Visitors hail ‘haunting beauty’ of ancient caves in Saudi Arabia’s Al-Baha

Time: 20 January 2021

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Split into high and low segments, the mountain is intricate and has withstood the test of time; its vast caverns have been used to house civilizations, and retain carvings that go back to the era of the Thamud and the Sabaeans. (SPA)

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Popular among commoners and poets alike, the caves have been mentioned by several Arab poets and explorers

JEDDAH: With the Saudi winter season providing opportunities for tourism investment, Shada Mountain, one of the most popular spots in the Arabian Peninsula, has transformed into a popular destination for visitors, attracting tourists from within the Kingdom, the Arab region and Europe.
Shada Mountain is located in the southern region of the Kingdom in Al-Baha, rising 1,700 meters above ground. It is geologically composed of granite rock, and contains a large variation of plants and greenery.
Split into high and low segments, the mountain is intricate and has withstood the test of time; its vast caverns have been used to house civilizations, and retain carvings that go back to the era of the Thamud and the Sabaeans.

HIGHLIGHT

Shada Mountain is located in the southern region of the Kingdom in Al-Baha, rising 1,700 meters above ground. It is geologically composed of granite rock, and contains a large variation of plants and greenery.

Nasir Al-Shadawi is a history researcher and owner of one of the caves that has turned into a tourist attraction. He said that he might be the first person to attempt to transform the caves, upgrading them into larger spaces that can house tourists.


“These caves used to act as homes, and they didn’t require anything but a little building with exposed sides. I also worked on adding washing basins and faucets made of granite,” he told Al-Arabiya TV.
Al-Shadawi adorned the road leading to the caves with stones to guide incoming tourists and prepare them for the experience, before they even enter the caves.
Popular among commoners and poets alike, the mountain has been mentioned by several Arab poets and explorers like Abu Mohammed Al-Hamadani and Yaqut Al-Hamawi.
Saudis have taken note of the tourist site and are excited to check it out. In fact, some were enticed to visit it after learning that it has inspired famous poets.
“I would love to sense what the poets saw and felt when they explored the mysterious caves. I think witnessing these mountains and their prominent existence adds to the historical and cultural richness that Al-Baha has,” said Amani Al-Ghoraibi, a language instructor at a university in Jeddah.


Al-Ghoraibi said that the atmosphere of the caves was its most important aspect, adding that it brings the most appeal. “There is a haunting beauty that seems to call in the visitor, urging them to explore these caves,” she told Arab News. “They seem to echo an ancient history that goes beyond what our modern day life seems to perceive.” 

Amal Turkistani, 55, has taken on adventuring within the Kingdom, and Shada Mountain has presented a new location to visit.
“The interest in historical sites and the investment going into revitalizing these sites is unprecedented here in Saudi Arabia, and it gives us a variety of activities to share among families and friends,” she told Arab News.
Growing up, Turkistani said that she lacked that luxury and often chased after history and culture in other countries. Now that the Kingdom’s wondrous sites have been revealed, she wants to know them, as well as introduce them to her grandchildren.
“One of my deepest regrets is not learning about my country, and my children had no clue either. I would love to take my family to explore these caves and try to submerge ourselves in the past for a few days,” she added.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi aid center continues projects in Sudan, Jordan, Yemen

Time: 20 January 2021

The center continues to implement its water and environmental sanitation project in Hodeidah governorate

KHARTOUM: The King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSrelief) launched on Monday a campaign in Sudan to combat blindness and the diseases that cause it. The launch took place in the presence of a delegation from the country’s Health Ministry, representatives from the Saudi Embassy in Sudan, and a KSrelief team.
The center’s volunteer medical team will check up on more than 15,000 patients, perform about 1,200 surgeries, and distribute 3,000 eyeglasses and medicines for cases that do not require surgery. The campaign aims to help low-income families and individuals who are unable to cover their treatment in Khartoum, Omdurman and Al-Kalakila.
In Jordan, KSrelief distributed 1,595 winter kits and 3,190 blankets to Syrian and Palestinian refugees, benefiting 8,035 individuals. Each kit contains jackets, sweaters, hats and other clothing in different sizes.
Meanwhile, KSrelief distributed more than 108 tons of food baskets to displaced people in Yemen’s Aden governorate, benefiting 6,060 individuals.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi Arabia to appoint women as court judges ‘very soon’

