Masmak Fortress

Top choice historic site in Riyadh

Surrounded by sand, this squat fortification was built around 1865 and is like a scene out of the movies: a big fortress representing an empire. It was the site of a daring 1902 raid by Ibn Saud, during which a spear was hurled at the main entrance door with such force that the head is still lodged in the doorway. Highlights among the exhibits include maps and fascinating photographs of Saudi Arabia dating from 1912 to 1937, in galleries converted from diwans (living rooms).

The roofs are covered with painted palm-tree, taramic and ethel wood and exude an old-world charm that evokes an Arabian painting. Inside, the information panels and short, chest-thumping films on the storming of the fortress and the ‘reunification’ of Saudi Arabia are reverential towards the Al Sauds but worth watching nonetheless.

Related tour

Madain Saleh
3 days • Madain Saleh Airport to null

$1900

National Museum

Museum in Riyadh
This state-of-the-art museum is one of the finest in the Middle East. Encased within modernist architecture, its two floors contain eight well-designed and informative galleries covering Arabian prehistory, history, culture and art. The galleries beautifully display evocative rock carvings, engaging models and even a full-scale reconstruction of a Nabataean tomb from Madain Saleh. Films in English shown on 180-degree screens complement the exhibits, as do virtual visits to historical sites and other excellent interactive displays.

Najd Village

This place serves Saudi food in a Saudi setting, where some rooms even have a traditional fireplace. It’s the perfect place to sample popular regional dishes such as kabsa (meat with rice) or hashi (baby camel). The set menu (SR125; minimum five people) includes 14 mains, coffee, dates and bakhoor (incense). Fridays and Saturday are the only days when families are welcome.

Middle Eastern in Riyadh…

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