Diriyah’s importance was underscored by its designation as a Giga Project for Saudi Arabia’s Sovereign Wealth Fund PIF.
Jeddah: For over 500 years, the ruins of the adobe city of Diriyah have been a silent testimony to the resilience, determination and changing fortunes of the inhabitants of the Arabian Peninsula.
Built along a curve on the outskirts of Riyadh and an oasis separated from the shores of Wadi Hanifa, the mud-brick walls of Diriyah surrounded a thriving desert city that was once a powerhouse of culture and commerce.
Home to the famous citadel, the At-Turaif district was the former seat of power of the kingdom’s Al Saud family. In 1727, the city was designated the nation’s capital, laying the foundation for what would become a unified Saudi Arabia.
Almost three centuries later, in 2010, Turaif was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Then, in July 2017, the area became the subject of a painstaking restoration plan aimed at bringing its historic heritage back to life.
Diriyah is now the fifth Giga project to be added to the Kingdom’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) portfolio.
The five Giga projects form key pillars of the Sovereign Wealth Fund’s strategy to diversify the Kingdom’s economy by launching new sectors, fostering public-private partnerships and promoting investment and employment opportunities.
The recognition of the site alongside other mega-projects in the Kingdom “reflects Diriyah’s status as a unique destination with distinctive cultural, historical and touristic landmarks,” Saudi Arabia said. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, prime minister and chairman of the PIF, said. Announcement on Monday.
PIF, which manages more than $620 billion in assets, is at the heart of Saudi Vision 2030 plans aimed at diversifying the kingdom’s economy and reducing its dependence on hydrocarbons.
Besides Diriyah, Saudi Arabia’s roster of Giga projects includes NEOM Smart City, Red Sea Global’s luxury tourism development, Riyadh-based Qidiyah Entertainment Complex and property developer ROSHN.
Diriyah Gate Development Authority (DGDA) was commissioned by the Government of Saudi Arabia in 2017 to redevelop the “Birthplace of the Kingdom” into a world-class sustainable tourism, entertainment and cultural destination.
Upon completion, the $50 billion Giga project will feature some of the world’s most luxurious restaurants and hotels built in traditional Najdi architectural style, as well as nature reserves and cultural facilities.
DGDA will continue to oversee the site with a view to transforming it into one of the region’s most important tourist attractions.
At the heart of Diriyah’s Turaif district is a maze of stone and adobe houses, courtyards and towers, including the tall citadel towers of the majestic Salwa Palace. It was here that the first chapter of the Saudi Arabian story was written.
Spreading over an area of at least 10,000 square meters, Salwa’s Palace, which means comfort or comfort in Arabic, is the largest single structure in Diriyah and consists of seven architectural units built in successive stages. increase.
It first appeared in 1446 when Mana’a al-Muraid, leader of the Marada clan of the al-Dur tribe of Bani Hanifa and “father of the Saudi royal family”, built what would become the largest state building in Saudi Arabia. It’s time to build the block of History of the Arabian Peninsula.
Built in the distinctive Najdi architectural style using adobe, straw and logs, the walls are lined with decorative triangular windows designed to recirculate air and bring natural light into the room.
This style of architecture evolved over the centuries in response to harsh conditions, and is made up of a handful of readily available natural materials such as sun-baked adobe, limestone quarried from wadi slopes, and timber from hardy tamarisk trees. material is used.
Historians believe that the first Saudi state was founded here in 1727 when Mohammed, son of Saud, became ruler of the town. Imam Muhammad ibn Saud was the great-great-grandfather of King Salman and “one of his most important figures” in Saudi Arabia’s history.
The emergence of this city, built in the Hanifa Valley, marked a turning point in the history of the Arabian Peninsula. Because the Arab and Islamic world has found stability and prosperity, it has become a destination for trade, culture, knowledge, communication and economic exchange.
After his death, Imam Mohammed’s son Abdulaziz continued his father’s work, and a few years later his son Saud, known as Saud the Great, succeeded to the throne.
The Saudi state expanded from the Euphrates and the Levant in the north to Sana’a and Muscat in the south to the coast of the Arabian Gulf in the east and the Red Sea in the west. Control.
In 1811, Ottoman forces under the command of Ibrahim Pasha landed at Yanbu on the Arabian Red Sea coast. It was the beginning of a bloody six-year campaign that ended with Diriyah’s defeat and the abandonment of At To Life.
In March 1818, the city walls were destroyed by artillery fire and the scars still remain today. His 5,000 men, outnumbered by 6 to 1, held the fort against Ibrahim Pasha’s army.
For six months they fought hard to defend the fort. However, for every 1,200 of his defenders killed in action, 10 of his men in Pasha’s men were killed in battle. Leading the Saudi soldiers was Imam Abdullah bin Saud.
When the siege was finally over, the Ottomans withdrew from Najd, but not before destroying Diriyah and destroying its buildings and fortifications. It undermines decades of patient farming and drives large areas of people to starvation.
Diriyah and At-T-Lif were left devastated by riots, assassinations and civil wars, then taken by the Ibn Rashid clan in 1891, but remained in the hearts of the surviving members of the House of Saud.
In 1902, 16-year-old Abdulaziz ibn Abdul Rahman al-Saud, son of the last imam of the exiled second Saudi state, a small group of fighters stormed the fortress of Masmak, 20 km southeast of Turaif. Did. and regained the throne.
On September 23, 1932, he unified the country from east to west and made Riyadh the new capital of Saudi Arabia. Forty years later, Diriyah has emerged again as a new town on the outskirts of the rapidly expanding capital. .
In 2017, an ambitious plan was launched to transform Diriyah into a global historical, cultural and lifestyle destination.
This will add 27 billion riyals ($7.1 billion) to the kingdom’s gross domestic product, create 55,000 jobs and attract 27 million visitors annually.
When complete, the site will feature at least 28 luxury hotels and resorts, nearly 400 of the world’s finest luxury and lifestyle brands, and over 150 fine dining restaurants and cafes.
More than 3,000 traditional Najdi-style homes and more than 300 luxury brand homes will be built.
There is also King Salman University, a new academic institution focused on archaeological sites, culture and arts, Najdi architecture, adobe buildings, poetry, falconry, Qur’an readings, local theater, dance, music and culinary arts. .
Other cultural assets include the Grand Mosque, which can accommodate more than 10,000 worshippers, six museums focused on Saudi history, an extensive period village, not to mention the Al-Turaif UNESCO World Heritage Site itself. , and the Al-Taref Center. The focus of its work is the region’s agricultural heritage.
These developments have not gone unnoticed in the wider region. Diriyah He was named the Arab Capital of Culture in 2030. It has already hosted the JAX Arts Festival and the Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennial, which supports artistic and creative movements and helps keep pace with the cultural transformation of the Kingdom.
Diriyah will host many more major sporting events. Its unique road network has made it a popular venue for the world-famous Formula E racing event over the years. Diriyah was also the host of ‘Crash on the Dunes’, his first heavyweight boxing championship held in the Middle East.
With Diriyah’s power and importance to the story of Saudi Arabia and the history of the Arabian Peninsula, the once-forsaken city once again takes center stage, becoming the crown jewel of the kingdom.