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A Saudi museum that tells the history of social life and the beginnings of urbanization

Not many people know that the first TV set came in the Eastern Province in 1950 before electricity entered Saudi Arabia and it was powered by an electric generator. Today, this rare device is on display at the Civilized Writing Museum, which opened last month in the city of Qatif (eastern Saudi Arabia), the first museum licensed by the Ministry of Culture in the city.

The museum tells the unique stories of the rare pieces that came to the country before and after the oil boom, especially in an interesting sequence documenting an important phase in the social life of the people of the Eastern region, Saudi Arabia in general.

Maher Alkhanim points to the museum’s photo archive

Museum director Maher Al-Ghanim explains that the museum, which he founded with his partner Hussain Al-Awami, covers an area of ​​13,000 square meters and includes 25 different sections, on two different floors, with more than 200,000 unique pieces collected over 55 years; He added, “The amount of pieces offered is more than the area of ​​the place.”

These holdings are accompanied by a wide variety of artworks created by the people of the region, and they intersect between painting, sculpture and embroidery to deal with traditional content and historical legacy; Al-Ghanim reports that these works are updated from time to time so that the viewer notices the difference on each visit to the place.

The first TV entered Saudi Arabia in 1950

Photo archive

Al-Ghanim takes “Asharq Al-Awsat” on a tour inside the museum, which begins with large murals filled with old photographs; The oldest of them is a photograph dated 1947, enlarged and mounted in a gold frame, taken by an American photographer at the time, and showing aspects of social life in a large area of ​​Qatif.

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Al-Ghanim continues his speech, wandering between the first school established in Khatib, the historic architecture of old houses and rare black and white photographs showing expressions of social life in that era of the last century. When asked about the number of photographs, he confirms that it is impossible to count them as the ones that are not on display are more than those shown in the museum.

The oldest telephone directory dates back to 1972

old house

Then the visitor to the museum moves to a vast area that collects old household appliances, between more than half a century and 25 kilogram air fans, the first washing machines that came to the region at that time, as well as old brooms, iron machines used in brown and red colors and powering heavy clothes.

Above the many shelves, the visitor to the museum finds ancient pearl scales, pieces of real pearls and fishing gear, which was a very popular occupation for the inhabitants of the region in the middle of the last century. Then there is a corner for a man who combines two professions, carpenter and al-Khallaf (shipbuilder), following a profession that has disappeared, surrounded by metal tools and pieces of wood that he works with his hands.

A group of old video equipment that disappeared years ago

Telephone stories

The telephone section of the museum seems to be very prominent, as it tells the story of this device, with some 200 telephones from ancient times on display. When asked about the oldest of them, Al-Ghanim mentioned a device used in old Arabic films: “It’s called the Abu Handel phone, and it has different names in English.”

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Al-Ghanim said the heaviest of these phones weighed about 8 kilograms, prompting him to put a piece of iron on it to prevent it from falling. On the other hand, paper telephone directories that were in use before the technological revolution stand out, the oldest of which dates back to 1972. Al-Ghanim also says that these directories are a reference for those who want to know the contact number of any person or company registered in the directory.

Art memories

Art has a lion’s share in these displayed pieces, as Al-Ghanem was mainly a Saudi Arabian artist with many artists, he explained of the mural full of artistic images belonging to the first art production company in the Eastern region in that era. Following this, a large number of VCRs became obsolete; Al-Ghanim points out the most valuable of them: “Its value was estimated at 36,000 riyals.”

And video devices ranging from televisions of various sizes from the “Intel era” popularly known among contemporaries of that era, to vintage tape recorders and cassettes, the “pager” era and the first mobile phones of its kind, over 400 different cameras were on display, showing a keen interest in art.

A simulation of the profession of a locksmith (shipbuilder in the past)

Events in memory

War memorabilia has a place in the museum. Al-Ghanim refers to some pieces that date back to the First World War and were acquired from auctions, as well as other rare pieces from the Second Gulf War. Among the valuable and rare pieces, Al-Ghanim represents a First World War cannon that was made in Germany and later bought by the Ottomans.

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The museum focuses on fossil trees from the ground, a natural phenomenon in the eastern region. According to Al-Ghanim, he presents it to the audience based on drilling by Saudi Aramco. In a large separate area, the handiwork of the two Holy Mosques, including the keys of the Kaaba, is displayed, and a rare part of the Kaaba covered before 1425 AH.

And “Saudi Airlines” held a prominent place in the conscience of the Saudis at the time, as it was the country’s only national airline. The museum devotes a large area to its holdings, a small model of the airport, as well as the first issue of paper tickets and other rare pieces. “Saudi Aramco” passes through another area that collects the most important shares of the company, which also has a great importance in the country’s memory.

A notable feature of the museum, which opens its doors to visitors daily, is a red car hanging from its main door, which, according to Al-Ghanim, is authentic and dates back to 1945, and is placed this way to draw attention to the building, which is more than 45 years old.

Pandora Bacchus
Pandora Bacchus
"Coffee evangelist. Alcohol fanatic. Hardcore creator. Infuriatingly humble zombie ninja. Writer. Introvert. Music fanatic."

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