Riyadh is the capital and largest city of Saudi Arabia. It is also the capital of Riyadh Province, and belongs to the historical regions of Najd and Al-Yamama.
It is situated in the center of the Arabian Peninsula on a large plateau, and is home to 5.7 million people, and the urban centre of a region with a population of close to 7.3 million people.
Known by local wags as the Dead Center of the Kingdom, Riyadh is considered the most straight-laced of the Kingdom's big three cities. With most forms of entertainment banned, few sights of interest and a brutal climate, Riyadh is a business-only destination if there ever was one, but it's also the best place in the Kingdom to watch the continuing collision of tribal Wahhabi conservatism grappling with modern technology and Western influences.
|POPULATION :||City: 6,125,180|
|TIME ZONE :||AST (UTC+3) Summer: AST (UTC+3)|
|AREA :||1,554 km2 (600 sq mi)|
|ELEVATION :||612 m (2,008 ft)|
|COORDINATES :||24°38′N 46°43′E|
|SEX RATIO :||• Male: 51.40% |
• Female: 48.60%
|ETHNIC :||Arab 65%, Non-Arab 35%|
|AREA CODE :||11|
|POSTAL CODE :|
|DIALING CODE :||+966 11|
Riyadh is the capital city and the largest city of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Although much of the common forms of entertainment are limited currently, there are interesting places that can be visited in Riyadh ranging from historic landmarks to the few towers that highlight the transition of the city with more incorporation of modern technology. For most of the year, the climate is brutally hot but it is pleasantly moderate during the winter. The only reliable means of transport in Riyadh is using cars, and thus you would either depend on cabs or you would need to rent your own car. Despite general inflation, generally prices are lower in Riyadh than most other big cities in the world. However, Riyadh is usually a destination that is visited mainly for business.
Until the 16th century, Riyadh (or, more accurately, Ar-Riyadh) was known by the name Hajr, an important city of central Arabia dating from at least the 3rd century AD (and probably older). In the Middle Ages, Hajr served as the capital of the province of Al-Yamamah, whose viceroys presided over most of central and eastern Arabia.
With the decline in the fortunes and wealth of central Arabia after the 10th century, the name Al-Yamama gradually disappeared, and Hajr became subsumed under the name "Najd," which had previously referred only to areas lying further west. The name Hajr also gave way to the name "Ar-Riyadh" (meaning "the gardens"), as the old city broke into several towns and farming estates.
Only a hundred years ago, Riyadh was a dusty walled town of under 20,000 people surrounded by palm groves, fertile wadis, and a number of small villages. Riyadh (or, rather, the neighboring hamlet of Diriyah) is the ancestral home of the al-Sauds. Driven out by the Rashids in 1891, King Abdulaziz ibn Saud famously raided and recaptured the city in 1902. The city was made the capital of Saudi Arabia when the country was born in 1932, and has grown explosively ever since then — as of 2008, the city is estimated to have some 5,000,000 inhabitants, and is still growing fast.
Classified as having a hot desert climate, temperatures during the summer months are extremely hot. The average high temperature in August is 43.6 °C.
Winters are warm with cool, windy nights. The overall climate is arid, and the city experiences very little rainfall, especially in summer, but receives a fair amount of rain in March and April.
It is also known to have many dust storms. The dust is often so thick that visibility is under 10 m (33 ft).
Climate data for Riyadh
|Record high °C (°F)||31.5|
|Average high °C (°F)||20.2|
|Daily mean °C (°F)||14.4|
|Average low °C (°F)||9.0|
|Record low °C (°F)||−2.2|
|Source: "Jeddah Regional Climate Center South West Asia".|
Riyadh is divided into fifteen branch municipalities, in addition to the Diplomatic Quarter. Each branch municipality in turn contains several districts, amounting to over 130 in total, though some districts are divided between more than one branch municipality. The branch municipalities are Al-Shemaysi, Irqah, Al-Ma'athar, Al-Olayya, Al-Aziziyya, Al-Malaz, Al-Selayy, Nemar, Al-Neseem, Al-Shifa, Al-'Urayja, Al-Bat'ha, Al-Ha'ir, Al-Rawdha, and Al-Shimal ("the North"). Olaya District is the commercial heart of the city, with accommodation, entertainment, dining and shopping options. The Kingdom Center, Al Faisalyah and Al-Tahlya Street are the area's most prominent landmarks. The centre of the city, Al-Bathaa and Al-Dirah, is also its oldest part.
Internet cafes can be found in the computer souq in Olaya. Riyadh is also pushing forward with its "Smart City" program, which will attempt to provide wireless access throughout the city in the major coffeeshops and hotels, particularly on Tahlia St in the downtown area.