17/01/21

A “Saudi woman assuming a position of judge is very soon. There are initiatives on several levels.” (File/AP)

Al-Zahid reiterated the Kingdom’s eagerness to pursue women empowerment
She pointed out international markers that have proven Saudi Arabia’s progress on women’s rights
DUBAI: Saudi Arabia will “soon” be appointing women as court judges, an official said, in continued social reforms over the past years.
Hind al-Zahid, undersecretary for women’s empowerment at the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development, said a “Saudi woman assuming a position of judge is very soon. There are initiatives on several levels.”
In an interview with Al-Arabiya, Al-Zahid reiterated the Kingdom’s eagerness to pursue women empowerment, particularly in allowing women to participate in diverse fields.
She pointed out international markers that have proven Saudi Arabia’s progress on women’s rights, particularly noting Saudi women’s participation in the Kingdom’s labor market has exceeded expectations.
Their participation rate today has reached 31 percent, and this is a very big progress. As for the civil service sectors, the Saudi women’s participation rate has increased from 39 percent to 41 percent, and most of them are in the education and health sectors in addition to other sectors,” al-Zahid said.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi female participation in science rising

17/01/21

Asrar Damdam, founder/CEO of UVERA and PhD. student at KAUST studying electrical and computer engineering. (Supplied)

According to a 2020 study published on statista.com about the gender distribution of 2018 STEM graduates in Saudi Arabia, Communications and IT is the most popular major among female graduates

JEDDAH: In the past five years, Saudi women have taken great strides in scientific fields and, with the support of the government, the best seems yet to come.
Saudi women are now serving as leaders in their research fields, and many have gone on to serve as deans, directors of research centers and more.
In an interview with Al-Arabiya, Hind Al-Zahid, undersecretary for women’s empowerment at the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development, said that “the percentage of women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) is higher than men” in the Kingdom.
According to a 2020 study published on statista.com about the gender distribution of 2018 STEM graduates in Saudi Arabia, Communications and IT is the most popular major among female graduates.
Asrar Damdam, founder and CEO of UVERA, is one of the many Saudi women who are not only pursuing degrees in STEM but also working for the empowerment of women by providing them with job opportunities.
She told Arab News that she followed her passion and obtained a bachelor’s degree in electrical and computer engineering followed by a master’s degree. “Now I am a Ph.D. student at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology. It wasn’t an easy start but as soon as I entered the job market five years ago, many companies were not only welcoming to women but many were searching for them to join. Times have changed and you now see more women exploring their options in various fields of science.”

Technology. It wasn’t an easy start but as soon as I entered the job market five years ago, many companies were not only welcoming to women but many were searching for them to join.

Asrar Damdam, Founder and CEO of UVERA

With her company based in Silicon Valley, she opened a syndicate in the Kingdom. Damdam has found that her recent female recruits are passionate about their work and are going through the learning curves required to excel in their respective fields.
“Their work ethics are exceptional and their passion is felt as they continue to provide insight and finding innovative ways to reach the company’s goals,” she said. “It’s because of their passion that they are able to contribute and it wouldn’t have been achievable without the programs that provided me and the many women in the fields of STEM with these opportunities.”
This was reiterated by Al-Zahid, who spoke of Saudi Arabia’s eagerness to pursue empowerment for women and to provide them with adequate positions fit for their fields of expertise.
“The numbers tell the story,” she said, adding that international markers have shown the Kingdom’s pursuit in empowering women in the labor market is exceeding expectations.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi Arabia’s revolutionary zero carbon city ‘The Line’ hailed as dawn of tech-based future

12/01/21

Saudi Arabia has placed foreign investment as a main focus in its plans for economic development. (SPA)

Saudis welcome plans for revolutionary zero carbon city
JEDDAH: Saudi officials and citizens have welcomed the Kingdom’s revolutionary zero carbon city, announced on Sunday by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.The city — named “The Line” — will be a car-free city within Saudi Arabia’s futuristic NEOM business hub along the Red Sea coast.

