Museum telling Jeddah’s historic story to open in 2022

21/09/20

The building, designed in typical Jeddah style, bears white walls made of a heady mix of coral stones extracted from the nearby reef along the Red Sea shores, and purified clay from nearby lakes. (Photo/Supplied)

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The Place: Murabba Palace in Riyadh where King Abdul Aziz used to receive kings and heads of state

19/09/20

  • The palace was built in the traditional Najdian style, characterized by the highest levels of workmanship and design
Murabba Palace at King Abdul Aziz Historical Center in Riyadh is one of the city’s prominent historical landmarks.
The palace was built by the founder of the Kingdom King Abdul Aziz in 1937 outside the walls of the old city of Riyadh. The palace complex was built on a plot called “Murabba Al-Sufyan,” which was used for farming during the rainy season, according to the documents at the King Abdul Aziz Foundation for Research and Archives (Darah).
King Abdul Aziz used to receive kings and visiting heads of state and make historical agreements at Murabba Palace.
The palace was built in the traditional Najdian style, characterized by the highest levels of workmanship and design. The huge walls and internal and external ceilings are built with tamarisk and palm tree fronds. Stones were used in the foundations and columns, and wood was used for doors and windows.
This photograph was taken by Mohammad Abdu as part of the Colors of Saudi collection.

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For climbing enthusiast, Saudi Arabia offers up a wealth of options

Time: 15 September 2020

  • It is more of a sport which is learned from other people and through experience

JEDDAH: Fear has held many people back from enjoying even the simplest activities with friends and family such as swimming, going to theme parks and many more.

Nasser Al-Zuhufi, a 29-year-old Saudi, told Arab News he had always been a scared anxious child and fear hindered him from joining in the fun with the rest of his friends and family members.

He decided to break away from his fears unconventionally. He picked up the adrenaline pumping sports rock climbing.

“For as long as I could remember, I was always scared of everything, literally everything. Cats, the mountainous road driving to Taif, speed and rollercoasters. They were unexplained fears. There were no reasons behind them.

“Growing up, this feeling bothered me so much, that I’m holding this much fear. I even adjusted my life to suit my fears, like when I’d go to the theme park, I’d only go to the arcade, not the rollercoasters.”

One day, he decided to face his fears one by one and rode his first rollercoaster at 24 when he was studying in the US.

“It was the first time I felt like I faced a fear. I decided I’ll try it and there’s no going back no matter how I feel. After that, I felt this amazing empowering feeling, it was so liberating. I never felt an adrenaline rush before. That 5-minute experience changed my life.”

His first rock-climbing experience outdoors was in Al-Shafa, a village in Makkah in the summer of 2019.

“The first time I climbed, I feared the height of the rock. I felt like I was going too high too fast and I had to take it very slow to get used to it at the moment. The fear was not overwhelming and it all went away when I reached the end of the route,” he said.

Al-Zuhufi’s most difficult climb was in Lebanon, and he said it was both physically and emotionally stressful. He highlighted the importance of trust between climbers and belayers.

Zaki Kazmi has trained many people for various levels of climbing. (Photo/Supplied)

“Physical because the route was very high so it drained my muscles by the time I got to the hardest point in the route, and emotional because the whole area was new to me, I was climbing with people that I had met for the first time so I did not spend enough climbing time with them to build the trust needed between the climber and belayer.”  “And I never finished that route,” he added.

Saudi-based couple from Pakistan 30-year-old civil engineer Zaki Kazmi and 24-year-old biologist Arshia Zahra Akhtar created an Instagram page (@ our_monkey_business) that documented their rock-climbing adventures in the Kingdom.

The couple said the climbing community is small in general and particularly in the Kingdom, however, it is now rapidly growing.

“It is more of a sport which is learned from each other and through experience. Thus, we always welcomed and supported new climbers. For 8 years in Saudi, I have already trained many people for various levels of climbing, especially outdoors. My wife has also served as a trainer for indoor climbing at a local ladies’ gym, Riyadh,” Kazmi told Arab News.

“We welcome and are available to guide anyone who is interested in the sport or just wants to try the experience,” he added.

Kazmi said he enjoyed climbing in Tanomah, a small town in the south, between Baha and Abha. “I call it the “Yosemite of Saudi Arabia”. I first climbed there in 2016 before it was completely developed by the Saudi Climbing Foundation.”

“The supportive community, dynamic landscape and the rapid development of new climbing places should position Saudi Arabia in one of the top adventure travel destinations.”

He said rock climbing is therapeutic and a chance to connect with nature, away from city distractions.

“Rock climbing is a sport which is nearest to nature. It gives climbers a chance to get away from the city lights and hustle-bustle and get their dose of weekly meditation. It is not just a sport of physical exertion, but also mental strength. A person can strengthen their mental and physical health with continuous climbing therapy.”

Akhtar is currently pursuing her MD/Ph.D. in the US and continues to rock climb there. She said the Kingdom has ideal rock climbing spots and the Saudi climbing community is extremely supportive and welcoming.

“I have climbed in Massachusetts and Texas in the US, while studying here, and I can say Saudi Arabia does have quality rock climbing locations. The country has endless potential and so many places are yet to be explored, so it is definitely a hidden gem,” she told Arab News.

