Riyadh, which lies in the Central Region, is the capital city 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. Today the city extends for some 600 square miles (1600 square kilometers) and has a population of more than 5.8 million. The name Riyadh is derived from the Arabic word meaning a place of gardens and trees (“rawdah”). Riyadh is the most obvious and accessible to the foreign visitors.
The Holy City of Makkah
The Holy City of Makkah, which lies inland 73 kilometers east of Jeddah, is the place where the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, was born – the place where God’s message was first revealed to him and the city to which he returned after the migration to Madinah in 622 AD. Makkah is the holiest city on earth to Muslims. All Muslims who are not prevented by person- al circumstance perform the Hajj, the pilgrimage to Makkah. Thus, each year the Holy City of Makkah is host to some two million pilgrims from all over the world. The Holy Mosque in Makkah houses the Ka’aba, in the corner of which is set the seven circumambulations of the Holy Mosque which every pilgrim must complete.
The Holy City of Madinah
Madinah, which lies 447 kilometers north of the Holy City of Makkah, is the second holiest city in Islam. It was to Madinah that the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, and his followers departed in 622 AD. It was in Madinah that the Islamic era began. Madinah is then the city of the Prophet. As the place in which the Holy Qur’an was compiled and from which the Prophet’s companions administered the affairs of the Muslim community, it was the seat of the first Islamic state. Madinah is also the place in which the Prophet, peace be upon him, was buried.
The Red Sea port of Jeddah, located mid-way along the Western coast of the Kingdom, is a bustling, thriving city and seaport. Jeddah’s location on the ancient trade routes and its status as the seaport and airport for pilgrims visiting the Holy City of Makkah have ensured that Jeddah is the most cosmopolitan of all Saudi Arabia’s cities. The extraordinary growth of Jeddah, demanded by the Saudi development programs, has been achieved in a remarkably short period. Jeddah now boasts some of the most beautiful examples of modern architecture in the world. Tree-lined avenues and the generous distribution of bronze sculptures attest to the success of the city’s beautification program.
Dhahran is located 6 miles (10 km) west of Khobar. Dhahran, with Dammam and Al Khobar, forms the Dammam Area. Dhahran was the site of the headquarters of what was Aramco (the Arabian American Oil Company). For obvious reasons, it is also the site of the King Fahd Petroleum and Minerals University. Dhahran is served by one of the Kingdom’s three international airports, a construction of outstanding architectural beauty which combines traditional Islamic design with the most modern building technology.
Jubail and Yanbu industrial area
Jubail and Yanbu constitute a unique experiment in development which has proved outstandingly successful. These are two cities which were conceived on the drawing board and were planned to provide a purpose-built and highly efficient environment for modern industrial production. These industrial complexes, built at Jubail on the Arabian Gulf and Yanbu on the Red Sea by the Royal Commission for Jubail and Yanbu, are the key to Saudi Arabia’s national industrialization plans. These two industrial cities provide the basis for the country’s program to develop hydrocarbon-based and energy intensive industries. The massive investment in these industrial cities has as its major objective a reduction in the dependency on oil revenues by gaining access to the world’s petrochemical markets. This route to industrialization exploits Saudi natural advantages, in terms of cheap energy and cheap raw materials for petrochemical manufacture.