The construction is set to start in the first quarter of this year. It will allow 1 million residents to live in a “zero cars, zero streets and zero carbon emissions” city but around nature.

“It is a new era of civilization, a new model for a city which is clean, proper and with zero carbon,” Saudi economist Mazen Al-Sudairi told Arab News welcoming this major step. “This will improve the efficiency of humankind.”

He added that Saudi Arabia is moving toward a new data-based civilization as compared to the older civilization, which was built on the flow of water and vegetation.

Moreover, Al-Sudairi believes that this model will attract more foreign direct investment and provide a tech-based future.

Saudi Minister of Communication and Information Technology, Abdullah Alswaha, said on Twitter: “Saudi Arabia enters the great book of history as an innovative force for the 21st century.”

He noted that the city is moving to green and renewable energy, stressing that the region can exploit solar energy and winds by more than 70 percent, which makes NEOM one of the top three places around the world for energy efficiency.

In addition, NEOM also has the capability to produce green hydrogen, he told Al-Arabiya on Monday.

HIGHLIGHTS

• The construction is set to start in the first quarter of this year.

• The city will receive huge cloud computing investments, amounting to more than $1.5 billion.

• It will allow 1 million residents to live in a ‘zero cars, zero streets and zero carbon emissions’ city but around nature.

He added that the futuristic city will receive huge cloud computing investments, amounting to more than $1.5 billion.

The crown prince said the backbone of investment would come from Saudi Arabia and the Kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund — the Public Investment Fund — and local and international investors for the NEOM project.

Saudi Arabia has placed foreign investment as a main focus in its plans for economic development.

Even in light of the global economic tension resulting from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, foreign investment in the Kingdom jumped by 2 percent in the third quarter of 2020, Al-Eqtisadiah reported.

Saudi Deputy Defense Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman, said on Twitter: “It is one of the major projects that places people first and employs technology to serve societies.”

The project is a direct response to some of the vital challenges facing humanity, such as infrastructure, pollution, traffic and human congestion, NEOM said.

Education Minister Hamad bin Mohammed Al-Asheikh also welcomed the announcement saying: “The crown prince’s global vision for The Line places the humans’ life, health, environment, productivity and entertainment first.

“The project is characterized by the principles of global humanity, economic diversity and artificial intelligence, and the enhancement of research and innovation opportunities for the future industry.”

This article was first published in Arab News

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Two women put Saudi Arabia’s science talent in the spotlight

Time: 12 January 2021

These file photos show Lama Al-Abdi, left, and Asrar Damdam. (Supplied)

  • Asrar Damdam and Lama Al-Abdi honored by L’Oreal-UNESCO for Women in Science Middle East Regional Young Talents Program

  • In spite of recent progress, women remain a minority in the STEM professions worldwide, and especially in the MENA region

DUBAI: Saudi women are earning global recognition for their achievements in medical science and research. Two of them recently won awards from the L’Oreal-UNESCO for Women in Science Middle East Regional Young Talents Program for their work.

One of the women, Asrar Damdam, 27, was honored in the Ph.D. students’ category for her role in the development of a pump meant to revolutionize the way a healthy heartbeat is regulated — combining medicine, electrical engineering and electro-physics.

“There are some diseases and heart-related behavioral activities, like heart failure, that can happen suddenly, and researchers are developing new solutions to this problem,” Damdam told Arab News.

“We were investigating the possibility of building a soft-sleeve device with a built-in actuator to support the heart muscle and aid the pumping functionality.”

The project was not without its challenges. The only platform available on the market was rectangular, which did not conform to the heart’s natural shape. When Damdam began her research, she turned to nature’s geometries for inspiration, from spirals to spiderwebs, before settling on the honeycomb.

