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.


Arab coalition working to protect region’s security, says spokesman

Coalition spokesman Col. Turki Al-Maliki at a press briefing. (SPA file photo)
Updated 19 March 2019
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Arab coalition working to protect region’s security, says spokesman

  • Houthis want to disturb peace, says coalition spokesman
  • Stockholm peace agreement under strain

RIYADH: The Arab coalition supporting the internationally recognized Yemeni government is committed to protecting regional and global security, a spokesman said Monday.

Coalition spokesman Col. Turki Al-Maliki was asked at a press briefing about Houthi militias threatening to target the capitals of Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

“This is their way to disturb peace,” Al-Maliki replied. “Previously the Houthis targeted Riyadh with a ballistic missile, violating all international laws by attacking a city that has more than 8 million civilians. We take all precautions to protect civilians and vital areas. The coalition works to protect regional and international security.”

Al-Maliki said Houthis had targeted Saudi border towns several times, the most recent incident taking place in Abha last Friday.

But the Saudi Royal Air Defense Force had shot down a drone that was targeting civilians, he added.

He said four Saudi nationals and an Indian expatriate were injured in the attack because of falling debris.

The drone wreckage showed the characteristics and specifications of Iranian manufacturing, he said, which proved Iran was continuing to smuggle arms to the militias.

He warned the Houthis to refrain from targeting civilians because the coalition, in line with international humanitarian law, had every right to counter such threats.

He said the coalition was making efforts to neutralize ballistic missiles and dismantle their capabilities, as the coalition’s joint command would not allow the militia to possess weapons that threatened civilian lives and peace.

Al-Maliki reiterated that the Houthis were targeting Yemeni civilians and continued to violate international laws. 

He also urged Yemenis to try their best to prevent children from being captured by Houthis, who were using them as human shields and child soldiers.

His comments came as the UN tried to salvage a peace deal that was seen as crucial for ending the country’s four-year war.

The Stockholm Agreement was signed by the Yemeni government and Houthi representatives last December.

The main points of the agreement were a prisoner exchange, steps toward a cease-fire in the city of Taiz, and a cease-fire agreement in the city of Hodeidah and its port, as well as ports in Salif and Ras Issa.

Militants triggered the conflict when they seized the capital Sanaa in 2014 and attempted to occupy large parts of the country. An Arab coalition intervened in support of the internationally recognized government in March 2015.

The World Health Organization estimates that nearly 10,000 people have been killed in Yemen since 2015.

Earlier this month US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that President Donald Trump’s administration opposed curbs on American assistance to the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.

“The way to alleviate the Yemeni people’s suffering isn’t to prolong the conflict by handicapping our partners in the fight, but by giving the Saudi-led coalition the support needed to defeat the Iranian-backed rebels and ensure a just peace,” Pompeo said at a news conference in Washington.