As Saudi Arabia becomes increasingly recognized as a tourist destination, more and more of its best attractions have been coming under the spotlight. One that has drawn the particular interest of travelers to the country of late is Diriyah.
The impressive oasis destination on the banks of Wadi Hanifa with its mud-brick ruins is an exquisite sight to behold in the Middle Eastern Kingdom. It carries important significance for the nation and is an absolutely unmissable destination for those with an interest in history.
The following guide explains just what tourists should expect from a visit to Diriyah and a little about its history. It also details why this destination should be anyone’s itinerary while in the country and how visitors can arrive and get the most from a trip to this amazing UNESCO Heritage Site.
Quick Facts About Diriyah
Diriyah is one of the oldest and most important heritage sites found in Saudi Arabia. It is the historic capital for Emirate of Diriyah, as well as the original home of the country’s ruling House of Saud.
Settlement of the area dates back as far as the time of the prophet Muhammed, although the city itself came to prominence during the 15th century. It remained a significant location in the Arabian Peninsula until internal fighting within the Ottoman Empire led to its destruction and abandonment in 1818. It has been referred to as some as a “sand blown Pompeii” due to its preserved walls and forts.
As the Saudi state has grown and modernized Diriyah has been recognized as a major World Heritage Site by UNESCO. It is subsequently becoming one of the kingdom’s biggest tourist attractions.
- Founded: 1446 CE
- Province: Ar Riyadh
- Region: Najd
- Abandoned: 1818
- UNESCO Status Attained: 2010
What to See in and Around Diriyah
The site is undergoing extensive renovation work to restore and enhance the historic buildings and tourism infrastructure within the area. It is said that over the coming years, the area will probably be known as “the Beverly Hills of Riyadh”.
However, presently the site is known for its cultural and historical attractions. The most important historic structures include:
- Salwa Palace
- Imam Mohammed Bin Saud Mosque
- Al-Bujairi District
- Saad Bin Saud Palace
- The Guest House and At-Turaif Bath House
In addition to these remnants, the area is also home to numerous museums, including:
- The Arabian Horse Museum
- Al Dir’iya Museum
- Social Life Museum
- Trade and Monetary Museum
- Military Museum
What Tourists Need To Know Before Visiting Diriyah
Before traveling to Saudi Arabia tourists will need to register and be approved for a visa for Kingdom of SA. This must be processed and approved prior to arrival in the country and presented when passing through a border checkpoint at an eligible tourist entry point.
Visitors should also be prepared to deal with the hot and dry climate found throughout the area. Temperatures can reach as high as 42ºC during summer months and because many of the structures are outside, visitors should bring appropriate sun protection as well as keeping a sufficient quantity of water available for the duration of their trip.
Diriyah Opening Times
The old city is open 7 days a week all year round and is free to enter. However, there are slightly different opening hours depending on the day that visitors choose to make their visit.
- Saturday to Thursday: 8 am to 6 pm
- Fridays: 3 am to 6 pm
How to Get to Diriyah from Riyadh
The country’s capital Riyadh is the nearest city to Diriyah and is where most visitors to the site will arrive before traveling to the site itself. Nevertheless, this destination is only about 16km from the city center and can be accessed in less than 30 minutes via an Uber or local taxi.
Traveling to Diriyah for Formula E and Other Entertainment Events
Diriyah is fast becoming well known to Motorsport fans due to its hosting of Formula E races. The site hosted its first ePrix in 2018 with the race returning again in late 2019. According to the current agreement between Formula E and the General Sports Authority (GSA) of Saudi Arabia the race is set to be hosted there over the next 8 years.
The annual ePrix also official kicks off Diriyah season, a month of entertainment and music held within the old city. During the season itself, the site plays host to major concerts as well as important tennis and equestrian events
Diriyah is a must-see location for anyone planning a trip to Saudi Arabia. It is a treat for the senses and the mind and is quite rightfully a highly popular destination amongst locals and foreign tourists.
Remember: Before visiting Diriyah tourists must apply for a valid Saudi Visa prior to arrival into the country. This can be easily obtained online for citizens of 51 eligible countries, allowing visitors a smooth and safe entry into the Kingdom’s borders.