In 2008, the Saudi Commission of Tourism in collaboration with Arriyadh Development Authority (ADA) began the rehabilitation of Diriyah, the original home and city of the Al Saud royal family located northwest of Riyadh. The old city was deserted in the early 19th-century after being heavily damaged in an Ottoman invasion.
It is a colossal effort. The preserved ruins of Riyadh’s precursor lie within a wall that encloses roughly half the area of Italy’s ancient city of Pompeii.
The restoration project aims for Diriyah to become a national culture and tourism center. While the planned amenities and attracts are intended for all, emphasis is put on attracting and interacting with the large local population. This project is part of a larger strategy to maintain existing sites and increase tourism opportunities in the Kingdom.
Various renovation projects in the past have focused on complete restoration, but the majority of buildings will be preserved in their current conditions. Building types include mosques, palaces, city walls, traditional houses and wells. Visitors will traverse through and over the ruins on pedestrian walkways intersecting the ruins. Among the most prominent buildings is the Salwa Palace, once used as a home for Al Saud amirs and imams and considered to be the largest preserved structure on the site.
While the revival of the old buildings is prominent in the project, a new visitor center is planned to connect to the large site via a pedestrian bridge. The projects outside the preservation area will also include a documentation center and themed museums.
Experts from the ADA introduced Al Manakh team members to the project and led a tour of the accessible parts of the site in May, 2009.
- Joumana Al Jabri, KSA Regional Advisor for Al Manakh 2