The Place: Al-Mabiat, an archaeological site in Madinah region, dates back to the Ummayad and Abbasid periods

09/05/20

Arab geographer Al-Maqdisi described Garah as the second largest city after Makkah
The ancient archeological site of Al-Mabiat, also known as Garah, dates back to the Umayyad and Abbasid periods. It is one of the most important early Islamic sites in north Arabia.
Excavations made in 1984 showed that a large Muslim city once existed on the site. The survey revealed rich components of archaeological and cultural value. Excavations in 1985 revealed the remains of a mosque, a city wall and complete housing units.
Among the finds of the excavations were narrow streets with shops on both sides and houses decorated with wooden doors and windows and fresco-style art, reminiscent of the famous Samarra culture.
In the 4th century, Arab geographer Al-Maqdisi described Garah as the second largest city after Makkah.

This article was first published in Arab News

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The Place: A’Arif Fort, a hilltop landmark in Saudi Arabia’s Hail region

11/04/20

A’Arif Fort is the oldest historical building in Hail. Its strategic hilltop location allows the imposing fortress to be seen from almost anywhere in Hail, where it is an important city landmark.
The traditional, rectangular-shaped citadel is 40 meters in length and 11 meters wide and occupies an area of about 440 square meters.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Historic Diriyah lights up in show of gratitude for workers leading coronavirus fight

Time: 08 April, 2020

The We’re All Responsible campaign featured huge 3D images projected onto the walls of Salwa Palace in the historic Al-Turaif district of Diriyah Governorate. (Received from DGDA)
  • Diriyah Gate Development Authority launches campaign with huge 3D images projected on walls of Salwa Palace
  • DGDA called on all government and private sector organizations to join in its campaign by covering their offices with images and messages thanking health and security workers

DIRIYAH: An eye-catching health-awareness campaign launched by the Diriyah Gate Development Authority (DGDA) pays tribute to the workers on the front line of the battle to contain the coronavirus in the Kingdom. It also thanks the nation’s leaders for the swift action they have taken to lessen its impact.

Unveiled on Tuesday, which was World Health Day, the national “We’re All Responsible” campaign featured huge 3D images projected onto the walls of Salwa Palace in the historic Al-Turaif district of Diriyah Governorate.

One of the images features orange graphics and the message “Thank you to our heroes in health and security.” Another urges people to “Stay home, stay safe.”

A third image shows King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman alongside the message: “With thanks to our empathetic leadership in providing healthcare for everyone with no exceptions.”

DGDA called on all government and private sector organizations to join in its campaign by covering their offices with images and messages thanking health and security workers for their tireless efforts to ensure the health and safety of everyone in the community.

“On World Health Day, we wanted to send a message of gratitude to all the heroically dedicated professionals working tirelessly the world over to keep us safe during this global crisis,” said Jerry Inzerillo, DGDA’s CEO. He also thanked the Saudi leadership for the precautionary measures it has taken to fight the pandemic.

At-Turaif district, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is located beside Bujairy, which is the area’s cultural hub and a major tourism attraction for visitors to the Saudi capital, Riyadh. It contains many historic relics from the first Saudi state, including the former homes of its rulers.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Hima Well in Saudi Arabia’s Najran region is filled with archeological delights

04/04/20

Hima Well is one of the most attractive tourist destinations in the Kingdom. It is located between Najran and Wadi Al-Dawasir, Saudi Arabia. The site is over 7,000 years old.
There are many historically significant archeological sites in the area, some featuring elements from the Neolithic period. Hima Well includes a number of stone structures, burial mounds and wells. The site is located 140 km north of the city of Najran in a mountainous area belonging to Najran province.

This article was first published in Arab News

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X marks the spot as art and history merge at Saudi Arabia’s AlUla

Time: 01 April, 2020

Emirati artist Mohammed Ahmed Ibrahim’s installation called ‘Falling Stones Garden’ on display at the first edition of Desert X AlUla exhibition. (Photos/Supplied)
  • Regional and Saudi artists discuss the significance of the landmark Desert X exhibition

ALULA: The 14 large-scale sculptures that took shape amid the vast desert landscape of AlUla in Saudi Arabia may have been removed, but their message remains not only for art lovers but for all visitors to the historic site.

