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Open map of Saudi ArabiaFlag of Saudi ArabiaSaudi Arabia / Cities and Towns /
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Kingdom Tower
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Kingdom Tower. Photo: Alan Light.

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Riyadh's earlier modern quarters.

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Modernized traditional mosque in the heart of Riyadh.

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King Khalid International Airport.

Capital of Saudi Arabia, with 4 million inhabitants (2003 estimate), situated in the very interior of the country, 300 km from the Persian Gulf, and 900 km from the Red Sea.
Originally Riyadh was located along a green river bed, which in addition to sources of underground water allowed a rich agriculture. With extreme expansion in the area, all natural water has long since been allocated for domestic use and in industries.
The economy of Riyadh is connected to national administration, financial activities and other services. Industries include food processing, an oil refinery and chemical and plastics factories
Riyadh is the transport hub for the entire kingdom, both by excellent highways, rail to the Dammam and the King Khalid International Airport, which hosts the majority of international flights and connections to all other airports in the country.
Riyadh is largely a very modern city, dominated by high-rise buildings along boulevards. Some quarters are dominated by less impressive modern buildings from the earlier stages of the modern age of the kingdom. Most of the traditional quarters have been torn down, but some of the historical buildings have survived, of which the 19th century Masmak Fortress is the most noteworthy.
Riyadh has one of the fastest growth rates of any city in the world. The original population, of Najdi ancestry, has long been blended with groups from all over Arabia as well as foreign nationals.
The older quarters of Riyadh are known as al-Batha'a, which also provides what may be called a city centre. The main business and residential areas are the Olaya and the Sulaymaniya.

1824: Riyadh becomes capital of the Saudi kingdom.
1891: Riyadh is conquered by the Rashidi clan.
1902: Reconquered by Ibn Sa'ud, becoming an early stage in his fight for control of Arabia.
1932: With the formation of Saudi Arabia, Riyadh becomes the new country's capital. Still, many government offices are placed in Jeddah.
1940's: With the high oil revenues, a rapid program for modernization of Riyadh begins.
1953: The Islamic University of Imam Muhammad ibn Saud is founded.
1955: The King Abdulaziz Military Academy is founded.
1957: The university of Riyadh is founded.
1985: All government offices and foreign embassies are moved from Jeddah to Riyadh.
2003 May 12: 34 people are killed in 3 bomb explosions in a residential area.

By Tore Kjeilen