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.


Jeddah to host first global village in Saudi Arabia

The marketing plan of the village has been put in place to target private and international schools to ensure high attendance. (Shutterstock)
Updated 21 January 2019
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Jeddah to host first global village in Saudi Arabia

  • “Participants from some 50 countries have so far confirmed their interest in taking part in the festival, which will be held on an area of more than 45,000 square meters,” Suzan Eskander said

JEDDAH: For the first time in Saudi Arabia, Jeddah will host a multicultural festival that takes visitors on a virtual tour of 50 countries.
The global village will be set up inside Atallah Happy Land Park along the city’s famous waterfront every day from 5 p.m. to midnight between Feb. 28 and March 29.
The event is one of many aiming to enhance tourism, as well as the local economy.
Suzan Eskander, director-general of International Image, the organizing company, told Arab News that the village is expected to attract 1 million visitors.
“Participants from some 50 countries have so far confirmed their interest in taking part in the festival, which will be held on an area of more than 45,000 square meters,” she said.
“There will be pavilions for participants from five Gulf Cooperation Council states, 10 Arab countries, 18 African countries, 10 European countries and four countries from the Americas.”
She added that folkloric dances would be performed by bands from each country.
“Performers will be dressed in traditional costumes,” she said. “Visitors can also enjoy dishes and traditional products from different countries.”
Eskander also said paintings portraying heritage and culture in the different countries would be on display.
“In addition, we are hopeful that the children’s zone will wow young visitors,” she said. “Little guests can develop their skills in drawing and games, as well as play zones.”
Eskander said the village was timed to coincide with the city’s good weather season, adding that a marketing plan has been put in place to target private and international schools to ensure high attendance. Eskander expressed her gratitude to the General Entertainment Authority for their continued support and cooperation.
“They have not only provided us instructions for obtaining the festival’s license, but are still following up to ensure that everything is going smoothly,” she said.