Move to heighten awareness of Saudi Arabia antiquities

Updated 15 November 2017
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Move to heighten awareness of Saudi Arabia antiquities

LONDON: Archaeologists flocked to Riyadh in mid-November for an event aiming to boost understanding of Saudi Arabia’s little-known ancient past.
The Antiquities Forum held between Nov. 7-9 was the first of its kind, aiming to showcase pre-historic artefacts found in the country, as well as to highlight the role of government and the population in preserving the Kingdom’s history.
“I have never seen an archaeological convention like this,” said Michael Petraglia from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Germany, who attended the event and has worked extensively on archaeological projects in Saudi Arabia.
“There is no doubt that there is a sea-change in Saudi Arabia in respect to the support for the place of archaeology in the region and in the culture. This is a very major public display of support for archaeology.”
Petraglia led a project known as “Green Arabia” — a joint initiative between Oxford University and the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH) and funded by the European Research Council — which has revealed evidence of ancient waterways and lakes in Saudi Arabia capable of supporting animals such as hippos and elephants as well as early humans.
The research suggests the region has gone through a cycle of having a wet, green and humid environment to one of arid desert.
“It is a dramatic finding. People didn’t realize this and how important Arabia was as a stepping point between Africa and the rest of Eurasia,” Petraglia said.
Saudi Arabia is planning to build a number of new museums and support further archaeological research.
“The country has been developing its antiquities infrastructure,” said Huw Groucutt, postdoctoral fellow at the Institute of Archaeology, University of Oxford.
“There is definitely a drive to understand the ancient past of Saudi Arabia, and that is great,” he said.
Geoff Bailey, professor of archaeology at the University of York, who has been involved in Saudi Arabian projects since 2004, said: “SCTH has encouraged and greatly expanded international participation in archaeological research of all periods (Islamic, pre-Islamic, Stone Age).”
“Currently there are nearly 20 international projects of this sort, including our own,” he said.
The Antiquities Forum was held as global interest in Saudi Arabia’s past was further piqued by the publication of pictures of ancient “gates” or stone walls last month, discovered deep in the Saudi desert by the archaeologist David Kennedy, a professor of classics and ancient history at the University of Western Australia.
The stone structures were spotted using Google Earth and were built around now-extinct lava lakes, and could date back as much as 9,000 years.
As yet there is no agreement on what the gates were used for. One theory is that they were used in hunting to funnel stampeding gazelle, while another suggestion is that they were a place where rituals were conducted.


Jeddah Season provides seasonal employment for young Saudis

Updated 18 June 2019
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Jeddah Season provides seasonal employment for young Saudis

JEDDAH: The Jeddah Season festival has provided a wide range of seasonal employment opportunities for young Saudi men and women, helping them gain experience and prepare them to enter the job market.

More than 5,000 young Saudis are working around the clock, each in his or her field, to manage the festival’s activities.

The festival aims to highlight development opportunities in Saudi Arabia, introduce the Kingdom as one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, support the government’s efforts to empower Saudi youths, support local small and medium enterprises, develop Jeddah’s tourism sector and provide volunteer opportunities.

Jeddah Season, which began on June 8 and runs until July 18, has attracted thousands of visitors of all ages through its 150 local and international events and activities.

It is being held at five sites: King Abdullah Sports City, Al-Hamra Corniche, the Jeddah Waterfront, Obhur and Historic Jeddah (Al-Balad), which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Jeddah Season offers a wide range of tourism, entertainment and cultural events and activities, and sheds light on the city’s status as the Kingdom’s tourism capital. Most of its events are being held for the first time in Saudi Arabia.

Jeddah Season is in line with the Vision 2030 reform plan, which aims to advance the welfare of Saudi society, diversify local development opportunities, improve the Kingdom’s contribution to arts and culture, and create job opportunities for Saudi youths.