Jazan Heritage Village brings centuries of tradition in one place

Visitors can experience ancient commercial life in the souq, where archaeological artifacts, traditional pots and aromatic plants are displayed.
Updated 02 January 2018
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Jazan Heritage Village brings centuries of tradition in one place

JAZAN: Jazan Heritage Village, at the southern Jazan corniche, is a cultural landmark that captures the ancient history of Jazan, linking it to its flourishing present.

Visitors to this village can see the province’s past displayed through live symbols of the cultural and civilizational diversity of the region’s different environments and terrains.

The village was established in 2009 based on directives of the governor of Jazan, Prince Muhammad bin Nasser bin Abdul Aziz, following the success of the first Jazan Winter Festival, which honored the region’s heritage and archaeological treasures. The village has become the permanent venue for this festival.

The village’s visitors are first met by its gate, which leads to the traditional three-story house, Al Baitul Jabali, with its solid architecture that was specially designed to suit the mountain’s environment and overcome natural erosion.

Further into the village, visitors can see Al Baitul Tihami, the traditional Jazan hut made of mud, which gave it the name Al Ousha Attiniya (the mud nest). This house’s dwellers enjoyed the simplicity and elegance of the Tihami lifestyle.

Al Baitul Farasani is connected to the village by a bridge. This traditional house is an embodiment of Farasan Island with its sea, pearls, and shells.

In the center of the village, visitors can experience ancient commercial life in the souk (the traditional market), where archaeological artifacts, traditional pots, and aromatic plants are displayed. The air here is filled with the aroma of pandanus tectorius and Arabian jasmine. The souk also contributes to promoting the region’s old crafts, and attracts artisans to display their products.

The heritage village focuses on showing the different cultural aspects of Jazan, including traditional arts and folkloric colors, in addition to offering cultural heritage programs, special programs for children and youth, and poetry reading events.

The village captures the lifestyles of people who inhabited Jazan long ago and used natural resources to build houses, furniture, and utensils, turning Jazan into a great civilization. This village connects the past generations with the current one in hopes of further work and development.

Every year, the Jazan Heritage Village welcomes large numbers of visitors who come to enjoy the region’s heritage, cuisine, and shops during the Jazan Winter Festival.

One of the village’s important craftsmen, Mohammed Ahmed Al-Ghamari, crafts ancient daggers and swords, which is a profession passed down to him from his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather; in addition, he makes agricultural tools from iron, like axes.

“The Ghamari swords and daggers are famous in Jazan for being some of the region’s finest swords due their high quality and professional craftsmanship,” he said.

“The daggers and swords’ grips are made from deer antlers and bones,” he continued. “They are sculpted in a way that makes the sword or dagger more beautiful.”

“The blades of the daggers and swords are made of solid steel, sharpened, and sculpted by hand using my special lathe,” he added.

Al-Ghamari also explained that these products are priced differently compared to imported swords and daggers because of the great difference in quality.

“Imported swords largely impact our centuries-old craft and trade,” he said. “The swords we make cost at least SR1,000 ($267), depending on the effort put into sculpting it, while imported ones cost a maximum of SR120 — some even cost as little as SR30.”

Moreover, the city of Jazan is famous for its sesame oil presses. Sesame oil is sold to visitors at varying prices.

In the souk’s center, there is a model of an ancient sesame oil press, which was traditionally camel powered; camels would be tied to the mill in a certain manner and would circle it in order to press the sesame.


How Saudis are adapting to fast-changing life in the Kingdom

Women and children attend Saudi Arabia’s first-ever jazz festival in Riyadh on Feb. 23. (Reuters)
Updated 16 July 2018
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How Saudis are adapting to fast-changing life in the Kingdom

  • A retired psychologist Dr. Abdulrahman Al-Sobihi, 53, explains why the recent big changes in the Saudi Arabia have been accepted so easily.
  • Umm Al-Qura instructor Abdulrahman Al-Haidari says what's even more amazing most of the Saudis who have taken up education abroad are returning to help in the Kingdom's modernization program.

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia is undergoing major changes to meet the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 objectives. These significant changes have had an impact on locals socially and psychologically. 

A retired psychologist Dr. Abdulrahman Al-Sobihi, 53, explains how humans adapt to change.

“Humans find it difficult to accept change. It is a human trait, humans face fear and anxiety when it comes to change, they want things to stay the way they are because they fear the changes may bring disadvantages and negative outcomes. For this reason, governments face many difficulties when implementing new programs and activities,” Al-Sobihi told Arab News.

To understand why the big changes in the Kingdom have been accepted so easily, Al-Sobihi said, one has to look at the social and psychological pressures before they occurred.

