For nearly 600 years, the town of Diriyah has played a pivotal role in the historical pilgrimage journeys of Hajj. From the time when Prophet Ibrahim [Abraham], (peace be upon Him), laid the foundations of the Holy Kaaba in the sacred valley of Makkah, pilgrimage has remained a steadfast ritual for Muslims around the world. Every year, millions of believers from diverse corners of the globe embark on a spiritual odyssey to the holy lands of the Arabian Peninsula. Among the various routes taken by the caravans, Diriyah emerged as a significant stopover, owing to its strategic location and historical significance.
Established in 1446, Diriyah became a vital destination for Hajj caravans due to its abundant resources, particularly food, and water provided by the lushness of Wadi Hanifah. Moreover, the town’s strong local political power ensured the safety and security of the pilgrims. Historical records highlight the influential role of Ibrahim bin Musa bin Rabia bin Manea, a member of the Marid clan, in facilitating the passage of Hajj caravans to and from Makkah.
In the past, pilgrims traveling through Diriyah had several routes to choose from. One of the oldest known routes, the Abu Al-Qadd route, which is now recognized as the Qiddiya highway, served as a gathering point for travelers at the Diriyah Majlis in the Samhan district. From there, they continued their journey, passing through the Nasria mountain pass and reaching Arqah before descending towards Qiddiya. Camels were the preferred mode of transportation for crossing the vast Arabian desert, as they proved to be adept at navigating the challenging terrain. To ensure their safety, the camels were leashed from behind while ascending and held forward by their necks on the way down the jagged slopes. Caravans would then proceed towards Qusur Al Muqbil (Al Muqbil Palace) and Al-Muzahmiya.
Another significant Hajj route stemming from Diriyah was the ‘Seven Bends Way,’ named after the seven turns along its path. This route was developed during the reign of King Abdulaziz bin Abdul Rahman bin Faisal Al Saud. Pilgrims would travel northbound across Wadi Hanifah to Al Jubaylah, passing through the Haysiyah gorge and reaching Al Uyaynah. From there, the Seven Bends Way led them to Marat, a major stopover for pilgrims arriving from the east.
The third route to Makkah involved traveling through Dirab. Departing from Diriyah, the Hajis would make their way towards the Al Nasrah pass, then descend to Arqah. They would continue their journey through the Namar Gorge, eventually reaching Dirab and embarking on the Al Ghaziz way. This path would lead them to the Al Quwaiyah route, while some pilgrims opted to travel to Al Duwadimi instead.
The settlement of Diriyah itself traces back to Manea, the great-grandfather of Ibrahim, who heeded the call to settle in Diriyah after being summoned from Qatif. His cousins from the Diriyah clan sought to restore the fortunes of their ancestors, who had previously inhabited the region. This decision laid the foundation for establishing the First Saudi State in 1727 by Imam Mohammed bin Saud. Following the tumultuous period of disease and conflict that plagued the newly formed nation, Mohammed secured the Hajj and trade routes, transforming Diriyah into an independent state, free from the control of regional powers. His son Abdulaziz expanded the state by annexing surrounding districts, boosting financial revenues, securing longer Hajj routes, and offering a wider range of high-quality services to Hajis.
Imam Saud bin Abdulaziz bin Mohammed:
Architect of Saudi Arabia’s triumph
In the annals of Saudi Arabian history, few figures loom as large as Imam Saud bin Abdulaziz bin Mohammed. As the third leader of the Saudi state, he made a profound impact by annexing Hijaz, which ultimately led to the end of Ottoman rule. This remarkable feat secured his place in history and established him as the first Saudi ruler to bear the prestigious title of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques.
Imam Saud, driven by an unwavering devotion to his faith, harbored a genuine desire to perform Hajj every year. His reputation as “Al Kabeer” or “Saud the Mighty” was well-deserved, considering the vastness and grandeur of his kingdom at the time. Stretching from the majestic Euphrates River and the enchanting Levant in the north to the serene cities of Sanaa and Masqat in the south, his realm extended from the shimmering shores of the Arabian Gulf to the idyllic beaches of the Red Sea in the west.
Amidst this kingdom, the power and influence of Diriyah, a thriving city, reverberated far and wide. Renowned as a hub of pilgrimage and a sanctuary for weary travelers on their Hajj journeys, it became a place where pilgrims sought refuge and assistance. Its significance in this regard cannot be overstated.
The mantle of responsibility for the Holy Mosques and the sacred pilgrimage did not wane with the passage of time. Even as the modern era dawned and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia came into existence under the visionary leadership of the late King Abdulaziz bin Abdul Rahman bin Faisal Al Saud, the tradition endured. With unwavering commitment, the esteemed leader spared no expense in the care of the Two Holy Mosques and the well-being of Hajj and Umrah pilgrims.
In a poignant address delivered in 1938, King Abdulaziz solemnly pledged to uphold the teachings of the Holy Quran and the guidance of the Prophet (peace be upon Him). His successors, in an inspiring display of continuity, faithfully followed in his footsteps. Today, the esteemed Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdulaziz, and his esteemed HRH Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, proudly carry the torch as globally celebrated patrons of unprecedented infrastructure and utility megaprojects in the revered cities of Makkah and Madinah.
These two majestic cities, the cherished abodes of the Two Holy Mosques, have become perennial magnets for countless visitors from around the globe. They welcome millions of devout pilgrims and eager travelers seeking solace and spiritual enlightenment, year after year.