Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

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Riyadh is the political capital of Saudi Arabia (Makkah being the religious capital). Located in Nejd in the central region of the Arabian peninsula, it is the seat of government and an important commercial, educational and cultural centre. The city extends for some 1,600 km2 and has a population of over 3 m.


Situated at the confluence of several wadis (dry riverbeds) that channel underground water to the site, Riyadh has been a natural fertile area in an otherwise arid landscape since antiquity. In pre-Islamic times the settlement at the site was known as Hajar. Date groves and fruit orchards, irrigated by subterranean water and periodic rainfall, developed around the town, attracting traders from across the Arabian peninsula. Its modern name (derived from the Arabic word meaning garden) was first applied to those sections of the town where the groves and orchards predominated. In time the name came to refer to the whole settlement.

By the end of the eighteenth...

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