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Basic data
State : Saudi Arabia
Province : Riad
Coordinates : 24 ° 39 ′  N , 46 ° 43 ′  E Coordinates: 24 ° 39 ′  N , 46 ° 43 ′  E
Height : 612  m
Area : 1,798 km²
Residents : 6,506,700
Population density : 3,618 inhabitants / km²
Telephone code : 966 (country), 1 (city)
City structure: 17 districts
Official Website: www.arriyadh.com/eng/
mayor Abdul Aziz ibn Ayyaf Al-Miqrin
Location of Riyadh in Saudi Arabia
Riyadh satellite image, May 2005
Road to Mecca at Jebel Tuwaiq near Riyadh

Riyadh ( Arabic الرياض, DMG ar-Riyāḍ  'the gardens') is the capital of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the province of the same name . The city has 6.5 million inhabitants, the province 7.9 million (as of January 1, 2016). In German one also reads Er-Riad occasionally .

The city is the economic, administrative and cultural center of the country. It houses numerous universities, museums and monuments. Riyadh is the seat of the Saudi Arabian government, parliament, all central government agencies and numerous diplomatic missions.

Riyadh has been the capital since Saudi Arabia's independence in 1932. Historically, it is a very important transit point of the Arab region, the pilgrimage routes to Mecca and Medina , the most important pilgrimage sites in Islam . The main palace of the Saud royal family has been located in Riyadh since 1824 .


Geographical location

Riyadh is located in the middle of the Arabian Peninsula in the Najd (also Nedjd / Nedjd) region. The city averages 612 meters above sea ​​level and is surrounded by desert. In the west, the city extends to the Wadi Hanifa and partly beyond.

The urban area has an area of ​​1,554 square kilometers, which roughly corresponds to the area of ​​Greater London. The area around Riyadh is topographically very diverse. It should be mentioned that located in the northwest escarpment Jebel Tuwaiq and Dana Desert , one lying to the east sand dunes.

City structure

Riyadh is divided into 17 districts:

  • al-Hā′ir
  • ash-sheepā
  • ar-Rauda
  • as-Salī
  • ash-shamal
  • al-Bathā '
  • ad-Dīra
  • ʿIrqa
  • Itaiqa
  • al-Maʿadar
  • al-Malaz
  • Manfūha
  • Murraba
  • an-Nassīm
  • al-ʿUlayyā
  • ash-Shumaisi
  • al-Uraidschā '
خريطة الرياض. JPG


Riyadh is located in the subtropical climate zone . The average annual temperature is 25.6 degrees Celsius. In the summer months between May and September, the average maximum temperature rises to 38.9 to 43.4 degrees Celsius, accompanied by strong solar radiation; Rain is extremely unlikely during this time of year. Temperatures above 50 degrees Celsius are not unknown, and even at night they rarely drop below 20 degrees Celsius. The minimum temperatures in summer are 25.5 to 28.9 degrees Celsius on average.

The humidity is very low and is usually below ten percent. Dust storms from the deserts in the area are a normal occurrence in summer. The average annual rainfall of around 99 millimeters falls almost exclusively in the period from December to April. In winter, between December and February, the maximum temperature averages 20.3 to 22.7 degrees Celsius. The minimum temperatures in winter are 8.9 to 10.7 degrees Celsius on average.

Climate diagram
J F. M. A. M. J J A. S. O N D.
Temperature in ° Cprecipitation in mm
Source: WMO 1981-2000; wetterkontor.de
Average monthly temperatures and rainfall for Riyadh
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Max. Temperature ( ° C ) 20.3 22.7 26.7 32.9 38.9 42.2 43.4 43.1 40.3 34.8 27.6 22.0 O 33
Min. Temperature (° C) 8.9 10.7 14.6 19.9 25.5 27.4 28.9 28.6 25.6 20.9 15.3 10.5 O 19.8
Precipitation ( mm ) 12.3 5.8 30.2 23.3 6.2 0.0 0.0 0.3 0.0 2.3 7.4 11.2 Σ 99
Hours of sunshine ( h / d ) 7.3 8.5 7.8 8.7 9.3 11.1 10.7 10.6 10.0 9.1 8.0 7.1 O 9
Rainy days ( d ) 5.8 4.1 10.8 10.6 3.9 0.0 0.1 0.3 0.1 1.7 3.4 6.5 Σ 47.3
Humidity ( % ) 50 40 35 33 22nd 14th 15th 14th 18th 24 37 46 O 29
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
  Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Source: WMO 1981-2000; wetterkontor.de



