The past present and future of Saudi Arabia and its positive impact on the world. Just 10 kilometers west of Kingdom Tower in Saudi Arabia’s modern capital, Riyadh, lie the carefully restored remains of mud-brick structures that were once part of an imposing city.
This is At-Turaif, an archaeological treasure trove of royal palaces, mosques, homes and defensive towers built in the 18th century in the capital of the First Saudi State.
It was here, in what is now revered as the birthplace of the Kingdom, protected since 2010 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, that the first chapters in the story of Saudi Arabia were written.
Now, as the jewel in the crown of Diriyah, one of Saudi Arabia’s largest gigaprojects, At-Turaif is also helping to write the next chapter of the Kingdom’s story.
Built by the forefathers of today’s Saudis in Diriyah, an oasis settlement founded in the 15th century along the Wadi Hanifah, At-Turaif is recognized internationally as an outstanding surviving example of the unique Najdi building style.
Built by the forefathers of modern-day Saudis in Diriyah, an oasis settlement founded in the 15th century along the Wadi Hanifah, At-Turaif is recognized internationally as an outstanding surviving example of the unique Najdi building style.
This distinctive architecture evolved over the centuries in central Arabia in response to the harsh conditions, making use of the few readily available natural materials: sun-fired adobe bricks, limestone quarried from the slopes of the wadi, and timber from the hardy tamarisk tree.
The remains of the mud-brick city offer mute testimony to the determination of a people not only to create a thriving, self-reliant society in one of the world’s harshest desert terrains, but also to do so in the face of seemingly overwhelming opposition from the Ottoman Empire.
Battered by shot and shell, the walls of At-Turaif bear the scars of a bloody siege in 1818 that lasted for six months before the defenders were finally overwhelmed. Many of their leaders were tortured, executed or exiled, and the city was abandoned.
That, however, was not to be the end of the story of At-Turaif, nor of Saudi Arabia.
Since the 1980s At-Turaif has been painstakingly restored. It now forms the heart of, and is the inspiration for, the Diriyah Gate development, an ambitious $50 billion plan to transform the neighboring historic town of Diriyah into a global historical, cultural and lifestyle destination that will add 27 billion Saudi Riyals to the Kingdom’s GDP, create 55,000 job opportunities and attract 27 million visitors every year.
Complete with museums, galleries, world-class hotels, restaurants, shops, homes and educational and cultural facilities, the 7 square kilometer development is being created in the traditional Najdi architectural style, while also taking advantage of the latest advances in sustainable urban living.
When Diriyah is complete, visitors from around the world will be able to immerse themselves in the history and culture of a kingdom that in less than 300 years has grown from an idea born in a small desert community to become one of the world’s most prosperous nations.