The first edition of Desert X AlUla, which ended on March 7, brought artists from across Saudi Arabia, the Middle East and the US together in one of Saudi Arabia’s most idyllic locations.
The event, which opened on Jan. 31 under the auspices of the Saudi Royal Commission for AlUla, was organized by Desert X artistic director Neville Wakefield, and Saudi curators Raneem Farsi and Aya Alireza.
“Having an exhibition such as Desert X at this time in history is of utmost importance,” said Farsi. “Previously the event had been relatively out of reach, but now it is reaching out to the rest of the world.”

Farsi described the exhibition as “a dialogue that goes beyond national borders.”

“It’s a dialogue about art and culture — things that connect us all beyond boundaries,” she said. “Through the exhibition we are all invited to come and be part of this conversation.”

The show, the first large-scale site-responsive exhibition in Saudi Arabia, took its cue from the “land art” movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s, led by figures such as Robert Smithson, Richard Long, Hans Haacke and Dennis Oppenheim.

The Saudis have an emotional relationship with the desert, and when you talk to them about it, their hearts are captivated.

Rashed Al-Shashai، Saudi artist

“My previous experience in land art was limited in scope,” said Saudi artist Zahrah Al-Ghamdi, whose work was featured last summer during Saudi Arabia’s second Venice Biennale pavilion. “I used to create work measuring just two by two meters, but I created an 80-meter art installation in my country, and that gives me a unique motivation and energy.”

Al-Ghamdi’s work, “Glimpses of the Past,” consisted of about 6,000 tin date containers laid out across 80 meters against the breathtaking desert backdrop of AlUla. The boxes glimmered in the desert light.

HIGHLIGHTS

• The first edition of Desert X AlUla brought artists from across Saudi Arabia, the Middle East and the US together in one of Saudi Arabia’s most idyllic locations.

• The event was organized by Desert X artistic director Neville Wakefield, and Saudi curators Raneem Farsi and Aya Alireza.

• This unique show, bringing artists from around the world together in a place that was once an ancient crossroads, gave the first edition of Desert X a special poignancy, celebrating not only the beauty of nature but also cross-cultural dialogue. It was about an art that went beyond borders.

Lebanese sculptor Nadim Karam’s installation called ‘On Parade.’

As an ode to AlUla’s agricultural wealth, its water springs and palm tree groves, the artist repurposed containers that were originally used for storing and transporting dates. The result was a shimmering ensemble of rectangles that looked like a sparkling river amid the desert landscape.
A short walk away were the large-scale figural and floral works of Lebanese sculptor Nadim Karam. Called “On Parade,” the diverse forms and shapes echoed the movement of the great caravans that passed through AlUla thousands of years ago.

“I always felt that the vastness of the desert holds immense power, and the chance to enter in dialogue with it was a precious opportunity,” said Karam.
“I was not prepared for my encounter with AlUla; the giant and magical rocks, the ancient landmarks of civilizations, and in the imagination, the sound of the slow movement of caravans. Time takes on a different meaning there.”

Saudi artist Rashed Al-Shashai said: “The Saudis have an emotional relationship with the desert, and when you talk to them about it, their hearts are captivated.”
Each artwork had a message. Al-Shashai’s “A Concise Passage,” a pyramidal structure made from plastic pallets normally used for transporting goods, reflected AlUla’s trading history, placing the site as a center for the exchange of both goods and ideas — powerful concepts that were reborn at Desert X Alula.
“Many of the artworks delivered these messages via a metaphorical whisper in the viewer’s ear as if evoking the sound of wind in the desert,” said Al-Shashai.

Saudi artist Rashed Al-Shashai’s installation called ‘A Concise Passage.’

