RIYADH: The Al-Masmak fort in the heart of Riyadh holds a prominent place in Saudi Arabia’s history and — 150 years after being built — is telling the story of the Kingdom’s birth via a 3D virtual tour.
The fort is home to a museum that has become an important historical destination and focal point for state guests as well as foreign visitors and local residents.
“As it is a favorite tourist destination, not only the Saudis and expatriates living here appreciate the majesty of this vast architectural wonder, but it draws interest of visitors from outside the Kingdom as well, and most of the foreign guests who arrive on visit here toured the museum,” Majed Alshadeed, a spokesman for the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH), told Arab News.
“Masmak” in Arabic means the high, fortified, thick and huge — important qualities for a fort that witnessed King Abdul Aziz’s major initiatives in consolidating the Kingdom.
The Al-Masmak fort is connected with the recapture of Riyadh in Jan.15, 1902, by the late king.
However, the story of building Al-Masmak fortress dates back to the reign of Imam Abdullah bin Faisal bin Turki bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Saud, who began work on the fort in 1865.
The use of the fortress changed after King Abdul Aziz recovered Al-Masmak fort in 1902. After its use as a warehouse for ammunition and weapons for two years, it was turned into a prison before being converted into a heritage landmark in the heart of Riyadh.
The the-then Riyadh Gov. Prince Salman bin Abdul Aziz (now King) ordered its upkeep, maintenance and restoration in 1980.
As governor, he led the development of Riyadh from a mid-sized town into a major metropolis in the region and served as an important liaison to attract tourism, capital projects and foreign investment to the Kingdom.
After the proper work the fort was restored to serve as a museum and was inaugurated in 1995 as the Al-Masmak Historical Museum, which tells the story of the Kingdom’s unification and establishment by King Abdul Aziz.
The SCTH, led by Prince Sultan bin Salman, developed the exhibits in Al-Masmak Museum that was started in December 2011 to represent the story of the storming of Masmak and recovery of Riyadh by King Abdul Aziz.
Adding more value to the museum, the SCTH launched a smartphone app for “Virtual Tour via 3D images” of Qasr Al-Masmak or Al-Masmak Palace Museum in March 2016, conjuring up Saudi history digitally to show visitors how the late King Abdul Aziz founded the modern Kingdom.
Now fans of Saudi tourism, heritage and history can make an online visit to Al-Masmak Museum through a virtual tour, navigating different halls and internal areas through 360-degree camera and 3D images.
The virtual tour allows visitors to view exhibits that highlight the cultural dimension of the Kingdom and its deep-rooted heritage, besides touring the different halls and viewing paintings and photos.
The museum contains photographs, maps, models, display cabinets, old weapons, traditional and heritage objects, exhibition and audiovisual halls.
Each month, the museum receives about 5,000 school students and visitors, with numbers increasing during school breaks.
Since its opening in 1995, more than a million people have visited the museum, according to officials.
Speaking to Arab News, Mohammed Zeyad, a student, said the museum was a special place for those who love history and heritage, and wanted to learn more about the country.
The museum recently hosted a workshop to promote patriotism by highlighting the historic and cultural values of the Kingdom.