Aramco Expats’ The Seven Wonders of Arabia, a Tribute to the Kingdom’s Remarkable Heritage Sites – Part 3: Ad Diriyah

Over the course of seven weeks, SUSTG is publishing a series of posts highlighting the seven wonders of Arabia as selected and featured by, an online blog that is a resource for current and former Saudi Aramco expatriates and their families. As the Kingdom prepares to open itself up to more visitors and boost its tourism industry in line with Vision 2030, the SUSTG team is pleased to feature excellent work highlighting some of the most amazing places that Saudi Arabia has to offer – many of which have not been seen by outsiders before.

The first of seven wonders of Arabia was Madain Salih, the Nabataean desert city with monumental buildings carved from rock which has often been compared with Jordan’s Petra. Last week, we re-featured the second in the series, Historic Jeddah.

For the third wonder of Arabia, we travel to Riyadh to the birthplace of the modern Saudi state, Ad Diriyah, the sprawling fortified complex of mud brick/adobe mosques, palaces, battlements, and various other clay-colored structures located 12 miles (20 kilometers) west of Riyadh along the banks of the Wadi Hanifa. Ad Diriyah is also notable as well as the birthplace of Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdul Wahhab, the Arabian religious reformer and father of Wahhabism.

[Click here to read the full post on Ad Diriyah from]

“It was at Ad Diriyah where the first Saudi dynasty was founded in the 15th century and where, three centuries later, the first Saudi state was established. When an invading army of Ottoman Turks and Egyptians overthrew the first Saudi state in 1815, they destroyed the fortifications at Ad Diriyah with a withering bombardment of canon fire, leveling much of the complex,” writes.

The Ad Diriyah complex is comprised of significant archaeological monuments dating back to the Thamud and Madain Salih epochs and even as far back as the Stone Age. The Kingdom has visions of someday making the treasures of ad-Dir’iyah among the most important visiting places in the Middle East. Saudi efforts to promote global awareness of ad-Dir’iyah received a tremendous boost in December 2018 with the running of the first-ever Formula E single-seater, all-electric street racing event in the Middle East. The competition, sponsored by ABB, featured a new generation of Formula E electric cars of astonishing speed and agility. The “Saudia” Ad Diriyah E-Prix kicked off the fifth season of ABB FIA Formula E racing.

Renovations underway in Ad Diriyah.

Renovations underway in Ad Diriyah.

Recently, Ad Diriyah has undergone a serious renovation to preserve its historic elements while enhancing the visitor experience so as to make Ad Diriyah a place where young Saudis can learn their own history. The SUSTG team was one of the first to tour the then-nearly completed site in 2016. The Saudi government has invested millions into the restoration, creating a breathtaking visitor experience for all generations.

As notes, one of the primary focuses of the restoration effort is known as the Al-Diriyah Gate, currently being restored according to a Royal Order establishing the Al-Diriyah Gate Renovation Commission. Under the Commission’s leadership, the Diriyah Gate is being developed into the largest Islamic Museum in the Middle East. The mud brick city includes the King Salman Library, traditional souks, modern malls, a wide range of restaurants, and fully-equipped gathering places for groups of every size. The Diriyah Gate complex encompasses an area exceeding 15 million square feet (1.5 million square meters).

To read the previous posts in this series, please see below:

[Part 1 – Madain Salih]

[Part 2 – Historic Jeddah]