RIYADH: The annual Riyadh Season has, for the first time this year, introduced a desert safari experience as part of its program.
The initiative, whose aim is to attract animal enthusiasts from around the world, took seven months to come to fruition. The safaris will take place all year round rather than being limited to Riyadh Season.
“We had an idea to have a safari in Riyadh. From then, we went on different safaris around the world,” project manager Abdulraouf Ghurab told Arab News. “What we have now is the full experience.”
Arab News took part in one of the safaris, joining others on a specially designed truck that is made to withstand any condition. “Starting from the vehicles, we’re applying a very high level of security,” said Ghurab.
The animals on display have been imported from abroad, and their natural habitats have been replicated in the desert.
The ride began with a view of giraffes, Arabian sand gazelles and wildebeests. Visitors could get out of the vehicles and have a closer look at Asian elephants that were eating food that their caretakers were throwing at them.
Until that point, people were enjoying the tamer side of nature. The next phase of the trip was entering the zone of the big cats.
That phase started with the majestic rulers of the jungle: Lions. Exclamations and gasps could be heard as many of the people riding the trucks were seeing them for the first time.
We had an idea to have a safari in Riyadh. From then, we went on different safaris around the world. What we have now is the full experience.
Abdulraouf Ghurab, Project manager
The felines were separated by wired fences in order for them not to harm each other, and they were given plenty of space so they could feel at home. The next zone belonged to tigers, which strolled and drank out of an artificial pool of water.
Next was perhaps the most exciting breed: The golden tigers, which look like mythical creatures and are an extremely rare breed of tiger. Another extremely rare breed were the “ligers,” a cross between lions and tigers.
Ghurab said: “For the big cats we’ve applied a very high level of security, starting with the electric fence. There are snipers in the watchtowers and the double gates.”
A whole other part of the experience was a closed garden that contained a colorful variety of friendly birds that were happily perching on visitors’ arms.
“I’d rather bring my children here than take them to malls,” Maha Nizami, a mother of two, told Arab News. “They’ll get what I never had for myself, and I grew up fearing animals. I hope that’s not the case with my kids.”