The Saudi Ministry of Culture launches Fenaa Alawwal, its first cultural centre in the capital…

Riyadh folks looking for a new favourite cultural hotspot need look no further than Fenaa Alawwal.

Located in the Diplomatic Quarter (DQ), the cultural and creative hub is housed inside the historic building of the former headquarters of Al Awwal Bank, the first commercial bank to operate in the Kingdom.

As part of Vision 2030 efforts to promote “culture as a way of life” and to create opportunities for global cultural exchange, the Saudi Ministry of Culture has repurposed the building as a multidisciplinary cultural space.

Fenaa Alawwal cultural centre

The distinctive white building takes the architectural form of a cylindrical structure with a dominant, square-shaped canopy edifice decorated with a geometrically patterned motif in traditional Saudi style.

Fenaa Alawwal offers a light and airy space where everyone can come together, explore, discover more about themselves, and interact in different ways through art exhibitions, educational workshops, seminars and other cultural activities.

A diverse community of thinkers, creators and leading talents will all come under the spotlight as part of a drive to amplify the local art scene in Saudi Arabia.

Fenaa Alawwal

The building layout of the cultural centre is designed to provide maximum space for peace and tranquillity and entry is totally free – what more could you ask for? If you’re already ready to hotfoot it down, here’s everything you need to know about DQ’s new addition.

There’s a rolling programme of creative and artistic activities

The basement area of Fenaa Alawwal will be used for exhibitions, film screenings, and a variety of cultural and educational programmes, such as workshops and book signings. The centre’s programmes aim to directly involve embassies. From ideation to implementation, all activities will be the product of cross-cultural collaboration and exchange.

It features a library and a café

Fenaa Alawwal library

On the ground floor, you’ll find a library dedicated to art books, and an indoor and outdoor café, Circle 3 by Acoustic – the perfect spots to grab a moment of quiet.

Explore the Sculpture Garden

Fenaa Alawwal sculptures

Wander the grounds and discover six unique sculptures by renowned international and local artists, placed amid the gorgeous garden, trees, and shrubbery. Our favourite is the Magic Mountain – the first of its kind in the Arab region – by Swiss sculptor Ugo Rondinone. Vibrantly painted stones stand atop one another to create a space of contemplation. You’re encouraged to find a space around it and meditate; the colours, the contrast, and the texture – all these elements might inspire you in unexpected ways.

Don’t miss the opening exhibition

Fenaa Alawwal exhibits

The opening of Fenaa Alawwal cultural centre coincides with the launch of an inaugural art exhibition titled “The Memory Deposit”, which runs until Tuesday February 28. Inspired by the memory of the place as a bank, the exhibit presents the history of the Saudi currency through an artistic lens. Six local and international contemporary artists took inspiration from different landscapes and milestones of Saudi heritage, identity and culture depicted on the Kingdom’s coinage and banknotes. The result goes beyond an exhibition about art and currency, embracing artistic representations of Saudis’ living national memory and collective identity.

Fenaa Alawwal Cultural Centre, Diplomatic Quarter, Riyadh 12512, Mon to Thurs 9am to 10pm, Fri 4pm to 10pm & Sat 10am to 10pm. Tel: 011 836 3352.

Images: Social