Issue# 205

15th Feb 2011

Desert Winds





Riyadh, meaning garden in Arabic, is the Capital City of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It’s a very well planned modern city with a State-of-the-Art infrastructure set-up, a superb road network and a very imposing Skyline. People who have travelled circuitously would agree that this city is surely nonpareil in the region and is comparable to any modern city in other parts of the world.

Pronounced  as  Al-Dariyyah (and commonly known simply as Dariyyah), this  is  a historical settlement located  about 30 Km north-west  of  the  city  center  of  Riyadh. It is an oasis town over looking green valley, rich with precious underground water resources. Water is a commodity not found in abundance in this part of the world though. Dariyyah is also ancestral home of the Al-Sauds and the capital of the first Saudi State dating back to the 18th century. 

Dariyyah is popularly known for the ATTURAIF which is one of the first built precincts of Addir’iyyah on one side of the famous Waadi Hanifa. Waadi is Arabic for valley. The Atturaif precinct gained its importance as being the home for the ruling family during the First Saudi State. The second reason for fame & importance of Dariyyah is BJIRY precinct. It is situated on the other side of the famous Waadi. This is the precinct where the famed Sheikh Mohammad Bin Abdul Wahab (the illustrious Islamic religious scholar) used to live with his family and his students. For those who don’t know it already, that  the  oft heard terms like WAHABI and WAHABISM in fact originated and are coined basically after this particularly eminent Islamic Scholar.

 The Atturaif Quarter has a special place in the historic Addir’iyyah settlement. It houses Salwa Palace which was the residence of Al-Saud Amirs and Imams during the First Saudi State. It is believed to be the largest Palace in the historic Addir’iyyah, and is located on the northern part of Atturaif precinct. Besides this, there are a number of other archaeological features, which are witness to the glorified Saudi past. 

For the interests of the architects/engineers, it is worth noting that the main building materials employed in Atturaif Quarter were the sun-dried mud brick (also called Adobe) for the walls and limestone blocks for the foundations. Also, circular limestone blocks were artfully laid on top of each other and then carefully covered with mud to form a circular column, which added to aesthetics of the structures. For the roofing materials Athil woods, palm tree leaves & branches were tastefully employed which helped in keeping the enclosed space well insulated against both heat and cold.  

Besides Atturaif and Bjiry precinct, there is a fairly large suburb developed and inhabited on both sides of Waadi Hanifa. These new suburbs basically sprang up after the establishment of King Saud University which is quite nearby. It’s faculties, staffs and other support employees prefer to live here, in what is called the New Dariyyah There is a big thermal power plant also located here in the neighborhoods, whose engineers & technicians and other employees also make-up a part of the populace of this New Dariyyah. A very large base camp of Saudi Oger Ltd (one of the largest construction contractors of the Kingdom) is also located in this locality.
In short, the history of Dariyyah is as old as the family history of Al-Sauds. The House of Sauds can trace its roots as back as some 500 years, making it one of the most distinguished families in the Arabian Peninsula. Traditionally, the Al- Sauds were first associated with the Najd cities of Dariyyah (for quite a long period of time) and later with Riyadh. In simple words, Najd implies most regions of the Central Arabian Peninsula. The First Saud State had emerged following the issuance of the famous “Addir’iyyah Accord “between Imam Mohammad Bin Abdul Wahab and Imam Mohammad Bin Saud. The Second Saud State was founded by Imam Turki Bin Abdullah. For much of the 19th century the House of Saud ruled great expanses of the Arabian Peninsula. However, when Imam Faysal Bin Turki (ruler from 1834-38 and 1843-65)   died   after   reigning    peacefully   and   prosperously, two groups established territorial control. The first, the OTTOMAN (the Turks, basically) occupied much of the eastern seaboard of the Arabian Peninsula and Al-Hassa (Hufuf) oasis. The second was a rival dynasty, the House of RASHIDS. Although their Capital Center was based in Hayil (a Najd city north of Riyadh), the Rashids had installed a Deputy Governor in Riyadh also. When Imam Abdur Rahman (father of King Abdul Aziz, the founder of the present Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) emerged as the Head of the Al-Saudis, he and his followers attacked Riyadh; recapturing it and establishing its control. The Al-Rashids, however, returned  to  fight  but found  the  defenses  too  strong  and  began  a  siege  of  the city. After  40 days, a  peace was negotiated  at  talks  &  parleys   to  which  King  Abdul  Aziz (then  a  small  child)  had  also accompanied  his  father. This armistice was short-lived and Imam Abdur Rahman was then forced to evacuate his family in 1891. He sent some  of his  family members to Bahrain, while men  took  refuge  with  Al-Murra, a  Bedouin  tribe   in   a  remote  area  on  the  edge  of  the Rub Al- Khali. Arabic word Ruba means one-quarter and Khali means empty, hence the name “Empty Quarter”. It is a famous abandoned desert area located in the south-eastern part of Saudi Arabia. From 1893, the Al-Sauds were hosted in Kuwait by its ruler Sheikh Muhammad and then by Sheikh Mubarak Al-Sabah.


This experience of life in exile had a profound effect on the young and brave King Abdul Aziz who was restless to return to his ancestral seat. Finally, on  the 5th of Shawwal 1319 H corresponding to January 15, 1902 A.D. (H: is the Hijra Calendar followed  in Saudi Arabia which is counted from the year  prophet Muhammad PBUH chose  to  migrate from  Makkah  to  Madinah), the young  King Abdul Aziz Al-Saud (he was only 20 years old then) organized  an  attack  on the Al-Rashid  Governor  of  Riyadh  and   stormed  &  occupied  the  famous  Masmak Fort. He overpowered those inside and thus gained control of the city. This operation is recorded in Saudi history as Retaking of Riyadh which had in fact dawned the re-establishment of the rule of Al-Sauds all over again.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia marked  the Centennial  celebrations of this important & significant day on the 5th  of  Shawwal  1419  H  ( corresponding  to  January  22, 1999  AD )  and  this  event  was celebrated with  all its  pomp and circumstance throughout the Kingdom all through the year of 1999 AD. 
It needs mention here that it took  some  30 more years, since the retaking control of Riyadh,  for  the  young  King  to  establish its full control throughout the length & breadth  of  the Arabian Peninsula. Undoubtedly, he is credited for unifying the ever divided Arab Bedouins and feuding tribes of this land & transforming them all to one proud Saudi Nation. He of course had to work very hard for this which was not an easy task though.
Finally, on   the 23rd September 1932, King Abdul Aziz Bin Abdur Rahman Al-Saud proclaimed this part of the Arabian Peninsula as the modern Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. 23rd September thus became the National Day of Saudi Arabia. Prior to declaring this day as a public holiday by the present King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud, the  Saudi nationals and the expatriates were allowed an extra day-off which was usually combined with the holidays marking Eid Al-Adha.