Due to the prevailing situation in Pakistan, travelled to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the capital city of Riyadh on a big project of National Museum (King Abdul Aziz Historical Center – KAAHC). I worked there on behalf of the main contractor start from beginning to the end of the world class project, representing countable local and foreign consultants & the sub-contractors. Design was by a Canadian Architect inspired by the form and colors of the sand dunes of the “Red Sands” found just outside Riyadh.
West facade along Murabba’ Square resembles the soft contour of a sand-dune with its layout forming a crescent pointing towards Mecca. The west facade opens into an Islamic history of the Arabian Peninsula. For the final galleries the visitor enters the “Unification Drum” which has displays about the current Saudi State. The last gallery illustrates the two holy mosques and the hajj. Additionally there are two further galleries for special exhibitions. Project is surrounded by beautiful landscaped areas in levels, mounds, water features, mud structures and artistically placed boulders & rocks on landscaped contours.
My travel to Pakistan (D1) during 1997/98:
I hardly pass few months in KSA, when my parents expired during 1997/98. I was on a short trip to attend the funeral of my mother, but was unable to attend for my father due to delays in complicated system of visa processes in KSA at that time. It was hardly a gap of several weeks between both the funerals. Both the years were very tough for me, as my family was also all alone in Karachi.
I decided to perform Hajj-1998 with the group of my friends working with me. Our group was all forced bachelors living for work in KSA. We performed the complete Hajj by walking from Makkah-Al-Mukaramma and back to Makkah, which was definitely a unique experience for all of us. Mostly it used to be more convenient to travel on foot instead of using other means of transportation, due to high volume of crowd pour in Makkah for performing Hajj. Crowd Management always remained a serious issue and challenge during the Hajj period. 1998 Hajj stampede resulted in more than 100 deaths and 150 injuries of pilgrims during the month of April while stoning of the Devil ritual on Jamaraat Bridge. I still remember the day when I completed all the steps of Hajj and was proceeding towards Makkah, for the final visit of Kabah followed by back to Riyadh. I was hardly a kilometer away from the Jamaraat Bridge, when the tragedy of stampede happened. I remember the rush of paramedic ambulances and other first aid vehicles towards the place of incident. Many old and physically weak pilgrims were rolled and crushed due to the panic in the crowd. Unfortunately an elder person known to me was also suffered from the panic and crowd-crush, but later on recovered fast.
Later on travelled back again to Karachi during the summers of 1998 on my annual vocation, where the house was without parents. My growing children were also missing their grand-parents, which started forcing me to quit the overseas job and return back to the family.
My travel to other cities of KSA (D2) during 1998/99:
KAAHC Project was supposed to be handed over by the end of 1999, as 100 years of the ruling family were completed at that time and the project was officially opened for the public. It was a big day for the ruling family, people of Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the expatriates living and working in the Kingdom. We were also somewhat relaxed, as the long working hours were reduced to normal working hours with the opening of the project. I would like to discuss some details of the project, as mentioned:
King Abdul Aziz Historical Center (KAAHC):
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has more than historical, archaeological, cultural and scientific museums presenting the art life, old handicrafts, old historical activities, antiquities and diverse economic & commercial activities. The National Museum of Riyadh is most famous one in the KSA located in the middle part of King Abdul-Aziz Historical Center, which was established to be a cultural and civilization center highlighting the prominent history of Arabian Peninsula and its historical message of disseminating Islam. This Museum aims to introduce the KSA history with its role and fundamentals.
