Dir Aiyah, Riyadh
Wadi Hanifa is a north-south river complex that once provided seasonal fresh-water resources to the region of Riyadh and Dir’iyah, as well as nearby towns and villages. Today, to the north-west of the city you can find the dried riverbed of the Wadi, and in the south of Riyadh you will find a small lake or pond that contains the more permanent part of the ecosystem’s fresh water. The northern reaches of the wadi were among my favourite for their views of desert landscapes and crack soil. These areas are also popular with Saudi families who come to picnic during their days off, and they can be quite pleasant on cooler winter days when there isn’t much wind. For wilder and more desolate views, it is fun to take the roads that branch off from the main road into the desert. You’re unlike to come by anyone else on these roads, and the sense of solitude is a considerable relief from the hustle and bustle of modern Riyadh.
The amount of work underway in Dir’iyah is impressive, and it might give the visitor the impression that the Saudis treasure their architectural heritage. Unfortunately, this is not the case, as is easily apparent to anyone who wanders into the areas with traditional houses. Many of these are in states of extreme disrepair, and some have collapsed into heaps of rubble. It is unclear whether they will be renovated once they have finished renovations of Qasr Nasr, the guest house and the Saud Palace. If so, they will need to dispossess the mainly Somali and East African families who are resident here, and have not benefitted from the resettlement programs that were provided to Bedouins living in Dir’iyah in the 1970s.
The ruins of Al Dir’aiyah, the ancient Saudi capital, lie 32 km north-west of Al Batha. The city flourished in the late 18th century under the First Saudi Empire, but was razed in 1818 by invading Ottomans. Reconstruction began in 1980 & today there is much to see, especially the Mosque of Mohammed bin Abdul Wahhab & the museums.
Old Dir'Aiyah was not only a palace inside a fortress but was also living place with private houses.