‘It’s time for us to tell our story,’ grandson says as ‘Born a King’ premieres in the UAE

Time: September 24, 2019  

The movie tells the story of a young King Al-Saud during his trip to the UK. (Supplied)

DUBAI: The UAE premiere of “Born a King” took place on Tuesday, with Prince Saud Bin Turki Al-Faisal, the grandson of King Faisal Al-Saud, revealing that the production team is willing to produce a sequel for the movie.

Al-Faisal believes the film, which tells the story of a young King Al-Saud during his trip to the UK on a diplomatic mission aged just 13, is a representation of Saudi culture.

“It is time for us to tell our story as it was, and not let anyone speak our story,” Al-Faisal said. “This is just the start.”

The film’s producer, Andre Vicente Gomez, believes the movie will break stereotypes about Saudi Arabia. “I worked three years on (this movie) since we started developing the picture,” he said during the press conference in Dubai.

“There are a lot of stereotypes about the country. If the film will surprise the Saudis, then imagine the European or American reactions,” he told Arab News.

The movie, shot in Riyadh and London, cost almost $20 million to make.

“When we started (the project) we did not know cinema will be authorized in Saudi Arabia,” Gomez added. Now, “Born a King” will be the first Saudi movie to premier in its home country, Gomez said.

“Born a King” will hit theaters across the Middle East and North Africa on Sept. 26.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi women celebrate new freedoms on Saudi National Day

23/09/19

As the Kingdom’s ‘dark days’ recede into the past, Saudi women look to the future with optimism
Vision 2030 reforms and new laws empower and protect women, ushering in a new chapter in Saudi Arabia’s history
RIYADH: Life for many young women in Saudi Arabia in the 1970s was an enjoyable mix of study, watching movies and looking forward to a normal, peaceful future in a growing society.

But as the decade drew to a close, an attempted terrorist overthrow and attack on the Holy Mosque in Makkah changed the lives of women and Saudi society as a whole.

Manal Aqeel, who later became an arts and crafts teacher in a government school, recalled: “We lived in peace, our children lived in peace. We knew our religion, we prayed, fasted, preformed Hajj and were kind to one another. I was in middle school when the attack happened on our Holy Kaaba and the aftermath was disastrous.

“Before the attack we would go out and live our daily lives normally. Our attire would consist of lightweight silk abayas wrapped around our waists to show off our colored skirts underneath.”

However, the seizure of the Holy Mosque by Juhayman Al-Otaibi and his militant followers in November 1979 sparked paranoia and fear among the Saudi population, and in the aftermath of the uprising people found themselves facing a rising tide of ultra-conservative restrictions in their daily lives.

“Our family gatherings before the attack consisted of all the family having dinner and enjoying our time like everyone else. But the incident changed our lives. An air of tension lingered in the air as there was surveillance. People started saying, this is halal, this is haram,” Aqeel said.

Within two years, her lightweight abaya was replaced by a full-length black garment that covered her head.

“I don’t know what it was that made women resort to this? Influence? Fear? But one thing for sure was even niqabs (clothing covering the face with slits for the eyes) weren’t acceptable.”

After the events of 1979, conservatism intensified in Saudi Arabia as people adapted to a life filled with restraint and fear.

“The days before Al-Otaibi were the best. We lived in security and safety, and enjoyed our lives without complications. We didn’t even lock our doors. It was a simple life,” Aqeel remembers.

The 1970s opened new horizons for women in Saudi Arabia, allowing them to follow traditional roles or choose different career paths.
Women were TV anchors, radio presenters, actresses, teachers and more. With the oil boom, the country was flourishing. Before the terror attack, segregation was done out politeness and choice, not by force.

However, after 1979, Saudis adopted a more conservative approach to female clothing, with heavy, black abayas considered the only acceptable form of attire.

“My sister, beware of men wolves; cover yourself and you will not be harassed” was a familiar saying in the 1990s, leaving young women in fear of normal life.

Religious police encouraged the notion that women should be “hidden,” and neither heard nor seen in case their presence evoked deep desires which men could not control.

Saudi men also were left in a state of confusion, forced to look down on women as lesser beings, and with the right to control every aspect of their lives.

Fayga Redwan, a former school principal, recalls how her extended family stopped gathering on the beachfronts of Jeddah to relax with their children around, for fear of being confronted by the religious police.

“We all lived together in our big family home, my brothers and their wives and children. We would pack separate lunches as we had to segregate our picnics. Women would sit together, while our husbands and brothers sat nearby. We weren’t afraid, but there was still a sense of uncertainty,” she said.

“People’s views changed, they were skeptical at all times. They were dark days, indeed.”

