If you are an expat newly arrived in Saudi Arabia you might find the sudden drop in social activities a bit alarming especially if you hail from the west. This may be the opportunity you have always wanted to develop your artsy side. Saudi Arabia offers a wide variety of museums and cultural centres. This can be a gateway, sort of an introduction to art galleries, painting exhibits and ultimately the opera. For those of you who have never been to one, going to a museum can be. Well let’s face it; it can be a mind numbing concept. The National Museum, located in the King Abdul Aziz Historical Centre in Riyadh is a pretty good place to dip your toes in to the heritage and culture of the region.
Located in the middle part of the King Abdul Aziz Centre the museum occupies a staggering cover area of 28000m2 on two floors (GPS Coordinates: 24.6471228,46.7108378). It is not just the museum that is worth seeing, the park encompassing the museum is beautiful and worth spending a half an hour walking through. The museum itself is open in the mornings from 8am to 12pm for school visits only. The general public can visit from 12pm to 2pm in the afternoon and from 4pm to 8pm in the evening for people who would rather not leave their home in the scorching heat of day. The inside of the museum is about as breathtaking as you will anywhere in the kingdom. Be sure to keep a few hours free while visiting the museum. If you want to read each and every exhibit then it is best to keep up to 3 hours for your visit to the museum.
The museum features exhibits ranging from the life of the prehistoric Arabian peninsula’s animals (an actual mastodon skeleton replica) to the pre-Islamic life still and the changes brought by the advent of Islam to the life style and culture of the region, with a special focus on the mission of the Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H). Then the exhibits tell the story of the first and the second Saudi states, including a replica of a market place which makes you feel like you are actually there. The exhibits then tell a story of King Abdul Aziz and how the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was established.
The last exhibit focuses on the Hajj (a pilgrimage that is compulsory for Muslims once in their life time) and the two holy mosques. This exhibit may hold a particular interest to the non-Muslims as it can explain an important aspect of Muslim culture to them. The Hajj exhibit also displays a magnificent miniature of the city of Makkah.
All in all this is a fun and educational trip for expats if they wish to learn about the region and improve the understanding of the culture they life in. It can be equally interesting for families with children to visit as it will make for an interesting and educational family outing.
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