National Geographic : 1966 Jan
Two-faced Riyadh keeps one visage turned to the past (left) and the other toward the pres ent. Only a desert town twen ty years ago, the capital pros pered with the postwar oil boom. Palaces, apartments, schools, hospitals, and a uni versity sprouted along wide avenues as Riyadh's popula tion grew to 170,000, making it the kingdom's largest city. Here gleaming new build ings housing government min istries flank tree-lined Airport Road (above). With assistance from the United Nations and other groups, the government plans similar urban-renewal projects in 40 other towns. In the heart of Old Riyadh, castellated walls of mud brick shade rooftops where Saudi families often sleep to escape summer heat. Daytime tem peratures rise as high as 113° F. and may fall no lower than 90° at night. Date groves in the distance separate city from desert.