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6,000-year-old relic handed to Saudi government

Prince Sultan bin Salman, president of Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH,) honors Mohammed bin Halil Al-Balawi of Tabuk for giving the relic to the commission. (SPA)

RIYADH: Prince Sultan bin Salman, president of Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH,) received a rare archaeological piece dating to 6,000 years ago from Mohammed bin Halil Al-Balawi of Tabuk. Prince Sultan handed Al-Balawi a reward and a certificate of honor for giving the relic to the commission.
The body’s Board of Directors at the body’s headquarters in Riyadh received the artifact following the conclusion of a meeting on Tuesday, reported Saudi Press Agency.
SPA did not identify the artifact.
The Saudi law stipulates that archaeological pieces are the property of the state and citizens who find them are required to hand them over to the SCTH.
Prince Sultan said some honest citizens who find archaeological pieces make the common mistake of digging them out and then hand them over to the SCTH. It is a mistake because 50 percent of the relic’s story is in the place it was found, he said. He added that the correct way to leave the piece in its place and notify only the Antiquities Office that will handle it.
He said keeping found archaeological pieces is a crime punishable by law. He said the SCTH will launch an awareness campaign. He said the SCTH receives nearly 20,000 reports of kept or stolen artifacts.

RIYADH: Prince Sultan bin Salman, president of Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH,) received a rare archaeological piece dating to 6,000 years ago from Mohammed bin Halil Al-Balawi of Tabuk. Prince Sultan handed Al-Balawi a reward and a certificate of honor for giving the relic to the commission.
The body’s Board of Directors at the body’s headquarters in Riyadh received the artifact following the conclusion of a meeting on Tuesday, reported Saudi Press Agency.
SPA did not identify the artifact.
The Saudi law stipulates that archaeological pieces are the property of the state and citizens who find them are required to hand them over to the SCTH.
Prince Sultan said some honest citizens who find archaeological pieces make the common mistake of digging them out and then hand them over to the SCTH. It is a mistake because 50 percent of the relic’s story is in the place it was found, he said. He added that the correct way to leave the piece in its place and notify only the Antiquities Office that will handle it.
He said keeping found archaeological pieces is a crime punishable by law. He said the SCTH will launch an awareness campaign. He said the SCTH receives nearly 20,000 reports of kept or stolen artifacts.

Saudi Tourism festivals line up to delight students during mid-year break

Tourism festivals during mid-year break to host events for all segments of society.

RIYADH: The Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH) and the Tourism Development Councils (TDCs) have lined up festivals geared toward students and parents during the mid-year school break.
The festivals begin this weekend.
“The mid-year vacation will witness 41 tourism festivals in various regions of the Kingdom,” SCTH said in a statement on Wednesday.
The commission concluded preparations for these festivals, which are characterized for various segments of society.
The festivals will include heritage, tourism, sports and cultural activities. They will also feature promotional events for agricultural products, handicrafts, and recreational tourism to help further promote domestic tourism.
Abdullah bin Abdulmalek Al-Morshed, acting vice president of marketing and programs at the SCTH, said that the festivals are expected to generate good economic returns to the regions.
“In recent years such festivals have witnessed significant growth through cooperation and constructive partnerships with government and private sectors, as well as by strengthening communication with the private sector institutions and companies operating in the field of tourism,” he said.
He noted that the SCTH is always seeking to raise the levels of the activities and festivals sector in the Kingdom in parallel with the complementary services.
To prepare the complementary services in the regions, the private sector would provide integrated tourism products that would satisfy tourists and result in economic benefits to the regions, he added.
Sumaiyya Sharif, a student, said she is delighted that Thursday is the last working day before the mid-year vacation. “We have holidays to spend, to have fun, going to recreational centers in the capital and spending a good time with family,” she said.
Information: Call 19988 or visit sauditourism.com.sa.

Foundation laid for new US Consulate in Dhahran

A 3D view of the waiting area and reception of the new US Consulate General in Dhahran.

