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Sights

Masmak fort

The heart of old Riyadh, this was the fortress stormed by King Abdul Aziz and his men in their daring reconquest of Riyadh in 1902. Renovated in 2008 to an inch of its life, the mud brick structure now looks like it was built yesterday, but the museum inside does a pretty good job of recounting the story of the raid and has some fascinating photos of old Riyadh as well. Alas, the second half is devoted to extolling the greatness of the Sauds in everything from agriculture to education.

434m

24.6311111146.71333333

Deera Square

Next to the Great Mosque and the mutawwa headquarters, this nondescript expanse of cement is known by expats as Chop-Chop Square as convicts are publicly beheaded with a scimitar here. Executions take place on Friday mornings (but not every week), just after the noon prayers. Beware that any Westerners nearby have been known to be taken to the front row and forced to watch the whole thing, in order to further shame the condemned. It is forbidden to take photos of executions or to record videos of them.

593m

24.63088446.711838

National Museum of Saudi Arabia

Undoubtedly the top sight in Riyadh, this museum (opened in 1999) is done up with the latest technology and is very accessible to visitors, with almost everything available in English. There are so many video presentations and mini-theatres that you could probably spend an entire day here doing virtual tours of Madain Salih or watching re-enactments of the Prophet Mohammed's battle of Medina. Highlights include a kiswah cloth that once covered the Qaaba in Mecca. Half the time, though, it feels more like a propaganda exercise than a museum: the display on plate tectonics starts with a quote from the Quran, the history of the Sauds is rather airbrushed, and the display on the birth of Mohammed, reached from the clash and noise of the Jahiliyah (age of ignorance) by riding an escalator up into a room of soothing, pastel light while a choir of angels sings, has probably inspired a few conversions to Islam. Many cabbies will not recognize the English name, ask for the neighboring Murabba Palace (Qasr al-Murabba) instead.

1.6km

24.6472222246.71083333

Murabba Palace

Riyadh's second old mud-brick palace, built by King Abdul Aziz after he conquered Masmak Fortress and figured he should built something harder to conquer. This two-story structure does indeed look pretty intimidating, but permits are no longer needed to venture inside, where you can find sights including the first royal Rolls-Royce.

1.6km

24.646546.7093

Diriyah

city

18km

24.7333333346.57555556

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Riyadh

Saudi Arabia
Riyadh is the capital of Saudi Arabia. It is slightly east of the center of the country in the heart of the Tuwaig escarpment.

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Climate

Average temperatures

Jan

20.2°C9
Precipitation: 12.5 mm

Feb

23.4°C11.2
Precipitation: 8 mm

Mar

27.7°C15.2
Precipitation: 24 mm

Apr

33.4°C20.4
Precipitation: 28 mm

May

39.4°C25.9
Precipitation: 4.9 mm

Jun

42.5°C28
Precipitation: 3 mm

Jul

43.5°C29.3
Precipitation: 3.7 mm

Aug

43.6°C29.2
Precipitation: 4 mm

Sep

40.4°C25.9
Precipitation: 0.1 mm

Oct

35.3°C21.2
Precipitation: 0.2 mm

Nov

27.8°C15.5
Precipitation: 0.9 mm

Dec

22.2°C10.6
Precipitation: 14.6 mm