The city owes its creation to Wadi Hanifa and the neighboring city of Diraja (now an open-air museum and northern suburb). The state religion, Wahhabism , was developed in Diraja . Since 1824 it was the center of the Saud dynasty . After the conquest by Abd al-Aziz ibn Saud in 1902, the unification of the Bedouin tribes of central Arabia began from here , which in 1932 led to the establishment of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia .

The first identifiable settlers in the area were the semi-legendary Jadis. The Kinda gained supremacy in Najd around 425 with the help of the Himjar from what is now Yemen . In 540 the Lachmids destroyed the rule of the Kinda in central Arabia, which had meanwhile broken down into several empires. In the 5th century, the wadi and the ancient cities of Hajar al-Yamama , which is believed to be under the current center of Riyadh, and al-Khardj , which was further to the southeast (today ruins), were taken over by the tribe of the Bani Hanifa. Al-Yamama, the state of Hanifah, flourished in the 6th and 7th centuries. Two of the rulers, Hawdha bin Ali and Musailima ("the false prophet"), played an important role in the period before the final conversion to Islam.

Not far from al-Jubaila in Aqraba there was fighting in the Ridda War in 634 . After the introduction of Islam, Hajjar remained an important place until around 900, after which the whole area seems to be impoverished, while the political centers of Islam moved further and further away from Arabia. Ibn Battūta reported from 1331 to 1332 of Hajjar as a beautiful and fertile city with streams full of water and many trees. The city existed until the 15th century and served as the ancestral seat of the Bani Hanifah.

Najdah ibn 'Amir al-Hanafi founded a Kharijite state in the al-Yamamah region in the second half of the 7th century . From here he conquered the east coast in the area of Bahrain and the city of Qatif. In the west he occupied the city of Taif not far from Mecca . However, his empire fell into disrepair soon after his assassination in 692.

The tribe of the Banu Uchaidhir established an empire around 866 that ruled the region of the southern Nejd from its capital al-Chidrima, near today's al-Khardj south of Riyadh. This empire was destroyed by the Karmatians from al-Hasa .

In the 15th century there were many resettlements and more intensive use of the oases in Najd. Ibn Dir, the chief of the ad-Dir, a clan of the Bani Hanifa from Hajjar , wanted to make better use of the wadi and in 1446 invited the related tribe of Murada from the area of ​​al-Qatif on the Persian Gulf to settle here. They founded the settlements of Mulaibid and Ghasibah on the eastern bank of the wadi and named the new place Dir'iyyah , which also included all the settlements that were located on the four kilometers of the wadi that lay between the two places.

Early modern age

Ghasiba was the first capital of the Murada "Wadi Oasis" Dir'iyyah in Wadi Hanifa. The southern Najd was later ruled by al-Uyainah (al-Uyaynah; in the northern wadi west of al-Jubaila). In the late 1680s, Muqrin bin Markhan at-Turaif made Dir'iyyah capital on the western bank of the Wadi . From 1725 Dir'iyyah ruled the southern Najd under Muhammad ibn Saud (1735–1765), the founder of the first Saudi state.

On the eastern bank of the Wadi across from at-Turaif is the place Budschairi , where the family of Sheikh Muhammad ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhāb (1703–1792) resided after they were expelled from al-Uyaina. After 1745 this became more important than the Sheikh Muhammad Ibn Saud, who resided in at-Turaif , joined the reform movement of the Wahhabis and in 1744 made a pact with the Imam Muhammad bin Abd Al-Wahhab. The Al Saud brought most of the Arabian Peninsula under their rule and advanced into the Hejaz , where they conquered Mecca in 1806.