Mother-of-three Haya Saeed said that the 1990s were the toughest time for women. “By then the mutawa, or religious police, had greater influence and power. I remember how frightening it was just going to a shopping mall was because they would stop us and harass us,” she said.

“We couldn’t even go to a restaurant without a male guardian, and the religious police would go from table to table to make sure that there was no indecent mingling and that the male was either father or brother.”

However, over time, the restricted freedoms young women faced after the 1979 attack began to ease. Women were given more rights to hold higher managerial positions, education was a tool, and society began to realize that their role is vital to ensure progress.

The “dark days” began to fade, ushering in a new chapter in the nation’s history.

In 2005, the late King Abdullah launched the King Abdullah Scholarship Program (KASP) for both men and women.

Sara Murad, host of MBC’s “Good Morning Ya Arab,” represents a new wave of Saudi women.
The initiative was welcomed by many Saudi families, who encouraged their young daughters, sisters and wives to apply — a blow to the extremists who opposed the program.

In 2010, King Abdullah appointed women to the Shoura Council, a groundbreaking move that highlighted the importance of having women in high positions.

Then, on Sept. 26, 2017, King Salman ordered that women be allowed to drive cars, another major blow to the ultra-conservatives.

In light of Vision 2030, a strict anti-harassment law was introduced in June 2018 to protect women and allow them to enjoy their newly won freedoms.

Times have changed, indeed.

Under the leadership of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the Kingdom is regaining its former tolerance and moving ahead with lightning speed.

On Aug. 1, 2019 a decree signed by King Salman declared that Saudi women no longer require permission from a “male guardian” to travel or obtain a passport.

Young Saudi women joined social clubs throughout the Kingdom in the 1960s and 1970s, with some clubs still in operation today.
“Life has changed so much now. This change is amazing and the new generation has more confidence,” said Latifa Al-Bazeay, a travel agent.

“There was a loss of nationalism after 1979, people wouldn’t even celebrate National Saudi Day. Now we see the difference,” she said.

“Saudis have always loved their country, but now their loyalty shines through. It is our duty to celebrate this day for its greatness,” she said.

The militant extremism of 1979 left an open wound that has only healed with the reign of King Salman and the crown prince.

“We will return to what we were,” the crown prince said — famous words that have been put into action, whether by eradicating extremism, fighting terrorism or empowering women.

This article was first published in Arab News

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‘The air was heavy with fear’: Memories of Makkah’s Grand Mosque siege resurface on Saudi National Day

23/09/19

Militant mastermind Juhayman Al-Otaibi’s terror strike on Nov. 20, 1979 left hundreds dead
Storming of the mosque ushered in Kingdom’s ‘darkest days’
JEDDAH: For decades, the infamous name Juhayman Al-Otaibi had been buried in the memories of Gen X Saudis.

On Nov. 20, 1979, a well-organized group of terrorists stormed Makkah’s Grand Mosque, killing and wounding hundreds of worshippers and hostages in what came to be one of Saudi Arabia’s darkest days. Al-Otaibi was the mastermind behind the terrorist attack.

Fast forward four decades, and in his first American TV interview — with CBS’s “60 Minutes” — Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman vowed to bring back the Kingdom’s pre-1979 moderation.

“We were living a very normal life like the rest of the Gulf countries,” he said. “Women were driving cars. There were movie theaters in Saudi Arabia. Women worked everywhere. We were just normal people developing like any other country in the world until the events of 1979.”

Al-Otaibi committed an atrocity in the name of religion, seizing the Grand Mosque for two weeks in a standoff with Saudi special forces.

Photos taken from fighter jets above the mosque showed the floor surrounding the Kaaba empty of worshippers, an image never witnessed before.

In a video published by the King Abdulaziz Foundation for Research and Archives, the late Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdullah Al-Subayil, the imam who performed fajr (early morning) prayers on the day of the siege, recalled what he described as “one of the most significant events” of his life.

He said he arrived at the mosque 30 minutes before prayers but did not sense anything untoward.

“But after concluding fajr prayers … a number of militiamen with weapons stormed the area heading toward the Kaaba,” he added.

“I headed to one of the rooms, where I immediately called Sheikh Nasser bin Hamad Al-Rashed, the chief of the Presidency of the Two Holy Mosques at the time. I told him of the situation, and I had him listen to the bullets being fired. I found out a while later that they (the terrorists) were allowing pilgrims to leave the mosque’s grounds.”

Al-Subayil decided to leave after about four hours. He removed his mishlah (a traditional flowing outer cloak worn in the Gulf), went down to the basement, lowered his head and left with a group of Indonesian pilgrims just as two militants stood at the gates that lead outside the basement.

Soon after, the gates were chained shut, and snipers took positions in the high minarets and shot innocent worshippers.

