Riyadh, which means "the gardens" in Arabic, is the capital of Saudi Arabia, located in the Central Province. In an advantageous location in the Hanifa valley, the city and surroundings are very green and boast many parks. Summers bring extreme heat and dryness, followed by mild winters and cool nights with occasional rain.
Riyadh was originally built near a source of water, as were all cities in the Kingdom. The center of the city -- the "souks" -- lies clustered near the original "wadi" where water was found. The city has expanded in every direction from the original city but generally to the north. New buildings, bridges and ditches appear overnight. The use of concrete in decorative and unusual architectural detail and form is intriguing -- often defying convention. The use of marble is common, some steel frame structures are being erected, and there is extensive use of glass, concrete and new-technology materials. Throughout the city, walls to provide privacy and protection surround homes (or villas). The name Riyadh is derived from the Arabic word meaning a place of gardens and trees ("rawdah"). With many wadis (a former water course, now dry) in the vicinity, Riyadh has been since antiquity a fertile area set in the heartland of the Arabian peninsula.
Of all the Kingdom's developmental achievements, Riyadh is perhaps the most obvious and accessible to the foreign visitor. From the moment he lands at the King Khalid International Airport, itself a marvel of design wedding the traditional Arab style with the best of modern architecture in a happy marriage of spacious practicality, the traveler is aware that he has reached a city that must be counted one of the wonders of modern times.
Riyadh, which lies in the Central Region, is the capital city of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and now rivals any modern city in the world in the splendor of its architecture. Broad highways sweep through the city, passing over or under each other in an impressive and still growing road network. Trees now bedeck the broad streets and avenues, giving pleasure to passers-by and shade to those who linger beneath them. Today the city extends for some 600 square miles (1600 square kilometers) and has a population of more than 4.7 million.