This unique show, bringing artists from around the world together in a place that was once an ancient crossroads, gave the first edition of Desert X a special poignancy, celebrating not only the beauty of nature but also cross-cultural dialogue. It was about an art that went beyond borders.
“Saudi is a cultured country where art has long been part of our history,” said Farsi. “The grassroots approach over past decades has now taken seed and has reached a national level.”
The exhibition was about “inclusivity” rather than cultural “isolation,” she added.
“I believe that art offers a different perspective and, in turn, fosters understanding based on a shared humanity.”

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi Arabia’s Maraya Concert Hall: An architectural wonder of the world

Time: 18 March, 2020

A total of 9,740 square meters of mirrors cover the exterior walls of the cube-shaped structure reflecting the picturesque surroundings of AlUla. (Photos/ Supplied)
  • Located in Wadi Ashaar, the hall is equipped with the latest theatrical and operatic sound systems

RIYADH: The magnificent Maraya Concert Hall in the northwestern Saudi province of AlUla has set a Guinness record for the largest mirrored building in the world.

Maraya (meaning mirrors in Arabic) has been dubbed the “mirrored wonder” due to the giant sheets of glass attached to its structure, which reflect AlUla’s breathtaking landscape.
This includes Hegra, the first historical site in Saudi Arabia to be included on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites.
The building has been described as a “site-specific landmark” of true “land-art architecture,” and its extraordinary facade was unveiled at a special ceremony organized by the Royal Commission for AlUla during the second season of the Winter at Tantora festival.
The 500-seat venue has hosted leading international artists, including Egyptian musician Omar Khairat and Italian opera singer Andrea Bocelli. The festival began its artistic journey with a performance by the renowned Moroccan singer Aziza Jalal, who surprised fans with a return after a 35-year hiatus.

Marvelous environment
Located in Wadi Ashaar, near the volcanic freeway, the hall is equipped with the latest theatrical and operatic sound systems. A total of 9,740 square meters of mirrors cover the exterior walls of the cube-shaped structure reflecting the picturesque surroundings of AlUla, a landscape that has captivated artists and architects from the Nabataean civilization through to the present day.

Amr Al-Madani, CEO of the Royal Commission for AlUla, said: “AlUla is a cultural heritage to the world, and this step comes in fulfillment of AlUla’s vision, to create a regional and global cultural center.

HIGHLIGHTS

• The building has been described as a ‘site-specific landmark’ of true ‘land-art architecture.’

• Its extraordinary facade was unveiled at a special ceremony organized by the Royal Commission for AlUla during the second season of the Winter at Tantora festival.

“We have developed Maraya Concert Hall as a hub for world events, concerts, celebrations, gatherings, and business conventions. The mirrored hall is a global platform where nature, culture, and human heritage coexist in harmony.
“We are proud to celebrate the opening of Maraya Concert Hall, and we thank our partners, experts, engineers, and architects, who worked day and night to create this astounding monument in the heart of the marvelous desert environment of AlUla,” he added.
Designer Florian Boje, of Gio Forma, said: “As evident in the architecture of the Nabataeans, Maraya Concert Hall was created utilizing segmentation and (by) sculpting the blocks.

“This unique edifice makes us think about the unique landscape of the geological saga, the radical abstraction of the enchanting environment of AlUla, and the uncommon incursions for man in the natural landscape.

Civilization
“The reflections give an overwhelming balance and a deep sense of the connection of human heritage with nature and its intertwining and harmonizing together, which provides us with the responsibility of protecting our human culture that is combined with the exceptional nature of AlUla.”
The development of the concert hall came within the framework of the cultural and heritage statement of AlUla, which was recently issued and published by the Royal Commission for AlUla, inviting global arts and business communities to join the commission in a new cultural chapter in the rich history of AlUla.
The vision for AlUla states that “the artistic mission of AlUla is clear, and (it) will remain the destination for artists to draw their inspiration from a site that highlights the monuments of historical civilizations.

AlUla is a cultural heritage to the world, and this step comes in fulfillment of AlUla’s vision, to create a regional and global cultural center.