“The beehive structure, which is an array of honeycombs, is the nearest to the heart shape,” she said. “Building a flexible and stretchable array of honeycombs was a very interesting idea to me, although it included lots of challenges. I liked it and presented it to my professor, who liked it too and approved it.”

Damdam then had to consider materials. Silicon was her first choice, owing to its favorable electrical properties, its abundance and cheapness. However, with her initial design, it was found to be too delicate.

After graduating from the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in August 2018, it took Damdam a year to make her breakthrough, following countless experiments at a highly sophisticated nano-facility.

“The structure must withstand the heart’s expansion and contraction behavior without breakage,” she said.

“To overcome the silicon fragility issue, I used the regular honeycomb shape with serpentine sides. I designed the platform with a serpentine-shaped interconnect to form the sides of every honeycomb cell and also to connect the cells with circular islands, which are located in the middle of each cell, to be used as a host for electronic components,” she said.

“The serpentine interconnects introduced the stretchability feature, so when the heart expands, the platform doesn’t break.”

Damdam says all bio-compatible devices must be flexible so that they can adapt to the natural movement of the body and skin. “To achieve this, I made it very thin — around 15 micrometres,” or 0.015 millimeters.

Although her project marks only the first step, aimed at proving the viability of the concept, its reconfigurability means the wider scientific community can build on the idea and explore the tremendous technological possibilities it opens up.

“The successful demonstration of the reconfigurability concept using silicon also enables a lot of applications in bio-medical electronics,” she said. “This was my main motivation. If this research is improved, then it can really help in the early detection of cardiovascular diseases, in multi-sensory platforms and in the development of artificial hearts for transplantation.”

INNUMBER

  • 28.8% – Proportion of the world’s researchers who are women (UNESCO).

With the platform now fabricated and her research published in Applied Physics Letters Journal, Damdam’s attention shifted to the world of start-ups, helped along by an entrepreneurial training program in California sponsored by the MiSK Foundation.

While there, she won a competition and received funding for her start-up idea of using ultraviolet light to extend the shelf life of food. She says young Saudis have enormous potential in the world of business.

“We are very capable, educated and supported,” Damdam said. “We should give back to our community and country, and actively participate and support the development process.”

Another Saudi woman honored, this time in the L’Oréal-UNESCO program’s postdoctoral researchers’ category, is Lama Al-Abdi in recognition of her research on chromatin — a substance within chromosomes consisting of DNA and protein — and the regulation of genes in relation to vision loss.

Al-Abdi, who is in her early 30s, began her project a few years earlier as an extension of her Ph.D. research at Purdue University, Indiana, examining how certain chemical modifications impact DNA.

After hearing a talk on DNA modification, Lama Al-Abdi was inspired to develop projects on eye-development diseases. (Supplied)
After hearing a talk on DNA modification, Lama Al-Abdi was inspired to develop projects on eye-development diseases, pictured. (Supplied)

“It does not change the DNA per se, but it changes the shape of the DNA itself and how it interacts with its surroundings,” Al-Abdi told Arab News. “These changes can be inherited from one generation to another and they play a very important role in development, embryogenesis, cancer, obesity, diabetes, complex diseases as well as very simple diseases, such as any eye abnormalities that we may see.”

Al-Abdi, who began examining the theme of vision loss as an undergraduate at King Saud University, now works at the King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center in Riyadh. She has made significant contributions to medical understanding of mutations affecting the eye.

Al-Abdi and her team have recruited test subjects with eye abnormalities to determine whether their vision loss is the result of a mutation or a change in the DNA — or on top of the DNA — that may have contributed to the onset of disease.

“When I first started pursuing chromatin, I was just starting my Ph.D. and my professor invited a speaker,” she said. “The speaker started talking about modifications on the DNA, which, to me, was shocking because I had never heard of it before.

“I was just in awe because I thought I was quite well immersed in the field of genetics, but that was a whole new discovery, and I found that I knew nothing. That was the start and I was hooked.”

Al-Abdi is involved with several ongoing projects related to eye-development diseases and why more than one genetic abnormality can appear within the same family and what can be done to prevent suffering.

