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Manfuha (Arabic: منفوحة) was an ancient village in the Nejd region of central Saudi Arabia. Established on the edge of the narrow, fertile valley known as Wadi Hanifa, Manfuha was until the mid-20th century considered a twin village to the current Saudi capital of Riyadh.
According to Yaqut's 13th century geographical encyclopedia Mu'jam Al-Buldan, Manfuha was built a few centuries before Islam at the same time as Hajr (now Riyadh) by members of the Banu Hanifa tribe and their cousins from the tribe of Bakr. Manfuha was home to the famous Arab poet Al-A'sha, who died at around the same time as the Muslim prophet Muhammad, but little is heard of Manfuha after that time. At the turn of the 20th century, its population was made up largely of members of Banu Hanifa and Bakr (who by now had come to identify themselves with the related tribe of 'Anizzah), as well as members of Tamim and Subay'. Like all Nejdi towns, its population also included a large percentage of non-tribally-affiliated tradesmen (sonnaa'), as well as many slaves and freedmen working as agricultural laborers. Like Riyadh, the town was surrounded by gardens and palm groves.
In the late 18th century, Manfuha fell under the rule of the energetic ruler of Riyadh, Deham ibn Dawwas, who at the time was vigorously resisting the expansion of the new Wahhabist state established by the Al Saud clan of neighboring Diriyah (see First Saudi State). Both towns eventually succumbed to the Saudis, however, who ruled over Manfuha until their state was destroyed by an Ottoman-Egyptian invasion in 1818. From then on, the town's fortunes largely followed those of its neighbor, Riyadh, returning to Saudi rule under Turki ibn Abdallah in 1824, then falling under the rule of the Al Rashid clan of Ha'il in the 1890s, before reverting to Saudi rule less than ten years later under the founder of Saudi Arabia, Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud.
As the neighboring Saudi capital expanded exponentially in the 20th century, fueled by the country's oil wealth, the walls of both Manfuha and Riyadh were torn down, and Manfuha was quickly swallowed in whole by the growing metropolis. Today, Manfuha is among the poorer districts of Riyadh. Most of its original inhabitants have left to newer districts of the capital, and the area is now mostly inhabited by low-income guest-workers from Egypt and South Asia, as well as the families of former African slaves. Some of the town's old mud-brick buildings remain, as well as an ancient observation tower. A wide avenue cuts through the center of Manfuha, named Al-A'sha Street, after its most famous son.
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