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.”
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
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.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.
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.
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.
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!
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
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: