Country gears up for National Day

Updated 02 October 2013
0

Country gears up for National Day

Jubilation is around the corner for Saudi society, which will be celebrating the country’s National Day on Monday. A myriad of cultural and recreational activities will be held to express their patriotic fervor for the nation.
Riyadh, considered the foundation for the modern Kingdom, is at the forefront of celebrations, but people in various regions are also getting ready to celebrate. Governorates are chalking out displays of Saudi heritage.
Establishments are expected to go green on the day. Hundreds of shops are busy selling merchandise to children and youth, ranging from bracelets to portraits of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah.
Gift shops are going green and have removed regular items from their shelves until Monday. The general price rise syndrome has not hit National Day items, as most Chinese-made items are being sold in the range of SR3 to SR150, the same prices that prevailed last year.
Caps, flags, badges, T-shirts, bracelets, rings, nontoxic facial decoration items, portraits of King Abdullah, wall posters, hand bags, shopping bags, cups, plates, large-sized eye-wear and most importantly, balloons and gift items in green, are selling out fast.
Shops in Jamiah, Kilo 5, Safa and the Balad districts sell such items and women are also flocking to these places.
Seasonal street vendors have also risen to the occasion, positioning themselves at roundabouts and intersections around the city to display their goods. Most of them sell flags, stickers, shumagh and scarves.
Ahmed Omar, a salesman at a leading general store in downtown Jeddah, told Arab News: “Shopping has begun much earlier this year compared to previous years and the response has been overwhelming, with customers coming even during the morning hours.” The Corniche in Jeddah will hold a series of activities over the weekend, with attractions and competitions for residents and visitors, although the Jeddah Municipality has not yet specified a venue for the celebrations.
The Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry has extended support to 40,000 students and a Saudi artist in their efforts to establish a world record by creating a 10,000 square meter map with hand prints.
Beaches in Alkhobar and Dammam will also put on firework displays on the eve of the National Day.
In Riyadh, the municipality has earmarked seven different locations for festivities.


Enigmatic traveler who revealed full majesty of Makkah to the world

Pilgrims camp in Arafat during Hajj in this rare old picture. (Supplied)
Updated 11 min ago
0

Enigmatic traveler who revealed full majesty of Makkah to the world

  • The next day he and his companions wore Ihram garments and walked along winding roads until they reached Makkah
  • The vessel floundered and sank, forcing Al-Abbasi and his men to flee in a lifeboat and row for hours before reaching the safety of a Red Sea island

JEDDAH: Ali Bey Al-Abbasi was not the first European enamored with the Arab Peninsula and the mysteries of Makkah. Nor was he the first Westerner to visit the city — but he was an unusually resourceful man, with wealth of unknown origin and a great thirst for discovery, who provided Westerners with the first comprehensive account of the city.
He was born Domingo Francisco Jorge Badía y Leblich in Barcelona in 1767. After receiving a liberal education, he focused on astronomy, medicine and mineral science. He also developed an interest in learning Arabic.
“Al-Abbasi was an agent of the king of Spain or of Napoleon,” says August Raleigh, author of the book “Makkah in the Eyes of a Christian Pilgrim.”
In 1801, Al-Abbasi set off for Paris and London, returning to Spain two years later wearing Islamic clothing. Later, he formed a close friendship with the sultan of Morocco who, with growing affection, advised the Spaniard to find a wife, to which Al-Abbasi replied that he had made a pledge not to marry before visiting Makkah. The sultan tried to discourage Al-Abbasi from making the trip but when he could not, and saw the determination of his friend, he presented him with a beautiful, extravagant tent as a gift.
On the third day of Shawwal, 1806, Al-Abbasi joined a convoy heading to Makkah, taking with him 14 camels and two horses. He boarded a ship from Suez but fate, and the weather, were not on his side. The vessel floundered and sank, forcing Al-Abbasi and his men to flee in a lifeboat and row for hours before reaching the safety of a Red Sea island. From there, they were rescued and taken to Jeddah.
On the 12th day of Dul Qaada, Al-Abbasi had to be carried on a stretcher because he had a fever that weakened him and damaged his bones. The next day he and his companions wore Ihram garments and walked along winding roads until they reached Makkah.
Al-Abbasi entered the city and when he reached the courtyard of the mosque, a guide gestured for him to stop. He pointed to the Kaaba and said: “Look. Look at the house of God.”
The Spaniard was deeply affected by the reverence of his experience. He wrote: “The house of God is covered with a black robe from above to be draped, surrounded by a ring of lamps, the unaccustomed hour and the stillness of the night; and our guide, who was speaking before us as if he were inspired, all these images formed an amazing image that will not be erased from my memory.”
He remained in the city, living among noblemen and aristocrats. The governor of Makkah even asked him to help clean the Kaaba. Describing one of the many incredible sights that he witnessed, during a year when the number of pilgrims was 83,000, Al-Abbasi wrote: “Only in Arafat can one get an idea of the majestic scene of pilgrimage. There are countless people from all nations and colors from every corner of the world. Despite the thousands of countless dangers and obstacles that they had to overcome, all of them worship one God. Everyone counts themselves as members of one family. There is no intermediary between man and his Lord; everyone is equal before their creator.”
Al-Abbasi, who later wrote of his experiences, was the first European to present to the world a detailed account of Makkah, unlike the fragmented notes of earlier travelers such as Ludovico di Varthema and Joseph Bates. He went so far as to include a precise location, determined through astronomical observation, and recreated a map of the Grand Mosque.
Al-Abbasi continued to travel, visiting many countries before he died of dysentery in 1818, in Aleppo, Syria. He was buried in Balqa, near Amman, the capital of Jordan.