Al-Otaibi’s followers, who had taken positions in the minarets, shot at bystanders and Saudi special forces if they came too close to the mosque’s grounds. An estimated 100,000 worshippers were in the mosque that morning.

The siege shocked Saudi society, which had been living a normal life, and whose country was transforming itself from a desert nation to a sophisticated state.

Born and raised in Makkah, housewife Fajr Al-Mohandis recalled the day she heard the news, and the dreadful atmosphere in the city during “those awful two weeks.”

She told Arab News: “I was a student in middle school, and just like every other day, I went to school just like all the school children did. Everyone went to their jobs, including those who worked in the Grand Mosque.”

She said: “We heard gunshots during the day, and that would’ve been the first sign something was wrong. But we were still oblivious to the fact that a terrorist attack was taking place until our parents came to pick us up.” She added: “Makkah was a very small city at that time … and news spread fast.”

Al-Mohandis recalled how schools were shut for the next two weeks. “The air was heavy with fear, no one knew what was happening and we were shocked to the core,” she said.

“This was the holy city. This was the Grand Mosque. How was this even possible? As I was young it was too much to process, but residents of the city who grew up here took the responsibility of keeping it safe, assuring young ones like me that it’ll be OK and Saudi special forces will free the mosque from the blasphemous group.”

A former member of the National Guard, Al-Otaibi was a member of the Salafist group Jama’a Al-Salafiya Al-Muhtasibah.

He was angered by Western influence in Saudi society, and had been recruiting followers from various nationalities for years under the guise of piety.

It was later discovered that his followers smuggled ammunition by hiding it in barrels disguised as construction equipment, and in the mosque’s basement and minarets, taking advantage of its expansion.

Saudi forces stormed the mosque, and the ensuing battle killed most of the terrorists, including Al-Qahtani. Sixty-seven of them were captured, including Al-Otaibi.

The siege ended on Dec. 4, 1979. On Jan. 9, 1980, well-known news presenter Hussain Najjar announced Al-Otaibi’s execution.

This article was first published in Arab News

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How Saudi Arabia turned back to the future

23/09/19

When Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman pledged to bring back moderate Islam, he referenced a time before the developments of 1979 halted the Kingdom’s progress
Saudi Arabia was on a roll in the 1970s, enjoying the social and cultural developments that had begun in the previous two decades, and buoyed by the rising price of oil and the Kingdom’s first Development Plan.

But 1979 changed everything. Saudi Arabia took a conservative turn, prompted by two events: the Iranian Revolution in February, which brought Ayatollah Khomeini to power, and the siege by religious extremists of the Grand Mosque in Makkah.

OPINION: Reconnecting with the past, reimagining the future (Faisal J. Abbas, Editor-in-Chief, Arab News)

As Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told 2017’s Future Investment Initiative: “We were not like this in the past. We only want to go back to what we were, the moderate Islam that is open to the world, open to all the religions … And quite frankly, we will not waste 30 years of our lives in dealing with extremist ideas … We want to live a normal life, a life that translates our moderate religion, our good customs.”

And that’s what has happened. Under Vision 2030 and a flurry of life-altering developments – movies and concerts, greater freedom for women, fitness in schools, to name just a few – the Kingdom is on a trajectory back to the future.

— THEN —

1955 – Saudi Arabia’s first private school for girls, Dar Al-Hanan, is founded in Jeddah by Princess Effat, with the support of her husband, Crown Prince Faisal bin Abdul Aziz, amid a social outcry.

Read more: Saudi schooling goes back to the future

1960 – Royal decree approves public education for girls; schools are established in Riyadh, Makkah and other cities.

1962 – The non-profit women’s organization, Al-Nahda, is established by Princess Effat and a number of prominent Saudi women.

1963

The Council of Ministers approves a project to establish television in the Kingdom.
The Department of Youth Welfare (previously the Department of Sport) creates four federations: volleyball, basketball, athletic and cycling.
1965 – King Faisal approves the first national television broadcast, a reading of the Qur’an, amid protests from conservatives.

The first TV broadcast in Saudi Arabia is launched from the US Consulate in Dhahran; “The Eye of the Desert” is broadcast in English and only to the Dhahran area.

1957

The Kingdom’s first institute of higher education, King Saud University, is opened in Riyadh.
The launch of Aramco TV, with a wider broadcasting range that reaches Al-Hofuf and other areas across the Gulf. Broadcasts are in both Arabic and English.
OPINION: The 1970s — a seismic decade for Saudi Arabia’s economy (Frank Kane)

1979

IRANIAN REVOLUTION

January 22 – Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi and his wife leave Tehran.

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini

February 1 – Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini returns to Iran from exile in France.

