At the fertile junctures of wadis Hanifah and Al-Batha sprang Riyadh, its history dating back several centuries before becoming the capital of a unified Saudi Arabia in 1932. Since the oil boom just a few years later, Riyadh’s rapid development transformed it from a small fortified desert village to a modern metropolis of several million inhabitants and the largest city in the Kingdom. Riyadh is the political and administrative center of Saudi Arabia, hosting the country’s legislative and government buildings as well as headquarters of many banks and major companies. Its organized grid layout is lined with more than 4,000 mosques, numerous busy shopping centers and traditional souks, public recreational spaces, and compartmentalized communities and neighborhoods. The city’s skyline continues to shift as modern skyscrapers and architectural feats crop up according to ongoing ambitious development schemes. Riyadh is also known as the country’s cultural capital for its many cultural centers such as the King Abd al-Aziz Historical Center, the National Museum, and the National Library. In fact, it was selected as the cultural capital of the Arab world in 2000 by UNESCO.


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Ad Diriyah

Located just minutes from Riyadh, Ad Diriyah is the birthplace of the first Saudi state called At-Turaif which ruled between 1744 and 1818. Founded in 1446 on the banks of the Wadi Hanifah, Diriyah developed into central gathering point for surrounding flourishing communities as well as travelers along pilgrimage and trade routes to Asia, Africa, and Europe. The thriving desert city quickly grew to become a powerhouse of culture, military, and commerce. At its core, the At-Turaif district was the original seat of power for the kingdom’s Al Saud family. At-Turaif was recognized by UNESCO as one of the world’s largest mud-brick cities and was designated as a World Heritage Site in 2010. Much redevelopment was carried out within the district and throughout Ad Diriyah for preservation as well as new developments such as tourist infrastructure including hotels, museums, and restaurants.

Edge of the World

Jebel Fihrayn, better known as the Edge of the World, is a popular vantage point that grants visitors panoramic vistas of dramatic desert plains and the horizon atop its almost 1000-feet high cliffs. There are various routes to the top ranging from 15-30 minutes, traversing through rugged terrain with steep climbs and sharp rocks. Jebel Fihrayn is located 90 minutes from Riyadh.

Souq Al Zal

The capital’s most famous market, Souq Al Zal is set near to Fort Masmak and has been open since 1901. The market is named after a type of handmade rug with geometric patterns, though the souq also offers a variety of traditional goods from perfume to antiques and homemade leather goods. On Fridays the biggest auction of the week is held and merchants put up their rarest and most precious goods such as antiques, ceremonial swords, and carpets for sale to the highest bidder.

Al Masmak Fortress & Museum

Masmak Fortress, a mud-brick and clay citadel, was the site of the historic battle that turned the tide in favor of the Al Saud house and paved the way for modern-day Saudi Arabia. In 1902, King Adbulaziz Al Saud captured the fortress and took control of Riyadh (his ancestral home) after having lived in exile in Kuwait. From this fortress, he conquered and united the different kingdoms and provinces. Today this restored building is a museum with exhibitions that display maps and photographs of Saudi Arabia’s history, alongside a range of historical artifacts, art, and audiovisual presentations.

Murabba Palace

This palace was built by King Abdulaziz, the first building erected outside the walls of the old city. The king left his former court in Masmak fort and moved into Murabba Palace which was a family residence as well as a new court. In 1999 the palace was redeveloped and converted into a museum, open for public visitations. Several historic garments and crafts are exhibited, there is also a King Abdulaziz memorial hall.

Red Sand Dunes by Quad Bike

Take to the stunning red sand dunes outside of Riyadh for a thrilling adventure atop quad bikes. Navigate the expanse of the desert and enjoy racing up and down the sea of dunes.

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