Saturday 3 September 2011

Roads to Arabia- a night at the museum

Strangely, i was always of the opinion that India is the only country in the whole wide world with a rich history dating back to millions of years...Thanks to our history teachers who try to inculcate the apathy towards other nations which we see as countries with little or no history at all, beyond a century or two. Or may be i was always so dumb to think that apart from India, all other countries just emerged out of the Big Bang a bit late! I was in for a rude shock when i visited the National Museum, Riyadh, KSA. The three to four hours i spent there was probably the most educative and informative time of my early thirties...There i said it! All readers younger than thirty can now nine is in his/ her early thirties! Riyadh National Museum is a must see, if you ever get a chance to visit the country, which is simply ruled out, as there are no visit visas to the country. So, i would certainly love to share a few pictures and knowledge gained from the trip i had there.

Meteorite from the Empty Quarter, not the round one you see in front of, but the stone at the backdrop!

The famed desert rose, from the region of Ayn Dar and Abqaiq
Novices would think of a desert rose as a flower from a desert cactus, probably....but no. A desert rose is a rosette like formation of gypsum or barite crystals that form in arid, sandy conditions, usually the deserts. I have heard of Westerners who hunt for these roses driving in 4x4 through the rough desert terrain, simply to behold these beautiful natural crystals.

Neolithic stone spearheads found in Persian Gulf area

The next on display was tiny spearheads made of stone- Neolithic man did exist in the Arabian deserts. The sharpness and array of colors of stones is stunning.

Rock inscriptions of early cavemen in Arab Peninsula

 Equally stunning was the rock inscriptions of cave men found in Peninsular Arabia. The heiroglyphic found is akin to the Egyptian inscriptions. Interestingly, Arabic has descended from Mesopotamian Cuneiform script, as is evident from the following pictures-

Rock slabs showing gradual development of Cuneiform script

Rock inscription in Cuneifrom script
Rock carving depicting a woman worshiping a cow/ goat, early Phoenician Era

Sacrificial altar- where livestock were sacrificed

Most interesting fresco of the museum- prophet and the grape vine, probably depicting Jesus!

A mud strainer, 325 AD

Grinding stone and pedestal- please drop your ideas of patenting our " Ammi, aattukkal"!

Beautiful hand written Quran in old script
And what would be more interesting to learn than knowing how the Arab women dressed up in early times? Especially the jewellery...argh...the vanity in me! Kohl sticks were used so early as in 100 AD, copper needles were used to sew and the beads made of bones and rock gave way to intricately designed gold jewellery. The Neolithic jewellery comprised of roughly hung bones and rock as these-
Beads that adorned Neolithic women in Arab Peninsula
A bead made of colored polished stones

Jewellery of 300 AD, notice the jhumkas in gold, copper kohl stick

GOLD!!! Jewellery of Arab women used a few centuries back, look at the 'thayathu'!!!

Delicately carved gold chain, the figurine probably depicted the lady for whom it was designed for!
I came out of the museum worldly wise and a bit humbled by the Civilizations that thrived along the Persian Gulf which is rich in culture and heritage. So far as i know of Saudi Arabia, the land ranges from anything from unproductive deserts to fertile oases and equally fertile mountains down South, that boast of pomegranate gardens and grape vineyards. The people are usually aloof- probably because they look upon the visitors as people who snatch away their livelihoods. No fault of theirs, actually. Their history and culture is shrouded in mystery to the outside world, but as we get close to their culture and traditions, they appear a misinterpreted lot- a World still lies unexplored, people still closed and drawn, but the roads to Arabia are opening up for sure. A night at their museum taught me that!

Note: All pictures depicted above are from my personal treasure trove. Please don't copy!


  1. woah! i havent yet been to the riyadh museum n nw i kno wat ive missed. nex holiday pakka pakka wil get my dad to drive down n catch all of dis.
    its a fantastic post n i too dint kno any of dis abt saudi culture.
    thnx. ur awesome :)

  2. India is definitely one of the oldest, but not the only one that existed. There were many, and all were beautiful in a different way. Like what you witnessed there, in the museum. But knowing about civilizations is surely a very enriching experience.

    Nice read, thanks for sharing those worthy pics.

    Blasphemous Aesthete

  3. interesting - been to KSA a few times, never bothered to find if there was any museum - that reminds me its probably been 5-6 years i hv been to one. time to plan something.
    thanks for sharing

  4. good to know about ancient civilizations beautiful pics

  5. It is a very enriching post.Never knew of such a museum.Indeed it is a treasure trove.Thanks for sharing the knowledge and the pictures of some antique things of the bygone civilizations.

  6. Wow.. Lot of history there. Isn't it?

  7. I always feel our travels to foreign countries, open up our minds. We learn to respect and imbibe from cultures foreign to us.

    Am glad you shared your experience with us. The desert Rose especially was spectacular.

  8. The dessert rose, I came to know what exactly it was only after reading about it here, never bothered to find out about it.Museums usually bore people, but your blog proved it wrong. Thanks for sharing such interesting things with us and the pictures are very good.Are you back in the Middle East now or just went for a visit.

  9. @ Sadiya- Thats lovely! If possible do visit the museum once. Make sure you go on days allotted for families. Good luck!

    @ BA- thanks for the comment. Yes, i sure loved the experience. Would definitely try to learn more.

    @ Mayank- Thanks mate. Sure, do visit one soon. It is an enriching experience!

  10. @ Raampyari- Thanks a lot for the comment,

    @ SM- Thank you!

    @ KP- Thanks a lot, glad you liked the post:)

  11. @ Harish- Yes, thats a little too much history for a post;)

    @ Purba- Thanks for the comment, glad you liked the desert rose:)

    @ Rama- Thanks for the visit and comment, am here on a short visit:)

  12. Wow! Never found history to be so interesting! Museum tours are a wonderful way to learn about things that we are so often either ignorant about or tend to forget! Thanks for this amazing tour, going through your post was like taking a live history session, complemented beautifully by your wonderful write up! Thanks a lot :-)

  13. Hey Arti, thanks for dropping by. You are the front runner in travelogues:) Probably i derived the interest to write this from My Yatra Diary:)

  14. The rose!!Just sooo beautifully crafted..umm loved the images!
    I so want to visit this place!
    Sorry for beign so late to comment@

  15. Amazing stuff....esp the desert rose.

  16. Dear Redhanded, thanks, better late than never:P Glad you liked it:)

    Dear Alka, thanks a ton!

  17. wow! i enjoyed reading it..tnx for educating me.

  18. Dear Ibhade, thanks a lot for the comment, glad you liked it.

  19. Very informative..Been here for almost two decades and I have yet to see the beauty of Saudi Arabia..


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