February 11 – Khomeini officially assumes power when troops loyal to the shah surrender.

February 16 – Iran’s revolutionary authorities start executions of leading supporters of the shah, including four top generals.

November 4 – US embassy in Tehran stormed by Iranian students who take 52 Americans hostage, demanding the extradition of the shah.

SIEGE OF MAKKAH’S GRAND MOSQUE

November 20 – A well-organized group led by Saudi militant Juhayman Al-Otaibi storms the Grand Mosque with weapons smuggled in coffins and vehicles using members pretending to be there to pray. Al-Otaibi is a member of Al-Jamaa Al-Salafiya Al-

Muhtasiba (Salafi Group that Commands Right and Forbids Wrong), which is angered by Western social influence, women’s presence in the Saudi workforce, TV and other issues. Worshippers are prevented from leaving after the announcement of a takeover over a microphone. Hostages are forced to pledge allegiance to the group’s leader, Mohammed bin Abduallah Al-Qahtani, Al-Otaibi and their followers.

December 4 – The siege lasts for two weeks and ends after an intervention by Saudi special forces and their allies, leaving hundreds dead, including Saudi officers, soldiers and civilians as well as Al-Qahtani and his followers. Al-Otaibi is arrested and executed on Jan. 9, 1980.

Read more:

‘The air was heavy with fear’: Memories of Makkah’s Grand Mosque siege resurface on Saudi National Day
MBC’s ‘Al-Asoof’ tells the untold story of the Makkah siege

— NOW —

2016

Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman unveils Vision 2030, a road map for Saudi Arabia’s future.
The Saudi Cabinet approves a new law restricting the religious police from questioning, pursuing or arresting violators; they must instead report them to the police or anti-narcotics officers.
Read more: Saudi women celebrate new freedoms on Saudi National Day

Princess Reema bint Bandar is appointed vice president for women’s affairs at the General Sports Authwority.
Kariman Abuljadayel is the first Saudi woman to compete in the 100-meter event at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil.

The General Authority for Entertainment and the General Sports Authority are established by royal decree.
2017

King Salman appoints Mohammed bin Salman as crown prince ofSaudi Arabia.
The Saudi Stock Exchange appoints a woman, Sarah Al-Suhaimi, as chairperson for the first time.

In one of the first public music performances in many years, Mohammed Abdo performs for a men-only audience in Jeddah.

Giga-projects are launched: NEOM, a $500-billion megacity in theTabuk region, and the RedSea tourism project.
Saudi state schools announce that they will offer physical education classes for female students.
At the inaugural Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman pledges a return to moderate Islam.
2018

  • Female fans are allowed to attend football matches for the first time in Saudi Arabia; the match was Al-Ahli vs. Al-Batin in Jeddah on Jan. 12.
  • Ending a 35-year ban on cinemas, the first commercial movie theater opens in Riyadh with a screening of “Black Panther” on April 18.
  • A ban on Saudi women driving is lifted on June 24.
  • An anti-harassment law, approved by the Shoura Council, receives praise from around the world.
  • King Salman launches plans for Qiddiya, expected to be the world’s largest entertainment city.
  • The Culture Ministry, headed by Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan Al-Saud, is established.
  • Al-Ahsa Oasis is designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.
    Weam Al-Dakheel becomes the first Saudi woman to anchor the main evening news on Saudi TV.
    Enrique Iglesias, Amr Diab and the Black Eyed Peas are among the first international performers at the Formula E in Riyadh, for which the first trial tourist visas are granted.
    The WWE’s Royal Rumble takes place at Jeddah’s King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah, beginning a 10-year partnership with the General Sports Authority.
    2019

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman launches a mega tourism project in AlUla which will include a resort designed by renowned French architect Jean Nouvel and a nature reserve dubbed Sharaan.

  • Lubna Al-Olayan becomes the first Saudi chairwoman to run a Saudi bank, a merger between Alawwal and Saudi British Bank.
  • Saudi Arabia’s first female ambassador, Princess Reema bint Bandar (top center), is appointed to Washington.
  • The Saudi Cabinet approves a “Privileged Iqama residency permit,” which will allow foreign nationals to work and live in Saudi Arabia without a sponsor, offered to highly skilled expatriates and owners of capital funds.
  • By royal decree, Saudi women no longer require permission from a male guardian to travel or obtain a passport.
  • A lineup of superstars perform in concerts across the Kingdom: Mariah Carey, Janet Jackson and 50 Cent in Jeddah; Andrea Bocelli in AlUla; Pitbull and Akon in the Eastern Province.
  • High-profile sports events include the Italian Super Cup between Juventus and AC Milan; Fight Night between world boxing champion Amir Khan and Billy Dib; and the largest Battle Royale in WWE history.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Different phases of Jeddah’s rich history under spotlight

