The Diplomatic Quarter (DQ) in Saudi Arabia’s capital is a tourist attraction by day and a safe haven by night. During the day, it virtually looks like a park.
“Maganda talaga ang Diplomatic Quarter (DQ is beautiful). Pwede kang mag-exercise doon o maglakad sa hapon (You can exercise or walk there in the afternoon),” said Gina Gurne-Abitona, former resident of Riyadh.
She used to manage a pre-school and was co-owner of a restaurant (Potters) in Suleimania district.
According to Philippine Ambassador Adnan V. Alonto, there are 400,000 Filipinos in Riyadh.
Both sides of DQ’s main road are dotted with date trees, which bear fruit when in season, while embassies with artistic and unique architecture are decked out in ornamental plants and surrounded by shady trees, making motorists and visitors alike admire the place immensely.
Peace and quiet prevail after office hours as darkness slowly descends on the city. Hardly anything can be heard except the chattering of birds that make use of the fast-fading light to find the best possible perches on trees.
Occasionally, the silence is punctured by the sounds of passing cars driven by motorists residing in various residential areas inside the DQ and others just passing through.
Police at checkpoints become more meticulous during this time as they flag down motorists entering the DQ, especially when there is no scheduled event at any of the embassies, the Cultural Palace or the Al-Tuwaiq Palace.
This was particularly true during the crackdown on illegal foreign workers a few years back.
Motorists know, however, that the police are just doing their job to ensure safety inside the diplomatic enclave. It is for this reason that many diplomats and other residents of the Saudi capital have decided to live inside the DQ.
Safety has never been an issue. One resident said he sometimes forgot to lock the main door of their house at night or when the family left the house during the day.
“Sometimes, laptop, cell phones and even jewelry are left at the living room, but we have never been robbed over the years,” he said. “This is why my family and I have decided to live inside the DQ despite higher rents.”
Policemen in the area are polite and insightful. Residents routinely jog along the streets instead of going to the gym. Families are seen walking together at sunset, or early at night.
Diplomats also choose to live inside the DQ because their embassies are nearby.
“I don’t need to drive a car anymore to get to work. I just walk. My residence is near the embassy where I work,” one diplomat, who requested anonymity, was quoted saying in a report.
“I don’t need to get to work in a frenzy like others who live outside the area, who have to wake up early to avoid rush hour traffic,” he said.
The DQ is self-sufficient, with supermarkets, fast-food chains, coffee shops and a gas station. There is also a five-star hotel inside the DQ. An Italian restaurant, Scalini, is where diplomats dine and wedding receptions are held.