Gathering in Riyadh, environmental experts search for radical solution to desertification

Updated 26 April 2018
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Gathering in Riyadh, environmental experts search for radical solution to desertification

  • A number of researchers in desertification stressed the need to find sustainable solutions for agriculture
  • Desertification in the Kingdom has reached 80 percent

RIYADH: International experts on the environment continued the search for ways to tackle desertification at the International Workshop on Combating Desertification, organized by the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture in Riyadh.

A number of researchers in desertification stressed the need to find sustainable solutions for agriculture, identify the obstacles and work on a plan to restore land with the participation of all relevant sectors and the strong leadership necessary to overcome challenges.

More than 45 percent of land worldwide is affected by desertification and more than 90 percent of water is evaporating. Environmental experts stressed the need to take an interest in aquaculture, which had been proved to have a beneficial effect through research.

With global average temperatures expected to rise by more than two degrees Celsius a year, climate change will exacerbate the problem of water and food scarcity that costs the world $1.6 trillion annually.

Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture figures show that desertification in the Kingdom has reached 80 percent, which is alarmingly high. 

Experts agreed solutions require hard work, being on site immediately so that government and non-government bodies can carry out their work, cooperating to restore the green lands and using water desalination techniques efficiently and treating wastewater.

Anthony Miller, director of the Center for Middle Eastern Plants at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, said the plant life in the eastern and northern regions of the Kingdom is weak, while in the western and southern regions it is strong but needs more attention in order to grow better.

A Food and Agriculture Organization expert said the rate of desertification is increasing alarmingly. She confirmed that most of the lands in the Arab world are either already affected by desertification or threatened by it, due to human and climatic factors.


Meet Saudi Arabia’s artist to the kings

Saudi painter Hisham Binjabi’s stunning creations have become the choice of kings. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)
Updated 5 min 27 sec ago
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Meet Saudi Arabia’s artist to the kings

  • From the age of three, Hisham Binjabi has never lost his appetite for art

JEDDAH: When it comes to royal connections, Saudi painter Hisham Binjabi can truly claim to have made it an art form.

During a lifetime at the easel, the unassuming Jeddah-based artist’s stunning creations have become the choice of kings.

And it all began at the age of just 14, when Binjabi painted a portrait of King Faisal and ended up presenting it in person to the late king of Saudi Arabia.

Further commissions were to follow, which resulted in Binjabi producing works of art not only for the Saudi royal family, but royalty in other countries too.

Today he owns two galleries in Jeddah from where he exhibits artwork and sculptures from around the world. 

Binjabi revealed his incredible story to Arab News while at work painting on canvas at a recent Jeddah book fair.

Hisham Binjabi made works of art not only for the Saudi royal family, but royalty in other countries too. (Photos/Supplied)

From the age of three, when he painted the walls of his family home in black, Binjabi has never lost his appetite for art. His talent was recognized at school where he was known as the “boy who paints,” and although he chose to major in science, a teacher spotted his artistic skills and taught him the basics of mixing colors.

Binjabi said: “After that I started to practice, and whenever I didn’t need to attend a class, I would escape to the painting room. As I became stronger with the use of colors, my teacher suggested I pick a subject to paint and I chose to do a portrait of King Faisal.”

After framing his picture, Binjabi was spotted carrying his creation down the street by the then-minister of education, who was so taken by it that he invited the teenager to present it to King Faisal himself. 

On the right track

The young artist continued to paint in his home and later studied English literature at King Abdul Aziz University, where again his talents were spotted. 

The dean of the university asked him to produce a painting to display in a tent, and this time the subject was to be camels.

During a visit to the campus, the then-King Khaled saw the painting and asked to meet the artist. “Before I knew it, I was standing in front of King Khaled,” said Binjabi. 

“The king asked me why I had painted camels, and I told him that camels were the friends of Bedouin people.”

The king invited Binjabi to go to Riyadh and attend the first ever Janadriyah Festival, and from then on his works became highly prized by royalty. The then-Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz asked him to produce a painting of his guests, a French prince and Sheikh Zayed of the UAE, watching camels through binoculars. 

As a result, Binjabi was invited to stay at Sheikh Zayed’s palace in Abu Dhabi, where he spent four months painting a family portrait for the leader.

Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was to be another of Binjabi’s distinguished clients, and even while studying for a Master’s degree in Lebanon, he painted for the king of Lebanon.

He said: “It did get overwhelming. I never asked to be associated with royalty, it just happened. Something in my heart kept pushing me along and telling me I was on the right track.”

Today he still represents the Kingdom in many different countries. 

“My life is full of stories about art which I find inspirational,” Binjabi added.