King Abdul Aziz Palace: A perfect blend of history and architecture
RIYADH: The King Abdul Aziz Palace in Al-Muwayh in Makkah province was built in 1357 AH of stone in an ancient Islamic architectural style amid the ruins of mud houses. It was the residence of the founder of Saudi Arabia, King Abdul Aziz. He used to rest in it during his trips between Riyadh and Makkah and on his way to Hajj, Umrah or summer vacation.
Whenever King Abdul Aziz arrived in Al-Muwayh, he was received by its governor, judge and the governorate’s officials. In addition to meeting them and urging them to look into the citizens’ issues, the king would also meet the locals, discuss their concerns and explore their needs.
King Abdul Aziz Foundation for Research and Archives (Darah) said the palace occupied an area of 14,850 square meters and played a significant role in turning the arid desert into a modern city with decent living standards.
Al-Muwayh, a name derived from “Ma’a”, meaning water in Arabic, is 180 kilometers east of Taif. King Abdul Aziz rested here several times in his quest to unite the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Fouad Shaker, author of “Rihlat Al-Rabi’e” (The Journey of Spring), published by Darah, wrote about King Abdul Aziz’s trip from Makkah to Riyadh in 1365 AH: “From Makkah to Riyadh, we had reached Al-Muwayh, a small village made big by its luxurious architecture, one of the privileges of this glorious Saudi era.
The government of King Abdul Aziz had built in that remote and unknown area a luxurious royal place for the king to rest during his travels between Makkah and Riyadh.”
Darah explained that the palace was designed in different forms for fortification and defense, creating a structure with outstanding architectural specifications, surrounded on all sides by walls built of black stone 4.5 meters high and 90 centimeters thick. The complex comprises the royal palace, which is a rectangular building located on the western side of the citadel. It has two entrances, the first of which is the main entrance from the south. It contains several building blocks with 19 benches to the left after entering through the main north gate, the official “Al-Mokhtasar” assembly hall, a dining room, a bedroom and a toilet.
The complex also includes a guest palace, which is a rectangular building adjacent to the royal palace to the east and comprises a range of rooms overlooking the open courtyard with a 3.4-meter-wide main entrance from the north.
In addition, the palace has several towers, two coffee-making rooms, toilets, lodgings for guests, guards and servants, a gas station outside the southern side of the citadel, lodging for the gas station’s workers, and the residential palace, which is a rectangular building in the center of the citadel on the southern side.
The residential palace has six rooms, four of which are bedrooms and one is a living room, in addition to a kitchen, a storage room and a toilet. It also includes lodging for workers, while the towers and attached buildings accommodate the palace’s staff and their families. Sometimes, they were used to accommodate non-official guests. Sheep sheds and warehouses for feed and firewood are located in the eastern part of the residential palace’s courtyard.
Moreover, the King Abdul Aziz Palace compound contains the administrative palace, which is a rectangular building with two entrances, one from the south and the other from the east, in addition to two other entrances, the first of which leads to the mosque while the second leads to the residential palace.
A medium-size mosque is located to the west of the administrative palace and adjacent to the judge’s residence. It has an open-air rectangular courtyard that stretches over 22 meters from west to east and 19.90 meters from north to south.
The judge’s office is located north of the mosque in the palace compound. It is a rectangular building with six rooms, a small hall and a courtyard.
The palace has six observation towers, two of which rise above the northern and southern gates while the remaining four are in the corners of the citadel to secure and defend the palace.
The average length of the north, west and southeastern elevations is 155 meters, while the average length of the south, west and northeastern elevations is 120 meters. The palace’s main gate is in the center of the northwestern elevation, and another gate was set up in the southeastern elevation to serve as an entrance to the emirate.
According to Darah, the airport in which the king’s first airplane landed is northeast of the King Abdul Aziz Palace and the ancient city of Al-Muwayh. The airport comprises a four-room reception hall, a sandpit, and a mosque named King Abdul Aziz Mosque amid the mud houses. The mosque has maintained its original structure but was damaged, making it unfit for holding prayers after Al-Muwayh was transferred to the new location known as the New Al-Muwayh on the Riyadh-Taif highway.