RIYADH: King Salman on Thursday issued a royal order announcing that Feb. 22 will be known as Founding Day.
The new annual national holiday, which will be celebrated for the first time next month, has been created to recognize the foundation of the first Saudi state in 1727 by Imam Mohammed ibn Saud.
Ancestors of the Saudi royal family first settled alongside Wadi Hanifah in the 15th century, founding the city of Diriyah in 1446.
But it was the determination of Imam Mohammed in 1727 to transform the city state into a nation state, bringing peace and unity to the wider Arabian Peninsula, that two centuries later culminated in the foundation of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia by King Abdulaziz in 1932.
The significance of the year 1727 in the story of Saudi Arabia has become ever more apparent in the light of extensive research carried out by historians and archaeologists.
In 2010, such work led to the At-Turaif district of Diriyah, birthplace of the nation, being inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List as a site of “outstanding universal value.”
Since then, research has continued under King Abdulaziz Foundation for Reserach and Archives and the Diriyah Gate Development Authority (DGDA), which in 2017 began transforming Diriyah into a global heritage and cultural destination, with the historic site of At-Turaif at its heart.
“Many historians have neglected the initial period of Imam Mohammed ibn Saud’s rule and the preceding era, even though this was the foundational period of the state,” said Dr. Badran Al-Honaihen, associate director of historical research and studies at DGDA.
In 1446, Manaa' Al-Muraide, leader of the Marada clan of the Al-Duru tribe of the Banu Hanifah, led his people inland from their home near Qatif on the Gulf coast at the invitation of his cousin, Ibn Dir, the ruler of Hajr — modern-day Riyadh.
Wadi Hanifah, where they settled and where the city of Diriyah would later rise, was named after the Banu Hanifah.
Dr. Badran said Al-Muraide’s arrival “laid the building blocks for the establishment of the greatest state in the history of the Arabian Peninsula, after the Prophetic State and the Rashidun Caliphate.”
But another 300 years would pass before, in 1720, Saud ibn Mohammed assumed the leadership of Diriyah. In the process, he founded the House of Saud, but historians date the origin of the First Saudi State to 1727, when Saud’s son, Mohammed, became ruler of the city state.
His achievement, according to Dr. Badran, was even more remarkable because “he assumed power in exceptional circumstances.” Diriyah had been riven by internal divisions and plague had claimed many lives in the Najd. Nevertheless, “Imam Mohammed was able to unite Diriyah under his rule and to contribute to the spread of stability in the region,” he said.
Founding Day, Dr Badran added, was not an alternative to National Day, which is celebrated every Sept. 23, but complementary to it.
“Founding Day is not intended to replace Saudi National Day, which celebrates the unification of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1932, but rather to recognize the beginning of the Saudi state’s history with a new event that celebrates the deep historical roots of the Kingdom.”