In spite of recent progress, women remain a minority in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) professions, especially in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).

According to 2018 figures from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, just 28.8 percent of the world’s researchers are women. Female enrolment in engineering, manufacturing and construction courses stands at just 8 percent worldwide, while in natural sciences, mathematics and statistics it is 5 percent. For information and communications technology (ICT), the figure drops to a paltry 3 percent.

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As of 2018, less than 30 percent of the world’s researchers are women, according to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics. (Shutterstock)

With female doctors, nurses and researchers playing a crucial role in the battle against COVID-19, experts have repeated their calls on schools, governments and employers in the region to do more to fix the imbalance.

Since announcing its goals for the Vision 2030 reform agenda, Saudi Arabia has been laying the groundwork for women’s empowerment.

Al-Abdi says she is thrilled to see young Saudi women benefiting from more encouragement and support to develop their interests and skills.

“I do see quite a lot of young talented women expanding their knowledge in all areas,” Al-Abdi said.

“I wish I had the tools and opportunities when I was younger, but now our government is putting a lot of effort into motivating, teaching and opening up opportunities that were not always available for us back then.

“It’s my dream to motivate and inspire people to do more.”

• Twitter: @CalineMalek 

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi aid center distributes over 21 tons of food in Sudan

Time: 12 January 2021

Photo/SPA
  • KSrelief has implemented 1,329 projects in 53 countries, worth more than $4.42 billion

RIYADH: The King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSrelief) on Monday distributed over 21 tons of food baskets among 1,182 people in West Darfur State, Sudan.
Each food basket contains essential items for a family.
The center continues its relief projects in other countries such as Jordan and Yemen.
In Jordan, KSrelief distributed 1,565 winter bags and 3,130 blankets among 1,565 families.
The center is carrying out several projects to empower Yemenis. It is offering several training courses in different fields to help orphans and widows earn their livelihoods independently.
Since it was founded in May 2015, KSrelief has implemented 1,329 projects in 53 countries, worth more than $4.42 billion. The countries that have benefited most from its work are Yemen ($3 billion), Palestine ($360 million), Syria ($296 million), and Somalia ($192 million).
The humanitarian, relief and development activities of KSrelief extend to all needy countries of the world, including Arab and Islamic countries.
KSrelief’s 1,367 projects and programs cover 54 different countries around the world on all its continents.

This article was first published in Arab News

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One of Saudi Arabia’s oldest traditional forms of weaving remains a key aspect of community life

Time: 05 January 2021

Al-Sadu is a craft that requires innovative skills and a lot of effort as the weaver works hard to transform the raw material into something new. (Shutterstock)

  • The loom, made of palm trees, was carried as Bedouins roamed the deserts in search of water oases to settle

JEDDAH/RIYADH: With tightly spun red, black or white colored yarns produced on handheld wooden spindles, one of Saudi Arabia’s oldest traditional forms of weaving remains a key aspect of community life.

The art of Sadu weaving is an ancient tribal craft. Inspired by the desert environment, Bedouin women of the Arabian Peninsula have for generations made use of the desert’s conditions and raw materials such as sheep’s wool and camel hair that allowed them to produce tents, rugs, mats and more in a variety of patterns and colors.
Speaking to Arab News, Dr. Delayel Al-Qahtani, the director of studies and research department at Atharna, a social enterprise dedicated to Arabian culture and craft, said: “Al-Sadu is made by laying the wool, hair or fur yarn horizontally on the floor loom to produce different shapes and colors that fit the daily needs of Bedouin communities in rural areas.

It is an intricate craft that requires precise hand movements. The final product is always a beautiful design.

Dr. Delayel Al-Qahtani

“Al-Sadu is a craft that requires innovative skills and a lot of effort as the weaver works hard to transform the raw material into something new. It is an intricate craft that requires precise hand movements. The final product is always a beautiful design.”
The craft is found mostly in the central and northern desert regions of the Kingdom and Kuwait, it was recently added to UNESCO’s Intangible Heritage list.
To create the Saudi pattern, the weaver has to skillfully go through a number of phases. Firstly, the animal hair is sheared then cleaned before being shaken and combed. It is then dyed using colors extracted from pomegranate skin and tree cortex and finally spun on drop spindles, explained the director.
The loom, made of palm trees, was carried as Bedouins roamed the deserts in search of water oases to settle. With time and modernization, many families settled, but the tradition was kept alive.

