Dar Al-Hekma, SCTA initiate ‘Reinventing Asir’ project

Updated 22 November 2014
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Dar Al-Hekma, SCTA initiate ‘Reinventing Asir’ project

Dar Al-Hekma University, in partnership with the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA), is initiating the Reinventing Asir project to position Asir as a signature region for progressive preservation.
The project will have multiple legs where the first one starts at the historical site of Al-Okaz village in Asir, on Feb. 18, and the last one ends in Jeddah on March 5.
“The initiative seeks to engage international and local artists, architects, designers, scientists, curators, scholars and community stakeholders in a dialogue that explores ways to bring the past of Asir into a significant future, by merging ancient wisdom with cutting-edge trends and technology,” said Suhair Al-Qurashi, president of Dar Al-Hekma University.
Reinventing Asir is a visionary project that focuses on the reinvention of the vernacular. It builds on the rich and ancient traditions and heritage of Asir.
Moreover, it has been taken as an area of intervention to demonstrate how local tradition and history can be woven into the global context of new media science, art and technology, according to Anna Klingmann, project leader and curator, and chair of the architecture department at Dar Al-Hekma University.
The project starts 50 km outside the city center of Abha at the historical site of Al-Okaz village in Asir. It will feature site-specific art installations from Feb. 18 to 20. Many artists are working hand in hand from all over the globe; Anne Senstad from the United States, Thierry Mauger from France, C. Hennix from Germany and Ahmed Mater and Ibrahim Abu Musmar from Saudi Arabia.
The artists will transform the site by color, light projections, photographs and sound installations to turn it into a multisensorial experience. The abandoned village will come to life and be a hub where local residents start conversations, remember their past but also discuss the potential future.
Part of the project is a students’ competition that will be held on Feb. 20. During the competition, students will present their design proposals for Al-Okaz village to a multidisciplinary panel of architects, artists and local stakeholders. The winner will be announced once the best design is selected.
The second part of the project will be held in Jeddah where the installation of Al-Okaz village will be showcased the following week starting with the opening of a photography exhibition by Thierry Mauger, who is part of the team for the video projections, on Feb. 25. After that, they will be shown during the Hekma Design Week in March 2015.
Hekma Design Week & Symposium is a cross-disciplinary, five-day event of intense workshops, presentations and talks that bridge multiple scales and disciplines ranging from traditional and contemporary art forms to site-specific art interventions, architecture, interior design, graphics, branding and fashion.
Finally, a video documentary of Asir events will be projected at the Athr Gallery in Jeddah alongside a contemporary majlis art installation that will take place in March by Anne Senstad, another artist who was part of the team for the video projections.
The Reinventing Asir events at Dar Al-Hekma University represents the beginning of an ongoing collaboration and research between Anna Klingmann, architecture students of Dar Al-Hekma University, SCTA and the local stakeholders in Asir as well as renowned international artists, architects, designers and scholars.
The collaboration aims to creatively explore and demonstrate how a historical village may be redefined and reclaimed with advanced technologies through an amalgamation of traditional architecture with contemporary art in a unique setting.


Booming Bangalore: India’s ‘It’ city

Updated 18 March 2019
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Booming Bangalore: India’s ‘It’ city

  • Yoga at the resort offers the chance for gentle self reflection
  • The chance for some simple, but delicious food is just around the corner

DUBAI: Officially called Bengaluru — though not by the locals — Bangalore, the capital of the Indian state of Karnataka, is lauded as the ‘Silicon Valley of India’ thanks to the presence of prestigious IT companies and a burgeoning technology sector. Once known for its sprawling gardens and lakes, today Bangalore is more easily identified by shiny shopping malls, hip restaurants and traffic-congested roads. But beyond the trappings of urban life, the city still surprises with refreshing spots where you can hit reset.

One such oasis of calm is Shreyas Retreat. This coconut farm turned yoga retreat, set amid 25 acres of lush greenery, is the real deal, and one of India’s best-kept secrets. Though probably not for long.

Experiences here revolve around ‘self-discovery’, but with a refined approach to wellness. An in-house doctor will prescribe treatments ranging from oil massages and herbal healing experiences based on Ayurveda — regarded as the world’s oldest medicinal system — to more modern remedies such as hydrotherapy. You can choose to stay in one of the poolside cottages strategically placed around the retreat’s central courtyard, with the 25-meter pool and heated jacuzzi on your doorstep, or be at one with nature in a charming Garden Tented Cottage, several of which are scattered across the grounds. They come complete with canopied roof and outdoor patio, offering incredible views.

Need some time to reflect, then try the resort's yoga sessions at the Shreyas Retreat. (Supplied) 

Guests can also join in group-yoga sessions in the morning and evening, deepen their meditation practice or lend a helping hand at the retreat’s organic gardens. If all seems too new-age for you, packages are entirely customizable and really do cater to everyone — from the blissed-out yogi and spa seeker, to curious foodies who want to learn more about Indian cuisine.

The retreat is also an inspiring base to explore nearby landscapes, with trekking trips and village visits easily arranged. If you’d like to plan your own thrills, the scenic Nandi Hills, Hogenakkal Falls (often called the Niagara Falls of India), and cultural hotspot Mysore are just a few hours drive away.

The Nandi Hills provide the more adventurous with some spectacular scenery. (File/Shutterstock)  

For unique attractions closer to the city, a day at Lalbagh Botanical Garden is one well spent. Sprawling across 240 acres in the heart of Bangalore, it started out in 1760 as the private garden of Mysore ruler Hyder Ali. The government-run garden is home to the largest collection of tropical plants in India and a popular spot for bird-watching. Visitors have plenty to take in, including a serene lake, bonsai garden, aviary, sculptures and more. Its best known feature is the centuries-old glass house — designed along the lines of London’s Crystal Palace — that plays host to bi-annual flower shows which attract thousands of visitors.

A short stroll away from Lalbagh is Mavalli Tiffin Rooms (or MTR as it’s more commonly known), established in 1924. This is a no-frills dining experience. Delicious steaming hot food is served on steel plates as patrons tear into crunchy dosas (savory pancakes) and soft idlis (steamed rice cakes). Make sure to order try the rava idli — made from semolina — which was invented by MTR during World War II when rice was in short supply.

Bangalore is home to a handful of world-class galleries, including the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA). However, if you’re short on time, there’s only one name you need to remember – Karnataka Chitrakala Parishath. Home to a respected college of fine arts, the complex is buzzing with art aficionados and curious tourists picking up unique souvenirs. There are 14 permanent museum galleries to explore here, as well as five rotating art galleries that blend the best of contemporary works alongside more traditional and Indian folk pieces. Afterwards, wander through the verdant grounds, following sand-swept paths and enjoying the city’s creative energy. Bangalore may be India’s digital heart, but it’s got soul.