Diriyah: A glimpse into a bygone era



RODOLFO C. ESTIMO JR. | Arab News Staff

Published — Wednesday 30 January 2013

Last update 30 January 2013 3:13 am

| نسخة PDF Print News | A A

RIYADH: Old Diriyah, a town on the northwestern outskirts of Riyadh, boasts of a great historic past. So when the day is clear and the skies are spotlessly blue, it draws Saudi and expatriate visitors alike, particularly on weekends.
“My family and friends and I like the countryside. I keep tender memories of the place,” said a foreign diplomat. “Old date trees whose dark green leaves echo a distant past, farms planted to different fruit trees and vegetables, and old buildings which are the mute witnesses to history.
But as renovations in the area progressed, he noted, many of the things that drew weekend visitors are now gone.
“Of course, the renovation is welcome. The new buildings are part and parcel of modern times. Besides, they’re also made of mud-bricks and quite resemble the historic buildings,” added Miriam D. Rontale, a teacher at a local school who majored in history.
Diriyah was the original home of the Saudi royal family and served as the capital city of the first Saudi dynasty from 1744 to 1818.
“My wife and I used to visit Diriyah to have a closer look at the origins of modern Riyadh and I felt I imbibed, as it were, the old Saudi culture,” said Maynard R. Pesig, an engineer at a lighting company in Riyadh.
He noted, however, that many of the old buildings “were gone and the remaining few had been padlocked.”
“Many of the old buildings have been replaced with new and modern structures. The government could have renovated more of them,” he said.
Thamer Al-Hawas, a Saudi from Riyadh, said that he and his family used to visit Old Diriyah because of its cultural significance.
Being a Saudi, he said he wanted to know more of “the past, which is very faraway now but I’m proud of it and I still come here with my family.”
“The restoration of the place is welcome, although I am sad that many of the old buildings and palaces are gone,” he said as he sauntered slowly down the concrete street, which used to be a dirt road.
Al-Hawas said that some of the restored buildings included the Salwa Palace, the residence and first home of the Al-Saud emirs and imams during the first Saudi State. It was considered the largest building in the area, rising four stories high. It was composed of five main parts that had been built at different consecutive periods of time.
“It is believed to have been finished by Saud bin Abdulaziz bin Muhammad bin Saud, who was imam from 1803 to 1814. The Saad bin Saud Palace was one of the largest in the city. It was famous for its courtyard, which used to be a stable. It has been completely restored and is several stories high,” he said.
The Guest House and Al-Turaif Bath are traditional buildings, consisting of a number of courtyards surrounded by rooms.
Sheikh Mohammad bin Abdulwahab used to give lessons about his reformed movement of Islam at the Imam Mohammad bin Saud Mosque. It became a center for religious education.
“Students from various parts of the Arabian peninsula used to travel to the Kingdom and visit it,” Al-Hawas added.
Residents of Riyadh and other parts of the Kingdom still visit Diriyah. “While visitors merely drive along the road to have a glimpse of the place, others pull over to have a closer look at Diriyah’s surroundings,” said Jannette Arenque, a teacher at an international school.
“In doing so, we try to summon up the past to see in the mind’s eye what it was like back then,” she added, noting the ruins of mud-brick structures which lay on either side of the valley.

What's happening around Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: Three citizens, aged above 65, and a 32-year-old expatriate have died of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in Riyadh raising the death toll to 471 in Saudi Arabia since June 2012, the Ministry of Health said on Tuesday.It also reported...
JEDDAH: Five hospitals and health centers across the Kingdom have been ranked among the 10 top hospitals in the Arab World, according to the Webometrics Ranking of World Hospitals 2015 conducted by Cybermetrics Lab. King Faisal Specialist Hospital an...
RIYADH: The children of the martyrs and wounded soldiers will be given preference for jobs in the organization, KACST President Prince Turki bin Saud Bin Mohammad Al-Saud said Riyadh on Tuesday.On an initiative from the Ministry of Education, a two-d...
JEDDAH: The laboratory of Al-Amal Complex for Mental Health was recently ranked fifth in the RIQAS program for biochemistry out of 120 laboratories. It also came in sixth in the same program for the department of hematology among the 60 participants,...
RIYADH: Anticipating high temperatures during the Haj season, the Ministry of Health has made arrangements to install more equipment to treat heatstroke patients among pilgrims, Health Ministry spokesman Khaled Al-Mirghalani said following a meeting...
RIYADH: The National Water Company (NWC) has added a new feather to its cap by launching an e-branch (website www.nwc.com.sa) to serve the customers around the clock.The NWC, which aims to become the leading water utility in the Gulf that comes under...
DAMMAM: Traffic regulations in the Kingdom and many countries of the world dedicate the right lane of highways and roads to trucks as they are designed to carry heavy weights in contrast to the other lanes, which are allocated for lighter weight vehi...
RIYADH: The solar-power plant, “Layla,” in Aflaj province, will be opened shortly, Saleh Al-Awaji, chairman of Saudi Electricity Company (SEC), has said.The Saudi Electricity Company (SEC) is one of the signatories, along with King Abdulaziz City for...
RIYADH: The expanded facility for machine readable passports (MRPs) at the Embassy of Pakistan will help the mission process over 1,200 applications on daily basis. The new setup was inaugurated on Tuesday.Saudi Arabia hosts the largest Pakistan comm...
RIYADH: The Saudi Standards, Metrology and Quality Organization (SASO) has directed manufacturers and their agents in the Kingdom to strictly follow the safety regulations for the new cars to be marketed to the Kingdom beginning 2017.In a statement r...
RIYADH: The Ministry of Social Affairs recently honored 20 academically gifted orphans whom it had earlier sent to Japan for ten days to visit attractions that include cultural and educational institutions. Ministry of Social Affairs Undersecretary D...
JEDDAH: Prince Bandar bin Abdullah, member of the board of trustees of King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz International Foundation for Humanitarian Action, spoke at the World Scout Jamboree in Japan. He expressed his gratitude and appreciation for the invi...
JEDDAH: The Ministry of Health has issued a circular to all health sector employees to ensure they sterilize their hands prior to dealing with patients.The circular, issued by Deputy Minister for Public Health Dr. Abdul Aziz Abdullah bin Saeed, is in...
JEDDAH: The Indonesian Consulate and community have been conducting their 70th Independence Day celebrations for the past three months by having different cultural and social activities. On Tuesday, the consulate arranged a blood donation camp with t...
JEDDAH: The Specialized Penal Court in Jeddah on Tuesday issued a preliminary verdict on the imprisonment of two Saudi suspects to 38 years.The first suspect was charged with firing on the police center in Awamiyah, Qatif Province, while the other wa...

Stay Connected

Facebook