(MENAFN - Arab News) While Riyadh residents enjoy spending time in malls and parks, there are times when they go out of the city for relaxation on weekends.
"If you live and work in the city, you also get tired of air-conditioned malls. You'd want something different for relaxation, like going outside the city to see the countryside," said Firas Merhi, a Lebanese restaurant manager.
One such destination is a place that has become known as "Ashara-Ashara" in the Hair district, about an hour's drive from the city center. It is open to the public on Fridays and has clean restrooms.
The place is called "Ashara-Ashara" because the entrance fee is set at SR 10. It was previously called "Khamsa-Khamsa" because entry initially cost SR 5.
Families and community groups visit on various occasions, including birthday celebrations and reunions, and often bring their own food.
"My friends and I go to Ashara-Ashara on Fridays for various purposes such as bonding or discussing ongoing activities or projects in the pipeline," said Cenon Sagadal Jr., a bank and real estate representative. He said that being in "sylvan surroundings," he feels that the camaraderie and friendship binding them together is strengthened.
"We often belt out both old time favorites and modern songs to the accompaniment of a guitar," he said.
Gina Abitona, a Filipino teacher and businesswoman, added that her family and friends also go to Ashara-Ashara where there are occasions to be celebrated.
"The place is very quiet. We barely hear the noise of neighbors in nearby cottages," she said.
She added that going there to celebrate is also much cheaper than going to a restaurant.
"One reason why the place seems to have become a beehive lately is because of the different groups going there despite the distance," said Abu Omran, a Jordanian national.
However, others visit the place to escape homesickness. Meeting compatriots and other expatriates makes it easier for those with loved ones back home. This is particularly true among expats who are celibate or who cannot afford bringing their families to the Kingdom.
On Filipino said that he had just arrived in the Kingdom's capital and that it was his first time to work overseas. "I had never experienced being away from my family before I left the country," he said.
The entire area of Ashara-Ashara is literally shut off from the outside world by a high concrete fence and the lush green foliage surrounding the area.
"Being there reminds you of the countryside back home. The exuberant chirping of birds and the gentle blow of breeze in the trees draw your attention," said Jun Adriano Mallare, who works for a publishing company. "Being in Ashara-Ashara is like communing with nature," he said.