Saudi Museum of Modern Art to open in Ad Diriyah

As the kingdom seeks to boost its tourism, it is pushing to develop its creative sectors too

RIYADH, KINGDOM OF SAUDI ARABIA. 26 SEPTEMBER 2019. 
At-Turaif district in Ad-Dariya.

At-Turaif was founded in the 15th century, with much influence owed to the Najdi architectural style of Arabia. In the mid-18th century, the sprawling mud-brick city spawned the dynasty of Al Saud, who had lived in Ad Diriyah since the 15th century. 

The largest single structure in the city is Salwa Palace, which extends over approximately 10,000 square metres and consists of seven main units. The palace contains the Ad Diriyah museum, with more museums set to come.
Former villa residences that once housed families in 18th-and 19th-century At-Turaif have been converted into a souq, plus an array of cubby­hole areas where demonstrations of traditional crafts now take place – calligraphy, medicine, carpet weaving and the making of weapons are among the attractions. Again, all the staff are Saudis.

(Photo: Reem Mohammed/The National)

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As Saudi Arabia opens its doors to tourists, it is also working hard to develop its cultural sector. The latest in its projects is the Saudi Museum of Modern Art, set to open in the Bujairi neighbourhood of the capital Riyadh.

In an official statement, the Saudi Ministry of Culture and the Diriyah Gate Development Authority (DGDA) announced that the two entities will work together on the museum, the design of which will possess “a modern creative concept influenced by the traditional local architectural style”.

Situated in the town of Ad Diriyah, the neighbourhood of Bujairi boasts palm plantations and traditional mud-brick architecture. Recently, the kingdom has launched a series of five ambitious projects, also referred to 'giga projects', to bolster its tourism, and the development of Ad Diriyah is one of them.

Ad Diriyah, which is located on north-western outskirts of Riyadh, has a long history that dates back thousands of years.

The small oasis eventually became an economic and political hub. Within the area is the Unesco world heritage site of At-Turaif, which became the capital of the Al Saud dynasty in the 18th century. After At-Turaif’s initial redevelopment, visitors are allowed to walk through the ruins of the site and stop by the museums and performance spaces there.

Further details on the museum are sparse. There is no information on the artworks that will be featured in the collection and no confirmation on the building’s architect. Additionally, the timeline for when the museum is scheduled to open is yet to be announced.

While a few cultural events do take place at Ad Diriyah, the site is set to officially open to the public in January 2020.