The National Museum

Few months ago, I asked what SBG described as a mind-provoking question. Well, my point of that post was not just to provoke minds. The idea of the post came after a visit to the Saudi National Museum. I have been living in Riyadh for 3 years, and I never heard and/or seen any ads to promote the museum and its content. However, I always wanted to visit it. None of my friends wanted to come with me, because they think “museums are boring.” I could have went by myself, but I just hate to do stuff like that alone.

So finally, Mohammed, my good friend and roommate, agreed to go with me. Before going, I had to check their website to see the visiting hours and days. I did not want to go all the way downtown just to come back because “it’s families only” day. Tuesday is the only day when “bachelor men” are allowed in the evening, and it was the only choice I had because most of my daytime was already occupied with lectures.

According to the timetable on their website, the museum is open from 1600-2100, but I decided to go at 1900 because I did not want to be forced to leave when Esha prayer time comes, and also because I thought two hours would be more than enough time to finish our tour. But, boy I was so wrong. We entered around 1900 and did not leave until it was past midnight. Yes, we spent about five good hours, and we could even spend more time in there.

The museum was nearly empty, and we hardly have seen any people. Probably that’s why we saw two Saudi families inside on a “bachelors’ day.” I have no problem with this, except for one thing: if I were to come on families’ day, would they let me in? Back to our tour. The objects, documents, sound recordings, films, and other media, cover a long history: starting from the creation of the universe to the unification of the third Saudi state by King Abdul-Aziz Al-Saud.

I really liked the Ancient Arab Kingdoms section, which shades the light on the people, tribes, and states that lived in the Arab Peninsula before Islam. There is also this touchscreen where you can choose one of the great seven poems (المعلقات) of the pre-Islamic era, and then hear the voice of the narrator citing that poem. I also liked the bridge on the second floor, which resembles the prophet’s migration from Mecca to Medina. While you walk on this bridge, you would hear the voices of children chanting “6ala3 al-badru 3laina.”

The wing of the Islamic centuries is not the most interesting part of the museum. This is due to the fact that the capital of the Islamic state was located in the Arab Peninsula for only the few first years of Islam, before moving to Damascus and then to Baghdad, when Islam witnessed its golden years, and later to Cairo and Istanbul. Moreover, most of the original pieces from Mecca and Medina were taken to Europe (Turkey and France), and what’s left was recently destroyed by Wahhabis.

Next is the wing of the Al-Sauds history, which is not a very large one. In this area, you can watch the “Unifying the Kingdom” show. After this, you go down again to the ground floor, where you can find the last part of the museum, documenting the Hajj journey and the two Holy Mosques.

I was surprised that it took us about 5 hours in the museum, but I went there again last week with my brothers, and enjoyed it very much. The National Museum is a must visit for everyone. Another good reason to go to the museum now is the special display of Islamic artifacts from the Louvre’s collection.

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7 thoughts on “The National Museum

  1. Sounds like a great tour in a great museum…thanks for sharing!

    I’ve been to the Cleveland Museum of Art in Ohio and the Israel National Museum. And I understand how you can spend hours and hours in a place like that!

  2. Wow, u blog on a daily basis? =P

    I’d spend 5 hrs at a musem, my friend went there with her family and enjoyed it, no one I ask is interested though.. But since you liked it enough to go again, I will convince someone to go with me =)

    Thanks for the report ;)

  3. Get this, I lived in Riyadh for 18 years and I never even heard of it! Where is it located?
    It looks very interesting, and I like the concentration on Islamic art, which is one of my favorite type of arts.
    Do they have any contemporary Islamic artists?

  4. Man, I lived in Riyadh for 18 years and I had NO clue that it existed. Where is it located at?
    Do they have any contemporary Arab/Islamic art?

  5. I’ve been to Riyadh a couple of times with my family, and i had no idea that such a place existed!! wouldn’t have mattered much anyway, coz they wouldn’t have come with me :(

    I live in Jeddah, and I’ve been to the “museum” (i’m using the term very loosely) here before it burned down.. It was disappointing.

  6. about the adverstising, unfortunately, unless it was a new telecome communications company, i don’t think there would be much advertising!!

    i say i will go everytime i go back home, but between visiting family and friends, i never seem to make it.. i am going back in june (inshallah) so hopefully i will go. great entry.. thanks for that

    POET

  7. Hi
    Im looking for the manageer’s contact vumber of this museum.. urgently i need to talk with him/

    Thanks
    My contact number in Dubai : 0097150 5028910

    Atousa Nourzadi

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