Al-Fouta’s facelift: Riyadh’s historical district slated for renovation

14/09/20

The buildings are sorely in need of repair to restore them to their former glory, experts say, adding that the project will contribute significantly to the preservation of Saudi culture. (Supplied)

  • Prince Badr said that the restoration process will meet international standards for the restoration of historic buildings

RIYADH: A major project is set to bring back the glory of 15 old palaces in the Kingdom’s capital.

The work is part of broader restoration work in the historical districts of central Riyadh, Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan, Minister of Culture and Chairman of the Heritage Authority, announced on Sunday.
Managed by the Ministry of Culture, represented by the Heritage Authority, in partnership with the Royal Commission for Riyadh and the Riyadh municipality, the project comes as part of King Salman’s keenness to preserve Saudi heritage and falls under the direction of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
From 15 palaces, seven in the western district of Al-Fouta date back to 1944, while three in eastern Al-Fouta date back to 1935. The project will also restore five royal palaces: King Fahd Palace, King Abdullah Palace, Princess Haya bint Abdulrahman Palace, Prince Sultan Palace, and Princess Al-Anoud Palace in Dhahira, Al-Fouta, and Umm Salim districts.

The district of Al-Fouta has a charming, antiquated atmosphere that transports the visitor into another era. Here you’ll find the oldest park in Riyadh, Al-Fouta Park, and the historic Red Palace, which was a gift to King Saud from the Kingdom’s founding father, King Abdul Aziz, which opened its doors as a museum in March of last year, as well as mosques and government offices.

FASTFACTS

• The district of Al-Fouta has a charming, antiquated atmosphere that transports the visitor into another era. Here you’ll find the oldest park in Riyadh, Al-Fouta Park, and the historic Red Palace, which was a gift to King Saud from the Kingdom’s founding father, King Abdul Aziz, which opened its doors as a museum in March of last year, as well as mosques and government offices.

• The work, which envisages the comprehensive restoration of the buildings in two phases over 24 months, starting in January 2021, will commence by conducting a complete study of all heritage buildings of importance in the center of Riyadh.

The buildings are sorely in need of repair to restore them to their former glory, experts say. Rana Alkadi, a specialist in heritage architecture, said that the project will contribute significantly to the preservation of Saudi culture.
“Reviving the heart of Riyadh city heritage will preserve its identity and enhance its historical cultural bonds to the past,” she said.
Saudi historian Majed Al-Ahdal called the renovation “an important step forward,” emphasizing the importance of respecting and understanding one’s past to fully appreciate the future.
“I would argue that the future is open to those who know their past well and use the insights the past provides to move forward with confidence. Though renovating the buildings may seem like a purely aesthetic endeavor on the surface, architecture is one of the most fundamental ways of measuring urban progress,” he said.
“These palaces oversaw countless important events and dates, and thus fully deserve to be restored to their former glory.”
Prince Badr expressed his gratitude for the support provided by King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to the culture and heritage sector.
In a press statement issued today, the minister said that the restoration process will meet international standards for the restoration of historic buildings.
The work, which envisages the comprehensive restoration of the buildings in two phases over 24 months, starting in January 2021, will commence by conducting a complete study of all heritage buildings of importance in the center of Riyadh.
The project aims to preserve the heritage buildings of architectural and historical importance and transform them into an economic, social, cultural, and tourism resource, reasserting their cultural identity in the context of the history of Riyadh.
The ministry’s efforts to preserve Saudi architectural heritage have increased significantly over the past year.
On Thursday, Prince Badr announced in a tweet that: “Having previously won membership on both UNESCO’s Executive Board and the World Heritage Committee, Member States have now elected KSA for membership of the Intangible Cultural Heritage Committee.”
In 2019, Arab News reported that SR50 million ($13.33 million) had been pledged by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman to support the restoration of Jeddah’s historic Al-Balad district, a UNESCO Cultural Heritage site.

This article was first published in Arab News

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500 million birds migrate through Saudi Arabia every year

04/09/20

International efforts have been intensified to support biodiversity, especially in light of the coronavirus pandemic, in line with the methodology of the Convention on Migratory Birds and the UN Convention on Combating Desertification, according to Saudi observers. (Shutterstock/Supplied)
  • Saudi Wildlife Authority adviser: Dangerous risks facing birds include plastic pollution, dredging and illegal trade

MAKKAH: More than 500 million birds representing 500 species migrate across Saudi Arabia every year through the Red Sea, according to an expert in the Kingdom.
Dr. Mohammed Shubrak, a Saudi Wildlife Authority adviser, said that birds migrating from their habitats to other habitats reflected biodiversity, since most species were well-known and classified.
He explained that the route of migratory birds covered the yearly migration from nesting to resting and feeding grounds.
During migration, birds made many physiological adaptations such as increasing their fat percentage, reducing the size of their organs and increasing the size of their feathers. To migrate from one place to another, birds also adopted different behavior according to their size and species.
“Birds have four movements: Flailing, flying, walking and swimming,” Shubrak told Arab News.
“Flailing and flying are two types of movements of the migratory birds to the Kingdom that cannot escape potential hazards. Some birds come to the same place each year for the same foods, like the imperial eagle that has been seen in Saudi Arabia visiting the same places repeatedly.
Eagles provide a free service to humans as they feed on dead animals. According to a study conducted in a reserve in Taif, eagles get rid of 32 percent of dead animals and 3 percent of mammals (foxes and stray dogs) knowing that livestock numbers represent nine times the load capacity of
grassland in the region.”
Migratory birds are an indicator of environmental changes, he said, adding that environmental interdependence was the movement of species without obstacles ensuring the flow and continuity of natural life.

FASTFACT

• There are about 10,966 bird species in the world.