Amr Al-Madani, CEO of the Royal Commission for AlUla

“What remains of great cultures is art and architecture. Successive civilizations have formed the cultural scene with their knowledge and experience, and AlUla will remain the artistic destination for artists to enhance a spirit of imagination and inspiration in their being, and the expression that constitutes the infrastructure of AlUla and its structures and daily life to enrich the encounters of the visitors.”
The second Winter at Tantora festival witnessed a celebration of international events, including the first Hegra Conference of Nobel Laureates 2020, held in the city of AlUla from Jan. 30 to Feb. 1.

Eighteen Nobel laureates of peace, economics, literature, physics, chemistry, physiology, and medicine took part in the event along with an elite group of intellectuals, politicians and social leaders from 32 countries around the world.
They presented theses to meet the challenges affecting humanity and the world. The conference aimed to make a significant impact on, and offer solutions to, urgent global dilemmas, with discussions putting forward ways to tackle future issues related to education, health, agriculture, and the world’s economy.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Maraya Concert Hall: The ‘mirrored wonder’ of Saudi Arabia’s AlUla creates Guinness World Record

Time: 18 March, 2020

  • It holds the record for the largest mirrored building in the world

RIYADH: The magnificent mirrored Maraya Concert Hall in AlUla has astonished everyone who sees it — a list that now includes assessors from Guinness World Records.

The cube-shaped structure, covered in 9,740 square meters of mirrors that reflect the breathtaking landscape around it, has set a record for the largest mirrored building in the world.

The building and its extraordinary facade were unveiled at a special ceremony staged by the Royal Commission for AlUla during the second season of the Winter at Tantora festival. The 500-seat venue has since hosted leading international artists, including Egyptian musician Omar Khairat and Italian opera singer Andrea Bocelli.

“AlUla is a cultural heritage to the world, and this step comes in fulfillment of AlUla’s vision, to create a regional and global cultural center,” said commission chief executive Amr Al-Madani

“We have developed Maraya Concert Hall as a hub for world events, concerts, celebrations, gatherings, and business conventions. The mirrored hall is a global platform where nature, culture, and human heritage coexist in harmony.

“We are proud to celebrate the opening of Maraya Concert Hall, and we thank our partners, experts, engineers, and architects, who worked day and night to create this astounding monument in the heart of the marvelous desert environment of AlUla.”

Florian Boje of designers Gio Forma said: “This unique edifice makes us think about the unique landscape of the geological saga, the radical abstraction of the enchanting environment of AlUla, and the uncommon incursions for man in the natural landscape.

“The reflections give an overwhelming balance and a deep sense of the connection of human heritage with nature.”

This article was first published in Arab News

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The Place: Al-Okhdood, a historic site in Saudi Arabia’s Najran

14/03/20

Photo/Saudi Tourism

Al-Okhdood and the story of its people are mentioned in the Buruj chapter of the Holy Qur’an
The archaeological gem of Al-Okhdood in southwestern Saudi Arabia dates back more than 2,000 years. The historic site in Najran is rich with artifacts and remnants of ancient drawings and engravings on stones, which include depictions of a human hand, a horse, a camel and snakes. The remains of a mosque can also be seen.

Al-Okhdood and the story of its people are mentioned in the Buruj chapter of the Holy Qur’an, which refers to a Jewish Himyarite king burning alive thousands of his citizens for converting to Christianity.
This photograph was taken by Abdul Aziz Alarify as part of the Colors of Saudi Competition.

This article was first published in Arab News

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The Place: Qaryat Al-Faw, one of the ancient cities of the pre-Islamic era in Saudi Arabia

29/02/20

  • Qaryat Al-Faw intersects the ancient trade route Najran–Jerhae at a strategic point

The ancient city of Qaryat Al-Faw is located in the foothills of the Tuwaiq mountains, where it intersects with Wadi Al-Dawasir, overlooking the northwestern edge of the Empty Quarter.
Qaryat Al-Faw, which is 700 km southwest of Riyadh, is considered one of the most important ancient cities of the pre-Islamic era in Saudi Arabia.
It was the capital of the Kinda Kingdom from the first century B.C. to the fourth century, one of the ancient kingdoms in the heart of the Arabian Peninsula. It also intersects the ancient trade route Najran–Jerhae at a strategic point.
The discovery of Qaryat Al-Faw is one of the most important international archaeological finds as it captures a pre-Islamic Arab city with all its components still intact. Houses, wells, roads, market places, temples and graves were all found at this site.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Gem of history, Diriyah is ‘gateway’ to future of Saudi Arabia

