Four Riyadh heritage sites that define Saudi Arabia’s national story
Wadi Hanifah, Diriyah, Masmak Fortress and Qasr Al-Murabba all played a central role in the capital’s birth and development
From the site of defining battles to the cradle of the first Saudi state, Riyadh’s architecture bears silent witness to its rich past
Updated 22 September 2023
LONDON: Numerous natural, archeological and architectural wonders have come to define Riyadh and Saudi Arabia’s national story. Below are short sketches of four of the more prominent ones.
Of the many ancient seasonal waterways fed by the slopes of the 800 km-long Tuwaiq mountain range that cuts through the Najd plateau, it is Wadi Hanifah that has played the most significant role in the history of Saudi Arabia.
In 1446 Ibn Dir, the ruler of Hajr, a town on the site of modern-day Riyadh, offered land on the fertile banks of the wadi to his cousin, Manaa’ Al-Muraide, leader of the Marada clan of Al-Duru tribe of Bani Hanifah.
The clan originated in central Arabia, but generations ago migrated east to settle near Qatif on the shores of the Gulf, at a place they named Diriyah, after their tribal name.
Al-Muraide accepted Ibn Dir’s invitation and led his people back to their roots, naming their new home Diriyah after their old settlement and transforming the land into a productive oasis, nourished by the fertile soil of Wadi Hanifah.
Ever since the wadi, for centuries a silent witness to epoch-defining triumphs and tragedies, has flowed through the story of Saudi Arabia, nourishing the land and its people.
Today Wadi Hanifah, restored and rejuvenated to its former glory, is at the heart of the transformation of Diriyah into a global tourism destination focused on the culture and heritage of this historic region.
Diriyah rose to prominence in about 1720, when Saud ibn Mohammed of Al-Muqrin assumed the leadership of the town, founding the House of Saud and paving the way for the foundation of the First Saudi State in 1727 by his son and successor Imam Mohammed.
Under Mohammed and the three subsequent rulers of Diriyah, the power, wealth and influence of the state grew rapidly, until by 1811 it ruled an area larger than that of the modern-day Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
In 2010 the mud-brick At-Turaif district of Diriyah, home of the forebears of the Saudi royal family, was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
In 2019 King Salman laid the foundation stone of the Diriyah Gate project, a 7 sq. km development built in the unique Najd style of mud-brick architecture, which now is nearing completion as a global cultural and lifestyle destination, hosting museums, galleries, restaurants, shops, homes, public squares, hotels, recreational spaces, educational institutions.
After the defeat of 1818, Saudi fortunes ebbed and flowed for the next 84 years, until, in 1902, a 26-year-old prince grew tired of his life in exile in Kuwait.
Abdulaziz ibn Abdul Rahman Al-Saud, who would achieve worldwide fame as Ibn Saud, the man who would go on to found the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, led a small party of warriors west to Riyadh, attacking Masmak Fortress, driving out the rival Rashidi forces and reclaiming his family’s rightful heritage.
In a photograph taken in 1912, the mud-brick turrets of the fort loom large behind the city walls, looking out over nothing but the open land beyond. Today the fort is in the very heart of the city.
The walls have gone, swept away in the 1950s by the rapid growth of the Saudi capital, but the fort remains as a museum and a precious protected symbol of the hard path and heroic endeavors that led ultimately to the creation of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Completed in 1938, the “Square Castle” has a particular historic significance in the story of Riyadh.
Following the foundation of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1932, the Qasr Al-Hokm, where King Abdulaziz had masterminded his decades-long campaign of unification, was no longer large enough to serve as the base for the government of the new nation.
The decision was made to create a new, purpose-built seat of government and the Qasr Al-Murabba was built on land 2 km to the north of the old city.
It was the first development of any size outside the city walls, and paved the way for the first major expansion of Riyadh beyond its original confines.
It was also the last major mud-brick building to be constructed in a capital on the verge of the modern era shortly to be ushered in by the discovery of oil.
In 1933, King Abdulaziz granted the Kingdom’s first concession to Standard Oil of California, forerunner of Aramco, and on March 4, 1938, the year the Qasr Al-Murabba was completed, a test well drilled at Dammam struck oil in commercial quantities for the first time.
Today Al-Murabba stands at the heart of the King Abdulaziz Historical Center, a cultural campus comprising the King Abdulaziz Foundation for Research and Archives, or Darah, the King Abdulaziz Grand Mosque, and the National Museum of Saudi Arabia, all housed in buildings created using traditional Najdi architectural style and materials.
Riyadh: From ancient city to Expo hopeful
1446: Manaa’ Al-Muraide, leader of the Marada clan of the Al-Duru tribe, settles on the fertile banks of Wadi Hanifa.
1720: Saud bin Mohammed Al-Muqrin assumes leadership of Diriyah, northwest of present-day Riyadh.
