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The Saudi capital Riyadh can be difficult to understand on a first visit. Located in the heart of Arabia, this conservative desert metropolis glitters with contemporary glass and steel, yet also evokes a simpler past of mud brick houses and traditional souks.

There is very little tourism in Riyadh and most visitors spend time among the malls and cafés of the downtown Olaya business district, which is overlooked by the twin skyscrapers of the Kingdom Tower and visually striking Faisaliah Tower. The superb National Museum and nearby historic Masmak Fortress are well worth a visit, then head down to Wadi Hanifah, a desert valley rejuvenated with parks, walking trails and fishing lakes. Upstream, the mud-brick city of Diriyah, where Riyadh was founded in the 18th century, is now an archaeological site. Remember this is a conservative Muslim country - alcohol is illegal.

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