Once a mudbrick waystation along desert trading routes, Riyadh is now one of the wealthiest cities in the world. The country’s political, financial and administrative capital is also a city with a fascinating subtext. Nowhere are the contradictions of modern Saudi more evident than in Riyadh. Seen from afar, soaring, sparkling, stunning modern towers rise above the dusty desert and shiny 4WDs throng modern highways. Up close, Riyadh is conservative, cautious and sober (certainly compared to Jeddah). This sometimes jarring, always intriguing mix is combined with fine hotels and restaurants and some excellent sights.