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Riyadh is the capital of the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, located in the Nejd region. It is situated in the centre of the Arabian peninsula on a large plateau and is home to over 3,500,000 people (14% of the nation's population). Riyadh covers more than 600 square miles.

The city lies in Saudi Arabia's 'central corridor' of development along with Buraydah and Al Kharj in the Ar Riyad administrative division. The other areas of concentrated population are two coastal areas - around Jiddah and Mecca on the Red Sea, and around Hufur and Dharan on the Arabian Gulf.

The city is divided into 17 branch municipalities under the control of the Riyadh Municipality and the Riyadh Development Authority, chaired by Riyadh Province Governor Prince Salman Bin Abdul Aziz.

Although in a highly arid area the city does receive some rainfall. Five dams store the runoff. There are also 96 wells and 290 miles of pipe bringing huge volumes of water from desalination plants on the Gulf.


In pre-Islamic times, the settlement at the site was called Hajar. The site is at the confluence of several rivers (now wadis) and much underground water is accessible at the site. The settlement was historically famous for its dates and orchards. Its name derives from the plural of the Arabic rowdhah (place of gardens). The modern name was first applied to only certain parts of the settlement where orchards predominated. Gradually the name was used for the entire settlement.

By the end of the 18th century, Riyadh was part of the First Saudi State, with the capital at Dariyah. After the destruction of Dariyah in 1818 by the Turks, the capital moved to Riyadh.

The city was seized in 1902 by Abdul Aziz bin Abdul Rahman Al Saud. He went on to established the modern Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1932, with Riyadh the capital of the nation. The diplomatic capital did not move until 1982 (from Jiddah). Recently the city has experienced very high rates of population growth, which is indicated by the poor quality of development since the 1970s.

Population 1862 - 7,500 1935 - 30,000 1960 - 150,000 1970 - 370,000 1972 - 500,000 1974 - 650,000 1988 - 1,500,000 1990 - 2,000,000 1997 - 2,800,000 (2007 - 6,000,000 2020 - 9,900,000). Between 1974 and 1992 the city grew by an average of 8.2% per year.

Noted structures in the city include King Khalid Airport, King Fahd Stadium, Al Masmak Palace, Al Faisaliah, Sahah Al Hukom and Qasr-al-Hukm.