Riyadh City Profile
"The thriving capital at the heart of the modern
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia"
The name Riyadh is derived from the Arabic word meaning a place of gardens and trees
("rawdah"). It was called Al-Yamamah in the past. With many wadis (a former water course, now dry) in the vicinity, Riyadh has been since antiquity a fertile area set in the heartland of the Arabian Peninsula.
Geography & Location
The city is in the interior of the country 530 miles by road from Jeddah on the Red Sea and 240 miles from Dammam on the Arabian Gulf. About 1000 miles out along the road to Jeddah is the impressive Tuwaiq escarpment - brittle sandstone cliffs rising 200 to 500 ft. for about 30 miles. To the South about 50 miles from Riyadh lies AI
Kharj, an extensively irrigated area with much agriculture.
Riyadh is the capital city as well as the most populous city of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which lies in the Central Region called
Najd, on a sedimentary plateau 600 meters above sea level. It has a very dry climate and rainfall, but a good underground water supply makes it one of the few natural fertile areas in the Kingdom outside the south-west.
The population exceeds two million, and the total inhabited area is more than 1,600 km. Riyadh also contains two university "cities," King Saud and Imam Mohammad bin Saud Islamic University, in addition to military and security colleges, specialized institutes, information, cultural information and cultural centers, sports facilities and stadiums, literary Centers and public libraries.
Due to its size, the weather is dry and hot in the summer and cold in the winter. Temperatures range from 20-36 degrees
celsius; and the average rainfall is 10-20 mm.
The successful transformation of a traditional sedentary and nomadic society into a modern urban one finds no more effective example than in Riyadh today. It's recovery by Abdul Aziz marked a turning-point in Saudi fortunes. Its governmental role forever transformed the city.
Riyadh now rivals any modern city in the world in the splendor of its architecture. An infusion of wealth from petroleum sales beginning in the 1940s helped transform Riyadh into a major metropolitan center, with a modern infrastructure and transportation system. Broad highways sweep through the city, passing over or under each other in an impressive and still growing road network. Trees now bedeck the broad streets and avenues, giving pleasure to passers-by and shade to those who linger beneath them. Today the city extends for some 600 square miles (1600 square kilometers) and has a population of more than 4.7 million.
Riyadh is the seat of government; ministries, embassies, diplomatic missions, as well as it contain educational, financial, agricultural, cultural, technical, commercial and social organizations. As an important world capital, Riyadh receives an annual stream of heads of state and public figures form the Western, Arab, Islamic and developing countries further underlining the city's increasingly pivotal role in Arab affairs generally.
As the capital, Riyadh has come to its own. It is no longer the "secret city" to which intrepid nineteenth century travelers journeyed. It has its own radio television production complex, satellite telecommunications facilities, the largest and most modern university campus in the Kingdom, colleges, schools, hospitals, clinics and specialist health care centers. The 170 meter television transformation tower at the Ministry of Information is major landmark of the city. The conference Palace in Al Nasiriyah is the largest in the Middle East.
Although Riyadh has officially been the capital of Saudi Arabia since 1932, it played second fiddle to Jeddah until the 1970s. Built with oil boom money, Riyadh is now a high-tech oasis of glass, steel and concrete, home to huge hotels, even larger hospitals and one of the biggest airports in the world.
The history of Riyadh and its growth from a relatively small settlement into a great modern city is inextricably involved with the rise of the Saudi state. With Riyadh as the capital of the Saudi Arabian Kingdom which Abdul Aziz bin Abdul Rahman Al Saud
(Ibn Saud) founded, it was inevitable that the city would grow. By 1955 (1375 AH), all ministries and government offices had been moved to or established in Riyadh. In the same year, a Royal Decree was issued raising the status of the municipality of Riyadh to that of mayoralty. Its scope of responsibility was greatly enlarged and its resources increased to enable it to cope with its growing size and population.
In the midst of the city's extraordinary growth, the history of the city has not been forgotten. Preservation orders now ensure the survival of the Masmak fort which Abdul Aziz
(Ibn Saud) scaled in 1902 (1319/20 AH), a fitting reminder of a turning point in the history of the city and, indeed, the Arabian Peninsula.
The location of the Kingdom's capital in the heart of the Arabian Peninsula has meant that the provision of adequate supplies of water has always been a priority. The area was rich in natural water supplies in earlier times but, with the dramatic expansion of Riyadh city, it was inevitable that supplies would become depleted. The drilling of deep artesian wells was explored as one solution. An artesian well with a depth of 4,600 feet (1,400 meters) was drilled, with success, in 1956 but it was quickly realized that such methods, which ran the danger of contaminating the water table with sea water from the eastern region, could not provide a long-term solution.
The Government has therefore implemented a number of measures to relieve the situation;
|Bowaib Water Project
|Jubail Desalination Pipeline Project
|Salboukh Water Project
|Wasei' Water Project |
Bedouins - Desert Nomads
The Bedouin (or
Bedu), the nomads who have for centuries roamed freely around the Arabian Peninsula in search of forage for their animals. As late as 1950, nearly one quarter of the population of the Arabian Peninsula could be considered Bedouin, from the Arabic word
badhiya, meaning one who lives in the desert. Today, they make up a much smaller percentage of the Saudi population, but there are still those who live in the old ways in tented camps while others have settled in the cities. The Bedouin's social structure and mode of living, imbued with ancient values and simplicity, has changed little over the centuries. Although pickup trucks have replaced camels as their primary means of transport, today's Bedouins continue to value generosity, bravery and tribal loyalties more highly than material wealth.
|The centre of Riyadh is called Al-Bathaa and is the oldest part of the city. Al Bathaa is home to the bus station, GPO and most other things a traveler needs. Most of Riyadh's places to stay are near the bus station, as are the coffee shops and shawarma stands.
|The Riyadh Museum, to the west of Al-Bathaa, has all the usual stuff covering the history and archaeology of the kingdom from the Stone Age to early Islam. It features exhibits on traditional Saudi lifestyle, archeology and culture, covering the Arabian Peninsula since the earliest times. There's an interesting display on Islamic architecture and a separate Ethnographic Hall, with clothes, musical instruments, weapons and jewelry.
|Beside is a park-like courtyard to another building, the King Abdulaziz Historic Center. The whole area is an extensive public park in which are located the National Museum, the Murraba Palace, and the King Abdulaziz Foundation for Research and Archives, the King Abdulaziz Public Library, a mosque and several restored old mud buildings. The center contains many personal items of King
|The airport is situated to the North of the city. Most of the Ministries and other agencies of Central Government are situated along Old airport road
(Shara Mataar). There are many modern and 5 star hotels in Riyadh with excellent facilities.
Once the mud citadel in the heart of Old Riyadh, the Musmak Palace was built around 1865 and extensively renovated in the 1980s. It is a square shaped fortified castle consisting of watch towers on all its corners and very thick walls. Inside the mud fortress there's a nicely reconstructed traditional diwan (sitting room) with an open courtyard and a well, which is functional. The fortress is now a museum devoted to Abdul Aziz and his unification of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Other museums in Riyadh include the King Saud University Museum, which has a display of finds from archaeological digs, and Murabba Palace, with exhibits of traditional clothing and crafts.
The Al-Thumairi Gate, in the centre of town, is an impressive restoration of one of the 9 gates which used to lead into the city before the wall was torn down in 1950. The flash, new, modern
Al-Thumairi Gate is just across the road. About 30km (20mi) out of town is one of the largest camel markets in the Middle East. It's open every day and is a fascinating place to wander around (despite the smell).
Riyadh's most interesting attraction, the ruins of
Diraiyah, lie 30km (20 miles) north of the city centre and to the northwest of Al-Riyadh on the bank of Wadi
Hanifa, with many date palm trees. This was the Kingdom's first capital and is now the country's most popular archaeological site. Diraiyah was founded in 1446, reached the height of its powers at the end of the 18th century, and was razed in 1818. The reconstructed ruins include palaces, mosques and the city wall.
Diriaiyah rises from the desert like a high-tech oasis of glass, steel, and concrete.
Ad-diriyyah is fortified by a strong wall which consists of several watch towers built during the region of Al-Imam Abdulaziz bin Mohammad bin Saud to protect the city from any danger and foreign aggression. The buildings are made of mud, straw and seashells. The colorful doors at the entrances of the buildings are made of wood; these doors operate with a unique slide-and-lock mechanism designed centuries ago. Inside the buildings, the ceilings are crossed with beams of tamarisk logs and palm fronds, allowing light and air to pass through. A huge government restoration project has been initiated to restore the area so that visitors have safe and easy access.
|Qasr Al-Hukm Development Area Project
The Qasr-al-Hukm Area Development Project lies in the center of the city of Riyadh where the office of the Governor of the Riyadh region is located. This area contains the Riyadh city hall, with its striking combination of contemporary and traditional architectural styles. The Project was designed to develop the area around the Governor's palace, while preserving the sites of historical interest which lie within the area - most notably, the
Al-Masmak Palace from which Abdul Aziz (Ibn Saud) set out to unify the Kingdom early in the 20th century.
The site includes both cultural and commercial centers, together with all the other facilities of a modern city center.
In the heart of the development is
Qasr-al-Hukm, the office of the Governor of Riyadh, containing the administrative offices of the Governorate and the Grand Reception Hall where, in the Kingdom's tradition of consultation, the Governor receives citizens, listens to their problems and ensures that he is kept fully informed of all aspects of the region's life.
|The Diplomatic Quarter
Apart from its importance as a seat of government and as a thriving commercial center, Riyadh is also a center of Arab diplomacy.
Located five miles (8 km) from the center of the city of Riyadh, on high ground overlooking the Wadi Hanifa and the vast expanse of desert behind lies the Diplomatic Quarter. This is a verdant quarter located in the northwest is an enclave for foreign embassy officials. It contains more than 90 foreign embassies, missions, and international organizations, in a setting of walks, gardens, sports facilities and malls. This unique complex of diplomatic buildings and facilities, housing the embassies and consulates of many countries, occupies an area of 8.4 million square yards (7 million square meters) and is the venue for many international Arab meetings.
The walls that surround the complex are built in the old architectural style of central Saudi Arabia; each house outdoes the next in architecture and design. One building is a replica of the White House in Washington, DC.
|The Ministry of Information Complex
This broadcasting nerve center contains the Ministry of Information, Broadcasting station and television studio. It is capped by a 176 meter tower of Ornate design.
|The Ministry of Foreign Affairs Complex
The Foreign Ministry Complex in Riyadh is one of the most outstanding examples of modern Islamic architecture in the entire Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Its combination of elements of traditional Arabic design with the most modern construction techniques furnishes a magnificent example of the harmony that can be achieved when tradition and modernity are blended together with care and sensitivity.
|The Ministry of Interior
This example of massive modern design hovers over one of the city's central areas.
|King Fahd International Stadium
Designed in a shape of a large round Arabic tent, this lavish stadium contains a football field accommodates 80,000 spectators. Its remarkable tent-like design, constructed from hard-wearing, fireproof material, is the venue for many major events in the Kingdom.
|King Khalid International Airport
The King Khalid International Airport was opened in 1983 (1403/04 AH). Located 35 kilometers north of Riyadh, with a land area of 225 square kilometers, the King Khalid International Airport is a masterpiece of modern architecture, blending traditional Arab design with the requirements of efficiency, and incorporating into the whole the essential Islamic character of the Kingdom. It is decorated with the works of many Saudi artists. It has four terminals and among the world's largest, it is designed to cater for 15 million passengers, and its air cargo facilities are the most modern in the Middle East, able to handle 140,000 tons of cargo per year.
In 1983 commercial traffic was transferred to the new King Khalid International Airport. Traffic systems include a 93 kilometer, six-lane road which griddles the city and links it to the inter-peninsula high-ways have put an end to Riyadh's traditional isolation.
The Riyadh Zoo is the Kingdom's largest and one of the most popular leisure facilities in Riyadh located on the east side of
Al-Ihsa Street. The Zoo, first formed in 1957, was originally a small-scale affair, consisting of animals presented as gifts to the first three kings of the Kingdom.
In 1987, a new and entirely refurbished zoo was opened. The new zoo was designed to provide the animals with room to move and suitable places to rest. Today it contains some 40 species, including bears, birds of prey, camels, elephants, hyenas, gazelles, leopards, lamas, lions, monkeys, rhinoceroses, tigers and a number of reptiles.
It was built by His Majesty King Abdul Aziz at the time of the unification of the Kingdom in 1351 AH/ 1932 AD. It is a rectangular shaped palace 30 m. wide and 40 m. long and consists of two floors with flat roof and was built in the local Najd style with mud, clay and the leaves and wood of date and tamarisk trees.
Other Notable Features of City
Other notable features of the city are Riyadh Water Tower, The National Museum, The King Fahd National Library, The Equestrian Club and the 93 kilometer ring road encircling the city.
Large districts for private housing have been developed in Riyadh as in most cities of Saudi Arabia with the help of authorities: free lots given to the dwellers, long loans for the future owners, grants for the construction. It's a typical Welfare State policy. Houses are large, with small space devoted to gardens, tall walls, and high gates in order to protect the privacy of households.
|At 302 meters the tower is Riyadh's tallest building as was inaugurated in October 2003. The architecture of the building makes it one of the most spectacular structures of the 21st century. The Kingdom Centre is instantly recognizable and visible throughout the city with the building having four entrances for each of its main functional components. Its completion is the culmination of an extraordinary effort and dedication built to the highest international standards of design, engineering and construction excellence.
|Kingdom Tower won the prize for the world's best skyscraper of the year 2003, awarded by the World Skyscrapers Commission, out of 350 buildings worldwide that were competing for the title. The Kingdom Trade Centre was awarded the world's best and most advanced design of a shopping centre for the year 2003, awarded by Walter
|The centre offers the most prestigious business and residential address in Riyadh, dominating the skyline of the capital's premier commercial district as it straddles Olaya and King Fahad Road.
|The glistening glass-clad tower which has an elliptical footprint rises from the centre of two podiums shaped like butterfly wings. The tower is topped by an inverted catenary arch 120 m in height with a gallery at its apex offering spectacular views over the whole of Riyadh.
|The three main elements of this monumental centre are the tower, the west podium and the east podium. The complex has a gross built-up area of 185,000 sq m plus 115,000 sq m of parking space for up to 3,000 cars.
|With a total of 30 levels and three underground floors, the tower offers prime office space on the first 13 floors. An internationally-managed full-service business centre occupies the 14th floor. The next 10 floors have the Four Seasons Hotel - above which are the luxurious residential apartments.
|The tower entrances for the four main occupants - the hotel, offices, residential and the headquarters of Kingdom Holding Company on the 29th floor - will be totally independent of each other to avoid cross circulation.
|The office floors contain approximately 29,000 sq m of top-standard office space.
|The office area has its own five-storey high atrium that is directly accessible by car and via its own underground parking area. There is also direct pedestrian access to the streets and to the shopping centre and the other facilities of the project.
Transforming Riyadh's skyline, Al Faisaliah's distinctive 267-meter spire with its 30 floors of office accommodation is designed to be the city's most exclusive corporate address. Advanced technology and flexibility in floor layouts meet modern business needs. The tower's 45-degree, 5-storey lobby features a spectacular stained glass window that is the largest in the world. A sophisticated cigar lounge and a unique 2-storey restaurant in the tower's golden globe provide unparalleled views in an elegant ambience.
Since its opening in May 2000, Al Faisaliah has become a city icon of world stature and renown, "an oasis giving substance to the soul of a city." It is the Kingdom's most exclusive address and given the diverse nature of its component parts, it has been described as a city within a city, combining a five star hotel, 100 luxurious full service apartments, conference and banqueting facilities with a capacity of 4,000 guests, a shopping mall - and of course, The Globe and The Experience.
Al Faisaliah Hotel's spacious 189 rooms and 35 suites are the most elegant in Riyadh. Managed by Rosewood Hotels & Resorts, all rooms feature designer furnishings, extensive amenities, and the latest in telecommunication systems. The hotel also introduces a personalized 24-hour butler service. The finest dining facilities, services, and conveniences make Al Faisaliah Hotel a preferred destination.
Four retail levels provide 33,000 square metres of store, restaurant, and entertainment space. The well-conceived shopping mall with more than 100 specialty retail outlets is customer-oriented and profit-accented for high-end retailers and discerning shoppers.
|Banquet and Conference Centre
Apart from convenience and prestige, the Centre offers unprecedented facilities and service. The architecturally impressive structure provides 80m x 58m of column-free space. Divisible into 16 separate meeting or dining rooms, it can accommodate up to 4,000 people. Guests have maximum flexibility for staging an unlimited variety of themes.
Tenants in Al Faisaliah Residence can live, work, entertain, and relax in an exceptional environment of comfort and convenience. The Residence comprises 100 elegant apartments, a recreation area, spa and health club, and a rooftop floodlit tennis court. These facilities are supported by housekeeping, laundry, and room service from the adjacent Al Faisaliah Hotel and by a state-of-the-art safety and security system.