23/06/19

  • the Red Sea port city was added to UNESCO’s World Hertitage Sites list in 2015

RIYADH: The King Abdul Aziz Foundation for Research and Archives (Darah) has published highlights of Jeddah’s heritage since the pre-Islamic era and the use of the city as a port for Makkah by Caliph Uthman ibn Affan in 647.
Darah documented the era’s buildings, neighborhoods, balconies and windows, found in the architecture of the “Historical Jeddah” area, on its Twitter account.
Those characteristics are still being appreciated, making Jeddah an open museum that was added to UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites list in 2014.
While documenting the establishment and unification of the Kingdom, Darah mentioned the arrival of King Abdul Aziz to Jeddah in 1925, where he stayed in the house of Nassif and used a council room and a prayer room next to Al-Hanafi Mosque.
The city became a large one and became the gate of the two holy mosques and the Kingdom’s first port.
Darah highlighted the area’s important heritage and historical sites and buildings such as historical mosques of unique architectural style, in addition to the city’s markets.
Jeddah’s wall was built by Hussein Al-Kurdi, one of the Mamluk princes, during his campaign to fortify the Red Sea against attacks by the Portuguese.
He equipped the wall with fortresses, towers and cannons to stop invading ships and dug a trench around the wall.
Darah noted that the wall, which was built with the help of Jeddah’s residents, had two doors, one from the side of Makkah and the other from the side of the Red Sea. It also had six towers each with 16 branches. Six doors were built — Bab Makkah, Bab Madinah, Bab Sharif, Bab Jadid, Bab Al-Bant and Bab Al-Magharibah — before Bab of Al-Siba was added at the beginning of this century.
The wall was torn down because it merged with the urban area in 1947.
The city was divided into several neighborhoods inside the perimeter of the wall called “Hara.” These were named according to their geographical location inside the city by the events that made them famous: Harat Al-Mazloum, Al-Sham, Al-Yaman, Al-Bahr and Al-Karantina.
The city’s residents built their houses from rocks they extracted from the 40th lake before modifying them by hand to fit according to their sizes next to the wood they brought from neighboring areas such as the Valley of Fatima or imported from other countries, mainly India.
They used the contents from the Sea of Mud to strengthen the structure.
These houses look a lot like modern cement buildings. Some of the famous buildings still found today are the houses of Al-Nassif, of Al-Jamjoum, Al-Baesh, Al-Kabel, Al-Banaja, Al-Azahed and Al-Sharbatli.
Darah also documented the most famous mosques in Jeddah’s historical area such as Al-Shafei Mosque, Uthman ibn Affan Mosque, Al-Basha Mosque, Akkash Mosque, Al-Memar Mosque, Al-Rahma Mosque, King Saud Mosque, Al-Jaffali Moque and Hassan Anani Mosque.
The old neighborhoods still carry a touch of the past and are surrounded by old handicraft and traditional shops. Significant public markets in the historical area include Al-Alawi Market, Kabel Market and Al-Nada Market.
Some of the most important specialized markets in Jeddah’s historical area are the fish market, also known as Al-Banqala, the vegetable and butcher’s market in Al-Nawariyyah at the end of Kabel Street, the large fabric market, Al-Khaskiyah, located behind Sheikh Mohammed Nassif’s house, Al-Nada Market, Al-Jami, named after Al-Shafei Mosque, Al-Hababa Market located in Bab Makkah, Al-Hiraj auction Market in Bab Sharif, Al-Badou (Bedouin) market in Bab Makkah, Al-Aser in Bab Sharif, Al-Baraghiyah, where donkey, mule and horse saddles were made, and Al-Sabhiyah in Al-Khaskiyah where prayer beads were made.
Jeddah was also known for its “Khanat” (“Al-Kaysariyah”) — markets made up of a number of small shops.
Some of the most important “Khanat” of Jeddah’s historical area are Khan Al-Hunud, Khan Al-Kasaba, where fabrics were sold, Khan Al-Dallalin and Khan Al-Attarin.
Jeddah’s traditions and its people still unite loved ones — residents decorate their houses with lights while others chant to welcome visitors.
These traditions represent Jeddah’s beauty on religious occasions such as the holy month of Ramadan, especially in the central historical area.

This article was first published in Arab News

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‘Nafthah’ — an art exhibition on the history of oil in Saudi Arabia

07/06/19

  • Fourteen artists are participating in the exhibition dubbed “Nafthah”

JEDDAH: The Ministry of Culture will organize an extraordinary art exhibition that looks at the cultural impact that oil has left on the history of Saudi Arabia.

