This article features some of the photographs I took over the last four weekends, during which I took my family to the corniche in the city of al-Khobar. This is one of the three main cities in this part of the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia; the others being Dammam and Dhahran. All three cities are located very close to each other. Over the years they have grown in both population and physical development, and are now practically one large urban area. Officially, this part of the city is known as the Corniche District. Al-Khobar is made up of several districts but the corniche is probably the primary attraction. I have enjoyed discovering the sights along the corniche with my wife and children these past few weeks. In Saudi Arabia, things always seem a little easier when you have your family with you.
The al-Khobar corniche – a word of Italian origin that means “a road built along a coast and especially along the face of a cliff,” according to Webster’s Dictionary – is located along the coast a little north of the King Fahd Causeway. The area adjacent to the causeway is still under construction, but when this is complete, the corniche will stretch for about 7 kilometers (4.3 miles). The corniche is probably at its best from just north of the McDonald’s restaurant off Prince Turki Street (also called Al Amir Turki Street on some maps) all the way to the Fuad Center, a shopping mall located near the corner of Prince Turki Street and Prince Faisal ibn Fahd Road (known locally as “Pepsi Road” because of the old Pepsi bottling plant on this street). The corniche walkway is at its widest in this location, and the area also includes a very nice park with lots of palm trees, flowers and several large water features. Families like to enjoy having a picnic in this park, especially on the weekends.
The corniche attracts joggers, walkers and cyclists, and even fishermen, although so far it has not been crowded whenever we went there, which was in the morning. Locals here like to camp out at night, so I’m sure the park gets busy in the evening. During the day, the corniche and park seem to be great places to get away from everything and just relax while enjoying the views of the Arabian Gulf. The coast along this part of the Gulf doesn’t have any cliffs, but the corniche walkway does offer unspoilt views of the Gulf, which looks very clean in this area. The park is kept pretty clean. During one of our visits to the park, we saw a little Saudi girl walk quite a long distance to drop an empty plastic bottle into a trashcan, which was very encouraging for a country where too many people carelessly drop empty plastic bottles and other trash on the ground.
Here are some of my favorite sights of the corniche:
This is the al-Hariri mosque (masjid) on the southern part of the corniche, just off King Abdullah Road. Its location on a little man-made island makes it look quite magical; like something out of A Thousand and One Nights. The mosque is clean and a little patio area at the back provides nice views of the corniche and the Gulf coast, including the King Fahd Causeway. Muslims who are stopping in the mosque for prayer can pause for a moment afterward to enjoy the views from the mosque.
The King Fahd Causeway from al-Khobar to the Kingdom of Bahrain. When the traffic is light, it takes about an hour to drive to Manama, the capital city, which includes time to get through the two countries’ passport controls. This can usually be achieved by traveling in the early morning. When the traffic is heavy, the same journey typically takes about two hours, and sometimes much longer. The worst time to drive along the causeway is probably Thursday evening, which is when the weekend starts here, and everyone jostles with each other to get across to their destination. It currently costs 20 Saudi riyals (about US$5) to cross the causeway, so it is not very expensive at all. We sometimes go to Bahrain for the shopping and restaurants, and to visit the historic sites. Bahrain is a Muslim country but it has a very liberal attitude to entertainment and things that are forbidden in Saudi Arabia, so many expats and Saudis like to go there on the weekend.
Traditional dhow fishing boats moored off the al-Khobar corniche. There is a small mooring point close to the southern end of the corniche that is used for fishing boats and some small pleasure craft. Surprisingly to me, I have not seen many boats operating in this part of the coast. We have visited Tarut Island, further north along the coast, and saw a lot of boats there, so the coast off al-Khobar must not be a significant fishing area. I’ve read that the Sanbok Seafood Resturant mentioned above has its own fishing boats to supply the restaurant with fresh fish, so perhaps these boats belong to the restaurant owners.
One of the many sculptures that can be seen in the park next to the corniche. On the other side of the white wall there is a man-made “lake,” and in the distance some of the buildings lining Prince Turki Street can be seen. There are a lot of hotels in this area that overlook the park and the Gulf, including the Le Meridien Hotel, which is one of the most prestigious hotels in al-Khobar, and Hotel Sofitel. Cars can be parked next to the park and from the parking area it is just a short walk to the corniche walkway. A dr. Cafe Coffee location can be found about a 15 minute walk from this sculpture.
This is a view of the corniche walkway near the Fuad Center shopping mall (seen in the distance) and the park off Prince Turki Street. This is my favorite stretch of the corniche because of the wide walkway, which reminds me of the Victorian promenades I’ve seen in the U.K., and the views it affords of the city of al-Khobar and the Gulf. It’s a very pleasant area and ideal for getting away from everything and enjoying some “thinking time,” especially now during the winter when air is cool. The corniche walkway has plenty of benches along it, which are helpful for enjoying the views of the Gulf waters, and the nearby park has plenty of shaded areas, which are ideal for picnics.
A view of the park next to the corniche, just off Prince Turki Street. The Fuad Center shopping mall can be seen in the distance, and the Le Meridien Hotel can be seen over to the far left of the picture. The hotel includes several high quality restaurants, featuring Italian and Asian cuisine, as well as a superb cafe called Le Café de Paris. The cafe is located on the ground floor and is laid out in a modern, contemporary design. The cafe can be seen over to the right when you enter through the hotel’s front entrance (just walk past the armored car and through the big revolving door). The walkway shown to the left leads to the path next to the Gulf illustrated in the previous picture. There were actually quite a lot of people in the park on the day we visited, but because the park is so large it can absorb a lot of people and visitors can still feel that they are in an uncrowded space.
One of several snack “huts” along the southern stretch of the al-Khobar corniche. These places sell a variety of hot and cold drinks, as well as snacks such as popcorn, nuts, crisps (chips) and of course chocolate. They are popular among visitors to the corniche, many of whom like to sit on the grassed areas and enjoy a picnic. There is plenty of parking alongside King Abdullah Road, next to where this hut is located. I really love these places. They remind me of the “tuck shop” we had at my school, while growing up in England.
One of the most prominent landmarks that can be seen while walking along the corniche is the water tower. This is an impressive-looking structure with three floors. The top floor contains a restaurant with what must be among the best views of the Gulf and the city of al-Khobar. The site around the water tower is still being developed but I’m sure it will eventually become one of the most popular attractions in the area.