Welcome to Diriyah, birthplace of the first Saudi state, historical crossroads of pilgrims and traders, and home to one of the kingdom’s most ambitious heritage developments.
Curved along the outskirts of Riyadh, and formed on the oasis that spilt from the banks of Wadi Hanifa, Diriyah’s mud-brick walls once housed a thriving desert city that was a powerhouse of culture and commerce. Its At-Turaif district, the area’s citadel-marked primary quarter, was the original seat of power for the kingdom’s Al Saud family. In 1727, the city was named the country’s capital, laying the foundations for what would later become a unified Saudi Arabia.
Diriyah fell in late 1818 at the end of the Wahhabi war and was succeeded as the nation’s capital by the nearby settlement of Riyadh. The ruins of At-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 Diriyah is still under way, there are ample heritage-rich sites that are open to the public.