Diriyah: A city-state
The city-state, which is a classical Greek concept, dates back to about 500 BC. This implies that the city emerges and proceeds in its history to establish a state to be followed by other regions.
Diriyah a self-sufficient center
Najd and the city of Diriyah, which was founded by Prince Mani’e Al-Muraydi in 850 AH, corresponding to 1446 AD, was a medium-sized city with an urban center that accommodated a large portion of the population.
It was economically self-sufficient, taking advantage of its geographical location at the crossroads of trade routes, and being an agricultural area due to its location on Wadi Hanifa where the production of its farms exceeded the needs of its residents, so they exported it to other cities in the Najd region, such as Al-Uyaynah, Huraymila, and others.
Mani’e Al-Muraydi and after him his sons and grandsons took over the rule of Diriyah and provided it with reasons for protection, the practice of trade and control over the trade routes.
The city-state has a long history in the Arabian Peninsula, where Yathrib, in the beginning of the Hijrah (migration) of the Prophet (peace be upon him), was a clear example of the city-state.
Building an Arab state in the Arabian Peninsula was the dream cherished by some intellectuals. This was evident in the study of the phenomenon of the city of Diriyah, which was founded to be the city-state capable of expanding with the passage of time.
Since the time of Prince Mani’e, it seemed that there was a family constitution for governance that focused on the idea of the state and the Arab element, and therefore it was not established on tribal fanaticism, but on the basis of an Arab state.
There are not many historians who wrote about the Najd region. The historian Rashid Bin Ali Bin Jeris (died 1298 AH /1880 AD) said: “The idea of establishing an Arab state in the Arabian Peninsula was clear to Prince Mani’e Al-Muraydi, his son Rabia, and his grandson Musa Bin Rabia, and great grandson Ibrahim Bin Musa bin Rabia, who was called the emir of Najd, and others.”
It was reported that they were independent princes, not affiliated with anyone. Prince Musa Bin Rabia had cherished an idea of securing an independent Arabian Peninsula, while his father, grandfather, and the father of his grandfather Mani’e had plans to secure the independence of the Najd region and the east of the Arabian Peninsula, where from Prince Al-Mani’e came, to establish his state in Najd, in the region inhabited by his ancestors, who belonged to the Bani Hanifa tribe.
First Saudi state
Additional data confirm that Diriyah was established to be a city-state, though its geographical location is strategic for the capital of a major country. Moreover, it is located on one of the most important valleys in Najd, which is Wadi Hanifa, and on one of the most important ancient trade routes, which comes from the south of the Arabian Peninsula passing through Najran and then heads north to Al-Yamama, then Diriyah, where it heads to the north towards Dumat Al-Jandal, then to the east towards Iraq, and to the west towards Hejaz.
This path is the path of the pilgrims coming from Persia, Iraq and Central Asia, as it used to continue passing through Diriyah to Makkah.
With the establishment of Al-Diriyah by Prince Mani’e Al-Muraydi, and then by his sons and grandsons, this road was secured. With the establishment of the first Saudi state by Imam Muhammad Bin Saud, this road became one of the most prominent roads through which trade and pilgrimage caravans passed, thanks to his policy of securing this road and establishing relations with the tribes that passed through these areas, and agreeing with them to ensure security and provide service to its beneficiaries.
The data showed that the towns in the region in the beginning of the establishment of the state belonged to a particular family. After decades, this family allowed specific individuals or families, based on an agreement between them, to move to their town. But things were different in Diriyah, as it has been a habitat for other Arabs ever since its founding. Therefore, it witnessed migrations to it from Yemen, and many people from different regions of the Arabian Peninsula resided or visited it.
The data also indicated that Mani’e and his sons, who were princes, were keen to protect the caravans in general, and the Hajj caravans in particular. They concluded treaties with the tribes and princes of other cities in Najd, and they became very famous in that.
Similarly, the trade system in Diriyah was more open to others and more competitive, while Diriyah was expanding and narrowing according to the political stability there. All this was absorbed by Prince Imam Muhammad Bin Saud, who moved the status of city state in Diriyah to the status of the state, which historians called the first Saudi state.