Ten Things to do in Riyadh’s Historical Diriyah

The historic city of Ad’Diriyah, where the first Saudi State was established in 1745 (1158H) has been undergoing a huge restoration project since 2011. I for one have been anxiously awaiting for it to finish because I simply love all this place has to offer. Every time I go to Diriyah, there’s something new and exciting to discover. A shady alleyway with a colorful door at the end, an old watch tower or a small stream, lined with perfect shaded picnic spots..You never know what you will find!

So when I heard the news that earlier this month a part of the restoration project had finally been finished and inaugurated by the King, I was thrilled and could not wait to go check it out.  Apparently the newly opened area is called the Al-Bujairi district the gateway to the historic area of Ad-Diriyah. You can find the directions, map and gps location further below. According to the project management of Diriyah restorations:
“The project is a part of the scheme to develop Diriyah and highlight its cultural value by creating facilities at its main entrance.”

At Turaif District palace ruins

This post is a collaborative Top Ten (5+5) list with blogger Margo Catts, whom I had the pleasure of exploring Diriyah with. Margo happens to be quite an amazing woman and super talented writer. I’m so happy to have met her in person, if only for a short time (she has left on final exit now). We had a blast one morning when the two of us went all “touristy” around Diriyah with our cameras and unfortunate driver. You will begin the virtual sightseeing tour of Riyadh’s very own UNESCO World Heritage site from the below five things to do, and then finish off the virtual Diriyah tour through her blog post here: 10 Things to Do at Historic Diriyah

Ten Things to do in Riyadh

The location of historical Ad’Diriyah is 20 km North West of Riyadh (11 km from city center) on the banks of Wadi Hanifa. The historic area of Ad’Diriyah is divided into two parts by the Wadi Hanifa and additionally into a number of different quarters. The most important ones are:

Turaif Quarter: The main quarter of Ad’Diriyah, where the Al Saud house is situated. The area is located on the South Western mountain, surrounded by a wall overlooking all other quarters.

Ghusaiba Quarter: This was the first Saudi capital up to 1683.

Bujairy Quarter: Located on the Eastern bank of Wadi Hanifa. here you’ll find the mosque, a school, home of Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdul Wahab and the newly opened Diriyah gateway.

GPS coordinates to the roundabout next to the Bujairy plaza: 24.737382 46.575260

Here’s a google earth pic of the area, where you can see the green areas are mostly date farms around Wadi Hanifa and the road which goes down the valley splits the area in two; the Bujairy gateway area and on the opposite side the main historical city area. The actual city is unfortunately still closed from public, although private tours are possible by booking through the Diriyah project management.  The entire Diriyah restoration project is estimated to finish by the end of 2017. In the meanwhile, there’s still plenty of things to see and it’s well worth the visit.historical diriyah map Things to do in Ad ‘Diriyah

1. Explore the new Al Bujairy center.

Enjoy the amazing views to the palace and city ruins, find the old city well, have a picnic by the waterfalls or grab a coffee from one of the cafes. Exploring the Bujairy marketplace and surrounding area feels like stepping back in time, to when this place really was the hub of the city. Lots of shops, cafes, restaurants and businesses are already open and many more will open their doors soon. Most are open after Asr prayers only for the time being. A visitor’s info center, a cultural center and museum will also be opening there in the future.Discover Historical Ad

diriyah salwa palaceHistorical diriyah Turaif city wallAl Bujairy district, Diriyah

diriyah Al Bujairy plazadiriyah marketplace

diriyah museum center

diriyah albujairy gatewaydiriyah old city well2. Door-Gawking and Alley-Wandering.

Ad-Diriyah is a paradise for door enthusiasts like myself. Diriyah is actually one of the places where my inspiration for the ‘Doors of the Magic Kingdom‘ collection began. Margo too, is a self-proclaimed door-addict and we had a lot of fun hunting down new doors and finding the matching door and phone cover! Check out Blue Abaya Designs on Instagram for more door phone covers and other Saudi themed souvenirs and gifts. You can also purchase the iPhone and Samsung covers online

You will see the tribal patterns of the Najd region repeating themselves in the doors, gates, window shutters and panels scattered around the vast historical area. The geometric patterns, bright colors and the Najdi flower are the most easily recognizable patterns. Watch out for the below pictures huge colorful gate, which is actually a part of an isteraha that can be rented for private occasions.

