Saudi Arabia’s mysterious stone structures seen from the air

Saudi Arabia’s mysterious stone structures seen from the air
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Archaeologist David Kennedy during an air expedition to explore Saudi Arabia’s desert plains. (AN photo)
Saudi Arabia’s mysterious stone structures seen from the air
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Saudi Arabia’s mysterious stone structures seen from the air
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A helicopter view of the ancient stone structure used to trap animals. (AN photo)
Saudi Arabia’s mysterious stone structures seen from the air
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Saudi Arabia’s mysterious stone structures seen from the air
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Kennedy photographs stone gates and graves. (AN photo)
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Saudi Arabia’s mysterious stone structures seen from the air
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Saudi Arabia’s mysterious stone structures seen from the air
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Saudi Arabia’s mysterious stone structures seen from the air
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Kennedy examines the terrain ... a date with history
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Saudi Arabia’s mysterious stone structures seen from the air
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Saudi Arabia’s mysterious stone structures seen from the air
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Saudi Arabia’s mysterious stone structures seen from the air
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Saudi Arabia’s mysterious stone structures seen from the air
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A helicopter view of the ancient stone structure used to trap animals. (AN photo)
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Updated 19 December 2019

Saudi Arabia’s mysterious stone structures seen from the air

Saudi Arabia’s mysterious stone structures seen from the air

RIYADH: As the helicopter hovered above the Saudi desert, David Kennedy’s eyes lit up as he glimpsed what he had been searching for: A series of ancient, mysterious stone structures atop the desolate mountains.

The rebirth of AlUla
Hegra, ancient city of the Nabataeans in Saudi Arabia’s historic AlUla Valley, is emerging from the mists of time to take its rightful place as one of the wonders of the world

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The archaeologist had been using Google Earth for years to explore Saudi Arabia’s vast desert plains, but it was not until last month that he visited the Kingdom in person.
“Seeing it from 500 feet is so much better” than on Google Earth, Kennedy told Arab News, which accompanied him for an exclusive view of the discoveries.
Online satellite images revealed 400 stone gates — thought to be used for trapping animals — and graves scattered across the lava fields known as Harrat Khaybar and Harrat Uwayrid.
The Royal Commission for Al-Ula invited the Australian archaeologist to Riyadh, from where he flew to Al-Ula and took aerial photographs.
“I was astonished and delighted when I got the invitation … They spoke to me on Saturday and here we are (in Saudi Arabia) on Thursday,” he told Arab News last month.
Arab News accompanied him on helicopter trips over three days, alongside Don Boyer, an Australian geologist who now works in archaeology; Eid Al-Yahya, Saudi anthropological researcher in the civilizational and humanitarian history of the Arabian Peninsula; and a representative of the Royal Commission for Al-Ula.
Kennedy was frequently seen hanging from the helicopter door while wearing a harness suit, with a camera in his hands.
There were also land tours as he was keen to land on one of the lava fields and see the structures on the ground.
“I’ve seen lava fields before and plenty of graves, but I’ve never seen ones like these. Absolutely amazing,” he said.
There are “so many wonderful sites. When we go back after refueling we’ll visit the best place,” he said, referring to Harrat Uwayrid. “The graves in this lava field are seen overlapping, which is very unusual.”

