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(both: rēäd`), city (1997 est. pop. 3,000,000), capital and largest city of Saudi Arabia, in the Nejd, central Saudi Arabia. It is situated in an oasis, c.240 mi (390 km) inland from the Persian Gulf. Riyadh is the nation's educational, administrative, financial, and transportation center. Oil refining is the main industry. Riyadh is the focal point for desert travel and trade. Its architecture formerly represented the classic Arabic style, but in the oil boom of recent decades many buildings were torn down and replaced by large modern structures. Riyadh was long the center of the WahhabiWahhabi
or Wahabi
, reform movement in Islam, originating in Arabia; adherents of the movement usually refer to themselves as Muwahhidun [unitarians]. It was founded by Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahab (c.
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 movement. In 1991, the city was slightly damaged by Iraqi missile attacks during the Persian Gulf WarPersian Gulf Wars,
two conflicts involving Iraq and U.S.-led coalitions in the late 20th and early 21st cent.


First Persian Gulf War, also known as the Gulf War, Jan.–Feb.
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. By the late 1990s, Riyadh was one of the fastest-growing cities in the world. It is the seat of King Fahd Univ., Imam Mohamed Univ., and other schools.



(also al-Riyad), the capital of Saudi Arabia. Located in the central Arabian Peninsula at an elevation of approximately 600 m, Riyadh has a subtropical climate, with an average January temperature of −14°C and an average July temperature of 33°C; annual precipitation totals 53 mm. Population, 390,000 (1976). Riyadh is connected by highways with Mecca, Jidda, and al-Hu-fuf and by a railroad with Dammam. It has an international airport.

Riyadh is an important industrial center, with approximately one-fifth of Saudi Arabia’s industrial enterprises. In addition to oil-refining and cement industries, it has a food-processing industry that includes the manufacture of tomato paste. Dry batteries are also manufactured in the city. Notable for handicrafts and various cottage industries, Riyadh is a center for the marketing of fruits, primarily dates, and grains.

The earliest information about Riyadh is from the 18th century, when the city was the capital of a small emirate, the Nejd. Riyadh was captured by the Wahhabis in 1773. It was the capital of the Saudi emirate from 1821 until the second half of the 19th century and was subsequently ruled by the emirs of Shammar. In 1902 it was conquered by detachments of Ibn Saud, who made the city the capital of the Nejd. From 1927 to 1932, Riyadh was the capital of the kingdom comprising Hejaz, the Nejd, and the regions annexed by Ibn Saud. The state was renamed Saudi Arabia in 1932.

The old city is characterized by flat-roofed pisé houses. The boulevard connecting the new center of the city with the airport is lined with modern buildings, including office buildings, hotels, schools, hospitals, a radio station, a covered market, and a railroad station. Riyadh has many palaces, the largest of which is the royal palace complex al-Murabba (1944), which is surrounded by a clay wall with towers.

Educational institutions in the city include the University of Riyadh (founded 1957; 7,000 students in 1976), the Imam Muhammad ibn Saud Islamic University (founded 1950; university status, 1974; 11,200 students), the Higher Institute of Technology, and the Technical Institute. The principal libraries are the National Library (16,000 volumes), the Saudi Library (14,800 volumes and 200 manuscripts), and the library of the U niversity of Riyadh (65,000 volumes).


the joint capital (with Mecca) of Saudi Arabia, situated in a central oasis: the largest city in the country. Pop.: 5 514 000 (2005 est.)