RIYADH: The groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of a new complex for the US Consulate General in Dhahran was held in the Eastern Province on Tuesday.
“Today, we begin a new chapter in the longstanding historical relationship between the US and Saudi Arabia,” Consul General Mike Hankey said.
“First established in the Eastern Province over 70 years ago, the US Consulate General in Dhahran has grown side-by-side with this community, forming a lasting partnership based on mutual friendship and respect. The new building is yet another cornerstone in our enduring relationship.”
Participants in the event included Hankey, his predecessor Joey Hood, Eastern Province Secretary-General Dr. Khalid bin Mohammed Al-Battal, Eastern Province Mayor Fahad Al-Jubeir, and other senior Saudi officials and local community leaders.
Conveying good wishes on behalf of Eastern Province Gov. Saud bin Naif, Al-Battal reaffirmed the strength and depth of US-Saudi relations.
He added that the new multi-building complex will greatly expand services for Saudis and expatriates traveling to the US, and will better support American citizens living and working in the Kingdom.
It will be situated on a 10.5-acre site in the city of Alkhobar, and will include a consulate office building, the consul general’s residence, support services buildings and facilities for consulate staff. The new complex is expected to open in 2020.

A year after curbing its power, the Saudi religious police is deemed redundant by many

Sheikh Ahmed Qassim Al-Ghamdi

JEDDAH: As Saudi Arabia marks the first anniversary of curbs placed on the religious police, people are taking to social media in an unprecedented way to criticize their previous behavior, stating they are better off without them.
This week Saudi-based social media users celebrated the anniversary of the government’s decision to limit the authority of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice or the religious police with a mixture of sarcasm, humor and serious discussion about the enforcement role of the religious establishment.
The commission’s former president of the Makkah branch, Ahmed Qasim Al-Ghamdi, is optimistic about Saudi society.
“Many people anticipated that society would plunge into moral corruption if the religious police didn’t resume its work,” Al-Ghamdi told Arab News.
“This is not only an exaggeration, but a questioning of Saudi society’s religion and ethics. The reality proves the opposite.”
Social medial user Amro bin Talal was more direct in his evaluation of society without the moral police.
“They filled the world with their screams that illegitimate children will fill the roads and that the streets will be ruled by the drug mafias... none of that happened,” he tweeted.
Another Twitter user simply wrote: “Happy anniversary.”
Hammad Al-Shammari wrote: “One year of tranquility and peace after years of tragedy, action and domination.”
The Cabinet a year ago passed regulations banning the religious police from questioning, asking for identification, pursuing, arresting or detaining anyone suspected of a crime. Those responsibilities now fall on police and anti-narcotics officers.
“The religious police hasn’t been banned but reorganized. Only its work is controlled,” Saudi blogger Hussein bin Bani told Arab News.
“The aftermath of this decision proved that Saudi society is living many illusions. The religious police is a prime example.”
Al-Ghamdi said: “A year has passed since the government’s new organization of the religious police’s work, and things in the country are proceeding in a regular manner. Morals and virtue are preserved, and all disciplinary apparatuses are in place and performing their duties in the best way.”
Many Saudis and expatriates once thought the religious police was the advocate of virtue and served as society’s immune system from moral corruption.
But “it’s absolutely not the case,” said Bin Bani. “Their absence is intangible, and contrary to some expectations we’re doing fine. We’re still the same people, living in the same society and possessing the same ethics, as our ethics stem from within. They exist in each and every one of us, and don’t need government agencies to enhance them.” He said even if the religious police was removed altogether, nothing would change.
Some people suggest establishing a substitute body to the religious police, such as an ethical police, which Bin Bani says is utterly naive and does not even reflect a society that lives in the 21st century. “The ‘making’ of ethics isn’t the government’s responsibility” he said.
Bin Bani added that Saudis are innately good, and “we don’t need the extremist version of religion.”
Saudi society has witnessed a wave of entertainment in recent months, including shows, concerts and other events.
Al-Ghamdi said the religious police’s current role of supporting the Islamic Affairs Ministry, without prejudicing people’s freedoms or judging their intentions in a way that distorts the image of religion, is correct.
He urged people to be vigilant of extremist preachers, hard-liners and radicals who limit Islam to the domination, repression and guardianship of society.
“They don’t hesitate to inflame naive people’s emotions and guide them against the homeland by exploiting pseudo-slogans to further their agendas,” Al-Ghamdi said.
However, some people miss the religious police’s presence on the streets, while others say a return should come with conditions.
“Some members must first be rehabilitated, and those with criminal records should be totally expelled. Only then can we welcome them back,” said activist and social critic Waleed Al-Dhafeeri, who has 1.34 million followers on Twitter.