RIYADH — The shops have not yet opened, but the air-conditioned concourse of a Riyadh shopping mall is crowded anyway — a haven for walkers and joggers grateful for somewhere cool to exercise.
‘THE ONLY OPTION’
However that project — billed by organisers as “a green spine through the city” with “cooling water features” and shaded football pitches — is still years from completion.
That makes malls “the only option” for many people — at least for now, says Australian expat Zuzana Kalous, who formed a women’s walking group in Riyadh in 2020 that meets four times per week in different shopping centres.
“The mall is safe for women, air-conditioned and controlled. No pollution, no dust, no traffic,” she tells AFP as more than 20 members of her group jog past storefronts one recent morning.
The contained environment also guarantees people can exercise even in less-than-ideal weather, like spring sandstorms or winter rains, says Saudi nutritionist Laila al-Rifai, a member of Kalous’s group.
“Commercial centres are the ideal solution to continue walking at any time of the day, at any time of year,” she says.
Mr Hassan Merhi, a Lebanese fitness trainer based in Riyadh, encourages his clients to walk outdoors as much as possible, noting that most studies show it offers a better workout than staying inside.
“It helps burn fat faster and reduces stress,” he says.
But Ms Batoul Zind al-Hadid, a 41-year-old from Syria, says a mall walk is “excellent for those who are still feeling out their first steps”.
Not only does it tend to be more social, with groups gathered together in the same space, it also allows her to stay on top of the latest fashion trends by studying the display windows.
It is, she says, “a more comprehensive and entertaining experience”. AFP