The Place: Souk Al-Majlis of Qassim

07/12/19

Souk Al-Majlis. ( Photo/Saudi Tourism)

The Saudi marketplace Souk Al-Majlis, or the Divan Heritage Souk, is part of the old town of Al-Maznab and lies 7 kilometers from the urban center of the city in Al-Derah district.

Al-Maznab township itself is located  in southeastern Qassim province and covers an area of about 2 square kilometers.

It contains more than 380 houses of various sizes, while the old Divan Heritage Souk and the Masque of Bahla Palace form the starting point for the district and its main center.

The souk is popular with visitors and locals and hosts summer events, auctions and folklore presentations among other similar activities.

This article was first published in Arab News

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The Place: Eimarah Palace of Najran

30/11/19

Najran’s Eimarah Palace as seen from the window of another mud house nearby. (Saudi Tourism photo)

The traditional architecture of Saudi Arabia’s southwestern Najran region is characterized by its distinctive mud houses and palaces which are widely considered to be the best-preserved buildings of their kind in the world.

One unique example of the architectural style is Eimarah Palace which was constructed in 1942 during the time of Prince Turki bin Mohammed Al-Madhi.

It is used as the office for the governorate as well as providing accommodation for the governor, his family and guards.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Hiker wants people to explore Saudi Arabia’s natural beauty

Time: November 29, 2019

Hikers in Saudi Arabia can explore landscapes ranging from desolate wadis to lush, wildlife-filled valleys. (Supplied)
  • Ahmed Shata’s ‘Jeddah Go Outdoors’ encourages the spirit of adventure
  • Around 80 percent of the hiking group’s participants are women

DUBAI: Standing still and surveying the spectacular sights around him on his first hike, Ahmed Shata realized there was more to life than sitting in front of a screen all day.

For the 37-year-old Jeddah resident, the adventure started when a small group in his home city encouraged him to discover nature through hiking.

Now the triumphant feeling of reaching a target destination has inspired him to continue uncovering new trails while also building a business that encourages others to join him.

“The moment I reach the goal after a two, three or five-hour hike, I feel like I have done something, like I can fly,” Shata said. “I thought, ‘why not convert this to (something) commercial and let people enjoy what I am feeling?’”

Shata founded Jeddah Go Outdoors with a fellow hiker in 2014. The group aims to spread the spirit of adventure and inspire people to discover Saudi Arabia’s great outdoors.

A project that began with just three people joining the founders on the first hike has grown into a business with more than 30,000 clients.

The beauty of hiking is that it is an activity that is available to anyone, Shata told Arab News.

Hikers in Saudi Arabia can explore landscapes ranging from desolate wadis to lush, wildlife-filled valleys. (Supplied)

Hikers aged between eight and 60 join the trips, depending on the difficulty level. About 80 percent of the participants are women.

“I don’t know where all the men are,” he said.

Last month the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage announced a new tourist visa program and relaxed strict dress codes as part of plans to boost the country’s traditionally closed-off tourism industry and attract foreign investment.

The moves are part of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 initiatives to broaden its economic activities and end its reliance on oil.

Contrary to perceptions, Saudi Arabia offers plenty of nature-rich destinations.

“We hear this a lot,” Shata said when asked about the country’s image as an arid desert. “Saudi Arabia is huge. We have mountains, beaches, islands, wadis, greenery; we have a lot of things.

“There are places like the Maldives in Amlaj, greenery and rain like in Malaysia in Asir, mountains like Kilimanjaro near Abha and Taif, volcanic craters in Wahba — you can see the world inside Saudi Arabia.”

Shata, who works at a telecom company during the week, said he lines up new spots for his weekend excursions using Google Maps. “We study maps and find places to explore,” he said.

On some journeys with professional hikers, he has even come across areas with wildlife. “Once we discovered a lot of animals — wolves, monkeys, donkeys,” he said.

Adventures planned by Jeddah Go Outdoors often include different activities, such as full moon hikes, stargazing, diving, camping, yoga, “color fights,” barbecues, games and entertainment.

“People like seeing new faces, new places and new things,” Shata said. “During the week, we are working. We have managers, noise, stress, a lot of things. In order to move, fly, or escape all these things, we go the natural way. We encourage people to go outside.”

Most importantly, there is not a phone in sight because many areas lack network coverage, giving people a chance to connect.

“I feel happy when I see people smiling and saying to me, ‘Thank you for the trip, I can go back to work, and this gives me the energy to continue,’” Shata said, recalling his own change of routine.

“I found that I was not doing things in a natural way. I was a crazy gamer. I would be playing (video games) or programming five to 10 hours (a day). You would be shocked to see (my life) before. You wouldn’t believe I’d ever become a hiker,” he said.

