‘We fully support Saudi stand on Yemen’

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Updated 20 October 2015
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‘We fully support Saudi stand on Yemen’

RIYADH: Djibouti President Ismail Omar Guellah says the Kingdom played a crucial role in the Saudi-led coalition drive to restore hope, legitimacy and stability in Yemen.

“Saudi Arabia and Djibouti are close allies,” he said during an exclusive interview with Arab News. “The stand of our country was declared from the moment Operation Decisive Storm was launched for peace and legitimate rule in Yemen.”
He said: “Our support has always been in favor of the legitimate government of Yemen, led by President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi even before the launch of the campaign.”
The president said he had sent a message through his ambassador in Yemen, “in which I expressed our firm support to the legitimate government against the coup carried out by the Al-Houthi militia.”
Spelling out his country’s stand in favor of the territorial integrity, security and stability of Yemen, and the entire region, the president said: “We are, of course, being affected by positive and negative events in Yemen. As you know we received thousands of Yemenis in Djibouti who had taken refuge to escape from the crisis.”
President Guellah said that he was the only head of state who visited Sanaa during the political crisis in response to the invitation of President Hadi to attend the signing of the agreement between the Yemeni political parties.
“So we are supporters of all prudent steps taken by the Kingdom as part of the Arab coalition to support the brothers in Yemen. I fully support King Salman’s brave action when he did not hesitate to support (what was) right and responded to the official request of the Yemeni people through the legitimate elected president to put an end to the coup staged by the Al-Houthi militias,” he said.
The following is the text of the interview:

Q: Mr. President, what are the main objectives of your visit to Riyadh?
A: This visit is to renew contact with my brother Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman and discuss with him the latest political developments in the region and the world and coordinate efforts for the benefit of our region and our nation. It also marks an extension of our effort to promote cooperation in the bilateral field in trade, know-how and education, and push it forward for the benefits of our two peoples and the interests of the two countries.

Q: You know that terrorist organizations, led by Al-Qaeda, exist in Yemen and are conducting terrorist operations around the world. What is the role played by Djibouti in this context?
A: My country has contributed for a long time in the fight against terrorism in the region within the framework of international teamwork. And we continue this cooperation with the international community to combat terrorism and organizations that carry extremist ideas aimed at the destruction of the world and humanity, and abuse our Islamic religion. We sent our forces to stand with the Somali government in its fight against the anti-government terrorist organizations. This role will continue unabated for the protection of our country and our region, and the world. We will work with Saudi Arabia and other Islamic countries to confront the extremists and highlight the bright side of the true religion, which calls for tolerance and justice. Muslims are affected more than others from these extremist ideas.

Q: Have you followed the stampede in Mina?
A: We already sent condolences to Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman. We lost five Djiboutian pilgrims. We think of them and others who were killed in this tragedy as martyrs. The fact that these events naturally occur due to the great number of pilgrims, who meet at a specific time and move together in a narrow space together at the same time, and many of the pilgrims, unfortunately, do not adhere to the instructions unintentionally cause such accidents. But I must point out here that this stampede never detracts from the great role of the government of Saudi Arabia for pilgrims and visitors and the facilities being provided. Security, health care, food and transportation in addition to the great expansion of the Two Holy Mosques, with very sophisticated structures, were all in place. This painful tragedy must not be exploited for political purposes because it will not benefit anyone, but cause political tension between Islamic states.

Q: Can you update us on the current political and trade relationship between Saudi Arabia and Djibouti?
A: The relationship between us and the Kingdom in all areas has been and still is in full swing and prospering. Our political, security, unity and stability under the Arabian umbrella has been in place and growing since we gained our independence in 1977. We are working together to preserve the sovereignty of Arab countries against any foreign intervention. Saudi Arabia and Djibouti are together in all circumstances, and we understand each other. As for the economic ties, Saudi Arabia support is still in place either directly or through Saudi and Arab financial institutions. However, what we aspire to in the coming days is the further activation of trade exchanges. Djibouti acts as the bridge that connects the Kingdom with Middle Africa. We are in the process of establishing a Saudi-Djiboutian joint business council. This will be composed of businessmen in both countries. In the next few months, a Djibouti-Saudi joint committee will be held which will oversee the follow-up and implementation of what is agreed on and push those items which have not been implemented. It will seek to find ways and ideas that would help to develop the economic and development side between the two brotherly countries. Among the priorities that we hope to implement is to link the ports of Djibouti and Saudi Arabia and facilitate procedures that serve not only the two countries but also the Kingdom and the Middle African countries. We also want to seek beneficial cooperation in the areas of scientific research and renewable energy. Likewise, we also promote cultural, sports and educational cooperation and coordination.

Q:What about the role of Djibouti in the Horn of Africa region and the Middle East politically, economically and in security issues?
A: Our country enjoys several advantages such as its strategic location, security and stability. We are Africa’s gateway to the east. We are members of several regional organizations, such as the Common Market Organization for South Eastern Africa (COMESA) and New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). In the context of the Arab nation and neighboring Arab states, we are playing a pivotal role. We are keen that Saudi Arabia should be in first place as the main partner.


