At-Turaif.. First Capital and Old Center of Power in Saudi Arabia

At-Turaif district that is located in the historic Ad-Dir’iyah city, on the north-west of Riyadh, was originally built in the 15th century in the Najdi architectural style.

Ad-Dir’iyah was taken by the Saudi Dynasty as their first capital from 1744 to 1818 and its popular citadel was the power center of Al-Saud. It enjoyed a unique position on the trade routes from East to West and had a military power under Al-Saud ruling. Additionally, it was a safe shelter for Muslim pilgrims on their way to Mecca. This enabled it to play a pivotal role politically and religiously in the Saudi history from the 18th century till the beginning of the 19th century.

At-Turaif was selected in 2010 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site to be the second Saudi heritage site after Al-Hijr site (Mada’en Saleh) in 2008. What matters most is that At-Turaif district is still able to keep its authenticity on the level of the urban or the architectural property that have not been affected or obliterated despite the reemployments or restorations performed along the twentieth century.

 The last restoration program of At-Turaif paid a great attention to conserve its buildings, road networks, and archaeological sites. Another reason is that At-Turaif includes the vestiges of an integrated urban ensemble with the most of its parts is in place.

Being abandoned for a long period, At-Turaif is fortunately still away of any blatant modern alteration. Particularly, it has been under the protection of the Antiquities Act 26M for the year 1972 since 1976, which preserves the moveable and immoveable ancient heritage registered as “antiquity”, a term that can apply to vestiges which are at least two-hundred years old.

One of the most outstanding features of At-Turaif is the diversified architecture from the urban ensemble to the palaces, the environmentally-adapted buildings, and the major palatial complexes made of adobe. All of these attributes compromise between the Najdi architectural and decorative style, characteristics of the center of the Arabian Peninsula, along with the splendid geometrical decoration.

Additionally, At-Turaif, as one of the early traditional human settlement in such a desert environment as Saudi Arabia, represents a watershed in the human settlement of the Arabian Peninsula besides its major religious and historic role.

                “Al-Turaif has been transformed into an open museum with the restoration and documentation of its archaeological sites,” said Prince Faisal bin Bandar, Emir of Riyadh and chairman of Riyadh Development Authority.

There are certain attractions that are essential for any visitor to see in Ad-Dir’iyah including Salwa palace museum, Imam Mohammed bin Saud mosque, the social life museum, the military museum, the Arabian Horse museum, and the trade and monetary Museum.

Additionally, there is a modern recreational project underway—Al-Bujairi Park, to include a vast open park, cafes, restaurants and an art gallery. This park supposedly to serve the historic Ad-Dir’iyah and Al-Turaif Quarter and compromise steep rock formations, passageways, and water creeks. This project will let Ad-Dir’iyah area, including

At-Turaif district, become an international and national tourism and cultural hub in the very near future. Subsequently, the Saudi tourism as one of the key Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 themes will thrive and flourish, and much more job opportunities will be provided for Saudis.

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