• This report is being published by Arab News as a partner of the Middle East Exchange, which was launched by the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to reflect the vision of the UAE prime minister and ruler of Dubai to explore the possibility of changing the status of the Arab region. 

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi Arabia elected to UNESCO’s world heritage committee

Time: November 28, 2019 

Madain Saleh became Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008. (SPA)
  • The announcement comes a week after the Kingdom was elected to the UN heritage body’s executive board for 2019-2023
  • There are five sites in Saudi Arabia that are currently on UNESCO’s World Heritage List

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia was elected to UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee for the first time on Wednesday.
The announcement comes a week after the Kingdom was elected to the UN heritage body’s executive board for 2019-2023.

“After the executive board (election), the Kingdom wins UNESCO’s World Heritage membership for the first time,” Culture Minister Prince Badr bin Abdullah said in a tweet, adding: “Thank you to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques and the Crown Prince for their continuous support to the cultural sector.

“This confirms the Kingdom’s international status and its role in building peace and contributing effectively to the establishment of the principles of culture and science.”

The World Heritage Committee meets once a year, and consists of representatives from 21 member states to the convention elected by the general assembly.
The committee has the final say on whether a property is added to the World Heritage List. It also examines rthe state of conservation at listed sites asks member states to take action when they are not being properly managed.
There are five sites in Saudi Arabia that are currently on UNESCO’s World Heritage List: Al-Ahsa Oasis, Al-Hijr Archaeological Site (Madain Saleh) in AlUla, Al-Turaif district in Diriyah, Historic Jeddah, and rock art in the Hail region.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi flag emblazoned on world’s tallest tower to honor Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman UAE visit

Time: November 28, 2019 

Stand at 829 meters high, Burj Khalifa was light in the colours of the green Saudi flag with the white Arabic calligraphic and sword. (Dubai Media Office)
  • Opened in 2010, the tower is one of Dubai’s iconic landmarks and is usually lit up to celebrate various occasions

DUBAI: The Saudi flag was emblazoned on the world’s tallest tower to celebrate the official visit of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman to the United Arab Emirates on Wednesday.

Stand at 829 meters high, Burj Khalifa was light in the colours of the green Saudi flag with the white Arabic calligraphic and sword.

Opened in 2010, the tower is one of Dubai’s iconic landmarks and is usually lit up to celebrate various occasions. Earlier this week the tower was lit in orange to mark “Elimination of Violence Against Women Day.”

This article was first published in Arab News

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ThePlace: Shoubra Palace, first historical palace in KSA’s highland city of Taif

23/11/19

Shoubra Palace of Taif. (Photo by Sarah Bawazir/Colors of Saudi competition)

The Shoubra Palace was built in 1907, as the first historical palace in the beautiful city of Taif.

It represents distinctive architectural elements, and is one of the most important historic features in the city.

It is now a heritage and antiquities museum. The museum has three sections: The period before Islam, beginning from the Stone Age to Jahiliya; Islamic heritage; and the Kingdom’s unification. It contains a large number of important artifacts.

This photograph was taken by Sarah Bawazir as part of the Colors of Saudi competition.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Lovers of heights dine in sky 50 meters above Riyadh

23/11/19

Riyadh Season made the dream of height lovers come true through a dinner in the sky held at Winter Wonderland Riyadh. (SPA)
  • Visitors can enjoy this experience by applying through the Riyadh Season smartphone application

RIYADH: Riyadh Season made the dream of height lovers come true through a dinner in the sky held at Winter Wonderland Riyadh, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

Participants enjoyed a fancy dinner on a platform hanging 50 meters above the ground. Eight trips per hour are held every day, with 32 seats for everyone to enjoy dinner and coffee served at a special restaurant.

The operator of the restaurant has a number of conditions for diners. They must be at least 130 centimeters high, not pregnant or afraid of heights, cannot smoke or bring food or drink from outside, tamper with seat belts or fail to follow any other instructions during the trip.

Visitors can enjoy this experience by applying through the Riyadh Season smartphone application, where they can follow the instructions to book their tickets.


This article was first published in Arab News

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Diriyah Gate to be a global, historical and cultural landmark

Time: November 22, 2019

Salwa Palace, located in the northeastern part of Al-Turaif district forms an integrated architectural system with its residential, administrative, cultural and religious units. (Photo/Supplied)
  • Diriyah is home to Al-Turaif District, built in 1744 and known as one of the largest clay cities in the world

DIRIYAH: With the establishment of the Diriyah Gate Development Authority (DGDA), the historical site of Diriyah will become one of the largest and most important international destinations.