22/02/20

Behind the scenes: The ladies taking a commemorative photo in Diriyah. Diriyah Gate Development Authority’s employees feel a sense of pride, nurturing their county and showcasing its history. (AN photo)

  • Danielle Atkins: ‘If you want to see Vision 2030 in 2020 just come to my office. DGDA really does embody Vision 2030 in 2020’

One of Saudi Arabia’s giga-projects and most beloved sites is the home of the founding fathers, Diriyah.

In one year, it has played host to Russian President Vladimir Putin, numerous delegates and was the prime location for Formula E, but behind all the glitz and glamour, a team of Saudis are working hard to make it a major tourist destination.

Diriyah Gate Development Authority (DGDA), is going local with its employees — 278 out of 355 are Saudi, with 45 from Diriyah. The employees feel a sense of pride, nurturing their county and showcasing its history.

Established in July 2017, the DGDA aims to preserve the culture of Diriyah, celebrate its community, and make it a landmark that celebrates Saudi Arabia.

Considered one of the Kingdom’s most important historical sites and the capital of the first Saudi state, Diriyah is home to the UNESCO World Heritage site of At-Turaif, a mud-brick city that stands as the birthplace of the first Saudi state.

“Diriyah has a special place in my heart because it’s the home of my forefathers. It’s an honor for me to add to their legacy and to improve upon this cartel of history that is so full of meaning,” said Princess Al-Johara Al-Saud, the DGDA’s branded content and collaboration officer, to Arab News. “I am privileged to be part of a team that’s sole focus is to give Diriyah its proper place as the jewel of the Kingdom.”

FASTFACTS

  • Diriyah Gate Development Authority was established in July 2017 to preserve Diriyah’s culture, celebrate its community and make Diriyah known globally as a landmark that celebrates Saudi culture and history.
  • Diriyah highlights the architectural, diplomatic and artistic legacy of Saudi Arabia.
  • Diriyah is home to the UNESCO World Heritage site of At-Turaif, a mud-brick city that stands as the birthplace of the first Saudi state.

Merging past, present, and future, “Diriyah is the gateway of the future of Saudi Arabia,” said Danielle Atkins, chief of marketing and communications officer at the DGDA. She said that the team were all young and Saudi, and “if you want to see vision 2030 in 2020 just come to my office. The DGDA really does embody Vision 2030 in 2020.”

Al-Johara was one of Atkins’ first hires. “I feel empowered and supported, working alongside so many prominent women in the marketing team,” she said. “We all feel so proud to be contributing to the preservation and promotion of Diriyah, under the umbrella of Vision 2030 and the leadership of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. His mission to enable women in Saudi Arabia has driven us to push forward and to play an instrumental role in making the vision a reality in 2020.”

The marketing team at DGDA, headed by Atkins, is composed of 31 employees, 18 of whom are women. Atkins’ goal is to empower Saudi women and to have them as confident leaders taking the reins.

One of the DGDA’s initiatives is its graduate program. Launched in November 2019, 19 people enrolled, 79 percent of whom were females. The students are expected to complete the program by November 2020, with the possibility of joining the DGDA as full-time team members.

Haifa Al-Ruwaished is currently in the graduate program, and being from Diriyah, she says it was an honor to be able to work alongside passionate and enthusiastic members serving both her county and country.

Jerry Inzerillo, CEO of the DGDA, said: “This is such an inspiring time for Saudi youth, especially women, and we are proud to play our part. We are passionate about giving back to the communities of Diriyah and knew that we needed to start with the talent of tomorrow. The graduates from Diriyah that have become part of the DGDA are already stars and I’m confident they will take important roles in shaping the future of the Kingdom. We are especially proud that a majority of the graduates who have joined are women.”

This article was first published in Arab News

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