1329 At-Turaif District in ad-Dir’iyah – 2010



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This property was the first capital of the Saudi Dynasty, in the heart of the Arabian Penisula, north-west of Riyadh. Founded in the 15th century, it bears witness to the Najdi architectural style, which is specific to the centre of the Arabian peninsula. In the 18th and early 19th century, its political and religious role increased, and the citadel at at-Turaif became the centre of the temporal power of the House of Saud and the spread of the Salafiyya reform inside the Muslim religion. The property includes the remains of many palaces and an urban ensemble built on the edge of the ad-Dir’iyah oasis.

Brief synthesis

The was the first capital of the Saudi Dynasty, in the heart of the Arabian Peninsula, north-west of Riyadh. Founded in the 15th century, it bears witness to the Najdi architectural style, which is specific to the centre of the Arabian Peninsula. In the 18th and the early 19th century, its regional political and religious role increased, and the citadel of at-Turaif became the centre of the temporal power of the House of Saud and the spread of the Islamic reform movement in Arabia, Salafiyya. The property includes the remains of many palaces and an urban ensemble built on the edge of the ad-Dir’iyah oasis.

Criterion (iv):

The citadel of at-Turaif is representative of a diversified and fortified urban ensemble within an oasis. It comprises many palaces and is an outstanding example of the Najdi architectural and decorative style characteristic of the centre of the Arabian Peninsula.  It bears witness to a building method that is well adapted to its environment, to the use of adobe in major palatial complexes, along with a remarkable sense of geometrical decoration. 

Criterion (v):

The site of at-Turaif District in ad-Dir’iyah illustrates a significant phase in the human settlement of the central Arabian plateau, when in the mid-18th century Ad-Dir’iyah became the capital of an independent Arab State and an important religious centre. At-Turaif District in Ad-Dir’iyah is an outstanding example of traditional human settlement in a desert environment.

Criterion (vi):

The At-Turaif District was the first historic centre with a unifying power in the Arabian Peninsula.  Its influence was greatly strengthened by the teachings of Sheikh Mohammad Bin Abdul Wahhab, a great reformer of Sunni Islam who lived, preached and died in the city. After his enduring alliance with the Saudi Dynasty, in the middle of the 18th century, it is from ad-Dir’iyah that the message of Salafiyya spread throughout the Arabian Peninsula and the Muslim world.

Integrity

The property comprises the remains of a relatively comprehensive urban ensemble of which the vast majority of the components are still in place, although many buildings are in ruins.  The initial planning is well preserved and can be clearly observed in its road network. The structural integrity of the property is thus acceptable. The property has not been subject to excessively aggressive modern development, as it was abandoned for a long time, and the integrity of the landscape appears to be satisfactory, although fragile.

Authenticity

The urban and architectural components of the property that have not been altered or reconstructed during 20th century reemployments or restorations are authentic.  The buildings are generally in a state of ruins or vestiges.  A major programme of restoration work is in place, which respects the original locations, plans and techniques. It must take particular care to preserve the attributes of the authenticity of its buildings and the road network.  Vigilance must be ongoing and reinforced by a conservation programme which takes priority over other considerations. 

Protection and management requirements

Since 1976, the property has been under the protection of the Antiquities Act 26M, 1392 (1972).  This law protects the moveable and immoveable ancient heritage registered as “antiquity”, a term that can apply to vestiges which are at least two-hundred years old.  The Ministry of Education and the Council of Antiquities are responsible for enforcement of the law.  This is strengthened by a police department under the responsibility of the governor.  A new bill that systematically provides for a protection zone of 200 m around the boundaries of the property is pending approval.

A detailed global management plan of the property is being prepared by the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) and the designers of the Living Heritage Museum, the future management structure of the property.  This should give priority to the organisation and monitoring of the conservation of the different historic components comprising the property.  A scientific conservation committee must be established with broad powers to define, supervise and monitor the work programmes and projects for the property.

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