National Museum

The largest, and without doubt, the most important museum in the Kingdom is the National Museum of Antiquities. Situated as one of the cornerstones of the King Abdul Aziz Historical Centre in the Murabba Park, its impressive curved frontage looks out onto a babbling spring that trickles over boulders of basalt which were transported from the north of the country.


The museum was designed by the Canadian firm Moriyama & Teshima Architects with Büro Happold Engineers. The Canadian firm LORD Cultural Resources Planning & Management and the Royal Ontario Museum provided exhibit design services for the 30,000 square-metre project. It features eight galleries which tell the story of Saudi Arabia from the earliest of times up to the present day.


The first gallery, called Man and the Universe, presents the creation of the universe and the Earth, the formation of mineral and rock, and the environmental conditions that led to the Kingdom’s accumulation of its vast mineral wealth including the formation and accumulation of oil over millions of years.


The Arabian Kingdoms is the theme of the second hall which examines the different civilisations that inhabited the Arabian Peninsula and the growth of trade in the region. Archaeological objects depicting the development of calligraphy are also shown.


Hall number three is devoted to the pre-Islamic era which lasted from around 400 B.C until the revelation of the Prophet Mohammad. The exhibit includes replicas of the pre historic cities of Makkah, Jarash, Yathrib, Khaibar, Najraan, Khadrama, and Dawmat Aljandal.


Following on from this, the fourth gallery displays the life and mission of the Prophet Mohammad from the day of his birth until his journey to Madinah – the event that marks the beginning of the Hijrah calendar. It shows his family tree in both Arabic and English, and his biography from the time of his childhood. A large ceramic painting depicts the main events of the Prophet’s life, beginning with his migration from Makkah. Also shown is the way in which the Quraish tribe rebuilt the Ka’abah after its destruction by floods.


Gallery five – Islam and the Arabian Peninsular – concerns the period from the Prophet Mohammed’s arrival in Madinah until the establishment of the first Saudi State: the early era of Islam and the rule of the Caliphs, and the collection, recording, and preservation of the Holy Qur’an. Also shown is a history of Arabic calligraphy with samples of different types of Arabic script dating from the second Hijrah century .


The first and second Saudi states are the subject of the next gallery, which goes into some depth about the history of Dir’iyyah and the allegiance between Imam Mohammed ibn Abdul Wahhab and the Al Saud. A large three-dimensional replica of the city recreates its streets, mosques, markets and farms. There is also a replica of the new capital of Riyadh during the second Saudi state that shows the original walls, streets, buildings and old weaponry of the time.

Unification is the theme of the large circular seventh gallery showing how Abdul Aziz re-captured the city of Riyadh on January 15, 1902 and then went on to unify the regions of Najd, al-Hassa, Asir, Hail, al-Hijjaz and Jazaan. A documentary film demonstrates the discovery of oil in the Kingdom, the subsequent process of development, and its role in the lives of the people of the Arabian Peninsula.

The final hall represents the history of the Two Holy Mosques and the Hajj through the centuries. There are various exhibits that include ancient and recent tools, the fabric covering of the Holy Ka’abah, and some brass and antique artifacts belonging to the Holy Mosque. In addition there is a curtain and a door of the Holy Ka’abah.


You will be hard pressed to do the museum full justice in just one visit, but it should certainly be on everybody’s itinerary when they visit Riyadh.

Enter from King Faisal Street where you see the landmark Water Tower. Pass the Deputy Ministry of Antiquities on your right and find car parking in one of the limited available spaces around the park – either near the Murabba Palace, or outside on the perimeter road of the park itself.


{I am indebted to John Roedel for letting me know that according to the Museum website, it is open for visitors from 4-8pm Monday to Thursday and 4-9pm on Friday and Saturday. In the mornings it is open Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays for boys from 8-2.30; on Mondays and Wednesdays for women and girls; and on Saturdays from 9-1 for families. (August 2014)}
Cost of entry is SR15.

1 comment:

  1. This is one of the awesome pictures i wish i could visit this museum i have planned to visit Canada other wise one of my friend told me to book cheap umrah packages with him but i can't next year i will manage to perfrom umrah and visit holy places in Makkah and Madina.

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