Constructed outside the walls of the old city of Riyadh, on what had previously been used as farmland during the winter months, marked the first major expansion of the city as the country teetered on the brink of a new era of prosperity. The palace, where the king lived from its completion in 1938 until his death in 1953, was built in the traditional Najdean style, with vast palm-frond layered walls and ceilings and rooms arranged around a breezy central courtyard.
Plan your visit in spring or winter, and you can wander the palace’s rolling green gardens, which spread over several hectares. But the real treasures are inside, where in the King Abdul Aziz Historical Center you’ll find plenty of memorabilia, including personal belongings of King Abdulaziz – right down to his spectacles – as well as photographs of meetings he conducted with statesman all over the world. Tear yourself away from the multimedia displays, and you can also see a Rolls-Royce that was presented to the king by Winston Churchill in 1946.
As your tour the two-storey building, look out for the king’s personal lift – the first in the country when it was installed in 1948 due to his arthritis, which had made it impossible for him to use the stairs. History aficionados will revel in the palace’s archives, which, thanks to its role as the hub of the country’s administrative decisions at the time, include a trove of historical documents relating to a pivotal point in Saudi Arabia’s history, as well as recordings of the king’s speeches.