King Khalid International Airport serves Riyadh, the capital and largest city of Saudi Arabia. It was the largest airport in the world by ground area up till 1999, when King Fahd International Airport (which serves the eastern region of Saudi Arabia) was completed and given that honour instead. Though it may no longer hold that coveted title, it is still an impressive sight with an area of more than 200 square kilometres. The airport compounds include 4 passenger terminals (only 3 of which are used) and even holds a mosque large enough to accommodate some 5,000 people. Understanding the usage of each terminal is a little confusing; both Terminals 1 and 2 are used for international flights but from varying airlines, while Terminal 3 is used only for domestic flights. Terminal 4, though fully constructed, has not been used at all. Besides these passenger terminals there is also a Royal Terminal, for the exclusive use by heads of state and VIP visitors, as well as a General Aviation Terminal for private aircraft.
The airport serves close to 13 million passengers yearly.
The airport is located some 35 kilometres from the city of Riyadh. For tourists, the most convenient way of making this connection would be to grab a taxi from the ranks outside the airport. In good traffic, the ride into the city should take only about half an hour. Otherwise, those feeling up to driving can rent a car from the airport and make the journey by themselves.
What to see and do
One of the most popular attractions in Riyadh is the Masmak Fort, an ancient castle constructed during Mohammed bin Abdullah bin Rasheed’s reign. Besides being a mighty impressive sight which its 18-metre high Watch Tower 3-metre high Castle Gate, clock tower, high ceilings and mud walls, the Masmak Fort also holds historical significance for the city. It was captured by King Abdulaziz - who had been living in exile until he conquered Riyadh - a tale which achieved legendary status over the years and came to signify the heroic King’s attempts to unify the country. Today, the Masmak Fort has been converted into a museum and represents a great way to learn about ancient ways of life and architecture in a fun, interactive manner. Learn about the historic battle as you wander through the cavernous rooms where it took place, and witness the ingenuity of olden-day folk as you look at the adobe walls, a wonderfully simple insulatory material made from mud and hay that kept the castle cool in summer and warm in winter.
After that, make your way over to the Murabba Castle, the fabled King Abdulaziz’s residence after Masmak Fort that has also been converted to an educational museum. Murabba Castle was also where the first lift in Saudi Arabia was built after the King developed advanced arthritis and experienced difficulties with climbing stairs.
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