On Sunday, the third and last day of the tour, a helicopter flew with eight people on board to Harrat Uwayrid, then to Mada’in Salih to see the site from above after taking a land tour the day before.
In 2008, Abdullah Al-Saeed, a Saudi medical doctor, wrote to Kennedy asking him to check out sites in the Kingdom that he had spotted.
“I was stunned because I hadn’t thought of looking up Saudi Arabia (on Google Earth) before, as I thought the quality of the imagery for most of the Middle East was poor,” said Kennedy.
He described the images he found as “absolutely astonishing,” similar to sites he had seen in Jordan but with different designs. “So most people with the same idea executing it in a different way,” is how he described it. Kennedy and Al-Saeed co-wrote an article about it for Saudi Aramco World Magazine.
While searching for more high-resolution imagery on Google Earth, Kennedy said he was particularly interested in Harrat Khaybar.
“There’s just so much there. I’ve been used to the lava field in Jordan, which is very rich, but Harrat Khaybar I think is richer. It’s an absolutely wonderful place.”
Kennedy has written a few articles about what he has seen in Saudi Arabia on Google Earth. “When I started looking at Harrat Khaybar, I found more and more good imagery there, and I was able to interpret the whole area,” he said.
It took him months to systematically analyze and catalogue the imagery, but “at the end of that process, we found almost 400 of these very strange structures that we’ve called gates,” he added.
“That gave us the opportunity to start an analysis or some sort of interpretation of the findings.”
Al-Yahya argued that he and his team found more than the 400 desert structures. “My team, consisting of two, and I started counting the graves on Google Earth, but we stopped at 1 million.”
The gates are among different stone structures in the lava fields. Some could be up to 9,000 years old, Kennedy said, adding: “They’re huge, and there are so many of them.” Al-Yahya said the densest concentration of such structures in the world is in Harrat Khaybar.
Kennedy said he has never been especially excited by grandiose sites. “They’re great to visit. Mada’in Salih is an amazing place. I like places like that, but I’m more interested in small sites of everyday life, not the great things that kings and emperors made,” he added. “There’s a lot of Roman material around Al-Ula. I’m excited about that.”
Kennedy said people do not often hear much about the archaeology of the Kingdom. “When people think of Saudi Arabia, they probably think of mountains and great sandy deserts. People are surprised when you tell them there’s a population of over 30 million people. They think it’s a desert and only 1 or 2 million people live there, riding camels.” That is probably why Saudi Arabia has caught people’s attention, he added.
Kennedy explored the lava field of Harrat Uwayrid during his three-day stay in Al-Ula. Visiting Mada’in Salih, he was able to see the Hijaz railway, part of which he photographed in Jordan last year and the year before. “It’s fascinating,” he said.
There is a big project in southern Jordan called the Great Arab Revolt Project, which is about the Arab revolt against the Ottomans during World War I, and those involved in it would love to come to Saudi Arabia, Kennedy added.
Google Earth is “hugely important because there’s so much high-resolution imagery and you can zoom in and look at sites,” but it will never replace aerial photography and archaeology, he said, adding that they complement each other.
“If you have Google Earth and aerial archaeology, you should also go on the ground. You really have to explore as many of these places as possible.”
Kennedy’s most recent paper is entirely about the stone gates. He has published other work about what he has seen on Google Earth over Saudi Arabia, including one on sites near Jeddah.
A paper in which he contrasts what he has seen in Jordan and Saudi Arabia could be published early next year.
“Everything (in Saudi Arabia) seems very clean, tidy and organized,” Kennedy said, laughing at how he has only just visited the Kingdom despite two of his brothers having worked there for decades, one as a flying instructor on contract with the Royal Saudi Air Force, and the other as a dentist.
“It’s been an eye-opening experience,” Kennedy said, adding that the Kingdom is developing rapidly.
“I went to an exhibition about five years ago called ‘Roads of Arabia’ in Washington, and I found it absolutely fabulous. The presentation was amazing. Such things are giving people a different impression of Saudi Arabia from just desert and camels,” he said, referring to an exhibition on ancient civilizations and cultures.
“Then there was a conference in Oxford about three years ago called ‘Green Arabia,’ which again surprised people as it contradicted the typical image of deserts.”
Tourism in the Kingdom could be boosted by heritage-oriented adventure holidays, he said, citing Mada’in Salih as an alternative to Petra in Jordan. “People would be astonished to discover this remarkable place (Mada’in Salih).”
Kennedy, who visited Syria long ago, expressed his wish to go back there. “It was wonderful visiting sites in Syria. I think it’s going to be a long, long time before I can do that again.”
His passion for archaeology started at the age of 10, when he was given a book as a Christmas present on sites in Britain. 