• 1,469 species are threatened with extinction — equivalent to 13 percent — and illegal hunting is one of the reasons behind their declining numbers.

• 5 billion birds migrate between Eurasia and Africa.

“Environmental interdependence also supports the movement of land, sea and air species and benefits in pollinating flowers of birds, insects, and the environmental hydrological cycle.”
Birds are one of the most common animal species as they exist in all regions of the world, from polar to desert.
According to Saudi observers, international efforts have been intensified to support biodiversity, especially in light of the coronavirus pandemic, in line with the methodology of the Convention on Migratory Birds and the UN Convention on Combating Desertification.
Shubrak said that migratory birds played a vital role as they had a major relationship with the world that people lived in, whether in terms of culture, the environment, the economy or tourism.
Some birds resorted to hopping and moving for short distances between tens to thousands of kilometers. There were also species that flew thousands of kilometers without stopping, relying on large quantities of food sources to get them through their journey.
Other birds migrated through narrow routes or straight lines, Shubrak said. “The coastal line toward the Red Sea between the mountains and coast lines — this trajectory threatens species like the Siberian crane that by disappearing, caused the disappearance of species migrating through Pakistan to spend winter in India.”
He added that the most dangerous risks facing birds were noncontrolled hunting, poisoning, plastic pollution, dredging and land filling, power lines, illegal trade and climate change.
“There are plans of action to protect migratory birds in Saudi Arabia, including hawks, in partnership with hunters. Saudi Arabia has contributed financially and scientifically to developing plans to protect hawks in partnership with hunters from Saudi Arabia.”
He added that a national plan needed to be carried out to preserve hawks in the Kingdom since the numbers of most hawks used for hunting were dwindling, such as the mountainous falcon, whose numbers have decreased by 93 percent.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudis try sandboarding as domestic tourism booms

04/09/20

While the international airport and borders remain closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Saudis and expats turn to domestic tourism, many heading for a sandboarding experience on the dunes of the “Saed” desert area, 110 km east of the capital Riyadh.

This article was first published in Arab News

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240,000 students take part in stellar Saudi space education program

29/08/20

Photo/Supplied
  • ‘Through the program, I learned why countries spend billions of dollars on space exploration and the most important satellites launched for this purpose’

JEDDAH: A Saudi space education program for students has proved a stellar success after attracting more than 240,000 online participants.
The “9 Space Trips” initiative, launched by the Saudi Space Authority (SSA) in cooperation with the Ministry of Education, was run during the summer to promote space science and its related fields among middle and high school students.
The program included a variety of space-orientated topics and scientific experiments aimed at youth wishing to learn more about the sector.
Dr. Abdul Aziz Al-Asheikh, the SSA’s chief executive, noted the large number of students who had taken part on different interactive platforms and pointed out that through the Space Generations Program (Ajyal) for the development of human capital, the authority aimed to provide an inspirational education environment to encourage the Kingdom’s space scientists of the future.
To help achieve the program’s strategic goals, a number of projects and initiatives have been designed to empower young people to lead and develop the sector. The Ministry of Education is the SSA’s strategic partner, and the “9 Space Trips” summer program marked the start of a joint cooperation project between the two bodies.
Over a three-week period, it included nine virtual and interactive trips on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays lasting two hours per session.
Program participant Mahmoud Al-Hamoud, a 12th grade student from Jeddah, told Arab News that prior taking part he knew little about space, but the experience had enriched his knowledge on the subject.
“Through the program, I learned why countries spend billions of dollars on space exploration and the most important satellites launched for this purpose. Before, I thought that there was only one galaxy, the Milky Way. We were told that there are 12 trillion galaxies, and this reflects the greatness of the Creator,” he said.
Al-Hamoud added that the program taught students how they could become the astronauts of the future and what NASA’s requirements were for becoming a space pilot. “We also learned about the training courses that astronauts receive, in addition to other interesting information about space.”
Although planning to study pharmacology, Al-Hamoud said that participating in the “9 Space Trips” project had made him think seriously about space travel and possibly pursuing a career as a space scientist.
He added that the program mirrored Saudi Arabia’s ambition to produce a generation that could further space exploration.
“The Saudi Space Authority and the Ministry of Education offered an inspiring program that will pave the way for many ambitious students to study space and contribute to international efforts to discover the outer world.”

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi clinics carry out 2 million virus tests

Time: 13 August, 2020

Saudi Arabia announced 36 more deaths from COVID-19 and 1,569 new cases of the disease on Wednesday. (SPA)
  • The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom has increased to 257,269
  • A total of 3,269 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s Takkad centers have launched a 24-hour testing service as part of an early detection campaign to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Tetamman clinics and Takkad (make sure) centers have carried out more than 2 million polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests across the Kingdom since the start of the pandemic.
Takkad centers are designated for those who have no symptoms or only mild symptoms, but who believe they might have come into contact with a person infected with COVID-19.
Commenting on Saudi Arabia’s participation in vaccine clinical trials, Ministry of Health spokesman Dr. Mohammed Al-Abd Al-Aly said on Wednesday that the Kingdom is committed to joining the global effort to find a COVID-19 vaccine.
“Effectiveness and safey are priorities for clinical trials conducted in Saudi Arabia,” he said. “The Kingdom has been participating since the beginning of the pandemic to support all research departments and efforts in finding a cure and treatment.”
A total of 1,569 new cases of COVID-19 were recorded in the Kingdom on Wednesday, meaning 293,037 people in Saudi Arabia have now contracted the disease. There were 32,499 active cases, 1,826 of which were critical.
Al-Aly announced 2,151 new recoveries, taking the total number to 257,269, while 36 new fatalities were reported, raising the death toll to 3,269.
More than 4 million polymerase tests have been carried out in the Kingdom, including 67,676 in the past 24 hours.

This article was first published in Arab News

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