Saudi Arabia’s first art book fair comes to Jeddah

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Updated 10 February 2018
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Saudi Arabia’s first art book fair comes to Jeddah

JEDDAH: Art Books Jeddah opened its gates to visitors on Thursday at Jeddah’s Athr Gallery. The fair will run until Sunday, acting as a focal point for those passionate about art publishing in Saudi Arabia.
Misk Art Institute (MAI), founded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, collaborated with Crossway Foundation, Fully Booked and Bricklab to create Saudi Arabia’s first art book fair. MAI supports Vision 2030, empowering the art scene in Saudi Arabia and particularly women, as they make up 50 percent of the fair’s exhibitors.
Athr Gallery’s pavilion has hosted independent creative publishers, artists and designers working on printed art. It has provided a cozy space for people to explore local artists’ books and design publications, and brought together diverse individuals and collaborations. The comfortable ambience and rooftop space allowed for discussions between exhibitors and the public about the works on display.
Hamza Serafi, Athr Gallery founder, told Arab News. “The book fair is our latest event, along with The Clocks Are Striking Thirteen, in collaboration with Misk; it’s a traveling show and this year it started in Jeddah, while later it might go on to other places.
“The Clocks Are Striking Thirteen is part of 21,39, which is a local initiative of the Saudi art concept to promote art in Jeddah,” he said. “It searches the identity of reality, what it is and isn’t, and the diversity of reality. It raises questions, not depending on collective memory, but on looking and searching to challenge reality. In addition to that, we have video art and some installations.”
Nada Al-Tuwaijri, head of media and communications at Misk, told Arab News: “The purpose of the Misk Art Institute is to shed light on the arts and culture scene in Saudi Arabia, which was always underground. Today, we can proudly say that we have a platform supported by the government that we can work within. We’ve got plenty of partnerships and collaborations with international institutions in the pipeline. We launched our international program at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and we appreciate the support we had from these partnerships. In a short period of time we managed to prove how powerful the scene is, hence the acceptance of these grand institutions to support us.”
On MAI’s upcoming projects, Al-Tuwaijri promised a number of impressive acts such as Art Dubai in March, followed by the Venice Biennale: the first Saudi pavilion, a first for the Kingdom.
France’s former Minister of Culture, Jack Lang, spoke to Arab News about the importance of such events. “Saudi Arabia is a fabulous country, rich in art and culture. I hope to establish Arab artists in France, and vice versa, bring French artists here. After all, art is universal. This is my third time in Saudi Arabia, and the art scene is exciting, changing and is very creative. The atmosphere is marvelous. People are living, and they’re kind and open.”
Fatima Al-Banawi, actor and the brains behind The Other Story, told Arab News: “I started The Other Story in 2015, when I began asking people to write down their stories, anonymously and handwritten.”
Al-Banawi set out looking for people in small companies, universities, cafes, bazaars, festivals and places where she could connect with people. She approached people openly about the purpose of her project: to engage on a human level, which is why the stories are anonymous and handwritten. She wished for people to connect with these stories rather than judge based on name or occupation or race, to connect outside a person’s background.
“They’re very intimate, and I wanted them raw and imperfect, taken on the spot, because that’s human nature and we tend to forget,” Al-Banawi said.
“The moment I see people crying, connecting, hugging, I feel like the project is going somewhere,” she said.
She hopes to publish The Other Story by April, with seven different themes with additional biographical introduction followed by people’s letters. “I’ve written so much in it, by connecting the stories about family, love and relationships, travel and the universe, art and career, self-reflection and growth, loss, growth and resilience and moments in life.”
Other featured exhibitors include: Basmah Felemban, Destination Jeddah, Kartt & Co, Radwan Brothers, Thinktank, Mazin Maimani, Sarah Taibah, Design Magazine, Nur Taibah, Zahra Dar, Omar Hashani, Shoes & Drama, Zainab Almashat, WTD Magazine, Tribe Magazine, Finjan by Daveeda Shaheen, Raheem Bukhari, Abeer Bajandouh and Sarah Ali.


Hajj 2018: What’s on pilgrims’ bucket lists

Masjid Quba in Madinah is a favorite destination for Hajj pilgrims, according to tour guides. Below: The Cave of Hira, Al-Baqi’ cemetery and the Prophet’s Chamber allow visitors to step back in time. (Getty Images)
Updated 11 min 21 sec ago
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Hajj 2018: What’s on pilgrims’ bucket lists

  • A number of companies in Makkah and Madinah help people organize their trips, making sure they cover the important sites in the two holy cities
  • Most of the sites in the two holy cities are spiritual, giving pilgrims a sense of the prophecies

RIYADH: Hajj is one of the biggest dreams of every Muslim’s life, and pilgrims looking forward to their stay in Makkah and Madinah say a bucket list is the best way to plan the trip. 

Most of the sites in the two holy cities are spiritual, giving pilgrims a sense of the prophecies. Standing in the places of the Holy Prophet transports them back to the past as if they lived those incredible moments. 

A number of companies in Makkah and Madinah help people organize their trips, making sure they cover the important sites in the two holy cities.

Sayed Shafei, an operation manager for City Sightseeing, a tour company in Madinah and worldwide, told Arab News: “We offer a special tour with a multilingual tour guide presented in eight languages. We also offer 24-hour tickets. We have scheduled tourism trips starting from the Prophet’s Mosque to 12 destinations every 30 minutes. The whole trip lasts for 14 hours a day.” 

Asked about the most popular requests, Shafei said: “Our customers always ask to visit Masjid Quba, the Sayed Al-Shuhada Mosque in Uhud, which is considered a vital historic landmark of Madinah, and Al-Qiblatain Mosque.” 

Most of the group’s customers are from East Asia, but many also visit from Kuwait, Bahrain, the UAE, Indonesia, Malaysia, the US and Europe.

Munirah Al-Jebreen, an English instructor at Princess Noura University who will perform Hajj this year, told Arab News her bucket list began with an online search. 

“I found a travel guide on Google that has all the best sites in Madinah and Makkah, so I decided to visit Uthman ibn Affan’s Farm and Well in Madinah, the Holy Qur’an exhibition, and one of the most important places I want to visit is the grave of the Holy Prophet,” she said.

The area between the Prophet’s Chamber, which holds his grave, and the Mimbar is known as the Rawdah, which is actually the Garden of Paradise. It is presently distinguished by a green carpet.

Al-Jebreen also listed some of her planned tour destinations in Makkah, including the Cave of Hira, where the Holy Prophet meditated frequently during the first 40 years of his life and the site of the first revelation. 

She will also visit Bilal Mosque and Mount Abu Qubais and, finally, will try Al-Garmushi, one of the famous traditional restaurants in Makkah.