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RIYADH: Relics hidden under Ghasiba’s remains reveal a 32,000 square meter fortress that guarded the earliest known reign of the Al-Saud royal family.

Few know that Ghasiba district, founded in 1446, was the ruling center of the Al-Saud family for more than 300 years, even before the UNESCO World Heritage Site of At-Turaif in Diriyah was established as the first Saudi state in 1727. .

In the middle of the 15th century, Manaa ‘Al-Muraide, clan chief of the Al-Duru tribe of the Banu Hanifa, made the arduous 400 kilometer journey to Diriyah.

Known as “the father of the Saudi royal family”, Al-Muraide migrated from the east to the center of the peninsula, where he established the new Diriyah.

Al-Muraide’s difficult journey across the Arabian Peninsula to Diriyah laid the foundation for the establishment of the Kingdom and the rule of Al-Saud.

Nestled in the northern region of Diriyah, many people overlook the importance of Ghasiba and the fortress that sits within its walls.

Dating back nearly 600 years, Ghasiba is the oldest known neighborhood in the Najd region. Ghasiba was the seat of government between the era of Manaa ‘Al-Muraide and the early days of the reign of Imam Mohammed bin Saud.

Diriyah had five districts: Ghasiba, Al-Tarfaiya, Al-Mariha, Al-Qusayreen and At-Turaif. As home to the first reign of the Al-Saud family, Ghasiba is a very important district in the history of the Kingdom.

The triangular fortress that protected the neighborhood was built at a very strategic location as it sits on an elevated part overlooking Wadi Hanifa.

There are three sides surrounding the fortress wall which come to a triangular point on a high slope. This gave the location more security and protection against attackers from opposing armies, including the Ottomans.

The gates of the fortress were located in the center of the far eastern wall. A very unique aspect of Ghasiba’s structure was its gate. Unlike any other gate at the time in the region, the entrance to Ghasiba Fortress was made of iron.

All other Najdi gates in the area were made of wood, such as palm trunks and rushes. Travelers who have migrated through the district have always been taken aback and intrigued by the unique design of the fortress.

The Al-Saud royal family lived in Ghasiba until they decided to create the first Saudi state. They passed through the district of Al-Tarfaiya in Diriyah to finally reach At-Turaif, where they established the first Saudi state in 1727.

After the Al-Saud ruling family left Ghasiba and established their roots in At-Turaif, the Al-Dugathair family, a very well-known tribe descended from the Banu Hanifa, continued to live there until the fortress of Ghasiba be destroyed by the Ottomans during an attack.

To this day, the three walls of Ghasiba Fortress contain the remains of a palace and a mosque where Imam Mohammed bin Saud, the first Imam of the first Saudi state, lived.

The creation of the first Saudi state took place in 1727, but the earliest known origins of Al-Saud family rule were in the northern district of Diriyah in Ghasiba.

The reign of the Al-Saud family started from this district, which gives it great importance in the history of the Kingdom.

Norma A. Roth