The rebirth of AlUla
Hegra, ancient city of the Nabataeans in Saudi Arabia’s historic AlUla Valley, is emerging from the mists of time to take its rightful place as one of the wonders of the world

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Saudi Arabia announces 12 more COVID-19 deaths

Saudi Arabia announces 12 more COVID-19 deaths
Updated 52 min 15 sec ago

Saudi Arabia announces 12 more COVID-19 deaths

Saudi Arabia announces 12 more COVID-19 deaths
  • The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom has increased to 507,374
  • A total of 8,249 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia announced 12 deaths from COVID-19 and 1,084 new infections on Sunday.
Of the new cases, 235 were recorded in Riyadh, 207 in Makkah, 154 in the Eastern Province, 94 in Asir, 69 in Madinah, 64 in Jazan, 58 in Hail, 40 in Najran, 23 in Tabuk, 17 in the Northern Borders region, 13 in Al-Baha, and three in Al-Jouf.
The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom increased to 507,374 after 1,285 more patients recovered from the virus.
A total of 8,249 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far.
Over 26.9 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine have been administered in the Kingdom to date.


Cocoa bean drug smuggling attempt thwarted at Jeddah port

Cocoa bean drug smuggling attempt thwarted at Jeddah port
Updated 01 August 2021

Cocoa bean drug smuggling attempt thwarted at Jeddah port

Cocoa bean drug smuggling attempt thwarted at Jeddah port
  • The pills were found hidden inside bags of cocoa beans during an inspection
  • The authority stressed that it will continue to tighten customs controls over all imports, exports and travelers in order to combat smuggling

JEDDAH: The Zakat, Tax and Customs Authority at Jeddah Islamic Port has foiled an attempt to smuggle 8.7 million Captagon pills.
The pills were found expertly hidden inside cocoa bean bags during an inspection. Three people were arrested by the General Directorate of Narcotics Control.
The authority stressed that it will continue to tighten customs controls over all imports, exports and travelers in order to combat smuggling by land, sea and air, and put an end to smugglers and their organized crimes.
The Zakat, Tax and Customs Authority called on everyone to contact the Security Reports Center on 1910 to report any information related to smuggling and customs violations in strict confidentiality. It said that whistle-blowers will receive a financial reward if their information is correct.


Unvaccinated people rush to receive COVID-19 vaccine in Saudi Arabia

Unvaccinated people rush to receive COVID-19 vaccine in Saudi Arabia
Updated 01 August 2021

Unvaccinated people rush to receive COVID-19 vaccine in Saudi Arabia

Unvaccinated people rush to receive COVID-19 vaccine in Saudi Arabia
  • One dose or virus recovered must to attend events and enter establishments

JEDDAH: The number of COVID-19 vaccines administered in Saudi Arabia has increased in the past 10 days with the arrival of the Aug. 1 deadline that means unvaccinated residents are prohibited from entering establishments.

The acceleration comes as residents of the Kingdom are required to receive at least one jab or have recovered from COVID-19 to attend social, cultural, sports and entertainment gatherings, and enter private, government or commercial establishments. Health authorities have called on residents to register for the vaccine, and centers across the Kingdom have been urged to provide more time-slots to accommodate the growing numbers.
So far, 27 million vaccine doses have been delivered at a rate of 77 doses per hundred. More than 8.1 million so far have received two doses and more than 77.5 percent of the Kingdom’s 34.8 million have been vaccinated so far.
More than 1.46 million of the Kingdom’s elderly have been vaccinated to date.
Health officials continue to urge residents to receive the vaccine, adhere to social distancing measures and take precautionary measures to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Meanwhile, a Saudi research team has successfully developed the first Saudi vaccine against COVID-19 and is ready to carry out clinical trials after receiving the required approvals.

