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Saudi Arabia Using Ancient Tourist Site To Alter Its History


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Saudi Arabia Using Ancient Tourist Site To Alter Its History

Saudi Arabia is just outside Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh, a group of elementary school children is on a field trip at Diriyah, where engineers and construction workers are busy restoring a 17th-century fortress, mosques and clay-colored structures that are once the ruling family’s seat of power.

The UNESCO World Heritage site lies in conservative, arid patch of country and is unlikely to feature high on any bucket lists for the world travels.

But the kingdom is hoping to alter perceptions as it prepares to open the country to tourist visas and international tour groups later this year.

Diriyah lies at heart of Saudi Arabia’s efforts to both control the narrative of its past for future generations of Saudis and to revamping its images to curious world travelers.

It is an especially important site to the ruling Al Saud family because it is here where the first Saudi dynasty formed in the 15th century.

The architecture here is associating with tribes of Najd, the landlocked region in the heart of the Arabian Peninsula that is now home to Riyadh and surrounding cities.

In the 18th century, Diriyah rose to become once again the center of power for the Al Saud but fell under Ottoman control in the early 19th century.

It will take more than century for the Al Saud to reclaiming Diriyah and found the current Saudi state that is naming after its ruling family.

Today, much of Diriyah remains close to the public as authorities work to restore it to its former glory except this time fitting with modern comforts of air conditioning and plumbing.

The area around a fortress resembles a modern desert oasis with palm trees, parks, restaurants and coffee shops, drawing.

Young Saudis and families in colder months are looking for green, open spaces away from the congesting streets of Riyadh.

There is a fantastic amount of history here, says Chris Brooks, who frequently comes to Riyadh on business.

With a few hours to spare between meetings, he decided to visit Diriyah and take some photos to share with his family back in the U.K.

Still, it’s not a place will encourage his family to visit just yet.

It is going to take some convincing families to want to come here, he says. To open up, you need it to more welcoming, more accessible.

It takes a lot of time to get a visa to come here, and if they address those issues, then I think, yeah, more people will come here. There is much to see.

The kingdom’s 32-year-old heir the throne, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Diriyah is a part of a much larger national project to overhauling country’s economy and makes it more resilient in the face of lower oil prices.

Boosting domestic spending and opening the country to foreign tourists are seen as ways to create more jobs for the millions of young Saudis who will enter the workforce and look for jobs in coming years.

The religiously conservative country ran a pilot program between the year 2006 to 2010 for welcome 25,000 visitors annually to see Saudi Arabia’s ancient archaeological sites.

A vast landscape such as Mountains, Coastline, Valleys, Volcanoes, and Deserts.

Saudi Arabia seems an unlikely destination for a holiday; it boasts regions where ancient Christian and Jewish communities once thriving, historic forts, a stunning Red Sea coastline and a diverse culture molding by old trade pilgrimage route.

Saudi tourism authorities are planning to open five museums inside Diriyah and a research center naming after Sheikh Mohammed Ibn Abdul-Wahhab, whose ultraconservative teachings of Islam in the 18th century are widely referring as “Wahhabism” in his name.

Abdul-Wahhab is a pivotal figure in the foundation of the current Saudi state which is helping the Al Saud family conquer tribes by using both the sword and the gospel.

His legacy, however, is also associating with some of the most extreme interpretations of Islam that have used to justify killings by al-Qaida and the Islamic State group.

A descendant of Abdul-Wahhab, Abdulmajeed Al-Sheikh, has worked as a tour guide in Diriyah for the past 12 years.

He says a research center is a place for Islamic scholars academics to learn about the principles of Abdul-Wahhab’s teachings and how he is helping to unite disparate Arab tribes under the banner of Islam.

In a short presentation shown to visitors of Diriyah, Abdul-Wahhab is describing as a moderating force. Someone who is reviving the true teachings of Islam that were first revealed to Prophet Muhammad in Mecca some 1,400 years ago.

“His words say that if you don’t do this, you should kill. You are a non-believer. It is not an obscure part of his writing,” says David Commins, a professor at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania and scholar on Islam in Saudi Arabia.

“For them to rewrite the creed of Ibn Abdel-Wahhab and say it’s something else they are going to have to do some heavy editing.”

For Saudi visitors, the center can serve as a way to reinterpreting Abdul-Wahhab’s teachings as the crown prince pushes forth social reforms that curb the influence of Wahhabism.

For foreigners, it is a way for the government to put forth its narrative on one of the country’s most controversial figures.

Natana DeLong-Bas, a professor at Boston College and the author of “Wahhabi Islam,” says that for more than a decade the kingdom’s rulers have been trying to create a sense of Wasatiya and Wataniya” or moderation and patriotism among Saudi citizens.

“Religion is welcome as something that drives morals and ethics, but it is not going to be as linked to state activities as it has in the past,” she said.

Tourism official Salah Altaleb, who’s overseeing investments in the tourism sector, says visits to sites like Diriyah will help tourists to correct image that has Saudi Arabia.

“Once they are coming here and see the country, I think marketing literature tells us that they will go back and tell their family and friends and relatives about what they are experiencing and things will start to change then,” he says.

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