Last week my kiwi sidekick and I set out on a fun field trip to the National Museum in Riyadh. It’s located in the King Abdul Aziz Historical Center, and has a lovely courtyard/park area with a meandering man-made creek out front. It makes a great spot for people watching, or to have a picnic in. The museum is open for school visits in the mornings (segregated into boys and girls days) ad then open to the public from 12pm-2pm, and again from 4pm-8pm most days of the week.
Depending on how keen of a reader you are will determine how long you need. I’m not much of a museum reader and am more of a wanderer, so I had thought 90min would be plenty of time. You actually probably need at least 2 hours as the museum is quite large and spread over 2 floors. Longer if you want to read every single plaque. The museum opens with an exhibit called “Man and the Universe” with an enormous meteor and an exhibit of a rotating solar system with Koranic music playing. I really liked this bit. Then there was a section about the geology and geography of the Arabian peninsula and a dinosaur skeleton.
From here the following exhibits cover the ancient kingdoms of Arabia, the Pre-Islamic era with a display of ancient written languages and calligraphy. That was cool. They also had a section of recreated tombs from Mada’in Saleh which was interesting seeing as I visited there a few months back. You then take an escalator upstairs to an exhibit on The Prophet Mohammad’s Mission which had an interesting timeline of his life, and a family tree. You then cross over a bridge with beautifully ornate tiles inscribed with Arabic text into 2 exhibits about Islam and the Arabian Peninsula, and the First and Second Saudi states. There was a really cool exhibit which felt a little like being in Vegas or Disneyland in that there was a pretend market area with old buildings, and store fronts. There was also a gallery dedicated to the late King Abdul Aziz and how the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was established. The last exhibit was especially interesting (particularly so for non-Muslims) as it is about Hajj and the Two Holy Mosques and includes a miniature version of Makkah.
So should you have an afternoon free the National Museum is worth a visit. I’m a firm believer that if you’re going to live in a country you should know a little about it’s history. The museum will cost you 10riyals to get in. It’s kid friendly. High chances you’ll learn something, especially if you’ve yet to venture out to other parts of Saudi Arabia. To be honest, I had very low expectation for it, and it was a much better organized museum than I had imagined. So check it out people!