Moath Alofi opens doors to Madinah’s past

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Photos that show Madinah’s past.
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Updated 12 August 2016
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Moath Alofi opens doors to Madinah’s past

The interpretation of art is always different from one viewer to the other, some might find it interesting, beautiful, ugly, or controversial and others simply wouldn’t care for it. It doesn’t really matter who thinks what about any form of art, as long as there is a sense of respect toward the work and the artist’s vision. Moath Alofi’s participation and contribution to the art scene in the Kingdom came by chance a couple of years ago as a photographer exploring his city of Madinah. The city is his muse, his inspiration and his platform; it’s a city with so much history that has a path to progression through major construction projects with a goal to expand more and accommodate more visitors and residents. As with many cities, Madinah has its own charm, other than it being the city of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) which adds to the charm. Moath is an integrated member of its society doing his part in displaying magnificent images to the world outside the city walls.
His latest project being showcased at the Athr Art Gallery in Jeddah holds the name of “Doors of Barlik”, a project named after a known incident in the city’s historic path to what it is today. The city is at an ongoing stage of demolishing and removing housing units within the holy mosque’s vicinity for the purpose of expansion. Numbers are spray painted on more than 12,000 housing units across the city marking them for demolition. Moath’s exploratory mission of the city documented these homes and found an underlying message through them, he found beauty in these destroyed homes.
“I work in construction and I see structures after massive demolition projects built up from scratch all the time. There is a silent beauty in anticipation of the demolition, I saw that through remnants left over from these homes. The doors to these houses are like windows to the life of the residents of these homes, they tell of their story and background. Each door was different from one another and instead of having them thrown in a dump somewhere after auctions, I bought them, packed them up in my pickup truck and looked at them from an outsider’s point of view, they told of stories,” said Moath.
Doors of Barlik are a representation of social and urban transformation currently undergoing in the holy city. Each door held a story as the photographer explained, there are indentations, graffiti, love notes, prayers and more. The types of doors differ from one another as well, you’ll find the expensive and cheap, you’ll find the simple and the intricately detailed and you’ll find the colorful and the plain. The houses of which these were built were not of concrete and cement like it is now, these houses are old, historic, some even dating back to more than a hundred years, and the people used materials found from their surroundings such as rocks and mud. Upon entering the gallery, visitors can see the doors are placed in random but you’ll find one particularly interesting frame of a door, with the door behind it a few meters away that is set in a way to create the illusion that you’re walking through one door and through another. This one detail shows that there is more to it than just simply doors, there’s a sense of nostalgia that is felt.
“I’ve taken hundreds of pictures using my phone or camera as a means of documenting, but there is another deeper meaning when you actually obtain a piece of something that had history. I didn’t choose to document this by chance, my love for Madinah runs deep and in the years I was in Australia studying, I sensed a vast change from when I first left to when I returned. It is upsetting to see some of the old neighborhoods flattened and its residents uprooted to other areas in the city, but it’s evolution and it’s bound to happen regardless due of the city’s important place in the Islamic world, it needs to accommodate a larger number of visitors but at the price of historical neighborhoods. The generations before us know the history of these neighborhoods, its families and their stories. Through my project with “Doors of Barlik” I am documenting a piece of history and telling its story for not only my generation but also for the next, you can’t erase art,” said Moath.
That couldn’t be any more true, you can’t erase art. Not only does “Doors of Barlik” showcase doors, but also photographs by Moath of some of the houses before demolition, some still have personal remnants still hung such as a framed prayer or hand painted murals of the Haramain, it’s all too personal but truly a vision to behold and admire. We live in a fast evolving world, it’s no wonder not many want to learn about the past, we’re trying to keep up with the now. “Doors of Barlik” is showcased at Athr Art Gallery until Sept. 8, 2016.


Ancient artifacts a top attraction at Saudi exhibition in Athens

Updated 25 March 2019
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Ancient artifacts a top attraction at Saudi exhibition in Athens

  • “Roads of Arabia” has visited 14 other countries since it was first shown in Paris in 2010
  • Through the exhibition, the Kingdom has been able to share its history and cultural heritage with more than 5 million visitors around the world

ATHENS: The exhibition “Roads of Arabia: Archaeological Treasures of Saudi Arabia” continues to travel the world, opening in Greece on Wednesday, under the patronage of Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos.

The exhibition was originally developed by the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH) and the Musée du Louvre in Paris, where it was first exhibited in 2010. Since then, it has visited 14 other countries before arriving in Greece. “Roads of Arabia” highlights the cultural heritage of the Kingdom and features ancient artifacts from Saudi Arabia.

Greek Minister of Culture Lydia Koniordou opened the 16th edition of “Roads of Arabia” — which will run until May 25 at the Benaki Museum in Athens — in front of an audience including SCTH Chairman Ahmad Al-Khateeb, the Kingdom’s Ambassador to Greece, Esam bin Ibrahim Al-Mal, and a number of officials from both countries.

“Greece has contributed to Western civilization since ancient times, while the Kingdom witnessed the emergence of the Islamic civilization,” Al-Khateeb said at the opening. “Both helped shape the past and present of our world. The relation between Greece and Arabia extends over 3,000 years. This is highlighted in some of the antiquities found in the Kingdom, showcasing the historical and cultural links between Arabia, Greece and Byzantium.

“The Kingdom has always been a crossroads for human civilizations due to its strategic location linking global trade roads,” he continued. “The archaeological discoveries have shown that the Kingdom was a witness to many advanced civilizations since the Stone Age.” 

Al-Khateeb said that, through “Roads of Arabia,” the Kingdom has been able to share its history and cultural heritage with more than 5 million visitors around the world.

“More than 10,000 archaeological sites were discovered in the Kingdom, of which only 400 have been excavated. Just imagine the archaeological wealth (to be) found there,” he added.

As well as examining the 466 rare pieces that comprise the traveling exhibition — dating from the Stone Age to the era of King Abdul Aziz, founder of Saudi Arabia — attendees also toured a “virtual museum” set up by SCTH. 

Meanwhile, working to uncover the past of the Arabian Peninsula, foreign experts have been carrying out archaeological excavations on Farasan Island since 2017. 

So far, a team has revealed 30 sites dating back to pre-Islamic periods, including a number of settlements, animal remains including deer, cows, horses and turtles, and various finds including ancient Arabic inscriptions, and sites dating back to the Roman Empire.

They believe that the future of archaeology in the region is exciting. Experts are aiming to map the entirety of the island’s sites, creating a guide to its historical timeline and development. More local archaeologists, from academics to diggers, are also set for specialized training, to help uncover and preserve some of the Kingdom’s most precious new sites.

At the beginning of the 19th century, the Arabian Peninsula was a mystery to Orientalists, but they didn’t want to venture into the desert sands. However, in the late 19th century they came and got to know the lands and the people.

Many sites were registered at that time, especially in the 1970’s, when a comprehensive archaeological survey was done. The results of that time provided a vast list of archaeological sites.