In at-Turaif , the Imam Sa'ud ibn 'Abd al-'Aziz (Imam 1803-1814) completed the Salwa palaces. The most famous builder of this time in ad-Dir'iyyah was Ibn Hazam. The Ottoman Sultan wanted to restrict the new power in Central Arabia and had Muhammad Ali Pasha of Egypt make a campaign through the Najd. The commander of the army was Ibrahim Pasha , the son of Muhammad Ali Pasha . This let ad-Dir'iyyah conquer and destroy. The most important members of the Saudis clan were imprisoned and some were abducted or executed.

Fort al-Masmak built in 1865 from the south with the main entrance
View of Riyadh, Kingdom Tower Bridge


In 1824 the al-Saud family made the young city of Riyadh their new seat of power. It was originally built as a walled garden on the ruins of Hajar in 1735 . The settlement formed here was raided frequently from ad-Dir'iyyah and finally conquered by Abd al-Aziz ibn Muhammad in 1773 .

Under the rulers Imam Turki as-Saud (1824–1834) and his son Faisal (1834–1838 and 1843–1865) the second Saudi state was established. Fort Masmak in Riyadh , built in 1865, served as the seat of government . In the north of the Najd the power of the ar-Rashid of Ha'il increased, while the Saudis were weakened by internal power games, so that they soon conquered the south and the al-Saud family went into exile in Kuwait in 1891 .

In 1902, Riyadh was retaken by Abd al-Aziz ibn Saud (1880-1953) by storming the Fort al-Masmak . From here he drove the Ottomans out of al-Hasa, subjugated Hail in 1921, annexed the emirate of Asir in 1923 , conquered Mecca in 1924/1925 after the Sherif of Mecca Hussein ibn Ali seized the dignity of caliphs in 1924/1925 and called himself King of Najd from 1926 and Hejaz. In 1932 he founded the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Since the 1940s, Riyadh has developed from a relatively narrow, spatially isolated city into a spacious metropolis. Following the example of American cities, the new settlements and entire districts were laid out like a chessboard and connected with the inner areas via efficient main roads. The city's population growth averaged 8.2 percent per year between 1974 and 1992.

Since the 1990s there have been repeated attacks on locals and foreigners in Riyadh, as well as protests against the royal family. On November 13, 1995, a car bomb explosion outside a Saudi National Guard training building left seven dead, including five American instructors. On May 12, 2003, 34 people died in a series of suicide attacks against US civilians. On November 8, 2003, a car bomb attack on residential areas with Saudis and Arab foreigners left 18 dead. All attacks are attributed to al-Qaeda , a network of Islamist radical militant groups. On June 23, 2006, Saudi security forces stormed an alleged al-Qaeda hiding place in Riyadh. Six extremists and one police officer died in the firefight.

Population development

Traffic congested street in Riyadh 2012
New Financial District, Northern Ring Road Riyadh

In 1862 only 7,500 people lived in Riyadh, in 1900 there were already 30,000. The city experienced rapid population growth, especially in the second half of the 20th century. By 1950 the population had risen to just 120,000. The million mark was reached around 1977 and in 1980 1.3 million people lived in the capital. The census on September 15, 2004 showed a population of 4,087,152. In 2010, Riyadh finally had 4.85 million inhabitants. For 2014, 5.23 million inhabitants were estimated. The city is being expanded according to plan, primarily to huge open spaces in the north; further growth to around nine million by 2020 is foreseeable and the infrastructure is quite manageable.

The original inhabitants were almost exclusively Arabs. Today 90 percent of the population are of Arab descent, either native Saudis from the rural areas or people from the Arab region, primarily Egyptians, Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese. The remaining ten percent are mostly of African or Asian descent. Foreigners who are not of Arab origin usually work as guest workers . The population has stable social security, but only nationals are entitled to this free of charge.

The guest workers employed in Riyadh come mostly from Asia - India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Brunei and African countries - Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, Somalia, Kenya, the Comoros, Chad and Mauritania. But also very many are from Iran, Turkey and Central Asia. These predominantly younger male migrant workers are mainly employed in the less skilled or difficult physical occupations in which Saudis do not want to work.

