Al Diriyah and dinner with Princess Reema

I had already had quite a fun filled 10 days with all the activities we had for the ARAMCO reunion. One more was added at the last minute and it was a freebie - quick trip to Riyadh to have dinner with Princess Reema, the newly appointed ambassador to the United States. Only Americans were invited, of course. I jumped at the chance and was so glad I did because it included much more than just dinner!

After flying the Saudi Aramco jet to Riyadh, we were given a police escort to the site of the dinner - the historic ruins of Al Diriyah. 

I had been to Al Diriyah as a child, but have the very faintest of memories. I just know we went. At the time, it was just the ruins off to themselves like this...

courtesy of Saudi Tourism
Since then there has not only been much restoration, but all sorts of facilities built next to it. Such things as a museum, conference center, etc. 

Upon arrival there were the welcoming things we had been having at so many events during the reunion.  The cultural drummers and dancers, the coffee and tea offerings, and the dates to nibble on. 

Al Diriyah is in an oasis area known as Wadi Hanifa in central Arabia that has been occupied for thousands of years. In 1446 the city was founded by Mani' Al-Muraydi, an ancestor of the Saudi royal family. It is therefore considered the rooted home of the royal Saud family. It became the capital of the Nejd region of Arabia and through tribal wars, increased in size. It lasted through a long siege by the Ottoman Empire after which it was largely vacated after the Ottomans broke through and destroyed the palm groves and city.

What was an exciting and thoroughly enjoyable experience was the light show that was projected onto the walls of the ruins. It depicted the history of Al Diriyah and the Saud family. Please watch it all, because it is most impressive. I liken it to those at Luxor or the Pyramids, but I think this one is much more current technology-wise.

We were broken into small groups to go on tours through the ruins. Each group was led by a team of two to three women tour guides. Our tours were probably considerably briefer than day tours, but still enjoyable.

In one area they were depicting daily life showing the types of arts and crafts that Saudis might practice. There were also children playing games and singing Saudi children's songs. 

showing the original bricks and the layers

projections on walls inside as well

the school area was two stories

a well

Where the imam leads the prayers (like pulpit)

it was a full moon, but the cell phone camera isn't sharp enough

After our tours we sat down to a dinner under the stars. We were blessed with perfect weather - no wind or cold like we had on some nights. There were many other VIPs in attendance from the government. I'm pretty sure the US Ambassador was there since it was in honor of the Princess. Also in attendance was the visiting Minister from Nigeria.

The Minister of Energy, Khalid bin Abdulaziz Al-Falih, gave a very nice speech on how much past Aramco employees are appreciated and honored. After all, we were the foundation that created the company that they took over in the 80s. 

He then introduced the Princess. Princess Reema bint Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al Saud is the daughter of a former ambassador to the US.  She gave a lovely speech about how she can relate to us. After all, she lived from age 7 to 37 in the United States. She understands what it is is to have a second country and a second family in those citizens. 

Everyone was thoroughly impressed by her and tried desperately to have their pictures taken with her. After so many issues of late in regards to Saudi global affairs, she seems to be a breath of fresh air and likely to do well to smooth relations with the West.