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For the third installment in our multi-part series on compound life I wanted to share some pictures and information on the outdoor facilities available at KAUST.  In addition to the typical parks, playgrounds, and pools available in most all compounds, KAUST also has a wide variety of water activities to choose from due to its location on the Red Sea.  These types of activities will be available at compounds on the coasts (Jeddah, Yanbu, Dammam, etc.) but of course will not be as common in the more centrally located compounds such as Riyadh.


In addition to the standard recreation centers, KAUST takes full advantage of its location on the Red Sea.  The Marina and attached harbor hold several KAUST owned boats from small private (2-3 person) fishing boats up to a large (50-60 person capacity) double decker boats used for dinner cruises and large group snorkeling and scuba diving trips.  Private cabin cruiser style boats can also be rented for 4-6 hour trips for deep sea fishing, snorkeling, and/or scuba diving.  KAUST residents can even book day trips out to several uninhabited sand islands about a half a mile out into the Red Sea.  The only downside of the KAUST Marina and Harbor is that private boats are not allowed, so any trips have to be booked through the Marina.  A captain and crew are provided by the Marina for all trips.  These trips are not free and must be paid for separately, but the costs are relatively low especially compared to similar types of activities and boat sizes in the US.  One big benefit of this arrangement is that as a resident you don’t need to worry about cleaning or maintain the boat as this is all handled by the Marina staff.  Finally, similar to the other recreation centers, the Marina also has its own restaurant which features traditional middle eastern food.

Marina and Beacon at Night

KAUST Harbor and Boats

Marina and Beacon at Sunset

View of Marina from the Sunset Cruise

One of the uninhabited Sand Island in the Red Sea


In addition to the Marina, KAUST also maintains a separate beach and water recreation area.  The facility is very nice and typically underutilized.  We have never had an issue finding a place to sit and enjoy the beach when we come on the weekend.  The beach has about 40 large cabana areas with enough shade for two lounge chairs laid fully flat and regular chair.  There is a full snack bar at the beach and several stone grills for cooking out.  Sand volley ball nets and a small shaded playground area are also available.  In the water there are areas for general swimming, long lanes for lap swimming, and sometimes inflatables as well.  Beyond the swimming area is space for water sports.  The water sport shed at the beach has paddle boats, small 1-person sail boats, and wind surfing boards for rent for a small fee, typically around $1-2/hr.  Most days there is a decent wind and many people also bring their own kite surfing gear as well.

Beach Cabanas

Beach at Sunset

Kite and Wing Surfing in the Red Sea

Water Sports at the Beach

KAUST North Beach

Parks and Playgrounds:

All of the compounds will have a variety of parks and playgrounds spread throughout them and KAUST is no different.  Including all the smaller parks there are way too many to count, but in general there is usually no trouble finding a place for the kids to play outside and many are shaded.  During the peak heat of the summer even in the shade its usually too hot during midday to take advantage of these facilities, but some communities offer splash pad style playgrounds which offer a fun alternative to pools for smaller children to play in on hotter summer days.

The Realm Playground

Shaded Playground

Island Playground and Park

Typical Playground Area

Thuwal Park and Playground Area

Other outdoor activities:

The Recreation Centers also offer quite a lot of outdoor activities as well, including of course pools when the weather is hot and outdoor sports like tennis, golf, basketball, soccer, etc. when the weather is cooler or at night.

Finally, in the cooler months (typically from October – March) one of our favorite activities to do as a family is to head out into the Jeddah Desert for our own Safari adventures.  Typically, this includes some off-roading in the dunes, sand boarding, and bone fire cooked hotdogs and smores.


My name is Don Owens and I am a Chemical Engineer, US Expat, FIRE Enthusiast, Author, and Frequent Traveler. I blog about life as an Expat in KSA, my journal toward financial independence, travel, and science.

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