My visit with friends in Riyadh
I just got back from a visit to the capital of Saudi Arabia–Riyadh (Pronounced Ree-yaad; Arabic: الرياض). The name in English means “the gardens.” A buinessman there got me a ticket to fly to Riyadh. I stayed with Hossam Malallah and his wonderful family for a week. We had numerous business appointments, and then we drove back to Jeddah through the desert via Al Taif and Mecca.
I thank my friend Hossam and his family for their warm hospitality and for arranging several very important appointments with business people including a Saudi Sheikh Ry-an Al-Monsoul. For the occasion, I was outfitted with a brand new custom-tailored thobe and schmag!
The History of Riyadh is centuries old and interesting
Riyadh is the largest city of Saudi Arabia. It is situated in the center of the Arabian Peninsula on a large plateau, and is home to nearly 6 million people. The greater Riyadh area is nearly 7 million people. Riyadh is home to the world’s largest female university, the Princess Nora bint Abdulrahman University.
During the pre-Islamic era, the settlement at the current city site was called Hajr (Arabic: حجر), and was reportedly founded by the tribe of Banu Hanifa. Hajr served as the capital of the province of Al Yamamah, whose governors were responsible for most of central and eastern Arabia during the Umayyad and Abbasid eras. Al-Yamamah broke away from the Abbasid Empire in 866 and the area fell under the rule of the Ukhaydhirites, who moved the capital from Hajr to nearby Al Kharj. The city then went into a long period of decline. In the 14th century North African traveller Ibn Battuta wrote of his visit to Hajr, describing it as “the main city of Al-Yamamah, and its name is Hajr”. Ibn Battuta goes on to describe it as a city of canals and trees with most of its inhabitants belonging to Bani Hanifa, and reports that he continued on with their leader to Mecca to perform the Hajj. (No canals were visible during my visit! I’m trying to find out what happened to them. It hasn’t rained in Saudi Arabia during the past 3 years.)
Later, we are told, the area of Hajr broke up into several separate settlements and estates. The most notable of these were Migrin (or Muqrin) and Mi’kal, though the name Hajr continued to appear in local folk poetry. Continue reading