Standard Arabic is the official language, English is the language of trade, and some Arabic dialects are also spoken, but these are rarely used in official use.

The following overview shows the number of inhabitants according to the respective territorial status.

Population development 1862–2020
        year         Residents
1862 7,500
1900 30,000
1910 28,000
1930 20,000
1935 30,000
1950 120,000
1956 100,000
1958 115,000
1960 150,000
1962 169,000
1965 225,000
1970 370,000
        year         Residents
1972 500,000
1974 666.840
1980 1,250,000
1985 1,800,000
1990 1,975,000
1992 2,776,096
1994 3,100,000
2004 4,087,152
2008 4,606,888
2010 4,850,000
2014 approx. 5,231,000


City government

view on the city

Mayor of Riyadh has been Abdullah Bin Abdulrahman Al-Muqbil since 2012, who replaced Abdul Aziz ibn Ayyaf Al-Miqrin, who had ruled since 1998. On February 10, 2005, local elections were held in the capital for the first time in 30 years . Half of the 14 members of the municipal council were newly elected. The other half will continue to be appointed by the Saudi government. 140,000 of the 470,000 eligible voters (29.8 percent) had registered.

A total of 646 candidates applied for the seven seats on the municipal council. The elections won mostly conservative candidates on the recommendation of clerics, most of them imams from mosques and employees of Islamic welfare organizations. The municipal council is responsible for drawing up budgets, drawing up contracts, deciding on the settlement of companies as well as system studies and cost calculations.

Town twinning

Riyadh has a partnership with the following cities:

MexicoMexico Acapulco , Mexico
FranceFrance Paris , France

Culture and sights


Noteworthy buildings in the city are the two skyscrapers Al Faisaliyah and Al Mamlaka / Kingdom Center , the international airport "King Khalid" , the King Fahd sports stadium for 75,000 spectators, the Fort Masmak (old fort, which was conquered by the founder of the state, Abdul Aziz The nucleus of today's state is), the Sahat al-Hukm and Qasr al-Hukm (with town hall and Palace of Justice) and the 170 meter high Riyadh television tower . The striking building of the Ministry of the Interior resembles a giant UFO .

Much of the expansion of the capital, at that time still built with clay, was overseen by the builder Muraikan in the 1920s and 1930s. The Al Saud family resided in their palace near al-Badi'a in the Batin on Wadi Hanifa a few kilometers further south of al-Dir'iyya, where the wadi makes a bow to Riyadh. Shortly before 1937 a new summer palace with a guest house was built there not far from the old palace. A new mosque was built on the opposite side of the wadi before 1937.

A little north of Riyadh, the Murabba Palace (Qasr al-Murabba ') was built between 1936 and 1938 under the supervision of the builder Ibn Qabba ; it served as the family and government seat. The house of Amira Nura, a sister of King Abd al-Aziz, existed as early as 1935. The small palace with the then rather unusual exterior windows was north of Riyadh between the city wall and the Murabba complex. The city walls were torn down in 1950. The Murabba district is now centrally located in the city and is part of the neighboring National Museum of Saudi Arabia . A park and adventure complex and the Riyadh water tower are located around the museum.

The old city center is now in the ad-Dira district west of Al Iman Turki Ibn Abdullah Ibn MHD street. The north gate in the city wall Al-Thumairi Gate has been reconstructed slightly offset near the old location. The old Fort al-Masmak has been preserved and is now a museum of state history.

The large Friday mosque has been replaced by a representative building and in the east the Al-Hokm Palace (justice) takes up a large part of the old city center. A bit of traditional clay architecture is still in the west of the historic core when the city was expanded outside the city walls in the 1930s. However, old streets will continue to be demolished and replaced by new buildings.

The DQ (Diplomatic Quartier), which was established in the 1980s, is located on Wadi Hanifah (on the northwestern outskirts). This district is predominantly inhabited by diplomats and their families. All foreign embassies are also located here. The DQ has a European character as well as a high proportion of green and stands out from the chessboard-like street system of Riyadh. In the north of the city, numerous royal palaces were built between the new airport and the Banban sand fields (popularly known as Rote Sands) in the 1990s .


