Though modern on the outside, the National Museum of Saudi Arabia in Riyadh brings visitors on a journey through centuries of culture, art and history, from prehistoric Arabia to today. Discover interactive exhibits, replicas of buildings in old Jeddah, Neolithic rock art, antiques, manuscripts and centuries-old crafts and take a look at the diverse economic and commercial activities of Arabia. Education and entertainment collide inside the two-story, 28,000-square-meter museum, which has eight galleries. Learn more about several of the National Museum’s permanent exhibits, then take a peek inside via this virtual tour.
The life of the Prophet Muhammad depicted in the Prophet’s Mission Hall at the National Museum of Saudi Arabia
Nicknamed Ithra, which means “enrichment” in Arabic, the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture stands 18 stories tall and is surrounded by smaller rounded structures and the desert. Made with shiny tubular steel, the complex is not only a progressive architectural achievement but also a cultural hub where visitors will find a library with more than 270,000 books, an auditorium and exhibition halls. “The center is a place where ideas and dreams take shape,” says Ali Al-Mutairi, the director of Ithra. Check the center’s website for information about current exhibits and workshops —such as 3D ceramic printing and STEM sessions —and talks like SciNight for youths interested in science.
Library at King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture
Get a true glimpse into the melting pot that is Jeddah via a trip to Tayebat Museum. Experience 2,500 years of living history as you stroll through re-creations of the traditional Hijazi architecture found in the old city, read early manuscripts written by Arab travelers and geographers, and explore Islamic history. You’ll feel as if you were transported through time as you enter each new, ornately decorated space in this 10,000-square-meter facility. The huge complex includes 12 buildings and nearly 300 rooms.
Delve into science with more than 350 interactive exhibits for the whole family at the Sultan bin Abdulaziz Science & Technology Center (Scitech). Catch an IMAX show, look at what’s under the sea in the aquarium, then gaze up at the stars and planets in the Scitech Astronomical Observatory. Learn about the role technology plays in our daily lives and the future of the field in Saudi in the Amazing Technology Hall, which you can preview online. Next, take a trip to outer space in the Earth and Space Hall, where you can explore models of the moon’s formation and the Hubble Space Telescope and enter the weather room, too.
Discover the intriguing history and heritage of Medina through this privately owned museum’s photo galleries, city models depicting Medina in different time periods, and relics including the bow of Saad Ibn Abi-Waqas, who was an esteemed archer and companion to the Prophet Muhammad. Explore exhibits that document how the landscape and people of Medina have changed throughout its history in exhibits like the History of Masjid Al Nabawi, which showcases how the Prophet’s Mosque has evolved over time.
History of Masjid an-Nabawi exhibits in the Dar al-Madinah Museum
● The Red Sea Museum is scheduled to open in the historic Al Balad district of Jeddah in 2022. It will feature more than 100 artworks and attractions celebrating the Red Sea culture, maritime navigation, geology and more.
● The Saudi Museum of Modern Art is in the works, thanks to a collaboration between the Saudi Ministry of Culture and the Diriyah Gate Development Authority. Located in the Al Bujairy neighborhood of Riyadh, the museum will serve as a cultural center for creative artistic expression. The completion date has not been announced, so keep an eye out for this new art museum.
● Slated to open in 2023, teamLab Jeddah will serve as a digital art museum that uses the latest technology to create interactive spaces.
Above is an interactive space in Tokyo built by teamLab, a multimedia collective that’s working with Saudi's Ministry of Culture to bring a digital art museum to Jeddah.
— Lisa Zimmermann