INNUMBERS

525,730 Total cases

506,089 Recoveries

8,237 Deaths

Led by Dr. Iman Almansour, the research team from the Institute for Research and Medical Consultations (IRMC) at the Imam Abdulrahman bin Faisal University in Dammam published the findings, “Immunogenicity of Multiple Doses of pDNA Vaccines against SARS-CoV-2,” in the  Pharmaceuticals Journal on MDPI, an open-access publishing website for academics.
On Saturday, 1,146 new cases were reported by Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Health, raising the total number to 525,730.
Three regions reported numbers above the 100 case mark, Riyadh leading with 243 cases, the Eastern Province with 209 and Makkah with 196 cases. Jouf continues to be the region with the lowest count with only eight cases on Saturday.
There are currently 11,404 active cases, 1,377 of which are in critical care, a decline of 18 in the past 24 hours.
A total of 1,086 new recoveries were reported, raising the total number of recoveries to 506,089. The Kingdom’s recovery rate is currently holding steady at 96.2 percent.
Riyadh led the cities with the highest recovery count as 232 recoveries were reported, Taif with 99 and Jeddah with 64 recoveries.
A total of 11 new fatalities due to complications from COVID-19 have been reported, raising the death tally to 8,237.
A total of 113,300 PCR tests have been conducted in the past 24 hours, raising the total number to more than 25 million tests so far.
Meanwhile, Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development’s control teams in Makkah region carried out 20,137 inspection tours in July on private sector enterprises, to ensure abidance by the precautionary and preventive measures against the coronavirus disease and compliance with nationalization and labor regulations.
During the inspections, 3,755 violations of labor regulations and precautionary measures were found, and 813 warnings issued.
The ministry urged owners of enterprises to abide by all precautionary measures at workplaces to curb the spread of the virus, and to abide by the ministry’s regulations to avoid incurring penalties.
Inspection tours will continue across businesses in all regions of the Kingdom, the ministry addedd, calling on everyone in the region to report breaches and violations through its call center (19911) or its Ma3an lil Rasd app.


British-Nigerian photographer gaining popularity in the Saudi art scene for her black and white photographs of KSA

Monochromatic photographs add a timeless quality to an image. With the help of social media, Saudi Arabia is in the spotlight as outsiders finally look in. (Supplied)
Monochromatic photographs add a timeless quality to an image. With the help of social media, Saudi Arabia is in the spotlight as outsiders finally look in. (Supplied)
Updated 01 August 2021

British-Nigerian photographer gaining popularity in the Saudi art scene for her black and white photographs of KSA

Monochromatic photographs add a timeless quality to an image. With the help of social media, Saudi Arabia is in the spotlight as outsiders finally look in. (Supplied)
  • British-Nigerian photographer gaining popularity in the Saudi art scene for her black and white photographs of the Kingdom’s varied architecture, cultural scene, street life and more
  • Saudi Arabia through Folake’s eyes

JEDDAH: With the thousands of pictures coming out of Saudi Arabia in full color these days, it is refreshing to find calm in monochromatic photographs, especially when they have been snapped by expats who see beauty through a lens.
Monochromatic photographs add a timeless quality to an image. With the help of social media, Saudi Arabia is in the spotlight as outsiders finally look in.
British-Nigerian photographer Folake Abbas, a lecturer teaching academic writing and research methods to engineering students at Jeddah’s King Abdul Aziz University since 2013, has been taking photographs for as long as she can remember, and is gaining popularity in the Saudi art scene for her black and white photographs of the Kingdom’s varied architecture, cultural scene, street life and more.
She started taking photographs in the Kingdom “almost immediately after I arrived in Jeddah. A friend took me to Al-Balad and I fell in love with the place immediately, and I’ve had a very strong connection to Al-Balad ever since,” she told Arab News.

I will always remember Saudi Arabia with a lot of fondness, for it was here that I discovered myself as a photographer.

Folake Abbas

“A lot of people there know me because I take their photographs most of the time — it’s a place that I’m drawn to and that I feel very comfortable photographing. I’ve been there many times and have taken thousands and thousands of photographs to attest to that,” she added.
Abbas has developed her style through the years, experimenting with different tones of gray and shadows ever since she, alongside a group of fellow Nigerian photographers while visiting home, challenged each other to switch from colored to monochrome as an experiment for the whole of 2019, participating in the hashtag #2019ayearinblackandwhite on Instagram, and she’s never looked back.
She told Arab News that she’s been inspired by some of the greatest black and white photographers of all time such as Ansel Adams, Vivian Maier, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Mary Ellen Mark and Dorothea Lange.

HIGHLIGHT

Abbas has developed her style through the years, experimenting with different tones of gray and shadows ever since she, alongside a group of fellow Nigerian photographers while visiting home, challenged each other to switch from colored to monochrome as an experiment for the whole of 2019, participating in the hashtag #2019ayearinblackandwhite on Instagram, and she’s never looked back.