“The Saudi climbing community is extremely supportive and welcoming, along with the availability of a vast range of climbing and bouldering routes. So if you are an adrenaline junkie, looking for new climbing routes and are down to explore untouched places; you need to climb in Saudi,” she added.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Young Saudis help restore and preserve ancient stone castles in Jazan

Time: 08 September 2020

The 40-strong restoration team includes engineers, architecture enthusiasts and others. The youngsters were motivated to restore the castles due to a huge influx of Saudi and foreign tourists who visit the area each year to enjoy its architectural and artistic beauty. (Photos/Supplied)
  • Al-Dayer is a mountainous governorate that is home to a great number of stone palaces

MAKKAH: Forty young Saudis from Al-Dayer governorate in the south of the Kingdom have started restoration and preservation work on historical stone castles in the region, to help protect them from damage caused by heavy rain and floods.

Under the guidance of experts in the field, they began by repairing damaged canals.
“Al-Dayer is a mountainous governorate in Jazan that is home to a great number of stone palaces and castles, to the point where some people see it as the largest archaeological concentration of historical castles in the world,” said Yehya Sharif Al-Maliki, an adviser to the restoration team.
Almost every part of the region has forts and castles, he added. Al-Yehya area alone is home to a large number, along with five small villages.
“After noticing the effects of climate factors and manmade practices, the team fenced off the sites and began to restore the castles, in line with technical consultations, to preserve their very old, historical value,” he said.
The castles date back as far as 4,000 years and are renowned for their strength and outstanding durability, Al-Maliki added. In 1940, for example, an earthquake of magnitude 6.7 struck the area and the castles were not damaged at all.
He said the restoration team includes engineers, architecture enthusiasts and others. They were motivated to restore the castles by the large numbers of Saudi and foreign tourists attracted each year by their architectural and artistic beauty.

FASTFACTS

• Dating back as far as 4,000 years, these castles are renowned for their strength.

• The historical castles of Al-Dayer feature ancient inscriptions and engravings.

• Al-Yehya is on the slopes of Al-Areef mountains, surrounded by virgin forests to the east and water-rich valleys.

“The historical castles of Al-Dayer feature ancient inscriptions and engravings, reflecting the religious culture of the Himyarite and Sabaean civilizations,” said Al-Maliki. “Linarite, a type of stone known for being abnormally strong, was used in building these castles, thus preserving these inscriptions for thousands of years.”

The leader of the restoration team, Jaber Ali Al-Maliki, said some villages in the region have experienced natural disasters, which motivated the team to take the initiative to protect the castles from the effects of strong winds and heavy rainfall.
“The team has repaired the canals and fenced off the sites, especially the castles that are located in residential neighborhoods, which increases the chance of their collapse,” he said.
Local residents interested in preserving heritage and culture have joined the preservation efforts and a “plan of action has been developed to study the restoration priorities” he added
Al-Yehya is on the slopes of Al-Areef mountains, surrounded by virgin forests to the east and water-rich valleys, including a manmade valley to the west, created long ago, with lavish architecture that showcases the rich history of the area and its peoples.
Although the geographical location of the area provided it with some protection from invasion and conquest by the armies and nations that have ruled the region since ancient times, such as the Sabaeans and Himyarites, the influence of these eras and cultures can be seen in the architecture.
“These castles reflect the architectural advancement of the successive civilizations,” said Jaber Ali Al-Maliki. “Built with beautiful stones, some of these castles are higher than four floors, with wooden doors and geometric patterns.”

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi Arabia’s Fayfa, land of hanging gardens, offers tourists unique experience

06/09/20

Cylindrical mountain homes are unique to this region where the locals used to give each house a nickname, by which the owners of the house would be known. (SPA)

  • The fertile land is perfect for growing cereals, fruits and aromatic plants and the agricultural terraces on the mountain sides are a magnificent sight

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s stunning Fayfa Mountains — rising more than 2,000 meters above sea level and also known as “The Neighbors of the Moon” — are an ideal tourist destination.
The road to the mountains rises above the clouds, with steep slopes that are a dream for hikers and lovers of adventure.
The mountains’ highest point is Al-Absiyya, which is surrounded by the valleys of Dhamd and Jawra from the north and the west.
From here, visitors can enjoy a beautiful panorama of almost all the mountains in the region, towering over green spaces and farms, as well as the amazing scent of flowers carried on the breeze.
Al-Sima’a is another of the region’s most famous sites, overlooking the neighboring valleys and mountains, and the towns of Jazan, Sabia and Abu Arish, as well as the Jazan Valley Dam and other attractions.
The region enjoys a mild climate all year round, and its inhabitants rely mainly on agriculture as a source of income.
The fertile land is perfect for growing cereals, fruits and aromatic plants and the agricultural terraces on the mountain sides are a magnificent sight. Fayfa is also renowned for its coffee. The local farmers follow traditional practices handed down from their ancestors, based on the astrological cycle, using relative location of the sun — and which “house” it is in — to plan the planting and harvesting of their crops.
Their cylindrical mountain homes are unique to this region of Saudi Arabia, and the local inhabitants used to give each house a nickname, by which the owners of the house would also be known.
Often, these names were related to specific events, or simply a descriptive term.
Fayfa’s residents also have their own unique dialect, which researchers believe originated from ancient literary Arabic, but was later influenced by the Himyarite language creating a vocabulary that is only used in this region.

This article was first published in Arab News

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