“What is beautiful and sad about this is that our society accepted this change so quickly. Why? because it went through a period called Al-Sahwa (awakening) and this period pressured society. Everything was forbidden, shameful and wrong, this long period pressured society psychologically and socially.

“So when the major changes happened, society found an outlet. Therefore, they accepted these changes so quickly. Not because our society adapts to change quickly, but because of the period spent in the “awakening” period. It delayed so many natural changes that happen in any other society. What happened to our society was that some things were permanent for so long — when the chance came to receive all these changes, most were very welcoming to these changes.”

Umm Al-Qura instructor Abdulrahman Al-Haidari said the Kingdom has changed amazingly in the last few years.

“The country keeps going from one amazing phase of development after another. Who would imagine that 70 years ago, this land had displayed the poorest statistics in terms of economy, population, life expectations, education, and individual rights. It’s amazing how one generation ago we went from teaching in ill-equipped huts, to reach some of the most advanced educational projects where our students get to send Saudi satellites to outer space.”

Al-Haidari explained that the country had welcomed women into their new empowered roles within a short period of time.

“Today, we are going even further and faster with neck-breaking speed. Saudi’s ability of modernizing, and yet keeping true to its own culture and origins makes this country the center of attention: In one day, Majlis Al-Shoura had third of its positions filled with Saudi women. Suddenly we had Saudi women as vice ministers, engineers, PhDs, doctors and nurses and in all other sorts of fields. 

“It’s amazing (when you consider) that my own generation was raised to not even allow a Saudi women to voice her thoughts in public, to let them share the wheel, steering the country’s march toward modernization.”

Saudis have embraced change, Al-Haidari added. “We can see how people are accepting change in the manner they approach the new festivals, we see musical events being sold out, (as well as) wrestling, cooking, even military and weapon production. However, I believe the most undeniable indicator for the Saudis’ welcoming attitude toward change is clearly displayed with the return of almost all overseas scholarship students.

“Just like myself, hundreds of thousands were sent overseas to learn, and almost none of them had any contract to be forced to come back to Saudi: But yet, they did, and still do. What could be more clearer than having the most elite and educated population of Saudi (if not even the world) wanting to come back home to advance both their careers and their country’s (future)?”

The majority of the nation adapted to the new social dynamics such as women working in the same fields and ranks as men, and the number of Saudi women in media, Al-Haidari added.

“Doubters were shown how much the community is longing to advance the role of the Saudi women. It would be so hard to even try to doubt that: Starting with Majles Al-Shoura having a third of its seats filled by Saudi women, having the issue of Saudi women’s right to drive as the first topic addressed, and now reaching the point where they will finally get some of their rights fulfilled finally. 

“You can also see the Saudi population welcoming this change: You can see that with the families that attended recent soccer matches in stadiums, families on YouTube supporting their wives, sisters, and mothers to drive, and not to forget: Thousands of Saudi girls going overseas to obtain their higher education. These are just a fraction of the current manifestations displayed by the Saudi community to show its welcome to Saudi women to take their rightful place, and to help the community grow with the help of all its members.”

Commenting about the General Entertainment Authority that changed much of the societal landscape, Al-Haidari said: “I find it to be amazing. Who would have thought a year ago that World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) would come and have an event here? Who would have thought that we would get (Algerian musician) Cheb Khaled or (US hip-hop artist) Nelly to come and perform in Saudi? Who would have thought that it would have been this easy and quick to establish cinemas, female gyms, even a whole opera theater a year ago? Of course, we still want more, and much more. But the trend is going so quick and so fast showing that we are to expect great events and functions to come in the near future.”

YouTuber Rahaf Jambi, 27, described how the country’s economy has diversified. “We just don’t count on oil now, the economy is growing better. It’s true that we are at war with Yemen, but this didn’t stop the Kingdom from growing and there are a lot of improvements, there are a lot of human rights fulfilled. Women driving, this is one of the main important things that happened and it will be good for the Kingdom because it will improve the market.

“Women will not have to rely on drivers. It’s a better opportunity for Saudis to work in transportation companies such as Uber and Careem, even the girls can work in this field, and girls can become police officers,” Jambi told Arab News. 

“Having cinema in the Kingdom is a good thing — we will have more Saudi movies and movies that will be produced in Saudi Arabia. It’s going to be a good environment for Saudi talent.”

With women working in the same fields as men and reaching high ranks, and the many women emerging in the media, Jambi added: “I see a bright future for women.”

Jambi said he hoped big name world brands such as Apple would come to the Kingdom. “We need the Apple store in the Kingdom, we need a lot of brands to open in the Kingdom.”