FASTFACTS

• The craft is found mostly in the central and northern desert regions of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

• It was recently added to UNESCO’s Intangible Heritage list.

• The G20 logo was a decorative shape reflecting Al-Sadu.

“The Sadu craft has been gaining increasing attention over the past two decades. The G20 logo was a decorative shape reflecting Al-Sadu. Many organizations and centers give training courses on how to make Sadu products,” said Al-Qahtani.

Al-Qahtani said the craft should be modernized and advanced technology should be used to make it. Craftsmen should be trained by designers on how to make Sadu products modern to attract community and tourists.
Saudi fashion designer and founder of clothing brand Hindamme, Mohammed Khoja, used patterns of Sadu weaving in one of his collections. Referring to Sadu weaving as one of the Kingdom’s cultural jewels, he was inspired by his mother’s origins from Al-Ahsa in the Eastern Province. He explored his ancestral background and applied it in his designs.
“My mom’s home of Al-Ahsa is rich in history and heritage; she has always encouraged me to be curious and informed about different elements of heritage and how they came to be and the reasons why they look the way they do,” Khoja told Arab News.
He stressed that the Sadu design pattern holds great significance to Saudis, explaining that each pattern or each symbol within the Sadu represents an element of life for the early Arabs and Bedouins.
“It’s sort of like a pattern that reflects an element of storytelling because it says so much about the livelihoods of the early Arabs and I think that once it is shared with the global audience, its popularity will only grow.”

The Sadu weave is very much sentimental to the Saudi designer because it reminds him of the past and it reminds him of his upbringing and seeing it in his many trips to the desert.
“Each pattern within the Sadu reflects a different theme, and we have only been exposed to a very small part of the Sadu,” he said, adding: “It comes in many various forms in various colors so it’s incredibly inspiring I definitely know within my designs I wanted to reference it. I wanted to reflect its beauty in a more contemporary format.”
Khoja encourages more designers to look into using the design, but not necessarily imitating their entire look: “They can interpret it in their own way and become inspired by it, by its geometrical shapes and colors. So when I applied it to season two of my collection for Hindamme, I applied it in a more contemporary format with pieces that were inspired by rock and roll.
“It was really a clash of cultures and I did reference two or three various types of Sadu within this collection.”

Khoja said designers should be true to themselves but also encouraged them to study their heritage “because knowing your past can guide your future,” he said, adding that many different traditions in the Kingdom’s past are coming to light.
“We’ve been given these cultural jewels, and for us not to be inspired by them or use them would not be ideal. I feel like using them would pique our interest into our own designs and shape our cultural and design identity.”

This article was first published in Arab News

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Najd doors: An entrance to the region’s culture and heritage

02/01/21

There are 30 types of decorated doors that differ according to the place. Unaizah has its own identity, and so do Riyadh, Sudair, Buraidah, and the rest. (Supplied)
  • Inspired by nature, they were an essential part of family homes and a focal point for residents and their guests

MAKKAH: The old doors of Najd are known for their rich decoration. They are inspired by nature and represent the culture and deep roots of the central Saudi region. They were an essential part of family homes and a focal point for residents and their guests.

