New book looks at fascinating Riyadh

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Updated 30 November 2012
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New book looks at fascinating Riyadh

Mohsen Al-Dajani grew up as a bedouin in the desert of Arabia. Each night he would gaze at the stars in the sky before going to sleep. Al-Dajani launched his second book “Riyadh, Heart of Arabia” here Wednesday and opened his gallery show along Uroba Road where his unique works will be on display for the next five days.
“This book is my second station in a long journey to explore the hidden beauty of Saudi Arabia,” Al-Dajani said. “My discovery of Saudi cities started with Taif, which was the theme of my first book, ‘Taif of Arabia’ in 2009. I will continue to explore every corner of what I believe remains of the undiscovered land.”
He added: “When the flock headed to see faraway places, I chose to remain in the nest, stopping by places with a critical mind and eye, where most have just passed quickly by, unaware of a remarkable undiscovered beauty.”
It is the first English book about Riyadh since 1983. “We spent more than three years in the making, the research part is approved by Darah, and reviewed by Awaidhah Al-Juhani at King Saud University with support of Abdulaziz bin Slema at the Ministry of Culture and Information” he observed.
He continued: “Driving my beloved Range Rover along never-ending streets, from one wadi to another, from the top of ancient escarpments, down to the golden dunes at their base: a camera secured to a tripod on my shoulder, working on this project has become a veteran’s mission during these last three years."
He points out that through this book, he is “striving to give valuable information together with fine images: we will help you discover the city’s past through its remaining gems; its attractive desert and raw nature; and a plethora of modern sites scattered around the city.”
Al-Dajani, who is an artist by hobby, observes that after living in the desert and open country during his early life, he had to move to the city to pursue his education. He attended King Faisal Air Academy in 1992 and graduated in 1995 as a fighter pilot to serve in the Royal Saudi Air Force. He now works as a lieutenant colonel and fighter pilot instructor for F-15.
He often felt that life in a big city was like living as a caged bird. His love for the beauty of nature inspired his interest in photography. As a result, his camera eventually replaced his hunting rifle.
Riyadh Gov. Prince Sattam says in the preface of the book: "The story of Riyadh has been a remarkable success story in terms of its growth and development unlike any in the region for over half a century.
"It reflects hard work and dedication of the government, which transformed Riyadh into an oasis of luxury and well-being for present and future generations."
He said that not only is Riyadh the capital city of the Kingdom, but it is also a leading national center, housing world-class institutions and administrative bodies, and attracting political activities, educational, health, cultural, economic and environmental organizations. Besides being an incubator for international and regional bodies, it also serves as a global model of contemporary urban development in its various forms.
Despite its short life compared to many other capitals around the world, Prince Sattam notes that, “Riyadh’s journey to where it is now has been long in experience, unique in its performance and ambitious in its goals.”
Riyadh has become a humanitarian and contemporary oasis and also a model for others to follow, besides being a home for all to achieve their ambitions and live comfortably. The idea, materials and images in this book have been collected and photographed over a span of three years.
Al-Dajani said: “During the period we were fortunate to have met many people who helped us bring this book to reality. Their support and encouragement formed the backbone that helped us in our research, writing and traveling.
"To produce something at the end of the day that we think is deserving of the city of Riyadh.
The Kingdom is a vast country the size of Western Europe, occupying an area of 2.24 million sq. km, making it the world’s 14th largest country. However, the bulk of this huge land is desert; dry hot and barren. No one could survive in such a harsh and tough environment except camels, palm trees and we the Bedouins of this country."
“This is why most of the country’s population was nomadic until about 50 years when my people began to reside in settlements as a result of the new oil revenue,” he adds.
Co-author Brian Salter observes that when he first arrived in Saudi Arabia in 1998, he went to work in Jeddah; but he did not move to Riyadh until a few years later. At the time he did not have a clue what to expect.
As he puts it: “Riyadh — even a decade ago — was still relatively unknown as a destination, except for travelers making their way to the holy cities as part of their Haj or Umrah journeys, and I remembered searching almost in vain for information both in bookshops and on the Internet.”
He continues: “What I do remember was how little colleagues and friends in Jeddah knew about the Saudi capital. There seemed to be tremendous gulf between the populations of these two great cities and many of my Jeddah friends were frankly incredulous that I should be the slightest bit interested in actually wanting to visit the place. I was lucky to have arrived in the cooler winter months for at the start of my new job I had no transport. That gave me the incentive to walk around the city whenever possible, discovering back streets that I would never have used had I been driving as I did later on.”
Salter points out that he was able to get a good feel for the geography of the city as he plodded the shortest routes from point a to point b helped by his invaluable GPS unit. “What I found surpassed even my wildest expectations. Unlike many other cities in the Gulf region, here was a city steeped in history. Its architecture was truly stunning — a conglomeration of buildings that truly pushed the boundaries in merging modern design with comfortable living. It was a city filled with parks and museums with shopping centers that rubbed shoulders with historical sites.”
He concludes: “And the history that was inexorably locked up in both the old and the new, as modern developments strived to incorporate a feel for what had gone before, made the place even more fascinating to explore. The fact that Riyadh was changing so fast also added to the excitement of a city that never slept. Because change was going on all around, it was easy not to appreciate the small, subtle changes that gradually changed the face of the city.”


World Scouting, Saudi Arabian Scout Association discuss global assessment tool

SASA has been helping Hajj pilgrims for 47 years. (SPA)
Updated 10 min 56 sec ago
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World Scouting, Saudi Arabian Scout Association discuss global assessment tool

  • The association prepared for the jamboree by setting up a radio station in its headquarters of the association in Riyadh

JEDDAH: World Scouting, represented by the Global Support Assessment Committee (GSAT), held a meeting with the members of the secretariat of the Saudi Arabian Scout Association (SASA) at its headquarters in Riyadh on Sunday.
They discussed the final evaluation stages by using the Global Support Assessment Tool (GSAT) adopted by the World Scouting for the assessment of its member countries.
The meeting also reviewed the criteria for global evaluation and all its procedures to ensure quality.
The Saudi association joined the World Organization of the Scout Movement (WOSM) in 1963 and hosted the Arab Jamboree in Taif in 2000. There are over 50 million Scouts in the world and 28 million of them are Muslim.
SASA has been helping Hajj pilgrims for 47 years, adapting along the way to keep up with changing times and making use of new technologies.
Recently, SASA took part in the World Scout Jamboree Jota 61 on the Air and Joti 22 on the internet. The association prepared for the jamboree by setting up a radio station in its headquarters of the association in Riyadh.