With time, she began wondering about what more the Kingdom has to offer and what hidden gems can be discovered. She’s frequented nearby Taif, Dammam and a few other cities throughout the years but it was only after the coronavirus disease pandemic hit did she realize she needed to see more.
“I hadn’t really moved around that much, it wasn’t until last year after the lockdown was lifted, knowing I couldn’t leave the country I thought, you know what? this is my time to start to explore Saudi Arabia, there’s something more for it and I’ve got to get around,” she said. “The idea of having to stay cooped up in my apartment for the whole summer was just something I wasn’t ready to entertain.”
She then started traveling around the Kingdom as a conscious decision, booking trips, connecting with people, and taking different tours.
“When you live in a concrete jungle, there isn’t much greenery around here, and it’s very rugged, you just have no idea of what a country looks like. It’s not until you hit the road and go deep into a valley or around a bendy road such as in Taif that you really get to appreciate the country that you live in,” said Abbas.
She said it was in Saudi Arabia that she identified as a photographer the most. “I will always remember Saudi Arabia with a lot of fondness, for it was here that I discovered myself as a photographer. As I mentioned, I’ve always taken photographs but being in Saudi Arabia really solidified that for me. All I want to do is take photographs here, that’s all I want to do.”

Monochromatic photographs add a timeless quality to an image. With the help of social media, Saudi Arabia is in the spotlight as outsiders finally look in. (Supplied)

Folake participated in two group exhibitions, the first in November 2017 in Jeddah, and January 2021 in Riyadh and has had three solo exhibitions — October 2018, December 2019, both in Jeddah and the third in Riyadh in February 2020.
She visited AlUla in March and said the artwork she composed there is the closest to her heart, highlighting that it is a majestic and timeless place.
“What I love about the photos that I took there is the fact that the whole place itself sort of makes you feel like you are in a time that is long forgotten and so to be in this place that is absolutely dripping with so much history going back thousands and thousands of years, to be in that space in itself was nothing short of spectacular. The photos that I took and loved the most (were of) the tomb in Hegra; it’s just a majestic building.”
She said she experienced Saudi hospitality firsthand throughout her adventures in the Kingdom and highlighted their polite traits.
“I’m very impressed as to how open the people I meet when I travel are. They will give you directions, they will get people to come and help you, they will even take you to where you want to go,” she said. “That is really endearing to me.” She added: “I’ve traveled a lot around the world and I’ve had wonderful experiences, but nothing quite like this.”


Over 12k held for residency, labor, border violations across KSA

More than 12k held for residency, labor, border violations in Saudi Arabia. (SPA)
More than 12k held for residency, labor, border violations in Saudi Arabia. (SPA)
Updated 01 August 2021

Over 12k held for residency, labor, border violations across KSA

More than 12k held for residency, labor, border violations in Saudi Arabia. (SPA)
  • The authorities transferred 48,453 offenders to their respective diplomatic missions to obtain travel documents

RIYADH: More than 12,000 violators of residency, work and border security systems have been arrested in the Kingdom in one week, according to an official report.

In the campaigns that took place in all regions of the Kingdom from July 22-28, there have been 12,642 offenders, including 4,180 for violating residency regulations, 991 for labor violations and 7,471 for border violations.

The report said that 266 people were arrested while trying to cross the border into the Kingdom: 52 percent were Yemeni citizens, 44 percent were Ethiopians, and 4 percent were of other nationalities.

In addition, eight people were arrested for trying to cross into neighboring countries, and 12 were arrested for involvement in transporting and harboring violators.

The total number of violators who were subjected to procedures was 64,539, including 53,777 men and 10,762 women.

The authorities transferred 48,453 offenders to their respective diplomatic missions to obtain travel documents, while 3,352 were transferred to complete their travel reservations and 5,308 were deported.

The Ministry of Interior said that whoever facilitates the entry of violators to the Kingdom, transports them or provides shelter or any other form of support will face imprisonment for up to 15 years, a fine of up to SR1 million ($260,000), confiscation of the means of transport or residence employed in the violation, and defamation.