Kate Brundage, Tricia Franck and Michelle Tillery
Kate Brundage, Tricia Franck and
Michelle Tillery
Photograph by Aramco ExPats

On Friday, June 4, after four days of whirlwind tours, educators were given a morning to relax and unwind in preparation for a 4:30 p.m. departure from the King Fahd Airport to Riyadh. In the morning, the Dhahran School Teachers invited the Houston Educators for coffee, casual visiting and the sharing of ideas.

Laurie Swanson, third grade teacher, and her husband, Fred, graciously hosted the coffee at her house in Dhahran Hills; Tricia Franck and other wonderful Dhahran teachers helped with the preparations. Laurie and Tricia, both teachers from the Hills School, taught in Abqaiq during the 1970’s.


Riyadh - Kingdom Dome
in Background
Photograph by Aramco ExPats

Riyadh, with a population exceeding two million, is the Capital of Saudi Arabia and is the seat of government; ministries, embassies, and diplomatic missions. It is also home to several educational, financial, agricultural, cultural, technical, commercial and social organizations.

There are two university campuses in Riyadh, King Saud University and Imam Mohammad bin Saud Islamic University.

There are 17 branches of the Riyadh municipality in various quarters, the most significant being:

  1. Qasr Al-Hukm Area - This area contains the Riyadh city hall.
  2. The Diplomatic Quarter - Located in the northwest; it contains more than 90 foreign embassies, missions, and international organizations.
  3. The Ministry of Information Complex - This broadcasting center contains the Ministry of Information, Broadcasting station and television studio.
  4. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs Complex
  5. The Ministry of Interior
  6. King Fahd Stadium - Designed in a shape of a large round Arabic tent, this stadium contains a football field that accommodates 80,000 fans.

Other notable features of the city are Riyadh Water Tower, The National Museum, The Zoo, The King Fahd National Library, King Khalid International Airport, The Equestrian Club and the 93 kilometer ring road encircling the city.

Kingdom Centre

While in Riyadh, Houston educators stayed at the luxurious Four Seasons Hotel Riyadh at Kingdom Centre. Said to be "ultra-chic" (and it is !), the Four Seasons is close to the commercial center of Riyadh, its businesses, arts, cultural and shopping centers complete with modern boutiques and open-air markets.

The Kingdom Centre encompasses the Four Seasons and the Kingdom Shopping Mall. It is the tallest building in Saudi Arabia and the tallest skyscraper in the world below 50 floors. The architectural design was planned to be an "iconic symbol" of Saudi Arabia. The selection process for the design took three years and over 100 submissions by major architectural firms. The winning design included a tower culminating in a triangular opening spanned by a 56 meter skybridge and public observation deck. The building won the Skyscrapers.com Award in 2002, selected the "best new skyscraper of the year for design and functionality".

Ladies on the tour experienced the "Ladies Kingdom" at the Kingdom Shopping Mall, a floor catering strictly to women only. They went from one upscale shop to another deciding what shoes, bags and accessories would be best suited for them. Most went home with "Starbucks - Saudi Arabia" mugs.

King Abdulaziz Historical Center

Fadia Hourani
Fadia Hourani Conducts Tours

Educators were given a
very informative tour of the
King Abdulaziz Historical Center
by Fadia Hourani.

The King Abdulaziz Historical Center is the largest museum and historical center in the Arab world. In 1999, the Centennial of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (1319-1419) was held to mark the 100th anniversary of the entering of Riyadh by King Abdulaziz Al-Saud and the subsequent founding of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. This landmark facility was a key project in the centenary celebration of the Unification of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and features more than 33,000 square meters of heritage exhibition space. There are 30 separate components to the museum including film and video production, computer interactives, graphic multimedia, soundscapes, and specialty multimedia. Significantly, all components were designed in adherence to Islamic views of history, science, and society.

Other commerative undertakings of the Centennial include:

1. King Abdul Aziz Park
2. King Abdul Aziz Foundation for Research and Archives
3. Restoration of Muraba palace (The Palace of King Abdul Aziz)
4. Restoration of King Abdul Aziz Mosque
5. The National Museum
6. A branch of King Abdul Aziz public library
7. A conference Hall

Houston Educators
Houston Educators on
Top of the World!
Photograph by Aramco ExPats

Following the tour, the guests had a delicious dinner with a magnificent view of Riyadh from the 77th floor of the Kingdom Dome. After dinner, educators took an elevator up to the top floor for a walk across the skybridge. Once again, they were on top of the world!