Also, the Museum plays a major role in activating the tourism movement around the KSA, in general, and Riyadh, in particular, through visits either paid by the citizens and expatriates from inside the Kingdom or paid by delegations VIP characters from outside the Kingdom. The National Museum occupies seventeen thousand square meters from the eastern part of King Abdul-Aziz Historical Center. The Museum’s two story building covers twenty-eight thousand square meters. This museum provides a modern educational environment for different segments of the local community and visitors of all ages and occupations such as children, families, researchers, specialists, and others. Moreover, the Museum aims to reinforce its educational message via the collection, registration, restoration and preservation of antiquities. Also, it organizes educational exhibitions for the antiquities of the Arabian Peninsula and its traditional heritage during different eras. This Museum focuses on highlighting the prominent properties of each province around the KSA with displaying various exhibits within the framework of geographical and cultural unity. In addition, the Museum contains a number of educational aides that facilitate the understanding of information related to the relics, documents, manuscripts, and display boards. Also, the Museum provides multimedia presentations like documentaries and simulation programs that can be used for presenting the information about some historical incidents in an interesting manner. The Museum is distinguished for its comprehensive exhibits presenting a topic in a successive manner starting from the creation of the universe until the Modern Age with its main idea about the Arabian Peninsula. It consists of eight major halls each of which provides an independent objective presentation. These halls are arranged in a historical succession where each one has its own architectural design. Moreover, the Museum comprises two halls for short-term exhibits, plus the management offices, storehouses, and the public facilities available for the visitors and employees.
After 1953 the palace compound ceased to be used as main royal residence and slowly fell into disuse. The “Murabba’ Development Project” was later started to make use of the area for projects involved with the Centennial Celebrations in 1999. As such the area was chosen to be the site of several cultural institutions focusing on the national history in general and the history of the current Saudi State and its founder in detail. Consequently what had remained of the old palace compound buildings was restored or remodeled on plans similar to the original buildings. The surrounding area was made into a landscape of parks and plazas and new buildings were built such as the National Museum of Saudi Arabia.
The units on the west side of the area are from south to north: A remodeled mosque, the old original Murabba’ Palace with main Diwan renovated as “living museum”, the “Memorial Hall” on the outlines of an old courtyard house, a modern exhibition hall for the car collection, on the footprints of the old majlis and assembly hall the new Al-Dara main lobby and multipurpose hall, a documentation center with a separated men’s and women’s library each, an art gallery and a large internal garden. On the east side the new National Museum of Saudi Arabia was built together with the King Abdul Aziz Foundation Research and Archives. To the south the area around the old water tower has been remodelled and now includes a small theme park. The whole project is said to have cost some 680 million Saudi riyals (about 181.33 million U.S. dollars at the time) and covers an area of some 360,000 square meters (3,000,000 sq ft).
During the Hajj-1999 vacations, I planned to visit other parts of the country of Saudi Arabia. I got the opportunity of visiting the following cities of Saudi Arabia, as mentioned:
- Al-Baha – It is the touristic spot in the west of KSA, surrounded by forests. One of the known forest park is Raghadan Forest Park, which is with low and high mountains containing several hiking trails through thick and thin series of the forests. It is one of the prime location for the tourists arriving by road, and located at an elevation of 2155 meter.
- Taif – It is located in the south-west of KSA, and approachable by all easily. It is located on an elevation of 1879 meter. There are lot of attractions in Taif, from semi-urban life to the touristic places to visit like several Souks (bazaars), Turkish Fort, Al-Rudaf Park, King Fahd Zoo, Al Hada Mountains, Al-Kar Tourist Village, Greeen Village and several other Museums, Muwiya Dam,
- Jeddah – It is known as the port city and a commercial hub, together a gateway to for pilgrimages to the Islamic holy cities of Makkah-Al-Maozamma and Madina-Al-Munawara. It is the second largest city in KSA, after Riyadh. Due to steady influx of the visitors, the city contains many hotels, resorts, shopping centers and other attractions. A major roadway running along the coast, Corniche Road is a locus of Jeddah night life, restaurants and shopping centers. Corniche beaches are very well maintained along the whole coastal belt. Coastal beaches are usually lively during the weekdays and much crowded with families on the weekends.
After the completion of the project in KSA returned back to Karachi in 2000 and joined AKPBS, P, which was having a number of academic and health projects in the northern parts of Pakistan. This was the best time which I passed in my employment history with the participation of the local communities, serving them for their housing, academic and health needs. My lifetime memorable tenure making the community participation meaningful through the decision trail, which I love to discuss and share with you all in my future coming posts in detail.