The Riyadh Zoo


Recently I had the opportunity to spend an enjoyable and lazy Friday afternoon at the Riyadh Zoo.The Riyadh Zoo is located in the Malaz District of Riyadh not far from the old airport in regards to a point of reference.I was very pleasantly surprised by what I found at the zoo.I have a fondness for zoos and have attempted to visit zoos all over the world during my travels.Normally most zoos in the Middle East region or Southeast Asia are poorly maintained and the animals not necessarily in good shape.

By comparison the Riyadh zoo was clean, spacious, well-organized and inviting.Much thought went into the layout and design of the zoo with most animal exhibition areas having places to sit and be out of the direct sun.

The zoo had the usual menagerie of animals and I’m pleased to say they all appeared health and in good riyadh-zoo-1condition.Perhaps unlike zoos in North America or Europe there were not little feed machines near the cages where one could insert a coin and get food to feed some of the animals.Instead it was pretty common for people to share their own popcorn or pieces of fruit with the animals.It was fascinating to watch at the monkeys cage how the monkeys were so adept at catching the pieces of popcorn visitors would toss to them!I also observed one large monkey who caught a banana tossed to it by yet another visitor.It was fascinating to me to watch how this large monkey opened and ate the banana just like a person…until he also proceeded to eat the peel too!At some monkey cages the monkeys, so accustomed to being fed, would press close to the bars of their cage holding their hands out waiting to be fed!

SAUDI/The zoo is a delightful place to spend an afternoon.Due to its size, 161,000 square meters, it is advisable to plan at least 3 hours for your visit.It is easier to spend even more time and my three hours at the zoo flew by without me being able to see everything on this visit.For those who may not feel like walking around the zoo there are also little trains which give continuous rides around the entire zoo allowing one to view all the pens while sitting in their shaded seat on the open air train.

The zoo has refreshment stands interspersed throughout selling a wide variety of snacks and drinks.Many families also brought their own picnic baskets to the zoo and spread out their blankets on the many green grassy areas.

It was pleasing to see all the Saudi families who were out and enjoying the zoo.Children will be children everywhere with not only their fascination of animals but attempts to mimic their sounds or faces made.

Admission to the zoo is ten riyals per person.I highly endorse and recommend anyone based in Riyadh to make an effort one day and spend at afternoon at the Riyadh zoo.



38 Responses

  1. A zoo can be an “oasis” in the city, a really fun back to childhood, back to nature time. Glad to hear Riyadh has such a nice one for families to enjoy.

  2. A.Bedu, I have a question that is not related to this topic.
    I love the blog “In Making”, do you know why she is not bloging since the fall?
    Thank you,

  3. I took my class to the zoo last spring, and I have to say I was less than impressed. Some of the animals were sick, including ostriches with missing feathers and eyes sewn shut, camels missing their hair, and sea lions with swollen, red eyes from swimming in their GREEN pool water. The strangest display was that of dogs, regular dogs, in a small area together.
    They Riyadh Zoo is probably better off than some zoos in the middle east, but definately not what I expected it to be.

  4. Umm Sumayah

    I have to agree…generally when I see animals presented in some form of park setting…as in deer in cages or birds etc…they are for the most part kept in poor conditions. Often very unclean environment…small enclosures…no clean water etc…

    The worst thing is that they are not kept far enough away from the viewing public….in which case they can be harrassed by onlookers…anything from throwing things at them to throwing things into the cages…its very sad to see the total disrespect giving to animals here in the Middle East (generally speaking here).

  5. umm sumayah, I was impressed with what I saw – healthy animals with food and water. I did see there was a pen called “Desert dogs” but these dogs did look different and reading the story board about them their heritage was quite mixed.

  6. Actually, i’d agree with Bedu that the animals seem healthy and overall the Zoo is not at all bad. The only complaint I had was that I went on a really warm day so most big animals (elephant, cheetah etc) were hiding in shady spots and couldn’t be seen – and my son was disappointed! All he got to actually see properly was the birds & monkeys.

    I recently found out Friday is family day at the Zoo – I always thought it was for mothers & kids only during the week, with some days allotted to fathers & children. So am looking forward to going with my husband some day.

