quotes Searching for the hidden meanings of ‘Al-Mahrousa’

23 December 2021
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Updated 23 December 2021

Searching for the hidden meanings of ‘Al-Mahrousa’

  • While the roots of the word “Al-Mahrousa” cannot be found, its connotations have evolved and it is used now to mean a fortified and revered spot, a city or a fortress

In a text inscribed more than 250 years ago, Diriyah is described as “Diriyah Al-Mahrousa.” Anyone reading this text today, other than admiring the remarkable beauty of the Arabic calligraphy in the manuscript, might ask what prompted the writer to use that particular phrase.

While the roots of the word “Al-Mahrousa” cannot be found, its connotations have evolved and it is used now to mean a fortified and revered spot, a city or a fortress.

It has been used to describe Aleppo Al-Mahrousa and Damascus Al-Mahrousa in Syria, and Kasbah Al-Mahrousa in Algeria. Salah Al-Din Al-Ayyubi used to call the forts he repaired “Al-Mahrousa,” meaning a fortified fortress protected from attack.

The use of “Al-Mahrousa” has been common to describe some Arab and international cities. Cairo is known as Al-Mahrousa, that is, guarded against envy, aggression and harm, as the Egyptians put it. It was also used to describe Paris, and the books that were printed there at the end of the 18th century had the phrase: “Printed in Paris Al-Mahrousa.” It was also used to describe London in the same period.

There is a difference in definition between “Al-Mahrousa” and “Al-Mahmiyah” (protected). It was said Al-Mahrousa is a city that does not have a wall, and Al-Mahmiyah is surrounded by a wall. This leads us to some important questions: Were the walls dispensed with in that period? Was there no need for them?

One has to bear in mind that the time in which the text was written coincided with the beginning of the era of Imam Saud bin Abdulaziz Al-Kabeer, which was the great period of the capital of the First Saudi State. During that time it brought security and peace that spread throughout the Arabian Peninsula, from the Gulf to the Red Sea, and from the outskirts of the Levant and Iraq to Oman and Yemen.

Or is the previous definition inaccurate? Especially if we consider that the well-known meaning of “Al-Mahrousa” is a fortified city with walls, and the surrounding walls of Diriyah reach nearly 13 km, and they existed from the establishment of the First Saudi State until the time of its destruction. Or were Diriyah’s walls rebuilt just before its fall in 1818, and then the second definition becomes more accurate?

Regardless of these questions, we find that in contemporary Saudi history there is a presence of the word “Al-Mahrousa.” At the beginning of 1946, sources tell us at length about King Abdulaziz’s arrival in Suez on the royal yacht Al-Mahrousa, and King Farouk receiving him with a solemn reception. In this context, Al-Mahrousa meant under heavy security.

There is a difference in definition between ‘Al-Mahrousa’ and ‘Al-Mahmiyah’ (protected).

Dr. Badran Al-Honaihen, associate director of historical research and studies at the Diriyah Gate Development Authority

This term may have lofty moral connotations, such as an expression of protection and love, or supplication and a good omen for the spot that is described with this description. More than 250 years ago, one of the people of Diriyah appended his book by describing his city as “Al-Mahrousa,” and this line has remained a witness to this day on his loyalty to his homeland.

Today, giving and loyalty to the heritage of Diriyah, which is guarded by the eyes of God first, then with the care and attention of the custodian of the Two Holy Mosques and the crown prince, is represented by the Diriyah Gate project, which serves to highlight its heritage and ancient history.

Diriyah is a historical symbol of the Saudi state and the cradle of its national unity. It has retained its centrality as a cultural and economic platform as it was the meeting point for pilgrims from different countries and the transit route for caravans to exchange knowledge and benefits.

Today, we are witnessing a special event that embodies its cultural symbolism, with the Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization announcing the selection of Diriyah as the Arab capital of culture for 2030. With this, it becomes a landmark of ancient history and a cultural destination that will not be forgotten.