The capital is home to numerous parks and green spaces. Al Maktaba Park is located in the Olaya district. In this large area there are swimming pools, waterways, sitting areas and a clock tower.

Salam Park is located in the Qasr Al-Hokm district. It is bordered to the west by King Fahad Road and to the south by Tariq bin Ziad Road. The park is home to different landscapes such as farmland and palm groves. In the center there is a 33,000 square meter lake, which has various depths and is surrounded by a ten meter wide footpath.

The Chamber of Commerce Park covers an area of ​​25,000 square meters and is located in the al-Malaz district. It houses green hills, flower beds and pools of water. Numerous gardens and green spaces are located in the Diplomatic Quarter (DQ), one of the greenest districts of Riyadh.



The most popular sport is soccer. Al-Hilal is the most famous association in Riyadh. He has been playing in the first division, the Saudi Arabian Premier League , since the introduction of the Saudi Arabian Football Championship in 1975/76. Since it was founded in 1957, the club has won the national championship twelve times and the Asian Cup and the Arab Champions League twice each. The home ground is the 75,000-seat King Fahd International Stadium.

Al Shabab, another club from Riyadh, have won the Saudi Arabia soccer championship five times. The home ground of the club, founded in 1947, is also the King Fahd International Stadium.

Another successful club from the capital is Al-Nasr. The club, founded in 1955, has been a national soccer champion six times. The home ground is the Prince Abdulrahman bin Saud Stadium with a capacity for 27,000 spectators.

Other sports

Traditionally, falcon hunting and horse and camel races are also very popular.

Newer sports are golf, tennis, squash , basketball and swimming. There are numerous riding centers and golf courses (sand courts) in the region.

Sport for women is allowed, but only in closed complexes to which men are not allowed.


The restaurants in the capital offer guests numerous local and international specialties. Typical foods for the traditional cuisine of Riad are wheat (as bread grain and especially in the form of wheat semolina, couscous or bulgur ), millet , dates (the bread of the desert ), various types of vegetables (often filled, as a stew or pickled) and legumes .

Goats , sheep , chickens , and less often cattle and camels meet the demand for animal food. The dishes are mainly seasoned with cumin , nutmeg , cinnamon and saffron . Fresh peppermint , parsley or coriander are also used .

There are specialized areas of food production in Riyadh that are outsourced from households, for example for bread and baked goods. The bread (in many forms) is an integral part of every meal. It is almost always broken into pieces instead of being cut. It is also used to hold food or as a basis for desserts, such as Om Ali .


The King Abdullah Financial District.

The Riyadh has numerous modern shopping centers, small shops and traditional markets ( souks ). Many shopping centers are on Olaya Street, including the Kingdom Center, Al-Nemer Shopping Center, Al-Andalous Shopping Center, Al-Mousa Center, Al-Jarir Bookstore and Al Faisaliah Center. Al-Oruba Plaza is on the King Fahad Highway.

One of the most important markets in the city center is the Dira Antik Suq on Dira Square, near the Masmak Fort. It offers carpets, jewelry, antiques, brass goods, leather goods and clothing, among other things. The majority of the handcrafted goods come from Pakistan or India . Another market is Batha Suq, located in the Batha district. Mainly electrical goods, household appliances and clothing are sold there. Kuwaiti Souq on Olaya Street sells housewares, clothing and traditional handcrafted goods.

Economy and Infrastructure


The capital's major industries are the manufacture of building materials, the food industry and the petroleum processing industry, in particular the Saudi Basic Industries Corporation . Tadawul , the only stock exchange in Saudi Arabia, is based in Riyadh . The more recent urban development is to the north. The city receives a large part of its drinking water through a pipeline system from seawater desalination plants in the Persian Gulf .

Most of the financial resources are used for the population and the infrastructure . Water, electricity and domestic telephones are free for every Saudi, but that should change for those who are not working. No official unemployment information is given. Estimates assume a rate of up to 30 percent. Another problem for the young Saudis in Riyadh is that high-paying jobs are no longer given to every Saudi by the state as a matter of course.

