Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh is a modern-day metropolis, complete with towering skyscrapers and a 99-floor sky bridge. But intertwined within this city is a deep-rooted sense of tradition and history just waiting to be explored.
Located in the heart of Riyadh in the city’s old quarter, is the 150-year-old Al Masmak Fortress. A vast clay and mud-brick citadel that witnessed the rise of a kingdom, Al Masmak serves as a proud reminder of Saudi Arabia’s storied history. Its capture by King Abdul Aziz in 1902 marked the first step towards the consolidation of the kingdom under the Saud name and the founding of the Saudi nation as we know it today.
Built in 1865, the fortress has served many purposes. While originally used to house the garrisons that protected the city, it later served as an ammunition warehouse following the raid by King Abdul Aziz and, later still, as a prison.
Today the restored building is a museum, open to visitors wanting to step back in time and explore Saudi Arabia’s roots. Fascinating exhibitions on display show maps and photographs of Saudi Arabia dating from 1912 to 1937, alongside a range of historical artefacts, artworks and audiovisual attractions. A short documentary also re-enacts the capture of the fortress by King Abdul Aziz, whose spearhead you can still see embedded in its wooden gate. Venture outside the fortress to explore the spacious courtyard too. Located just alongside the fortress is the Souq Al Zal. Selling traditional handicrafts, jewelry, spices and cashmere scarves, the market is the perfect place to pick up a memento of your day spent exploring the kingdom’s rich past.