  7. It’s a great outing for a family and be sure to pack along a nice picnic basket and blanket to sit on. Many families did this the day I went and you could see they were having a great time making a full day at the Zoo.

  8. one more valuable information

    thank you sister

  9. You’re welcome, Srinivas!

  10. The main picture is priceless! What a face

  11. I am somewhat relieved to hear that the zoo there seems to be ok for the animals, as I always wonder and worry about zoos overseas. The Jakarta zoo, if I remember correctly, was “eh…ok”, but they had an amazing Orang Utan rehabilitation center which I was lucky enough to visit with my after-school conservation club. Even have a picture of me holding one of the youngsters!!!

    My only concern was what you mentioned about people feeding the animals whatever they had in their hands and it not being regulated. Perhaps this is something the zoo should think about changing as it can lead to health and possibly safetly issues.

  12. One great thing about zoos and parks in the Middle East is that, unlike their North American counterparts, they are not out to rip you off and bottled water and snacks cost the same inside the park and outside.

    I have to ask, what WAS the creature in the first photograph on this page?

  13. Mezba.. I kinda see your point but I’d rather pay $5 for a small bottle of water at the zoo and see healthy and relatively happy (who’d really be happy in captivity) animals being well cared for, than pay $1 for the same size water but see sick, bored, and unhealthy animals.

  14. Is this how we’d look like coming out the zoo?! (Referring to first picture!) lol She/he is still lovely 🙂
    I have a love/hate relationship with zoos. On the one hand, those properly managed (and well-funded) provide much needed care to animals especially those endangered. With their state-of-the-art facilities they can be a haven for those animals robbed of their natural habitats. (It’s weird that we’d do that to do them and then feel indebted.)
    On the other hand it’s STILL not their homes. I don’t know what they’d prefer, to be free and roam for food/water/shelter and risk the hunger of predators or be well-fed/kept to ease procreation.

    As for the zoos that don’t care much about their animals they just make me go grrrrrrrrrr! lol Filthy cages/water, inadequate/wrong food, enclosures that don’t allow them to thrive, the list can go on.
    With time though, everything gets better (hopefully!) I’ll visit the Riyadh zoo if I ever come there! It’s among the first things I do when I visit a new place. You get to know a bit about a people from the way they treat their neighbors!
    Thank you for writing!

  15. I much prefer Safaris…. there’s one near Toronto where I live called African Lion Safari (in Cambridge), really good.

    As for zoos.. I thought all Middle East Zoos are well funded and can care for their animals properly (well, except Gaza zoo now). I have very fond memories of Alain Zoo as a kid.

  16. One of the best zoos I have visited was the one in Singapore which makes maximum use of minimum land, and has a contemporary natural habitat “open” concept for animals grouped by geographical region, and a strong research, education, and conservation program. It could well be a model for other zoos. My only concern was the relative ease with which one could join soporific looking komodo dragons in their enclosure–highly inadvisable.

    Regarding the Riyadh Zoo, I especially like American Bedu’s idea of picnicking there. In addition to her
    excellent post Saudi Aramco published an interesting article in 1990 shortly after the opening on the aims and techniques of the Riyadh Zoo, emphasizing its interest in preserving Arabian species (?hence the dogs? also dingoes according to the article), conservation, education and research. And especially for American Bedu:

    “The zoo already has a successful breeding program for sand cats, thought by some to have been the animal once tamed by ancient Egyptians and thus the ancestor of the domestic tabby of today. There are about 30 sand cats in captivity worldwide, and 14 of those are in the Riyadh Zoo, where they are favorites of children.”

  17. Mezba, to me It looks like an emu … idk

  18. I heard a story in a local newspaper how one of the gorillas in the Zoo managed to learn to smoke cigarettes by watching the visitors. 0_o

  19. It is hard to look at the gorillas when we go to the zoo. They seem way to much like people, it’s creepy.

  20. My wife and I love animals very, very much as you can see by my avatar. Its was good to hear of the zoo in Riyadh and the excellent condition it is in. The love animals is something most of us throughout the world have in common I am happy to say 🙂

  21. You might be interested in checking out the bonobo of the Democratic Republic of Congo. They share 98.4% human DNA

  22. After a highly domesticated chimpanzee in the US mauled a woman’s face off, and her hands (they apparently fight dirty going for the face, hands and genitals) I have more trouble seeing them as cute and cuddly, and while human-like in some ways, still wild and far stronger (5x). Even giving the chimp the benefit of the doubt that Lyme disease distorted his behaviour, I think they belong in the wild or in appropriate habitats.