The DGDA seeks to transform the site into a location to host activities and events aimed at exchanging historical and cultural knowledge through museums and venues spread throughout
Al-Turaif District.

The DGDA aims to celebrate the people of Diriyah by telling their stories and demonstrating their social, cultural and historical the roots, as the cradle of the first Saudi state and a symbol of the beauty of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and
its people.

Diriyah is home to Al-Turaif District, built in 1744 and known as one of the largest clay cities in the world. It was registered by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 2010 — one of five Saudi sites listed.

Not far from Al-Turaif District is the historic Al-Bujairi District, which was a center for spreading science and knowledge during the prosperity of Diriyah, as the capital of the first Saudi state.

Today it houses many commercial centers and cafes and is the perfect destination to experience Saudi cuisine.

One of the historical landmarks in Al-Turaif District is Salwa Palace, which is located in the northeastern part. It is the largest of its landmarks and spans over 10,000 square meters. It was founded by Imam Abdul Aziz bin Mohammed bin Saud in 1765, and is historically known as the home of the first royal family.

The palace houses the Diriyah Museum, which presents the history and development of the first Saudi state through works of art, drawings, models and documentaries.

BACKGROUND

At the northern end of old Diriyah, the town of Ghusaybah sits atop of a plateau surrounded by the Hanifa Valley on three sides.

Salwa Palace forms an integrated architectural system with its residential, administrative, cultural and religious units.

Al-Turaif District also includes the Imam Muhammad bin Saud Mosque, known as the Great Mosque or Al-Turaif Mosque. It is adjacent to Salwa Palace on the north side, and Imams used to lead Friday prayers there.

To make movement between the mosque and the palace easier, Imam Saud bin Abdul Aziz built a bridge to connect them on the upper floor. The mosque houses a religious school to teach religious sciences. It was formerly the largest mosque in the Arabian Peninsula and was built to symbolize the strength and unity of the Saudi state.

At the northern end of old Diriyah, the town of Ghusaybah sits atop of a plateau surrounded by the Hanifa Valley on three sides. It was settled by Mani’ Al-Muraydi, the oldest ancestor of the House of Saud, in the 15th century.

Ghusaybah is a well-established location, carefully chosen for the establishment of the new governorate, and its location played a major role in the protection of Hajj convoys and trade passing through its areas of influence in Al-Arid region.

Ghusaybah was the seat of an independent governorate before the founding of the first Saudi state. It provided protection for the northern gate of Diriyah during the campaign of Ibrahim Pasha in 1818.

Samhan is one of the historical areas south of Ghusaybeh on a triangle overlooking the valley when it meets another tributary, the villages of Omran. It directly overlooks the districts of Qusayrin, Mrayih, and Al-Turaif. This location was important during the reign of Imam Mohammed bin Saud and his son Samhan, being a well-fortified site during the siege of Diriyah. It was selected by Imam Abdullah to be his defense headquarters.

In the field of philanthropy, one may mention “Sabala Moudhi” which was founded by Imam Abdul Aziz bin Mohammed bin Saud, who made it a charitable endowment in the name of his mother, Moudhi bint Sultan bin Abi Wahtan, wife of Imam Mohammed bin Saud.

It is located east of the Salwa Palace on the southeast of Al-Turaif District. It is a two-story building and was established to provide free accommodation for visitors coming to the city of Diriyah.

This article was first published in Arab News

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The Place: Saudi Arabia’s Najran, a city marked for its rich history

15/11/19

Photo/Saudi Tourism

The southwestern Saudi city of Najran is rich in history and tradition.
Close to the border with Yemen, it is the administrative center of Najran Province, and also popular with tourists due to its diverse mix of attractions including historic buildings, archaeological sites, nature reserves, theme parks and traditional souqs (markets).

This article was first published in Arab News

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The Place: Saudi Arabia’s AlUla contains Mada’in Saleh, the Kingdom’s first UNESCO site

09/11/19

Photo/Saudi Tourism
  • The city was a major trade center and capital of the Lihyanite civilization

​​​​​AlUla is a governate and city in northwestern Saudi Arabia 110 km southwest of Tayma and 300 km north of Madinah.
The city, which was a major trade center and capital of the Lihyanite civilization (7th century BCE to 65 BCE), is famous for its archaeological riches, mudbrick dwellings and the AlUla Museum.
The governorate also contains Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site, Mada’in Saleh, which was built more than 2,000 years ago by the Nabataeans, the successors to the Lihyanites.
This photograph was taken by Dhafer Al-Bakri as part of the Colors of Saudi competition.

This article was first published in Arab News

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