Scheduled on June 8 until July 18, 2019 at the historic Khuzam Palace in Jeddah, the exhibition dubbed “Nafthah” showcases the first oil exploration agreement between the Kingdom and the United States in 1933. Fourteen artists are participating in the exhibition dubbed “Nafthah”.

This discovery oil in the Kingdom resulted in a social and economic transformation that made Khuzam Palace a gateway to development.

The Ministry of Culture aims to highlight the Kingdom’s modern past in an innovative and fresh creative approach, where artists express their own reflections on this great history and their vision of the positive and cultural impact it has left on Saudi society.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Window on the past as ‘Red Palace’ exhibition opens in Jeddah

07/06/19

Fifteen Saudi and Arab artists will present interpretations of the historic oil deal signed between the Kingdom and US at Khuzam Palace in 1933, exploring the agreement’s social and cultural impact on the Kingdom. (SPA)

  • Groundbreaking display explores Riyadh palace’s historic role

JEDDAH: The “Red Palace” exhibition — a groundbreaking exploration of the Kingdom’s artistic, political and economic past — will open its doors in Jeddah following a three-month display at its historic namesake in Riyadh.

The exhibition will be on show at Khuzam Palace in Jeddah from June 8 to July 18.

Under the supervision of the Ministry of Culture, the exhibition will include an artistic presentation on the history of the Red Palace, and its national and political importance in the Kingdom’s history.

Fifteen Saudi and Arab artists will present interpretations of the historic oil deal signed between the Kingdom and US at Khuzam Palace in 1933, exploring the agreement’s social and cultural impact on the Kingdom.

HIGHLIGHTS

• The exhibition will include an artistic presentation on the history of the Red Palace, and its national and political importance in the Kingdom’s history.

• Artists will display innovative works based around oil, reflecting the identity of the Kingdom and the role played by oil products since the signing of the agreement.

• The Ministry of Culture aims to highlight various creative aspects of the Kingdom’s history.

• The event will be on show at Khuzam Palace in Jeddah from June 8 to July 18, 2019.

Khuzam Palace, the first residence of King Abdul Aziz, was chosen as the site for the “Red Palace” exhibition in recognition of its important role in the history of the Kingdom.

The exhibition celebrates the Red Palace, built by King Abdul Aziz in 1943 for his son King Saud in Riyadh.

The palace has had a pivotal role in the history of the Kingdom. It was King Saud’s official residence, where he hosted visitors to the Kingdom, ranging from Arab representatives to worldwide leaders.

The palace then became the headquarters of the Council of Ministers under the reign of King Faisal and then King Khalid and then the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Fahd, before becoming the headquarters of the Board of Grievances.

The history of the Red Palace was used to create an innovative story reflecting the value of the palace in both social and national dimensions.

Artists will display innovative works based around oil, reflecting the identity of the Kingdom and the role played by oil products since the signing of the agreement.

The Ministry of Culture aims to highlight various creative aspects of the Kingdom’s history, with artists presenting their own interpretations and their vision of the impact on society.

The exhibition is divided into seven chapters, with art pieces displayed in different forms in 14 rooms.

In the first room (Chapter I) titled “Red Palace” is the piece “To Dust You Will Return.” In Chapter II, titled “1979,” are two pieces, “1979”and “Taqa.”

BACKGROUND

• The Red Palace was King Saud’s official residence, where he hosted visitors to the Kingdom, ranging from Arab representatives to worldwide leaders.

• The palace then became the headquarters of the Council of Ministers under the reign of King Faisal and then King Khalid and then the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Fahd, before becoming the headquarters of the Board of Grievances.

• The history of the Red Palace was used to create an innovative story reflecting the value of the palace in both social and national dimensions.

Chapter III, titled “Labor Force,” includes “Labor Force 1: Trusteeship Trip,” “Labor Force 2: Preparing Dinner,” and “Labor Force 3: Polishing.”

Chapter IV is titled “Stormy Desert,” while the eighth room includes the piece “Distress.”

Chapter V includes many pieces such as “The Role of Bush,”  “Broken Phone” and “Confidence.” Chapter VI, titled “Dinner at the Palace,” includes “Dinner at the Palace” and “1440 m.” Finally, Chapter VII, titled “Praying Room,” includes a piece of the same name.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Masmak: Majestic fort in Riyadh opens a door on Saudi Arabia’s past

Time: June 05, 2019  

The museum will be open from 4 p.m. until midnight. (AN photo by Ziyad Alarfaj)
  • ‘Masmak’ in Arabic means high, fortified, thick and huge — important qualities for a fort that witnessed King Abdul Aziz’s initiatives in consolidating Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: One of Saudi Arabia’s most important historical sites, Masmak Fort in Riyadh, will open its doors to visitors during Eid Al-Fitr.

