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Al-Dariyyah: The pride of Najd
By Faiz al-Najdi (Riyadh, KSA)

salwa palace

Faiz Al-NajdiMarch 2003: 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; a commodity not found in abundance in this part of the world, though) and, which is  also ancestral home of the Al-Sauds and the capital of the first Saudi State dating back to the 18 th 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; 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 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 leave & 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; its 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.

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. 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  grroups established territorial control. The first, the OTTOMAN (the Turks, basically) occupied much of the eastern seaboard of the Arabian Peninsula  and Al-Hassa (Hofuf) 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-Sauds, 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”, 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 King Abdul Aziz who was restless to return to  his  ancestral seat. Finally, on  the 5 th 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 rule of Al-Sauds all over again. The kingdom marked  the Centennial  celebrations of this day on the 5 th  of  Shawwal  1419  H  ( corresponding  to  January  22, 1999  AD )  and  this  event  was celebrated with  all its  pomp and circumstance through out the Kingdom all through the year 1999 AD.  It took  some  30 more years, since then,  for  the  young  King  to  establish its full control throughout the length & breadth  of  the Arabian Peninsula. He is credited for unifying the ever divided Arab Bedouins and feuding tribes of this land & transforming them all to one proud Nation. He of course had to work very hard for  this which was not an easy task though. Finally, on   the   23 rd   September   1932,  King  Abdul  Aziz  Bin  Abdur  Rahman  Al-Saud proclaimed this part of the Arabian Peninsula as the modern Kingdom of Saudi  Arabia.

Thus, 23 rd September  is  basically the National Day of Saudi Arabia, for which  the  nationals and the expatriates enjoy an extra day-off combined with the holidays marking Eid Al-Adha.

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