia, which unfortunately has one of the
highest road fatality rates in the world.
King Khalid International Airport, equipped to handle 18 million
passengers a year through three of its four terminals, last year almost 14
million people came through the airport in some 135,000 flight movements by 36
international and domestic airlines.
Arab Satellite Communications Organisation (Arabsat) and offers powerful and
cost-efficient telecommunications channels, provided by genuinely competitive
players. Saudi Telecom Company (STC) is a major land-line supplier, while three
mobile operators, leading provider Mobily, the joint Saudi-UAE Etihad Itisalat
and the Saudi-Kuwaiti Zain company, offer complete 3G coverage throughout the
capital and over much of Saudi Arabia. All three companies are now also rolling
out super-fast 4G coverage. There
are also 56 internet service providers, 19 satellite communications companies,
three airline telephony businesses and 44 vehicle tracking firms. Arriyadh’s
telecommunications are supported by an advanced mix of fibre optic and
high-speed copper wire connections, complemented by microwave and satellite
Arriyadh’s postal services are not quite up to the standard. Home deliveries for regular standard
mail are still the exception.
However the government-owned Saudi Post Corporation competes with
international courier companies, such as DHL, ARAMEX, FedEx and UPS to provide
efficient and timely domestic and international services.
Power consumption in Arriyadh is currently met by the local generation
capacity of 11, 405 megawatts from 10 generating sets, operated by the Saudi
Electricity Company (SEC) which is 81% government owned.
40 percent of Arriyadh’s water requirements are met from local artesian
wells, while the remainder is pumped to the capital from desalination plants on
the Gulf coast at Jubail. Despite the extra expense, water remains relatively
cheap, though charges are now being raised incrementally, to encourage better
conservation of this precious asset. Water is piped to 96 percent of the
capital’s population and the system continues to expand, as new outlying areas
of the city are developed, for both domestic and business use.