See The Stars At King Fahd Cultural Centre

One of the joys of camping in the desert overnight – especially on nights which have a new moon – is to lie back and look up at the stars that fill the sky in a way that you can never see from within the city.

But for those who prefer to put a higher priority on their home comforts, or who don’t have the opportunity to make an overnight trip to the desert, there is still a way to see the stars from a Riyadh perspective.

It seems to be a well kept secret amongst the locals that the city actually possesses its very own planetarium which is open to the general public, complete with its very own resident astronomer.

(Actually there is not just one, but five planetaria in Riyadh! The others, though - such as the ones at the Imam University and King Abdul Aziz Technical City - do not allow access to the general public.)

The planetarium has room for 208 people, with seating especially designed to recline and rotate as you lie back to enjoy the vastness of ‘space’ above you. The dome is 18 metres in diameter, made of aluminium sheeting and fixed on a steel frame.

The main projector – manufactured by the Japanese company Goto – is responsible for the 8,900 fixed stars whilst eight ancilliary projectors are responsible for superimposing the earth, the solar system, shooting stars, comets, constellation clusters, satellites, clouds and an azimuth scale.

It is located within the King Fahd Cultural Centre which was designed in 1991 by Widle Plan and which sits in an imposing position overlooking Wadi Hannifah.

The planetarium is used mainly for visiting schools parties, but the general public is allowed in by special request.

The shows last from between five and twenty five minutes each.

Two of them have English commentaries, whilst the rest are, naturally, in Arabic.

You will need to fax the General Manager of the Centre to book an appointment to attend the planetarium on 01 480 0864

The King Fahd Cultural Centre is located in the Al Hada area of western Riyadh.

From the Interior Ministry, take Al Ma’ther Street westwards as far as you can go. Eventually you will come to a roundabout which has the Prince Faisal bin Fahd Olympic Complex (home to the Sa’udi Arabian Olympic Committee) to your left.

Go right round the roundabout and head back the way you came. Immediately after the entrance to the Olympic Complex is a right hand turn which will take you to the King Fahd Centre.

Entrance to the grounds: 24o 38.47’ N; 46o 39.23’ E

See more pictures by clicking here

Looking to get into the hobby of astronomy? Check out these resources to learn more:
Telescopes and Science - Learn about how telescopes are used for more than just stargazing
Telescopes - Purchase a telescope for home use
Galileo - About one of the founding fathers of astronomy

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