The fort became a focal point in the history of the Arabian peninsula when it was stormed by the Kingdom’s founder, King Abdul Aziz bin Saud, in 1902.

Now the magnificent citadel is home to a museum that has become an important historical destination.

“Masmak” in Arabic means high, fortified, thick and huge — important qualities for a fort that witnessed King Abdul Aziz’s initiatives in consolidating the Kingdom.

Nasser Al-Arifi, the museum’s director, invited residents to visit “this important milestone in the history of Saudi Arabia, depicting the struggles and efforts exerted by King Abdul Aziz to unite this great entity.”

The museum contains photographs, maps, models, display cabinets, old weapons, heritage objects, and exhibition and audiovisual halls. It will be open from 4 p.m. until midnight during Eid Al-Fitr, with a wide range of programs, events and activities aimed at visitors.

Masmak Fort is a tourist favorite and a must-visit destination in the Saudi capital. Many of the Kingdom’s most important historical artifacts are found here.

The fort has become virtually an official symbol of the rise of the Saudi nation, capturing the feel of old Arabia and the struggle that led to the modern Saudi state.

Visitors can find traditional dresses and crafts, a diwan with an open courtyard, functioning well, and a mosque as well as several other attractions.

This article was first published in Arab News

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A look back at 50 years of OIC as it meets in Makkah for Islamic Summit

Time: May 30, 2019  

Family photo from the 13th OIC ordinary summit in Istanbul, Turkey, in 2016 shows the heads of state and government who attended it. (AFP)
  • Makkah summit aims to build on highlighting Palestinian issue and unifying Islamic position on key issues
  • The OIC first met after an arson attack inside Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem in 1969

JEDDAH: From defending Palestinian rights to taking a unified stand on threats against member states, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) — the world’s second-largest inter-governmental body after the UN — has been making a difference in the Muslim world for the last 50 years.

The Islamic Summit in Makkah on Friday will be the organization’s 14th ordinary summit, and will be attended by kings and heads of state and government of the OIC’s 57 member countries.

The OIC first met a month after an arson attack inside Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem on Aug. 21, 1969.

An Australian tourist had set fire to a structure in the main Al-Qibly Mosque, destroying the 800-year-old pulpit of Saladin.

Reacting to the incident, representatives from 24 Islamic states gathered in Rabat, Morocco, from Sept. 22 to 25 for the first Islamic Summit, marking the birth of the OIC.

Saudi Arabia’s late King Faisal arriving in September 1969 at the Islamic Summit in Rabat, where the OIC was established. (Getty Images)

The next year, the first ever meeting of the Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers (ICFM) was convened in Jeddah, and a decision was taken to establish a permanent secretariat in the Saudi city, headed by the OIC’s secretary-general.

The summit in Rabat was attended by representatives of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) with observer status.

The attendees pledged their adherence to the UN Charter and condemned Israel for the Al-Aqsa arson attack.

The second Islamic Summit was convened in February 1974 in Lahore, Pakistan, after a gap of five years.

Representatives from nearly 35 countries attended, proclaiming that “the solidarity of the Islamic peoples is based not on hostility towards any other human communities nor on distinctions of race and culture.”

The Lahore gathering called on OIC member states to sever all relations with Israel in favor of Islamic solidarity.

Seven years later, in January 1981, Saudi Arabia hosted the third Islamic Summit, known as the “Palestine and Al-Quds Al-Sharif Session,” from which Iran and Libya stayed away.

The final declaration read: “All Muslims form one nation of moderation, rejecting alignment to any and all blocs and ideologies, steadfastly refusing to surrender to divisive influences or to conflicts of interests.”

Convened against the backdrop of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the summit in Jeddah expressed its deep concern over Cold War developments, and renewed its call for the withdrawal of all foreign forces from the country.

A crowd watches as firefighters put out a fire in Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque in August 1969. (Getty Images)

The delegates decided that OIC member states would contribute at least $3 billion for the creation of an Islamic World Development Program.

The Saudi crown prince at the time, Prince Fahd bin Abdul Aziz, declared a grant of $1 billion by the Kingdom for its implementation.

In January 1984, Morocco hosted the fourth Islamic Summit in Casablanca at the invitation of King Hassan II, with representatives from 42 member states and international organizations, notably the UN and Arab League, in attendance.

The summit reaffirmed its commitment to the principles on which a solution to the Israeli-Arab conflict was to be based: Israel’s withdrawal from all Arab territories occupied in 1967, and the restoration of the Palestinians’ national rights, including their right of return and right to self-determination.

