140 Saudis, 14 Americans honored for returning priceless artefacts to SCTH

Visitors look at artefacts on display at the first Saudi Antiquities Forum in Riyadh on Thursday. (Photo by Ahmed Fathi)
Updated 10 November 2017

140 Saudis, 14 Americans honored for returning priceless artefacts to SCTH

RIYADH: The Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH) honored 140 citizens during the first Antiquities Forum of Saudi Arabia for their contributions in returning a large number of artefacts to the commission.
The citizens stressed that their response was to the call of Prince Sultan bin Salman, the president of SCTH, and handing in the antiques was a national duty which aims to highlight the history and culture of the Kingdom and its role in human civilization.
The pieces will be displayed in museums across the Kingdom and will be seen by citizens, residents and tourists alike. The honored citizens also praised the role of King Salman in the preservation of the national heritage and history, and they advised other citizens who may have antiquities to return them to the SCTH.
Arab News met some of these honored citizens and talked to them about their motives and feelings.
Eid Al-Yahya, the presenter of the famous TV program “In the Footsteps of the Arabs,” is one of the honored citizens.
Al-Yahya said he found the artefacts in different places during his trips to archaeological sites and immediately turned them over to the SCTH.
He added that these antiquities he returned date back to 700 BC; one of them is a statue of a king of Lihyan, which he found in Um Daraj Temple in the town of Al-Ula while filming an episode of his TV program in 2015. He also found a cup which was used for incense during that era.
Another citizen, Mohammed Al-Humud, said he returned 25 artefacts from the Riyadh area. Some of these belonged to the stone age, one to the pre-Islamic era, and some belonged to the beginning of the Islamic era.
Al-Humud said he bought some of the antiquities from auctions in Riyadh. “I want people to see them because they reflect the civilization and history of the Kingdom.”
On the other hand, the Saudi Embassy in Washington honored 14 American citizens, who used to work in Kingdom, for returning artefacts to the SCTH.
The ceremony took place at the embassy and coincided with the first Saudi Antiquities Forum in Riyadh. Sami Al-Sadhan, the deputy of the ambassador, gave certificates of honor to the American citizens.

Saudi Arabia's Cabinet approves new tobacco license regulation

Updated 1 min 4 sec ago

Saudi Arabia's Cabinet approves new tobacco license regulation

  • Annual license will cost more than $26,000
  • New law could lead to more vaping, says expert

JEDDAH: Cafes and restaurants in Saudi Arabia will have to pay up to SR100,000 ($26,675) a year to sell tobacco products inside and outside their premises, after the Cabinet approved a new licensing regulation.

Saudi Arabia was one of the first countries to ratify the World Health Organization (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in 2005, an ambitious plan to reduce smoking rates from 12.7 percent to 5 percent by 2030.

The Health Ministry has taken steps to curb smoking through awareness campaigns and cessation clinics. Taxes on cigarettes doubled in 2017, leading to a 213 percent increase in smokers seeking help to kick the habit in the months that followed.

Saudi restaurant owner Hassan Moriah supported the Cabinet decision, although he said customers would be hit the hardest.

“Every restaurant and café manager should be licensed to provide this service. I believe all restaurants and cafés will support this decision too, but I believe the only people who will be affected by this decision are the customers,” he told Arab News. “All outlets will raise the price of hookahs. The actual people who would be paying for it to reach SR100,000 are the customers and not the cafés. Yes, there will be people who cannot afford to pay the new prices and they may have to cut down on their hookah consumption.”

The new regulation would also affect places that were not so popular, he added.

Associate professor of history at Middle Tennessee State University Dr. Sean Foley, who is writing a book on smoking in Saudi Arabia and the wider Muslim world, said the new law was part of the Kingdom’s attempts to address a serious health crisis while also meeting a goal of the Vision 2030 reform plan to move away from non-oil revenues.

“While raising cigarette taxes is a proven strategy for reducing smoking, the new SR100,000 annual fee for Saudi restaurants to permit patrons to smoke may be even more important,” he told Arab News. “Many restaurants may not be able to afford to pay for such an expensive permit, so there is likely to be less smoking in restaurants. That would mean there will be fewer people exposed to second-hand smoke in restaurants, itself a serious problem, and existing smokers would have a powerful new incentive to quit. Studies have consistently shown that creating smoke-free areas is one of the most powerful tools to motivate and help existing tobacco users to quit while preventing new smokers from picking up the habit.”

"The academic, who has written "Changing Saudi Arabia: Art, Culture, and Society in the Kingdom" published this year, said the Kingdom had some of the highest smoking rates in the world.

He added that the problem was getting worse as the number of smokers in Saudi Arabia was expected to rise from six million to 10 million in the coming years.

He warned that while there was the danger of a rise in smuggling and other black-market activities — because of the higher costs associated with smoking — there were other challenges too.

“The real danger is not the rise in black-market activity but that Saudis will continue to switch in large numbers to a product that is currently legal to use — vaping. While purchasing any of the products associated with vaping is illegal in the Kingdom, it is legal to vape in public and many Saudis buy vape juice and vape modules online.”