The government is trying to reduce the deployment of foreign guest workers and to fill low-paid jobs with young Saudis - so far only 44 percent of jobs in Riyadh are held by Saudis.

Almost all management positions in the capital have been given to Saudis.


Main axis King Fahd Road, February 2008

Riyadh is an important transit point in the Arab world, the pilgrimage routes to Mecca and Medina , the most important pilgrimage sites of Islam. The first railroad reached Riyadh in 1951. The city has an international airport and a ring road . It is connected to the Persian Gulf on the east coast of the country by highways and railways.

In the city there is currently no efficient public transport system with high capacity, such as underground , suburban trains , city trains or trams , which would relieve road traffic. Local public transport is handled by diesel-powered buses that share the lanes with private transport. The operator of the bus route network is the Saudi Public Transport Company (SAPTCO). Air-conditioned double-decker buses are also used. All buses have a shielded part for female passengers. Women have had the opportunity to get a driver's license since 2018. The Riyadh trolleybus has been operating on the campus of King Saud University since October 2012 and is the first in the country.

In 2010 the plans for a sky train were completed (planned start of construction Q1 2011 end of Q1 2015). The first construction phase comprises a 25-kilometer north-south route (on Olaya Street), the east-west connection planned for the second construction phase (on King Abdullah Road) will be 14 kilometers long. On July 30, 2013, contracts for the construction of a subway were also signed. This will comprise six lines and will be built by three different international consortia. The consortium leaders are Bechtel (USA), Ansaldo STS (Italy) and FCC (Spain).


The city is the seat of numerous universities, an Islamic college, a military academy, the national library as well as colleges for administration, education and technology. The following universities are located in Riyadh:

King Saud University , King Abdulaziz University , Imam Muhammad bin Saud University , Arab Open University , King Khalid bin Abdul Aziz University , Technical Trainers College .

A special feature will be the Princess Nora bint Abdul Rahman University , which has been under construction since 2008 . A university for 26,000 female students is being built on a 300-hectare campus in northeast Riyadh, on the expressway about 10 kilometers from Riyadh Airport. In its final expansion (around 2013) it will include 13 faculties, 32 colleges, a clinic, dormitories, mosques, etc. The world's largest solar system with 360,000 square meters of solar panels has been in operation there since the end of 2011.


Skyline Riyadh with Kingdom Center , February 2008


  • William Facey: Dir I'yya, and the first Saudi State. Stacey International, London 1997, ISBN 0-905743-80-6 .
  • William Facey: Riyadh. The Old City, from its origins until the 1950s. Immel, London 1992, ISBN 0-907151-32-9 .
  • Heinz Pape: He riad. Urban geography and urban cartography of the capital of Saudi Arabia. Geographical Institute of the Ruhr University Bochum, Bochum 1977, ISBN 3-506-71227-6 .
  • Guido Steinberg: Saudi Arabia. Politics history religion. CH Beck, Munich 2004, ISBN 3-406-51112-0 .
  • Ionis Thompson: Riyadh Handbook. Stacey International, London 2000, ISBN 0-900988-22-3 .

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Riyadh City Web site - About ArRiyadh
  2. ^ Arab Decision: Boroughs
  3. Al Qaeda professes to attack in Riyadh
  4. Protection of the Constitution: Islamic Extremism and Terrorism ( Memento from June 4, 2007 in the Internet Archive ) (PDF; 1.1 MB)
  5. Der Spiegel: Security forces kill Islamist terrorists
  6. Demographia: Demographia World Urban Areas , PDF, 1.8 MB, p. 23 (in English)
  7. Der Tagesspiegel: Saudi Arabia Practices Democracy , February 11, 2005
  8. SAPTCO: Official Homepage
  9. Page no longer available , search in web archives :, www.ghorfa.de from January 10, 2010@1@ 2Template: Toter Link / www.ghorfa.de
  10. The world's largest solar system comes from Carinthia , kaernten.orf.at, April 10, 2012

Web links

Commons : Riyadh  - collection of images, videos and audio files
 Wikinews: Riyadh  - in the news
Wiktionary: Riyadh  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations