Curved along the outskirts of Riyadh, and formed on the oasis that spilled from the banks of Wadi Hanifa, Ad Dir’iyah’s mud-brick walls once housed a thriving desert city that was a powerhouse of culture and commerce. Its Al Turaif district, the area’s citadel-marked primary quarter, was the original seat of power for the kingdom’s Al Saud family. In 1745, the city was named the country’s capital, laying the foundations for what would later become a unified Saudi Arabia.
Ad Dir’iyah fell in late 1818 and was succeeded as the nation’s capital by the nearby settlement of Riyadh. The ruins of Al Turaif were designated a UNESCO heritage site in 2010 and the area has since been the subject of a painstaking restoration plan aimed at bringing its historical legacy back to life. While work at Ad Dir’iyah is still under way, there are ample heritage-rich sites that are open to the public.