The Masmak Palace, or fort, was situated in the old part of Riyadh inside the city's fortifications (demolished in the mid-1950s). The Palace was built in 1865 by King Abdullah III bin Faisal al-Saud to serve as an inner fortification for the city during the conflicts over the rule of Najd between the al-Saud and al- Rashid families. In 1901, the fort was besieged by the Emir Abul Aziz bin Saud and taken back from al-Rashid. It served as a military fort and as a munitions storehouse until it was acknowledged as a patrimonial symbol of the establishment of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and restored to serve as a museum. The museum, which exhibits the stages of the establishment of the Saudi Kingdom, was inaugurated in 1995.
The Masmak ("thick, lofty and fortified") palace was built in the Najd vernacular: it is constructed of unbaked bricks covered with mud plaster and perforated with small triangular windows for ventilation, light, and the deflection of rain water. The fort has a quadrilateral plan fortified on the corners by four circular towers of 18 meters high, which tapers upward and ends in crenellations. The plain mud brick outer walls hide the mosque, a diwaniyeh (sitting room), the well, and several rooms grouped around open courtyards.
The palace is accessed through a gate situated on the west wall. Built of palm tree trunks, this gate is 3.6 meters high and 2.65 meters wide. It leads to an open courtyard preceding the mosque on the north. The prayer space is a hypostyle room lit and ventilated from above. Across the gate, to the east, a door leads to the diwaniyeh, which is lit through triangular apertures on the west and south walls. The walls of the diwaniyeh are still covered with the original plaster. In the center of the fort, a fifth crenellated tower, rectangular in plan, is attached to the mosque and the diwaniyeh. Behind this tower, several rooms are arranged around a colonnaded courtyard. From there, stairs lead to the second floor housing the governor's residence, the treasury and the guesthouse.
Fayez, Zuhair H. 1988. Saudi Arabia, a Cultural Perspective. Jeddah: Zuhair Fayez and Associates, 8.
King, Geoffrey. 1998. The Traditional Architecture of Saudi Arabia. London: I.B. Tauris, 168-174.
Mostyn, Trevor. 1983. Saudi Arabia, A Meed Practical Guide. London: Middle East Economic Digest, 209-210.
Al-Hariri-Rifai, Mokhless. 1990. The Heritage of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Singapore: Eurasia Press, 170-171.
http://www.bradmans.com/getCityInfo.jsp?id=15&label=City_Info_Riyadh (accessed Nov 1, 2004).
http://www.arriyadh.com/English/tourism/historical_sites/almusmak.htm (accessed Nov 1, 2004).