DiplomaticQuarter: Saudi-Italian ties celebrated through culture and science

Updated 17 May 2018
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DiplomaticQuarter: Saudi-Italian ties celebrated through culture and science

JEDDAH: The Consulate General of Italy in Jeddah hosted a celebration of the country’s National Day with a two-day cultural event, part of which focused on music from the Middle Ages.

This an era from which it is easy to spot similarities and shared mutual influences between Western Christian and Arab Islamic music. To illustrate this, musician Stefano Albarello performed a concert during which he played both the Arab oud and the European lute.

“The similarities were evident during the performance by maestro Albarello,” said Elisabetta Martini, Italy’s consul general in Jeddah. “The first part was dedicated to Arab music and the second to Christian medieval music. It was very difficult to know which part belonged to which culture and country.

“It was beautiful to witness these similarities, and this also goes for the recent opening of the Saudi establishment and leadership to inter-religious dialogue. The visit of the cardinal here in Riyadh, and the visit of the secretary-general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to the Vatican, for us marked an important turning point in the inter-religious dialogue between the Muslim world and the Christian world in a time when it is much needed.”

The musical performance also helped to shed light on the cultural bonds between Italy and Saudi Arabia, and the mutual respect and tolerance. Through the event, part of a wide-ranging Italian initiative called “Italy, culture, the Mediterranean,” Martini said she wanted to offer her guests a unique and innovative experience, combining traditional music and the latest visual technology, presented by an Italian musician and a Saudi-Italian entertainment company called Top Hat.

“The first day included a 15-minute performance by maestro Albarello backed by 3D mapping in an immersive atmosphere,” she said. “The next day we had a 50-minute concert for those who are more interested in the music.”

In addition, Italian Research Day took place on May 14 at the Italian Cultural Center.

“We want to celebrate the scientific research of Italian universities and communities (and their contribution) to recent and past discoveries,” said Martini. “In particular, since I want to underline what unites Italy and Saudi Arabia, I want to celebrate it together with the Italian scientific community based here in Saudi Arabia, particularly at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST).”

She explained that Italian Research Day included a conference titled “Future Environmental and Biological Scenarios Between the Mediterranean and the Red Sea,” featuring two Italian professors from the universities of Padua and Genoa in Italy, and one based at KAUST. 

“It is about the future of the environment of the Mediterranean on the basis of what is happening in the Red Sea,” said Martini, adding that it highlights the similarities between the seas and the environmental changes and issues they face as a result of climate change.


Leading monitor of crucial events in the Saudi Arabia for 100 years: Umm Al-Qura newspaper

Umm Al-Qura was the first newspaper to be published during the time of Saudi Arabia's founder.
Updated 31 min 3 sec ago
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Leading monitor of crucial events in the Saudi Arabia for 100 years: Umm Al-Qura newspaper

  • It was the first newspaper to be issued at the time of the Kingdom’s founder, King Abdul Aziz
  • Al-Ahmadi clarified that the newspaper’s first issue was published in December 1924

MAKKAH: It is considered one of the most important and prestigious Saudi Arabian newspapers. 

It has witnessed crucial decisions in the country, observed the history of the region throughout a century, recording details of life in the Kingdom becoming a reference for historical decisions and events.

Umm Al-Qura’s Editor in Chief Abdullah Al-Ahmadi said the newspaper has the support and supervision of Minister of Culture and Information Dr. Awwad Al-Awwad, who has harnessed all the resources for its modern launch. Al-Ahmadi clarified that the newspaper’s first issue was published in December 1924.

It was the first newspaper to be issued at the time of the Kingdom’s founder, King Abdul Aziz. The headline in the first issue of the newspaper was “The Makkah Declaration,” and this story was accompanied by news and official statements.

Al-Ahmadi said that the paper continued its coverage during World War II, although its presses did stop for a period of up to eight weeks in 1924 before King Abdul Aziz ordered paper to be imported and printing to resume.

Umm Al-Qura’s first editor in chief was Sheikh Yusuf Yassin, who was followed by Rushdi Malhas. Both figures held diplomatic positions during King Abdul Aziz’s reign, along with Mohammed Saeed Abdul Maksoud, Fouad Shaker and Abdul Quddus Al-Ansari.

Al-Ahmadi added that the newspaper has monitored the personal stories of the Kingdom’s kings, giving precise details of the historical and political events of the last century. He added that it has the full Saudi archive and it has become a historical reference for history, the economy and politics.

Al-Ahmadi said the newspaper was a combination of news, sports and social events during 30 years of its foundation. It had adverts on some pages, reflecting the region’s identity and local, economic and cognitive dimensions.

Al-Ahmadi said that with its launch, the newspaper formed the memory, aspirations and ambitions of Saudi Arabia. It was the only media platform in which the world explored the local news, along with the cultural, educational and economic news. 

It covered their advocacy of the crucial decisions — notably the Palestinian cause that Saudi Arabia has defended since the time of its founder.

Umm Al-Qura’s editor in chief said his main concern, along with his former colleagues in the newspaper’s management, was its development and relaunch, pointing out that a number of challenges have been overcome. 

The newspaper has been developed across the board — from layout and content to its brand logo and colors, he said.

Al-Ahmadi added that new and modern printers have been provided, and the newspaper has improved in line with technical and modern changes. 

He said the government also helped restore the back issues damaged by moths.

The operation was carried out by specialized experts who supervised the whole operation to protect the issues from getting lost. All issues were archived online and missing issues are being updated, he added.

Al-Ahmadi said that the newspaper’s website will provide a digital media platform for the documentation process, giving integrated information about the newspaper.

Al-Ahmadi said the newspaper has a website archive for researchers and academics. 

He added that a large number of master’s and doctorate degrees as well as surveys took place with the help of the newspaper that has become a historic reference for scholars and researchers.