1727: Mohammed bin Saud Al-Muqrin founds the First Saudi State with Diriyah as its capital.
1746: Riyadh established by Dahham bin Dawwas.
1818-1821: Diriyah attacked and destroyed by Ottomans, ending First Saudi State.
1824: Riyadh becomes capital of the Emirate of Nejd when Turki bin Abdullah bin Mohammed Al-Saud founds the Second Saudi State.
1865: Masmak Fort built under the instructions of Abdulrahman bin Sulaiman bin Dabaan, the prince of Riyadh.
1891: Second Saudi State toppled by Ottomans, Riyadh taken over by Rashids.
1902: Ibn Saud commands raid on Masmak Fort, recaptures Riyadh, founds Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
1910: Population: 14,000.
1919: Royal family relocates to Riyadh.
1930: Population: 27,000.
1932: Riyadh becomes capital of newly unified Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
1936: Construction of Qasr Al-Murabba commissioned by Ibn Saud.
1945: Qasr Al-Murabba completed. Red Palace commissioned.
1950: Old city wall dismantled.
1957: King Saud University opens. Nasiriyah royal residential district built.
1962: Population: 169,185.
1963: Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, later King Salman, becomes governor of Riyadh Province.
1974: Population: 666,840.
1978: Riyadh TV Tower built.
1981: Riyadh railway station opens.
1983: King Khalid International Airport opens 35 km north of Riyadh.
1985: Tuwaiq Palace built.
1986: Diplomatic Quarter Mosque constructed, winning Arab Cities Award for Architecture in 1990.
1987: Population: 1,417,000. King Fahd International Stadium and GCC headquarters built.
1995: Masmak Fort museum opens.
1997: Population: 3,100,000.
1999: National Museum of Saudi Arabia established.
2001: Population: 4,137,000.
2010: Population: 5,188,286. At-Turaif district in Diriyah listed as UNESCO World Heritage site.
2012: Abdullah bin Abdul Rahman Al-Mogbel becomes mayor of Riyadh.
2013: King Abdullah Environmental Park inaugurated.
2019: Royal Commission for Riyadh City established. King Salman lays foundation stone for Diriyah Gate project.
2020: King Salman Park announced as part of Green Riyadh. City hosts G20 summit.
2023: Riyadh makes formal bid to host World Expo 2030.
Saudi Arabia turns green for 93rd National Day … and rehearses for Expo 2030
Updated 3 sec ago
RIYADH: Welcome to the day Saudi Arabia turns green! Saudis will take to the flag-decked streets in their thousands today to celebrate the Kingdom’s 93rd national day.
A raft of free activities will be available for families to enjoy the day.
Among the most eagerly awaited events is the air show by the Saudi Hawks, the aerobatics team of the Royal Saudi Air Force. Pilots will take to the skies in their six BAE Hawk Mk.65A aircraft for a gravity-defying display, leaving a trail of Saudi flags in their wake.
Horse-drawn artillery and other vehicles will take part in a military march through Riyadh at 4 p.m., accompanied by musicians from the Border Guard, the National Guard, and the Royal Guard. The parade will travel from Prince Mohammed bin Saad bin Abdulaziz Road to Umm Ajlan Park in the Qairawan neighborhood.
There will also be special events at the already buzzing Boulevard Riyadh City, including fireworks, a drone show and traditional folklore acts.
The celebrations are a dress rehearsal for what the Kingdom can expect if its bid to host the Expo 2030 world fair is successful. In a special edition of Arab News today, we explain why the answer to that should be a resounding “yes.”
We explore the natural, archeological and architectural wonders that define Riyadh, learn about the history of the Ardah dance, and sample the Kingdom’s coffee culture.
We unpack how Salmani architecture redefined Riyadh’s development, highlighting the capital’s megaprojects, and look at how King Salman International Airport and the Riyadh Metro are transforming the city.
Riyadh’s hospitality industry serves up what it has to offer Expo visitors, while we examine the distinctive Saudi characteristic of generosity.
We highlight Riyadh’s thriving business landscape and booming retail sector, and check its cultural pulse, including headline events such as Noor Riyadh.
And taking readers on a tour of Expo 2030 preparations, we speak to Dimitri Kerkentzes, secretary general of the Bureau International des Expositions, which will elect the host city by secret ballot in November.
Saudi foreign minister holds talks with French and Polish counterparts in New York
During the meetings on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, they discussed ways in which relations between their countries might be enhanced
Prince Faisal bin Farhan also held a meeting with Brunei’s second minister of foreign affairs
Updated 23 September 2023
NEW YORK: Saudi Arabia’s minister of foreign affairs, Prince Faisal bin Farhan, met his French counterpart, Catherine Colonna, on the sidelines of the 78th session of the UN General Assembly in New York on Friday.
