On my last day in Riyadh, my friends proposed to take me to a very special place; an authentic one. To be honest, I refused at first and asked to go back to the hotel to relax since I was moving to Jeddah the next day, but they insisted and I thank them for that.
Al-Najdiyah Village restaurant is a history book, Al-Najdiyah Village is the story of the first days of the city of Riyadh, Al-Najdiyah Village is the last hundred years in a two stories construction situated on Al-Takhassusi St. about 100m south of the intersection with Musa Ibn Nusayr. Al-Najdiyah Village is a museum. When you arrive to Al-Najdiyah Village, you are welcomed by three old American cars that were used during the old days, two luxurious ones and the first bus to ever go out on safari. It's an old construction all produced of wood and traditional clay and decorated from the inside out with very authentic instruments used in the last century.
It got to a point that Arab traditions are very similar, I felt like entering the Kasr Moussa palace in Beiteddine, Lebanon or visiting some friends in Aakar, North of Lebanon... But one there's one major difference, which is that in our parts of the world, sitting on the ground is not a custom; in Saudi Arabia it is. It was something to try. It was the first time I eat seated on the ground, with a simple carpet separating us from the cold beneath. Entering the place, a photographer welcomes you for some shots then you take a number and wait. We had to wait for 13 tables before ours, but it was worth it because during the waiting period, I had the chance to move around, take the pictures you see below and enjoy the writings on the walls and the traditions of the village. Yes a village in a building. I discovered the bread area, the washrooms, the coffee area, the special doors, the kitchen, the open eating space on the upper level and the private rooms.
Reaching number 31, we heard the waiter shouting; it was our turn. We were escorted to our table-actually it's not a table but a closed area with a carpet and pillows- and we were invited to remove our shoes. The idea is very simple, the menu is huge and very diversified, but all you have to do is ask for the special assortment "Sofra Alqarya" of everything and you are served in less than five minutes: Seasonal dishes, Cold dishes and hot dishes as well based on a sharing concept. The menu is so big, that i will state a few of the dishes I remembered: Chicken Kabsa with truffles, Lamb Kabsa with truffles, Rice with truffles, Goursan, Marqouq with truffles, sweet sabeeb, salty sabeeb, Henainee, Mohala, Qishdah, Afees, Fareek, Lamb Maqlouba, Chicken Maqlouba, Chicken stem, Lamb stem, Saleek, Matazeez, Shrimp Kabsa, Soups, Salads and more and more. More than 60 different tasty sophisticated dishes. The waiter takes the order, and five minutes later, the carpet is full of dishes. It is something really impressive. I was bought the rules and habits, where you start with the rice, mix it with the meat, followed by some salads ending the feast with cold Laban. The thing I remember the most is the sweet fried bread. Believe me that is something out of this world. We Lebanese always believe that our bread is one of the tastiest on earth, but unfortunately it cannot be compared with this specific brown sweet fried bread they have.
The habits around here is that you eat, than relax a bit, eat again until you're full, than relax and eat again and the cycle starts again. That night we arrived late, so were invited out at midnight and wear happy about it cause I couldn't eat anymore: It was too much. Dessert was served: Mouhalabiya, my favorite dessert, but is was not as good as we do it in Lebanon. What an experience: Impressive! Really extraordinary, taking you on the journey of the real Riyadh, and not the one we discover for business nowadays. I didn't even know they have a history or traditions, but after visiting Al-Najdiyah Village a complete new idea builds up in your head. Food was tasty, with a little bit of garlic and onions here and there, the service is simple and traditional, the ambiance is very cozy and authentic. All the ingredients to make you want to come back, and I think that this is the opinion of every visitor since all the comments on TripAdvisor are good or excellent considering it is rare to have such a high rating.
Do not visit Riyadh without passing by the Al-Najdiyah Village. It is a must.