  23. I’m sorry I’m not sure about the pic although I did take it from the zoo web site. It is either an emu or ostrich.

  24. @Carol
    Looks like an emu to me.

    @Mohamed S
    And I’ve seen a cigarette smoking chimpanzee in a zoo in Jeddah 🙂

  25. I will try to write this diplomatically but it is not easy to do… there was a gorilla that had been at the Erie Zoo in Pennsylvania for many years. And did he ever learn how to become a big attraction…. after so many years the silly gorilla would start to masturbate when a group of people were in front of his cage watching him! Needless to say he was finally removed from public view!!!

  26. About the recent chimpanzee incident…I found it strange that all the media were introing the story with headlines such as “what went wrong?”…and “what caused this chimpanzee to exhibit such violent behavior?”

    well…hmmm…let me take a stab at it. Take one wild animal from its natural surroundings…force it to live as some mutated form of a humanbeings life…perceive it as some sort of human child and treat it as such…all the while forgetting conveniently that it is still a wild animal at heart…and, as in all beings that have a mind (and yes monkeys do) the poor chimp reached his breaking point….and another wild animal as a pet trajedy ensued.

    btw Carol…the whole point of placing animals in cages for the pleasure of the viewing public is to allow the public to see them in as natural a surrounding as possible. Now I have no idea whether gorillas take pleasure in self pleasure (I would guess they do unless some guy took the time to teach the Eerie Zoo gorilla the joys of masturbation) but I do wonder why zoo authorities chose to remove him…I mean copulation is seen as a natural animal behavoir and copulating animals are not removed…masturbation is a natural behavoir as well…but I dare say since we prefer to see primates as our distant cousins…I guess it was a little like watching the perv next door get his jones on in his front lawn? Just a thought…

  27. btw on second thought…knowing the workings of the mind of some men on this planet (or lack there of) I can totally see a man introducing a gorilla to the joys of self pleasure…might even catch it on youtube some day…sigh!

  28. well as you can imagine it made for some frank questions by students as the local schools usually made the zoo one of their outings.

  29. Primates have been known to masturbate and not only in captivity. In fact, google the Bonobo (an ape) for an animal with a really interesting sex life 🙂

  30. I love the Riyadh zoo… not bad at all masha’Allah.

  31. Regarding the (e)Erie gorilla, masturbation is also a sign of sensory deprivation and lack of other types of stimulation (so to speak). The public reaction probably reinforced the behaviour. Maybe they found him a nice lady gorilla friend. 🙂 Or maybe he was dementing. 😦

    Travis the Chimp is a tragedy for his victim and for himself, raised in abnormal circumstances and to quote the NYT “He died, heartbreakingly, after making his way [shot and trailing blood] back into his room [full of his toys].”

    The picture of the mystery bird freaks me out every time. LOL 🙂

    Scribbler–thanks for reminding us about the Riyadh Zoo and for your apprection of it.

  32. Hi American Bedu,
    i was just wondering if you could plz tell me the timings,days that are best for a family visit.

  33. Syeda,

    If you click on the hyperlink in the post that will take you to the website for the Riyadh zoo where the various timings are posted. I believe Thursday’s and Friday’s are best for family visits.

  34. Bismillaah (In the name of Allaah)

    Subhan Allaah!! What an ugly creature. hahaa it scared me, lol.

  35. I think the little emu is cute.

  36. are you serious??? the animals are not in good condition most of them are in a bad shape its like one of the worst zoo I’ve ever been! bad zoo management.

  37. Interesting comments here.
    I’m in Riyadh for just a couple of weeks. Pretty bored 😀
    Can I visit the zoo on my own on a Friday afternoon or is it restricted to families?

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