Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province palaces tell tales of its rich past

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The palace includes several military watchtowers. (Supplied)
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Many historical palaces in the Kingdom combine modern and Islamic architectural styles typical of the time. (SPA)
Updated 02 January 2019
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Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province palaces tell tales of its rich past

  • Experts believe these palaces played a significant role in the early history of the Kingdom
  • Archaeological expert Wael Hassan explained that the palace barriers include a number of lookout points that offer a view over the entire region and small openings for guns and canons

JEDDAH: The first Emara Palace, built more than 65 years ago, symbolizes the rich history of the Kingdom’s Eastern Province, home to many archaeological and historical sites that have attracted visitors for years.
Formerly known as Saleh Islam Palace, it is one of the most significant landmarks in the region, in addition to the citadel in Dammam.
The palace, which spans an area the size of a football field, bears Gulf architecture typical of the time, making it a symbol of the region’s cultural heritage.
What distinguishes the five-story palace is the large, intricately decorated columns that decorate the structure from outside.
Abdullatif Al-Bunyan, director of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH) for the Eastern Province, said foreign delegations are officially hosted at the palace. The palace’s headquarters was moved from the Al-Ahsa region to Dammam, making it the city’s official landmark.

Ibrahim Palace in Hofuf
Built almost 500 years ago, Ibrahim Palace in Hofuf is one of Al-Ahsa region’s most significant landmarks.
Spanning an impressive 16,500 square meters, the palace combines modern and Islamic architectural styles typical of the time.
The palace includes several military watchtowers. It was said to have been renamed after Ibrahim bin Afysan, an architect who renovated the palace in 1801.
Its local imprint lies in the domes and arches that characterize its ceilings.
The palace has come to symbolize the financial wealth of the region, being built along a vital commercial route that connects with the rest of the world.
King Abdul Aziz Al-Saud added a new dimension to the palace when he ruled Al-Ahsa in 1913.
He fortified the structure with Islamic domes and huge, military-style towers, as well as soldiers’ barracks in the palace’s eastern wing.
The walls are a mixture of local mud and straw, while the roofs are made of the trunks of palm trees, wood and stone.
The palace also has a mosque depicted by several domes and a minaret with a spiral, stone-built staircase. It has a huge wooden gate with a wooden key to one side, while the muezzin’s room (a room from which someone calls for prayer) is decorated with wooden shutters.
The palace includes a service pavilion, horse stables, bedrooms for officers, an ammunition depot, toilets and several towers with communications rooms.
The palace is also characterized by barracks for Al-Ahsa’s soldiers of the time. In the middle of these barracks is a central commanding cabin with a double staircase, which is only used by officers and administrators. In fact, the commanding cabin is located in the middle of the palace’s eastern wing and divided into four rooms with two reception halls. The cabin overlooks the entirety of the palace and can only be accessed through guards. The two rooms located on the top floor have their own staircases.
Archaeological expert Wael Hassan explained that the palace barriers include a number of lookout points that offer a view over the entire region and small openings for guns and canons.
In the middle of the palace is a large hall that enabled soldiers to look down the fence for intruders.
Hassan pointed out that the palace has undergone several restorations in recent decades to preserve its architectural style. He said that the palace was opened to visitors and that the SCTH continues to holds conferences and seminars inside the palace to raise awareness about the region’s history and archaeology.


Saudi Aramco recognized as a leader in the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Updated 22 January 2019
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Saudi Aramco recognized as a leader in the Fourth Industrial Revolution

JEDDAH: Saudi Aramco’s Uthmaniyah Gas Plant (UGP) has been recognized by the World Economic Forum (WEF) as a “Lighthouse” manufacturing facility and a leader in technology applications of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. 
Saudi Aramco is the first energy company globally to be included in this select group of manufacturing sites. The plant is also the only facility in the Middle East to be recognized by WEF. 
The announcement was made ahead of WEFs annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland.
The gas plant is one of the world’s largest gas processing plants and was commissioned in 1981 as part of Saudi Aramco’s Master Gas System to process associated gas from oil wells. 
The use of drones and wearable technologies to inspect pipelines and machinery has helped cut inspection time by 90% in this industrial facility.
“The recognition of the Uthmaniyah Gas Plant demonstrates Saudi Aramco’s shift to transform and adapt in the rapidly changing global energy landscape. Uthmaniyah is only one part of our large integrated energy value chain where IR 4.0 technologies are playing a critical role to enable significant capital and operational efficiencies,” said Amin H. Nasser, Chief Executive Officer of Saudi Aramco.
The seven new facilities join nine other “Manufacturing Lighthouses” which WEF unveiled in September 2018. The 16 factories were selected from an initial list of 1,000 manufacturers based on their successful implementation of cutting-edge technologies of the future that drive financial and operational impact.
The “Lighthouse” program was conducted by WEF in collaboration with McKinsey during a year-long study. A study team visited UGP in Saudi Arabia and performed a thorough audit.