RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — There was neither beer, nor tattoos nor women at the biker rally in Saudi Arabia’s capital on Friday night. But among the hundreds of men riding on roaring Harley Davidsons and sporting leather vests, there was overwhelming excitement about the incoming visitor: President Trump.

“We want to welcome Trump,” said Mohammed Alrasheed, 35, who had outfitted his motorcycle with a large green Saudi flag next to the Stars and Stripes of America and wore a helmet decorated with quarters, dimes and nickels.

“I ride a Harley and Harley is from America, so I use American coins,” he said.

Saudi Arabia prepared an enormous reception for Mr. Trump, who landed in the capital, Riyadh, on Saturday morning on the first foreign trip of his presidency. Billboards with his face next to that of King Salman, the Saudi monarch, adorned highways around the capital, miles of which were lined with Saudi and American flags.

The Saudis planned such an opulent greeting for Mr. Trump to emphasize the depth of their commitment to the United States and to persuade him to deepen the partnership to fight terrorism, confront Iran and enhance economic ties.

Underpinning the countries’ decades-old relationship is power politics: American protection and arms sales in exchange for free-flowing oil and cooperation on security. But often overlooked by outsiders, who mainly know the kingdom for its strict version of Islam, is the American cultural influence that has seeped in over the years.

Many Saudis fume that Osama bin Laden is one of their country’s most famous exports, especially those with fond memories of time spent in, say, Oregon, Indiana or Arizona.

Hundreds of thousands of Saudis have studied in the United States, and many others have interacted with Americans through military ties or the oil industry, leaving traces of the United States across the kingdom.

“Fasten your seatbelt for some real driving,” Mohanad Aljuaied, a Saudi Uber driver, said as I climbed into his silver Dodge Charger to visit the motorcycle rally. A hip-hop track filled the car’s red interior as we sped through traffic.

Mr. Aljuaied recalled his six years in Monterey, Calif., where he lived while his father was in school. He returned to Riyadh as a teenager and missed some aspects of American life. But Saudi culture was slowly changing, he said, making it acceptable for men to try jobs their elders would have avoided, like driving a taxi.

“It used to be weird for a Saudi family to ride with a Saudi driver,” he said. “But now they like to help out young guys.”

The biker rally ended at Al-Imam Muhammad Ibn Saud Islamic University, where many of the kingdom’s future clerics and Shariah judges are trained. The bikers hung out on the grass, drinking Diet Pepsi and lining up to face Mecca when the call to prayer sounded.

The ride had been organized by the General Authority for Entertainment, a government body charged with planning fun, G-rated activities in a kingdom where young people often complain of boredom. The riders wore white polo shirts with “Ride for entertainment” on the front and “No to terrorism” on the back.

The president’s visit, during which there will also be a country music concert featuring Toby Keith and a basketball performance by the Harlem Globetrotters, gives Saudi Arabia a chance to showcase its lighter side.

Many Saudis said they admired Mr. Trump, offering a variety of reasons.

“I love him because he’s honest,” said Ahmad Aldubaikhi, 28, adding that he thought Mr. Trump had become president because Americans were tired of politicians who were beholden to those who got them elected. And he liked Mr. Trump’s background as a deal maker.

“Businessmen know how to make things work,” he said.

Mr. Aldubaikhi studied English in California before earning a degree in economics from the University of Miami, where, he said, many Americans knew little about Saudi Arabia. One of his teachers asked if he had an oil pump in his house. Others would hear his name and mention Achmed the Dead Terrorist, a puppet used by the American comedian Jeff Dunham.

But he said that did not bother him, nor did Mr. Trump’s critical comments about Islam.

“He’s not trying to hide his opinion,” he said, suspecting that other American politicians felt the same way but did not express it.

Another rider, Eyad Alrumaih, surmised that Saudis found Mr. Trump’s governing style similar to that of Arab leaders.

Saudi Arabia has institutions and a parliamentary body that are supposed to represent the people, he said, “but at the end of the day, the king says what goes.”

He added: “This is why some of the Americans are against him: ‘He did this, he fired the head of the F.B.I.’ But this is how we do it here.”

Other Arabs have called the optimism of Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies toward Mr. Trump naïve.

Donald Trump is a ridiculous man. He’s a childish man. This man is seen in the United States as a joke, as racist, a man who has nothing, no view, no vision, no values,” Fawaz A. Gerges, a professor of international relations at the London School of Economics, said on an Arabic talk show before the visit. “I hope that the Arab leaders, with all modesty, will not put most of their eggs in this basket. The basket of Donald Trump is full of holes.”

But any public criticism is unlikely to be heard during Mr. Trump’s time in Saudi Arabia, not least because the government has invested so heavily in portraying the visit as the dawn of a new era. But privately, some Saudis did voice misgivings about the president’s planned speech on Sunday about Islam that he will deliver at a new center dedicated to fighting radicalism.

The slogan “Together We Prevail,” referring to the Saudi-American relationship, was ubiquitous, on billboards, signs, badges and on state television, even during Friday prayers.

Saudi and American flags were projected on the facade of the Ritz Carlton hotel, where Mr. Trump and his family are staying.

The Ritz Carlton informed guests last week that it was canceling reservations so the hotel could host the president and his entourage. “Dear Valued Guest,” said a letter distributed to guests. “Our hotel has been notified by the Saudi Royal Protocol that they will be taking control of our property.”

After the biker rally, thousands of men filled a stadium at the university to watch a car race also timed to coincide with Mr. Trump’s visit. Three food trucks, another American import, did brisk business, selling burritos and hamburgers, and the ceremony opened with the Saudi national anthem and the Star Spangled Banner.

Competing in the race were four Saudis and four Americans.

The crowd cheered loudest for the Saudis who made their tires squeal on the turns.

But an American won, by a hair.