Built with oil money, Saudi Arabia's capital is now a high tech city complete with huge hotels, modern hospitals and one of the biggest airports in the world. It rivals any modern city in the world with the splendor of its architecture. The city extends for 1600 square kilometers and has over 4.7 million inhabitants. The name Riyadh is derived from the Arabic word "rawdah" meaning a place of gardens and trees.
The Riyadh Museum
The museum displays all the usual stuff covering the history and archaeology of the kingdom from the Stone Age to early Islam. There is also an remarkable display on Islamic architecture and a separate Ethnographic Hall with clothes, musical instruments, weapons and jewellery.
City of Old Diriya
The ruins of Dir'aiyah are located 30km (20mi) north of the city centre are considered Riyadh's most interesting attraction. Dir'aiyah was the kingdom's first capital and is now the country's most popular archaeological site. Dir'aiyah was established in 1446, reached the height of its powers at the end of the 18th century and was destroyed in 1818. The reconstructed ruins include palaces, mosques and the city wall.
Al Musmak Castle
Al Musmak Castle is considered one of the important landmarks in the Kingdom and occupies a prominent place in the history of Riyadh city in particular, as it represents the blessed march that led to the foundation and unification of the Kingdom. This castle is associated with the heroic battle of conquering Riyadh under the leadership of King Abdulaziz on the dawn of the fifth of Sha'aban 1319H.
Musmak means the thick, high, and fortified and was built during the reign of Mohammed bin Abdullah bin Rasheed (1289 -1315H) and was captured by King Abdulaziz in 1319H, corresponding to 1902. Later, it was used as a depot until it was decided to convert the castle into a heritage landmark that represents a stage in the history of Saudi Arabia.
King Abdulaziz Darat
It was established during the reign of late King Faisal, in Sha'aban 1392H, as an independent body. It is considered a scientific academy established to commemorate the memory of the King Abdulaziz the founder of the Peninsula as well as a Centre for scientific research, to collect, revise and translate all the materials written about the Kingdom, Arab and Islamic World into all languages, and make it available. The Darat also provide the researcher with references, documents, maps & drawings that helps to complete the research in an ideal way.
Known as the Paris of Saudi Arabia, Jeddah is mid-way down the country's Red Sea coast. It is considered the most interesting & friendly of Saudi Arabia's big cities. Jeddah is centred on Al-Balad, the strip of buildings along the coastal road with the old city directly behind them. Jeddah's Red Sea coast is full of reefs, creeks and wadis to keep even the most advanced diver busy. There are numerous underwater wrecks just waiting to be explored.
The old city of Jeddah
It is now a protected area. Within the area, many of the traditional houses are built of coral, taken from reefs in the Red Sea. Most interesting are the Sharbatly House and the Naseef House, two old houses of two of Jeddah's merchant families. Both have been restored.
The Municipality Museum
The museum is housed in a 200-year-old restored traditional house built from Red Sea coral. The museum contains interesting photos of the development of Jeddah, along with rooms done up in traditional style. It is the only remaining building of several which comprised the British Legation in Jeddah during World War I. The museum is open in the mornings from Saturday to Thursday; admission is free but a permit from the Jeddah Municipality is required (telephone: +966 2 669-5556 or 660-7671). Once the permit has been granted, it is still necessary to make an appointment with the curator of the museum.
The Souk Al Alawi
Winding its way through the old city, it is one of the best souks in the kingdom. It's a great place to spend hours wandering around and browsing.
The best-kept secret in Jeddah - and one which many Saudis are totally unaware of and would deny if asked - is that there is a Christian cemetery in the city. It is in fact in a street in the old city named with predictable Arab pragmatism, the Street of the Cemetery of the Foreigners. It is no longer in use, the last burial having taken place in the early 1950s, but is kept up in turn by various of the foreign consulates in the city. It is walled and there is a large gate. It can, however, be peered into from some of the buildings surrounding it.
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