The internal ring road in Al-shrimyah district and Unaizah Mall
|Province||Al Qassim Province|
|• Mayor||سليمان بن عبدالعزيز|
|• Borough Governor||Fahad Al Sulaim|
|• Summer (DST)||UTCDST not observed|
Unaizah (Arabic: عنيزة ʿUnaizah) or officially The Governorate of Unaizah (also spelled Onaizah, Onizah, or Unayzah; Arabic: محافظة عنيزة Muḥāfiẓat ʿUnaizah) is a Saudi Arabian city in the Al Qassim Province. It lies south of the province capital Buraydah and north of Riyadh, the capital of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It is the second largest city in Al-Qassim Province with a population of 163,729 (2010 census).
Historically, Unaizah was an important stopping point for Muslim pilgrims coming from Mesopotamia (now Iraq) and Persia (now Iran) on their way to Makkah. Many scientists and historians believe that Unaizah was inhabited hundreds of years before the spread of Islam, citing its reference in numerous poems from some of the most important poets of pre-Islamic Arabia such as Imru' al-Qais.
Unaizah is in the south of Al-Qassim Province and at the heart of the historical region of Najd. It is located roughly 30 kilometers from Buraydah (the capital of the province) and more than 300 kilometers north of the Saudi capital, Riyadh. Unaizah lies in the northern-central region of the Najd and to the south of the Wadi al-Rummah (Rumma Valley), which is the longest valley on the Arabian peninsula. It is surrounded by sand dunes to its north and west, which are known locally as the Al-Ghamis Sands. The Al-Ghadha Woods are located to the north of the city. Next to Unaizah is the Al-Aushaziyah salt lake (or Sabkha), which is considered an official part of the city.
Unaizah has a hot desert climate (Köppen Climate Classification BWh), with long, extremely hot summers and short, very mild winters. The average high temperature in August is 43.6 °C (110.5 °F). The city experiences very little precipitation, especially in summer, but receives a fair amount of rain in March and April. It is also known to have dust storms during which the dust can be so thick that visibility is under 10 m (33 ft).
An annual Date Season Festival has been held in September since the early 2000s, giving Unaizah the distinction of hosting the second largest date festival in the Persian Gulf and the Middle East. The festival rivals the date festival of neighboring Buraydah's, which is sometimes known as "Buraydah, the City of Dates".
Unaizah's 2008 (4th) annual Date Festival was known as the "Unaizah International Date Festival", though the city's title "Unaizah, the Kingdom of Dates" was retained as a motto. Many people from different places of the Middle East come to see this festival and buy dates because they know there is a good quality of dates.
Unaizah is home to some pioneers in education; the first Saudi person from Al-Qassim Province to earn a PhD. degree was from Unaizah, and his name was Dr. Abdulaziz Al-Khowaiter. The first Saudi female from Al Qassim Province to earn a PhD degree was also raised in this city. Her name was Dr. Ebtisam Al Bassam.
One of the first cities to embrace female education in Al-Qassim Province and Najd was Unaizah. It faced resistance from neighboring provinces and brought Unaizah at the forefront of a national debate. After lengthy negotiations, the capital city of Qassim, Buraidah a sister city of Unaizah, officially recognized the right of an education for females, partly due to King Abdulaziz's interference in settling the dispute.
Today, there are many public schools in Unaizah for all three educational levels (primary, intermediate, and secondary). There are also two private schools and one private international school. There is also a boys' technological secondary school in the city and a technological college, as well as a girls' educational college. Qassim University is located approximately 30 kilometers north of the city, and enrolls both males and females.
The people of Unaizah are well known for their hospitality and acceptance for people from other races and religions. The famous Charles Montagu Doughty lived in the city during his odyssey and wrote highly about the city.
Amin al-Rihani (the famous Franco-Lebanese scholar and traveler) spoke highly of the city's architecture and works of art in his book "Kings of Arabia" likening it to Paris thereby coining the nickname "Paris of Najd" for the city.
Unaizah, has renewed its status as a trailblazer of Tourism in the Qassim Province
Although Unaizah is thought to be relatively more accepting of visitors than its neighbors, its tourism industry faces criticism for a number of reasons. One such criticism is its disregard for infrastructure maintenance.
All of the Saudi citizens of Unaizah are Sunni Muslim with a small minority of Dharmic religions, (mostly Hinduism) brought and practiced in the city by Asian workers (mainly Indians). As the rest of Saudi Arabian cities, non-Islamic worship houses are not allowed. The majority of the city's inhabitants are socially conservative. One of Saudi Arabia's leading religious clerics Muhammad ibn al Uthaymeen was a student of the late Sheikh Abd ar-Rahman ibn Nasir as-Sa'di, an Unaizah native. Muhammad ibn al Uthaymeen himself was born and raised in Unaizah. He lived in Unaizah until he died, where many mosques have been built and named after him.
The Qassimi cuisine in general, and the cuisine of Unaizah is very famous for its delicious food, and for its renowned and tasty traditional meals such as Jereesh, Margoug, Gersan, and Metazeez.
Western origin junk foodis also popular in the city. McDonald's, Subway, Starbucks, Domino's Pizza, Herfy, Pizza Hut, Pizza Inn, Little Caesars, Hardee's, and KFC among others are widely distributed in Unaizah.
Unaizah is very active in terms of sports. Football is the most popular sport all over Saudi Arabia, and it is very popular in Unaizah, it is played in school's P.E. (i.e. Physical Education) lessons, and it is common to see a group of kids playing it in the streets.
There are two local clubs in Unaizah, the Saudi Al Najmah club, and the Al Arabi club.
The city has experienced very high rates of population growth. Unaizah officially counted population in the city limits in 2010 was 163,729.
Unaizah is served by six major Arabic-language newspapers, Al Jazirah, Al Riyadh, Okaz, Al Watan, Al Hayat, Al Yaum. Unaizah has one local magazine, that issues every four months, it is called Paris Najd, named after the widest spread nickname of Unaizah. In addition to many other national and international magazines distributed everywhere in the city's markets.
The city has been ruled by the Al Sulaim family since 1818. They came to power when Prince Yehya Al-Sulaim in 1822 killed the governor appointed by the Ottoman emperor, Abdullah Al-Jamei. This dynasty still rules the city according to a written treaty between them and the Saudi royal family. Some of the most famous families in Saudi Arabia originate from Unaizah, including Al Juffali, Al Ohaly, AlGarawi, Al Ghothami, Al Hatlani, Al Ghumayz, Al Sulaiman, Al Hamdan, Al Akeel, Al Fadl, Al Tamimi, Al Zamil, Al Olayan, Al Bassam, Al Gadhi, Al Matrody, Al Salloum, Al Saheel, Al Subaiee, Al Senany, Al Mansour, Al Yahya, Al Thukair, Al Turki, Aldubayan, Al Shoshan, Al Shubaili, Al Shebel, Al Damigh, Al Othaimeen, Al Malloohi, Al Marzooki, Al Manei, Al Se'di, Al Abeeki, Al Dabibi, Al Khwaiter, Al Sowayil, Al Daffaa, Al Jaffali, Al Dukhayyel, Al Dakheel, Al Abdeli, Al Suhaimi, families and many others.
Unaizah is well known for its hospitality, hence, there are a variety of tourism Festivals in the year. These include dates, and healthy crops festivals. There is also a bi-annual cultural festival which is a trademark for this city. It was the only city of the Najd region to invite a Saudi Shiite cleric to speak in a public event, in a grass-roots effort to promote a united national identity. This drew criticism from conservatives in neighboring cities.
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