They reviewed the relationship between their countries and ways in which it might be enhanced and developed in a number of fields, along with the latest international developments of mutual interest, the Kingdom’s Foreign Ministry said.
The ministers also talked about opportunities for economic cooperation under the Saudi Vision 2030 development and diversification agenda, and the importance of supporting efforts to achieve common interests such as sustainable development, prosperity, and well-being, officials added.
In a separate meeting, Prince Faisal and Poland’s foreign minister, Zbigniew Rao, discussed bilateral ties and opportunities for economic cooperation under Vision 2030.
The prince then held talks with Brunei’s second minister of foreign affairs, Dato Erywan Yusof, during which they discussed ways to strengthen and develop relations and cooperation in various fields.
Also present at the meetings were Faisal Al-Ibrahim, the Kingdom’s minister of economy and planning, Abdulaziz Al-Wasel, Saudi Arabia’s permanent representative to the UN, and Abdulrahman Al-Daoud, director general of the Foreign Minister’s Office.
Saudi Foreign Ministry celebrates 93rd National Day at UN General Assembly in New York
Foreign ministers, representatives of international organizations and other members of the diplomatic corps attended the ceremony
Updated 23 September 2023
NEW YORK: The Saudi Foreign Ministry announced on Friday that it held a ceremony to mark the Kingdom’s 93rd National Day on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.
The ceremony, which was held under the patronage of Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan, began with a royal salute.
He then delivered a speech in which he welcomed the guests, recalled the history of Saudi Arabia, its establishment by King Abdulaziz, and its achievements under the current leadership of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The ceremony was attended by foreign ministers of friendly countries, representatives of international organizations and members of the diplomatic corps.
Arab leaders send congratulations to Saudi leadership on eve of Kingdom’s 93rd National Day
Heads of state and other officials from Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman and Jordan pass on warm greetings to King Salman, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and their people
Arab Parliament’s speaker said ‘we remember the epic unification carried out by the late founding king, which was a starting point … passed down through generations in the Kingdom’
Updated 23 September 2023
RIYADH: Bahrain’s King Hamad on Friday congratulated Saudi Arabia’s King Salman on the occasion of the Kingdom’s 93rd National Day.
King Hamad sent a telegram in which he highlighted the depth of the historically close fraternal relationship between the two kingdoms and their peoples, and affirmed his country’s constant, keen desire to continue to strengthen and develop their strong bonds and fruitful cooperation, in light of the strong strategic partnership that binds them.
He praised the Kingdom’s efforts, led by King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, to boost development and economic prosperity in the region in a way that promotes security, stability, peace and prosperity, to help build a better future for generations to come.
Bahrian’s Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad sent two telegrams, to the Saudi king and crown prince, in which he congratulated them on National Day, which marks the founding of Saudi Arabia by King Abdulaziz on Sept. 23, 1932, and expressed his country’s desire to continue to build on their existing cooperation.
Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, the emir of Kuwait, sent a message of congratulations to King Salman, in which he noted the depth of the relationship between their countries and the firm positions taken by the Kingdom on issues affecting all Arab and Islamic nations, including Kuwait.
He also expressed pride in the outstanding development of the Kingdom in a number fields during the king’s reign, which he said had raised the nation’s status and profile internationally.
He expressed his best wishes for further progress and prosperity for Saudi Arabia under the leadership of the king and with the support of the crown prince.
Kuwait’s crown prince, Sheikh Mishal Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, and Prime Minister Sheikh Ahmed Nawaf Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah sent similar messages congratulating the king and praising the development and achievements of the Kingdom at all levels.
Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad, sent a similar message of congratulations to King Salman, as did the country’s deputy emir, Sheikh Abdullah bin Hamad, and its minister of foreign affairs, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim.
Sultan Haitham bin Tariq of Oman congratulated King Salman on the occasion of National Day, and expressed his sincere best wishes for the ruler’s good health, happiness and long life, together with further progress and prosperity for the Saudi people. Jordan’s King Abdullah II also sent a telegram to the king in which he expressed his sincere congratulations.
Adel Al-Asoumi, the speaker of the Arab Parliament, which is the legislative body of the Arab League, congratulated the Saudi king and crown prince, saying: “On this day, we remember the epic unification carried out by the late founding king, which was a starting point and a construction process that was passed down through generations in the Kingdom to build a modern state based on strong and solid foundations, during which the Kingdom took the lead in many fields.”
National Day marks the culmination of a process of construction and development through which the Kingdom has achieved a comprehensive economic renaissance that has helped to raise the standard of living of its citizens, he added.
Al-Asoumi also noted the mega projects in development in the Kingdom that are helping to place the country among the ranks of developed nations, as well as the great efforts made by the Saudi leadership to strengthen its position and maintain security and stability in the region as part of its effective regional and international role.