A 10-minute drive from the centre of Al Khobar, in an otherwise residential area, is Taybeen Museum, an extraordinary passion-project and wonderfully unexpected trip into a bygone age.
Only the flash of some neon lighting and a discreet yellow welcome sign mark the venue out as something other than a routine family home, but venture inside and you’ll find Taybeen Museum is anything but ordinary.
The word ‘museum’ can often conjure up images of staid halls and dusty glass cabinets, but Taybeen is a journey into the eccentric. For a start, the villa is both an aviary and a museum, so as you enter you’ll be greeted by a wall of song generated by a colourful collection of birds. They cheerfully flit in a small sanctuary that makes for an entertaining 30-minute walk.
After a quick cup of tea in one of several rest areas, you can venture into the museum itself, which houses a wealth of vintage finds, ranging from classic pop-culture prints to advertising memorabilia. The collection began as a hobby for its owner, Majid Al Ghamdi, but quickly grew into a trove of more than 10,000 curious tracking popular culture through the ages.
Whether it is soda cans and candy packaging from the past century; cabinets devoted to familiar household items such as the stereo or camera; or even a nostalgic look at much-loved childhood characters from Sesame Street, Star Wars or Marvel’s comic book superheroes, each corner sparks a smile and a fond recollection.
This is exactly what the founder intended. He wants visitors to relive the childhood memories associated with these items and, according to the statement on the wall, “feel their happiness”. Through these reminiscences, he hopes visitors of all stripes will form a common connection, rooted in their shared experiences – and it is certainly very difficult not find yourself grinning all the way around this delightful trip down memory lane.
Entry to Taybeen Museum costs SAR15 ($4) for visitors aged 5 to 15 years, and SAR25 ($6.66) for those aged 16 years and above. A journey around the museum will take about 45 minutes to complete and then you have the opportunity to load up on some retro treats from the sweet shop at the entrance.