The decorations created by the people of Najd were inspired by the region’s plants and trees. They dyed them with the colors of acacia and its seeds, as well as pomegranate, to make them brighter.
This decor was a cultural treat for guests, who enjoyed the beauty of those doors, their engravings and colors.
Historian Mohammed Al-Suwaih said that Najdi decorations had been passed down from one generation to the next. “You find that the fathers and grandfathers were carpenters,” he told Arab News. “The builders also passed their profession down to the next generations.”
He said that Najdi decorations used to be inspired by the environment surrounding the community. The shapes were inspired by wild plants and flowers, palm fronds, as these were abundant, the sun and its rays, and mountains, which were depicted as triangles and carved onto the doors.
Some of the doors are lavishly and ornately decorated. These include the doors of the majlis (room to receive guests), main entrances, and the doors separating the majlis and the rest of the house.
Builders deployed their full artistic talents when working on the majlis as it was the cultural front that received guests. The more decorated the majlis, the wealthier and more influential the owner. There are not many decorated majlises, however.
Al-Suwaih said the average person had simple majlises that were built in the shape of a triangle as it was difficult for everyone to own lavish doors and majlises.
“There are over 30 types of decorated doors that differ according to the place. For example, Unaizah has its own identity, and so do Riyadh, Sudair, Buraidah, and the rest.”

HIGHLIGHTS

• The decorations created by the people of Najd were inspired by the region’s plants and trees.

• They dyed them with the colors of acacia and its seeds, as well as pomegranate, to make them brighter.

He explained that every city had a grand master who specialized in this art. Those who were acquainted with this art knew the cultural background of a door from the first time they looked at it. Such doors used to get traded and are still in demand to this day.

Al-Suwaih said that the person who decorated walls was different from the one who decorated the doors. “Each has his own method, style, and colors. The doors of Najd were distinguished from those of other Saudi cities in that they included decoration and engraving as well as colors, an aesthetic flair.”
The decoration of Najdi doors is known for the intersection of lines, inner rings, and triangles. The front door of a house includes its name, date, some expressions of praise, thanks to God, and prayers for Prophet Muhammad. The date would be added to the door and the majlis, and some of these still exist today.
Among the decorated doors were “kamer” doors that were built in the form of two small doors. Some of them are decorated on one side only, while others are decorated on both sides.
Similarly the door separating the house from the majlis had two panels, and it was usually decorated on both sides for residents as well as guests.
He explained that there were types of decoration that spread in Najd, including the “hadaire.” This design comprises triangles as ornaments placed on the house’s exterior in a circular shape covering the entire house. The tops of these triangles point down and contribute to the flow of the water in a streamlined manner so it does not affect the wall’s durability.
Another type of decoration is the “lahj,” which comprises triangles engraved in the walls to create windows that are arranged in a way that controls the entry of light and the exit of smoke when wood is burned for heating and cooking. These were also used for storage.
Al-Suwaih added that a builder would repeat the triangles, squares, and lines, and the circles would overlap until there was an aesthetic decoration. “The builders preferred plant and geometric motifs and avoided human and animal ones due to religious beliefs. The most famous decorations are the intersection of the circle in the form of a flower. Stars were also used. The most preferred colors are green, purple, scarlet, and yellow, and the colors were bright and taken from trees – green from acacia and yellow from the fruit of acacia.”
Al-Suwaih explained that, with time, powders were imported from abroad, and these were mixed with some local substances, such as molasses, pomegranate peel, and sugar in order to protect the colors on the doors and make them brighter. Pomegranate was cooked for long hours until it was used as glue for these colors.
The decoration on the doors was a cultural element for guests to enjoy and avoid boredom. “It was as if the guests were listening to a song, reading a poem, or looking at a painting. Guests would feel welcome, enjoy the aesthetics, and feel relaxed.”

This article was first published in Arab News

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The Place: Saudi Arabia’s Wadi Khitanand

02/01/21

(Photo: Supplied)

This large valley stretches from the Sirat mountains to Belad Al-Awamer in Saudi Arabia’s southwest Tihamah province.
Wadi Khitanand is known for its beauty and scenic attractions, but also holds archaeological value. Quaib Tomb, a fenced burial site with an abandoned well, adds to the haunting mystery of the place.
Remnants of a small village, Shibahand, can also be found in the area.
The valley was also the site of one of the strangest conflicts ever fought, according to historians. The War of Basus began over the killing of a camel and lasted 40 years before the two warring tribes, the Taghlib and Bakr, resolved the dispute, ending a cycle of violence and revenge.

This article was first published in Arab News

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