Culture Ministry keen to preserve Makkah’s heritage

The Saudi leadership is focusing on boosting the Kingdom’s heritage. (SPA)
Updated 01 June 2019

Culture Ministry keen to preserve Makkah’s heritage

  • Al-Zaher Palace was built in 1946 following King Abdul Aziz’s return from his visit to Egypt, and became one of the official palaces of the state

MAKKAH: Culture Minister Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan visited three palaces in Makkah on Wednesday: King Faisal’s Palace, Al-Saqqaf Palace and Al-Zaher Palace.
This visit is part of the minister’s program to visit cultural sites throughout the Kingdom, aimed at inspecting the infrastructure, listening to the people in charge, and considering the support needed to maintain preservation.
The prince signed a memorandum of understanding with the chairman of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage, Ahmad Al-Khatib, on April 24 to prepare for the transfer of the national heritage and archaeology sector to the Culture Ministry. Royal directives were issued to renovate King Faisal’s Palace and turn it into a national museum. Al-Saqqaf Palace has been important for Saudis since the late King Abdul Aziz came to Makkah. The palace became a center for government, and King Abdul Aziz received prominent guests there, including Arab ambassadors and heads of Hajj missions. Al-Zaher Palace was built in 1946 following King Abdul Aziz’s return from his visit to Egypt, and became one of the official palaces of the state.
Under the leadership of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi authorities are focusing on boosting the Kingdom’s culture and heritage, in accordance with Vision 2030.
The Kingdom recently announced that for the first time international artists will be offered the chance to take up residency in Saudi Arabia. The move is among a raft of initiatives announced at an event in Riyadh to launch the Ministry of Culture’s vision and strategy for the future. They include arts prizes, scholarship programs and a culture fund to support artists.
“Today marks a turning point in the history of our nation,” said the Minister of Culture, Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan. “It is rare that a nation undertakes such a massive revival of its culture. 
“The transformation of arts and culture will benefit all Saudis, young and old, from every corner of our country.  It will help build bridges of understanding.  And for our children, we will build a Saudi Arabia where their creative spirits can flourish.” On the ministry’s Twitter account, the minister said a priority was to support Saudi talent.

HIGHLIGHtS

• Al-Saqqaf Palace has been important for Saudis since the late King Abdul Aziz came to Makkah.

• Royal directives have been issued to renovate King Faisal’s Palace and turn it into a national museum.

“The ministry will work to enable creatives and intellectuals and harness their potential,” Prince Badr said. “We will work to promote culture as an enabler of coexistence and peaceful dialogue, and we are marching confidently toward a promising future.”  During the ceremony, the new Culture Ministry logo, focused on Saudi Arabia’s traditional colors, was displayed on screens as Saudi performers including Mohammed Abdo and Rashid Al-Faris took center stage.
Earlier this month, Prince Badr signed up for a personal account on Weibo, one of China’s most popular social networking websites, becoming the first Arab culture minister on the Twitter-like platform.
Weibo connects more than 445 million active users per month, and includes a number of politicians from around the world, including Indian Premier Narendra Modi and British Prime Minister Theresa May. Prince Badr’s Weibo account aims to promote communication between Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries on the one hand, and China on the other, as well as promote Saudi and Arab culture.


Photo exhibition recalls 90 years of Saudi-Lebanon ties

Updated 44 min 57 sec ago

Photo exhibition recalls 90 years of Saudi-Lebanon ties

  • Thousands of photos on display
  • Ties ‘rooted’ in history, says Kingdom’s ambassador

BEIRUT: Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to Lebanon Walid Bukhari and Lebanon’s Minister of Information Minister of Information Jamal Jarrah on Monday inaugurated a photography exhibition celebrating 90 years of bilateral relations.

The King Abdul Aziz Foundation for Research and Archives and the Abdulaziz Saud Al-Babtain Cultural Foundation provided the embassy in Lebanon with historical documents and photos for the exhibition, which was launched on World Photography Day. Some of the material dates back more than 90 years.

Bukhari said the exhibition’s content proved that the countries’ relations were rooted in history and recalled the words of King Abdul Aziz bin Abdulrahman, who said: “Lebanon is part of us. I protect its independence myself and will not allow anything to harm it.”

Jarrah, who was representing Prime Minister Saad Hariri, said: “We need this Arab embrace in light of the attacks targeting the Arab region and we still need the Kingdom’s support for Lebanon’s stability, because Lebanon is truly the center from which Arabism originated.”

The exhibition starts with a document appointing Mohammed Eid Al-Rawaf as the Kingdom’s consul in Syria and Lebanon. It was signed by King Abdul Aziz bin Abdulrahman Al-Faisal Al-Saud in 1930 and states that the consul’s residence is in Damascus and that his mission is to “promote Saudi merchants, care for their affairs and assist them with their legal and commercial interests.”

Black and white pictures summarize milestones in the development of bilateral relations, while others depict key visits and meetings between leaders and dignitaries.

“The exhibition demanded great efforts because the pieces were not found at one single location,” former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora told Arab News. “Circulating this activity in the Kingdom’s embassies in numerous countries is a great step and has pushed the Lebanese Ministry of Information to benefit from this archive. The Lebanese people remember the important positions the Kingdom has taken over the year to support their independence and sovereignty and in hard times.”

Lebanon, particularly Beirut, is a hit with Saudi travelers although the Kingdom had been advising citizens since 2011 to avoid the country, citing Hezbollah’s influence and instability from the war in neighboring Syria. 

But the easing of restrictions since February has led to a surge in Saudis heading to Lebanon.

Riyadh earlier this year released $1 billion in funding and pledged to boost Lebanon’s struggling economy. Another sign of warming ties was an anniversary event marking the 2005 assassination of Hariri’s father that featured Saudi Royal Court adviser Nizar Al-Aloula as a keynote speaker.

“The exhibition highlights the unique model of Lebanese-Arab relations that should be taught in diplomatic institutes, starting with the Lebanese Foreign Ministry,” former minister Marwan Hamadeh told Arab News. “Over the course of 90 years, we have had brotherly ties and political support for independence, freedom, growth, economy and culture and then the Taif Accord (which ended the Lebanese Civil War). Even after that, when Lebanon engaged in military adventures, the Kingdom was there to help with reconstruction and we are proud of these relations.”

Highlights include a recording of King Faisal telling President Charles Helou about the need to strengthen “brotherhood in the face of the aggression targeting our countries without respecting the sanctity of holy sites and international, human and moral norms to extend its influence not only in the region but across the world.”

There are also photos from a recent meeting that brought together King Salman, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Lebanese officials. 

An old broadcast recording can be heard saying that the “tragedy of the Lebanese civil war can only be ended by affirming the Lebanese legitimacy and preserving its independence and territorial integrity.”

The exhibition is on at Beit Beirut, which is located on what used to be the frontline that divided the city during the civil war.