A sense of history – what had gone before – the first Saudi era

Al-Riyadh (from the word Al-Rowdah, meaning garden) was a small settlement formed at the confluence of several wadis (riverbeds). It had not been the “capital” of the Al-Saud for long. The home base of the tribe was (and remains) Ad-Diriyah, a walled town to the north-west founded 500 years ago, where in the mid-eighteenth century an alliance was formed between Mohammed Ibn Saud and a muslim cleric Mohammed Ibn Abdul-Wahab, who advocated a return to a “pure” form of Islam. The mixture proved popular and, by a combination of conquest and alliances, the Al-Saud soon controlled much of the peninsula including the Hejaz (western Arabia), capturing Makkah in 1802. However, this was a time of colonialism and the Turkish Ottoman Empire resented Ibn Saud’s power and control over the holy cities of Makkah and Medinah. A military force was sent from Egypt in 1815, which drove the Saudis out of the Hejaz and by 1819 had arrived at the gates of Diriyah. A six month siege ensued with daily artillery bombardment of the Al-Tob/adobe (mud-and-straw brick) town. Eventually surrender was the only option. The Saudis were driven out of the area. Diriyah was in ruins and was never rebuilt.

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