Wander down one of the shady alleys down on the wadi road for another back in time-travel experience. Walking around the quiet neighborhoods is very therapeutic and makes for a refreshing change from the concrete jungles of Riyadh.

Diriyah Colorful painted gates

Saudi doors phone covers

My designs! The Doors of the Magic Kingdom collection phone covers and the matching door in the background.

diriyah farm gate

diriyah wood door

diriyah alleyway

diriyah giant doors3. Visit and see the mosques.

The old, the new and renovated ones. Probably one of the most famous mosques in all of Saudi Arabia is the Sheikh Mohamed bin Abdulwahab mosque, which is located right at the entrance to the historical area next to the Diriyah city walls.  So far the renovation efforts resulted in restoring the mosque where Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulwahab used to be its imam and deliver sermons. Many other mosques can be found around the newly inaugurated Al-Bujairi plaza area such as the restored Al-Dhwaihrah Mosque and the restoration of the Imam Mohammed bin Saud Mosque which is still under way.

diriyah mosque newdiriyah mosque wudu4. Hunt for antiques, art and souvenirs at the plaza.

Several Saudi gifts and trinkets shops & antique stores, art galleries are already open around the Diriyah marketplace area. Many more to be opened in the near future. The AMA Art venue is already open and there is a small coffee shop at the gallery. Check out the AMA Twitter and Instagram for more info!


The AMA Art Gallery in Ad Diriyah

The AMA Art Gallery entrance in Ad Diriyah

Diriyah souk antique shop

5. Eat at the Najd Village restaurant.

This is the third branch of the lovely  Najd Village restaurants which serve traditional Saudi foods. You will be seated on the floor in your own Saudi style majlis or tent, while trying out all the different Najd food specialities at once! Read more about why this restaurant is so amazing here: Al Qarya Najdiya-The Najd Village restaurant.  As an added bonus, the Diriyah branch is overlooking the palace ruins across the wadi, the views are truly incredible. This would be THE place to bring those special Riyadh visitors to. Spend a memorable evening in a one of a kind setting enjoying authentic Saudi food and culture. The restaurant is open daily for both singles and families, 4-10pm
diriyah najd village restaurant door

Now head over to Margo’s post for more pics and a great history lesson of Diriyah!

For a sneak peek into the At Turaif district restoration project (currently closed off from public) check out these videos:

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  • […] this week we’re doing a joint blog—10 Things to Do at Historic Diriyah. You can get five at BlueAbaya.com, and five […]ReplyCancel

  • Susie Johnson KhalilMay 15, 2015 - 8:49 pm

    I want to go! Those doors are really amazing! Next time I am in Riyadh, we must go there!!!ReplyCancel

  • MiinaMay 22, 2015 - 4:32 pm

    Thank you for the visual tour! it looks stunning I wish I can visit!ReplyCancel

    • LaylaMay 23, 2015 - 3:08 pm

      Welcome! Don’t forget to continue the “tour” at Margo’s page :)ReplyCancel

  • mehwishMay 22, 2015 - 6:11 pm

    any contact numbers for the restaurant would be appreciated tyReplyCancel

  • KristineMay 29, 2015 - 8:05 am

    This has been on my Saudi list for a while! Your photos are beautiful, and I’m going to try and get there in the next couple weeks…..before it gets much hotter!!ReplyCancel

    • LaylaMay 29, 2015 - 3:32 pm

      Thank you Kristine for the comment! try to visit in the afternoon when the shop will be open, or then very very early in the morning if just for photo ops :)ReplyCancel

  • […] Historical Ad Diriyah King Fahad Football Stadium Suspension Bridge King Abdullah International Gardens Park Al Nakheel Mall East of King Abdulaziz Manakh Park Al Ha’ir King Abdulaziz weather park Manakh […]ReplyCancel

  • IndrajitAugust 15, 2015 - 2:12 pm

    Is there a visiting time restriction for singles? we are group of four who like to visit on a Friday evening.ReplyCancel

    • LaylaAugust 21, 2015 - 12:04 am

      it’s a public area open to all, so there’s no problem visiting, however Friday evening will be very crowded with families having picnics :)ReplyCancel

  • Riyadh To Do Guide » Blue AbayaAugust 24, 2015 - 5:06 am

    […] The Red Sands area west of Riyadh along the Mecca highway is a beautiful place to go just for the scenery. Also possible to rent quad bikes there. There are numerous other desert treks and picnicking spots around Riyadh, but again I will only mention my favourite Rawdhat Khuraim. Once you get there you will not believe you’re in Saudi-Arabia, it’s so green! Then there’s a lot of historical sites to explore around Riyadh, like the ancient  City of Old Diriyah. It’s a historically interesting site to visit including the famous Salwa palace. During 1745, a strong Islamic reform movement took place over here. Besides this in the past the old city of Diriyah was also considered to be the largest in Arabian Peninsula. However, in the first part of 19th century Turks destroyed this city and afterwards Riyadh captured it. Walk amongst the ruins of mud and brick built houses, palaces bath houses and mosques. Best visited in cooler months. For more info on Historical Diriyah check this post: Ten Things to do at historic Ad’Diriyah […]ReplyCancel

  • […] around town though and we headed to check them out. There was a small festival area set up in the historical Diriyah area. We drove around the Wadi Hanifa and saw many families had set up fires and BBQ’s around […]ReplyCancel

  • […] For 2015 as National Day coincides with the start of Hajj, there will be no fireworks this year and the festivals will be delayed until the weekend. A new festival area in Riyadh is the Bujairy area in Historical Diriyah which is a beautiful place to visit on its own. Check it out here: Riyadh’s Historic District Ad’Diriyah […]ReplyCancel

  • […] The best place to be in Riyadh for National Day celebration : Bujairy Square festival area in Diriyah Historic District […]ReplyCancel

  • Vicki GoodwinOctober 16, 2015 - 6:20 am

    I want to go. I am living in Riyahd. How do I get there. I am from Arizona, USAReplyCancel

  • […] in detail in the guide. There’s a huge restoration and landscaping project ongoing in the Historical Diriyah and Wadi Hanifa area which is also extending toward the direction of the lake. So that had some effect on the route […]ReplyCancel

  • Sans Abaya in Saudi » Blue AbayaFebruary 23, 2016 - 6:43 pm

    […] and taking off abaya would not be recommended during those times. UPDATE 2016: With the recent huge restoration project in Diriyah and Wadi Hanifa valley, this has become a very popular area an removing abayas is no longer […]ReplyCancel

  • […] markets aimed at families which are held oudoors, like the rect ‘The Gathering’ held at Bujairy Square. To keep up to date with these events don’t forget to subscribe to Blue Abaya email updates! […]ReplyCancel

  • MïSsh FaRiApril 20, 2016 - 11:21 am

    nice placeReplyCancel

  • […] Go to Historical Diriyah Bujairy Square to enjoy Eid celebration festival. Watch the Ardah dances in a historical setting. Lots of nice restaurants in the area like the Saudi traditional food restaurant Najd Village and Bab al Yemen. […]ReplyCancel

  • LeesaJuly 15, 2016 - 1:35 am

    the doors are lovely and stunning! ive been looking for the najd door here in kingdom but to no avail. any idea where i can i buy it here in Saudi? would love to have it for a coffee/dining table.. love your web, very informative and helpful :) thanks for sharing!!ReplyCancel

  • […] TEN THINGS TO DO IN RIYADH’S HISTORICAL DIRIYAH at blueabaya.com […]ReplyCancel

  • […] yourself and the nature is mostly untouched. -explore historical sites just outside Riyadh,such as Diriyah UNESCO heritage site. -visit Madain Saleh the other capital city of the ancient Nabatean people. You will most […]ReplyCancel

  • Rizwan AliSeptember 12, 2016 - 9:40 am

    I am planing to visit Diriyah today with my family.
    Can anyone please advise if bbq is allowed there?

  • […] is it’s actually over 200 km long with hundreds of small side valleys. For the best parts, to Diriyah area, Wadi Namr, or south of Riyadh to the “Riyadh […]ReplyCancel

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