Three years later, in January 1987, Kuwait hosted the fifth Islamic Summit. The four-day meeting, attended by 44 member states, condemned the US for its support for Israel. With “Al-Quds Al-Sharif, Concord and Unity” as the theme, Senegal hosted the sixth Islamic Summit in Dakar in December 1991.

In the Dakar declaration, participants reaffirmed their “resolve to face the Israeli occupation of Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied since 1967; as well their determination to continue to reject and oppose the pursuit of Israeli plans and practices.”

The Islamic Summit returned to Casablanca for its seventh session in December 1994. The session, which coincided with the OIC’s 25th anniversary, was attended by 49 member states and international organizations.

At this gathering, delegates pledged to correct the image of Islam, referring to the spirit of “jihad” based on general principles of Shariah law.

The Palestinian issue also featured prominently at the summit, with participants voicing their support for the PLO in its struggle for Palestinian rights.

The delegates condemned Serbia’s aggression against Bosnia-Herzegovina, its non-compliance with UN Security Council resolutions, and its rejection of the Five-Nation Peace Plan.

The eighth session was convened under the patronage of Mohammad Khatami, Iran’s then-president, in December 1997, with “Dignity, Dialogue, Participation” as the theme.

The summit in Tehran was attended by 53 member states and inaugurated by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

Large contributions were made by several Gulf countries, with Saudi Arabia alone giving $10 million for OIC activities and institutions.

The ninth Islamic Summit was convened in Doha, Qatar, in November 2000, with the theme “Peace and Development: Al-Aqsa Intifada.”

It was attended by 52 member states, with Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Central African Republic, Ivory Coast and Thailand participating as observers, and Russian President Vladimir Putin taking part in the opening session.

Against the backdrop of the US invasion of Iraq, the 10th Islamic Summit was convened in Putrajaya, Malaysia, in October 2003.

A Palestinian helped by a paramedic out of her building damaged by an Israeli air raid on Gaza City on Nov. 19, 2012.  (AFP)

Delegates strongly condemned threats by the Israeli government against then-Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, and appealed to the international community to force Israel to respect UN resolutions.

The summit strongly condemned the terrorist bombing of the Jordanian and Turkish embassies and the UN headquarters in Baghdad, and of holy sites in the Iraqi city of Najaf.

It also rejected “unfounded campaigns and allegations against Saudi Arabia,” and called for their end.

The summit expressed solidarity with, and support for, the Kingdom, and its backing of all Saudi efforts to fight terrorism.

The Islamic Summit returned to Dakar in December 2005 for its 11th session, where leaders pledged that their governments would do whatever it would take to make contributions amounting to $10 billion to the Islamic Solidarity Fund for Development, which was established under the aegis of the Islamic Development Bank (IDB).

In 2013, the 12th Islamic Summit was convened in Cairo, Egypt, with the participation of 56 member states along with a number of international and regional organizations.

Participants condemned the Israeli assault of November 2012 on the Gaza Strip, and the policy of collectively punishing the Palestinian people, particularly Israel’s blockade of the enclave.

The last Islamic Summit before the upcoming one in Makkah was held in April 2016 in Istanbul, Turkey.

There, delegates reaffirmed their commitment to the OIC’s central purpose: The Palestinian cause and the preservation of Haram Al-Sharif as an Islamic site.

They expressed concern for Muslim refugees who had to leave their home countries, notably Syria, due to armed conflicts and oppression. They also decried the rise of xenophobia and Islamophobia in Western countries.

This article was first published in Arab News

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A man and his dog — bonded through Arab history

27/05/19

  • The image is the earliest evidence for the use of leashes to control dogs, with the earliest records previously found in Egypt, dating from 5,500 years ago

JEDDAH: Recent engravings discovered in northwestern Saudi Arabia depicting a man with a pack of hunting dogs are thought to be among the oldest records of man domesticating animals in the world.
Estimated to date back more than 9,000 years, the engravings, found at Shuwaymis and Jubbah, show a man drawing his bow and arrow surrounded by thirteen dogs, each with unique coat markings, and two on leads.
The area is home to over 1,400 rock carving panels, but these are now considered to be the crown jewel for the subject they convey, according to Maria Guagnin, an archaeologist at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, Germany, which is overseeing the site in partnership with the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage.
Despite the fact that Guagnin and her team cannot precisely date the panel, the condition of the rock and the sequence of the engraving suggest they date back at least nine millennia. However, there remains conflict over when domesticated dogs first arrived on the Arabian peninsula, and whether these animals were descended from the Arabian wold, or dogs tamed by other peoples abroad, somewhere between 15,000 to 30,000 years ago.
Certainly, the image is the earliest evidence for the use of leashes to control dogs, with the earliest records previously found in Egypt, dating from 5,500 years ago.

This article was first published in Arab News

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