Meet Abdulrahman Eid: The Syrian artist inspired by Hijazi heritage

Updated 34 min 39 sec ago
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Meet Abdulrahman Eid: The Syrian artist inspired by Hijazi heritage

  • ‘Saudi Arabia is becoming a fertile environment for young artists to develop’

JEDDAH: The unique heritage of the historic Jeddah area and the surrounding Hijaz region has long proved fascinating for visitors. That was certainly true for Abdulrahman Eid, a Syrian artist who has lived in the Kingdom for 18 years, and whose work is inspired by Hijazi culture and artistic heritage.

Eid was born in Damascus in 1997. Before moving to Saudi Arabia, he helped restore and renovate historic buildings and works of art, including antiques, manuscripts, and paintings.

He currently works as a jewelry designer in Jeddah, and has plans to share his knowledge with the public through courses and workshops, as he believes jewelry design could and should be much more popular in the Middle East.

Eid first came to Saudi Arabia to work as the director of an exhibition of Eastern and Antarctic at. He said he exhibited some of the work he had produced at Janadriyah’s cultural festival in 2002 and 2003. But between 2003 and 2018, he took a break from making his own artwork.

However, he is now back with a vengeance. His latest creation —  a diorama that portrays life in Jeddah in the 1950s, consists of more than 1,700 pieces, which Eid hopes will get him into the record books. His decision to document life in old Jeddah was partly driven, he says, by nostalgia for his homeland, and partly by his wish to acknowledge his appreciation of art.

Project

The project, which Eid hopes to finish and present to the public within the next two weeks, has taken the artist more than three years of hard work so far, much of which was spent researching.

“I collected many books and old photographs of various Orientalists and studied how they were documenting the country in the 30s, 40s, and 50s,” he said. Eid found numerous sources through which he could study various historic houses and neighborhoods of old Jeddah, including —  of course —  walking the streets himself. He cites Noor Wali House, Al-Batarji, Beit Nasif, Al-Matbouli and others as inspirations. However, none of the houses in his artwork are named, or presented as exact replicas of existing buildings. 

“Some houses and neighborhoods with important historic value do not exist anymore, and I do not want to diminish any of their value. I collected various elements from different houses and made it into one unnamed neighborhood that imitates the reality of the past,” he said.

Eid’s diorama is 320 cm long, 130 cm high and 45 cm wide. It is full of houses, antique cars and shops — a carpet shop, a silver shop, a copper shop, and a shop for household items, such as pottery.

The intricate miniature pieces in the shops include handmade carpets, hanging lamps, lanterns, old swords and other weapons, old-fashioned household appliances, mirrors, antiques, gifts, and handicrafts of the kind sold to pilgrims. “I tried to integrate all the elements that were there in Hijaz in the past,” he said. “It is more of a documentary artwork.” Staying faithful to his source material, Eid even used precious stones and metals to create the miniature merchandise.

Eid describes his project as “a collection of around 10 types of art, including miniature, diorama, painting, sculpture, formative art, and jewelry design.”

His buildings incorporate the many distinctive decorative styles of traditional Hijazi architecture: panelings, moldings, door shapes, and Rawashin — the carved latticed windows typical of the area. “It contains a huge amount of art that interested the people of the country at that time,” he said of his ambitious project.

Eid said he has benefitted from the knowledge of many people who are familiar with historical Jeddah — including intellectuals, architects, civil engineers and local dignitaries.

“Many people have visited me in my studio and seen the work,” he said. “I’ve made a lot of amendments based on their recommendations. I took their comments into account and restructured the work several times over the past year until I finally reached the version that most closely embodies the reality.”

Eid said the fine and precise nature, and the astonishing variety, of Hijazi arts presented a serious challenge —  one that he was keen to embrace. “I found a unique, unparalleled precision and accuracy in Hijazi artistic heritage,” he said. “It is harmoniously composed of rich elements that I have not found in any other regions of the Kingdom.”

Still, he did sometimes worry that he had taken on too big a task. “Sometimes I felt I would not finish it for years,” he said.

Hijazi culture

Hijazi culture, Eid pointed out, is “cross-cultural.” Jeddah has been the main port for pilgrims for hundreds of years, and as a result, the city and surrounding areas have gained a unique character —  possessing the spirit of numerous other cities from both East and West. 

Eid claimed that anyone visiting Jeddah’s historic areas would likely see something of their own country there. “I saw something of Syria,” he said.

Over the last fortnight or so, photographs of Eid’s project have been widely shared on social media —  with some people mistakenly claiming that the images were off work based on the old cities in Damascus or Cairo.

“I was pleased with what happened,” Eid said. “I received a lot of encouragement and support.”

The Syrian artist said he has had many similar experiences with Damascene architecture when he was working in his homeland. “I have to say, though, that this experience has been more enjoyable, with its challenges, fine details, and richness,” he added. 

Eid said he believes recent years have seen an evolving renaissance in the arts in Saudi Arabia, marked by growing interest from the government and the public in the Kingdom’s heritage and its cultural value. 

“Saudi Arabia is becoming a fertile environment for young artists to develop,” he said. “The number of galleries has multiplied, and a real movement has begun. I believe this movement in Saudi Arabia will grant the youth diverse opportunities and will raise the standards and the level of competition between them.” Such competition is important to improve artists’ abilities and the quality of art works delivered to the public, he added.

While Eid views the current condition as very healthy, he pointed out that there are many young artists who need financial support if they are really going to fulfill their potential, and that “those who have the financial support still need guidance.”

“Regardless of everything,” he concluded. “I am sure the future is promising.”