Taif mosque is a historic Saudi jewel with a story to tell

The Qantara Mosque, also known as Al-Madhoun Mosque, was built some 162 years ago.
Updated 11 January 2018

Taif mosque is a historic Saudi jewel with a story to tell

TAIF: Flocks of Hajj and Umrah performers travel to Taif, 70km from Makkah, to visit the city’s historical places.
One of the main attractions in Taif is the Al-Qu’a and Al-Qantara Mosque, located in Al-Mathnah neighborhood.
Khalid Al-Shirbi, a licensed tour guide for the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH), told Arab News that the Qantara Mosque, also known as Al-Madhoun Mosque, was built some 162 years ago. “It was built during the Ottoman era. It is only its building style, inspired from Abbasid architecture, that gives the impression of being ancient,” he said.
He added that the farm where Prophet Muhammad rested after being expelled from Taif and was offered fruit by Addas, the grape farmer, is on the opposite side of the mosque.
Another mosque that many tourists are keen to visit in Taif is the Al-Qu’a Mosque, which Al-Shirbi confirmed was built some 800 years after the death of the Prophet.
“Many tourists believe that Prophet Muhammad came to this place and, with his elbow, leaned on a stone, leaving a mark,” Al-Shirbi said. He added that tour guides normally try to clear up such incorrect concepts, but some stories, he said, are engraved in tourists’ minds.
He pointed out that most of the visiting tourists come from Malaysia, Indonesia, Pakistan, Singapore, Bangladesh and Turkey.
“The Pakistanis, in particular, call it ‘Hazrat Ali Mosque,’ referring to Al-Bin Abi Talib, the Prophet’s cousin, who they think was with the Prophet when he was in Taif. “This is completely untrue. Islamic biographers have different opinions whether the Prophet was alone or accompanied by Zaid bin Haritha, but not Ali.”
Many scholars and historians have narrated the story of Prophet with Addas in different ways, but they all agreed on one theme. Sheikh Mohammed Al-Areefy, for instance, said: “After his wife, Khadija bint Khwuailed, and his uncle, Abu Talib, had passed away in the same year, which was later called “Year of Sadness,” he sought a place where he could find supporters. When he arrived in Taif, his call to Islam was not only robustly rejected, he was also followed on his way back to Makkah, and had stones thrown at him until he reached Al-Mathnah Valley, where he rested for a while.
“This area was known for its fruits. A Christian Iraqi farmer, Addas, who was serving a rich family originating from Makkah, approached the sad Prophet and offered him a bowl of grapes.
“The Prophet took the grapes and before starting to eat the fruit, said: ‘In the name of Allah.’ The phrase, which the worker had not heard before, sparked his attention and he asked: People here do not say that! The Prophet asked Addas where he was from. “From Nineveh,” the man replied. The story ended with the man embracing Islam.


Young Saudi’s opera singing journey leads him to Italy

Mohammed Al-Zahrani’s adventure started in school, where a classmate encouraged him to refine his talent. (Supplied)
Updated 30 min 46 sec ago

Young Saudi’s opera singing journey leads him to Italy

  • Performer wants to be as famous as Pavarotti

JEDDAH: Mohammed Al-Zahrani has faced down many challenges while pursuing his dream to be an opera singer and represent Saudi Arabia on the world stage, and his journey has led him to Italy, where he is living in Rome and learning the language.

“I have encountered many social and traditional barriers but I luckily managed to overcome those obstacles,” the 23-year-old performing artist told Arab News.
“The objection of my family, relatives and friends was a result of their unawareness about other cultures. They are very strict and conservative people who adhere to customs and traditions.” But their stance has softened since he landed in Europe. “At such a young age, I am living far away from my own country and family just to represent my country the best way I can.”
His adventure started in school, where a classmate heard him sing and encouraged him to refine his talent. It was then that he believed he could be an international opera singer. “That was a dream and I am now working on that dream.”
The Italians were friendly and welcoming, he said, and his cultural and religious background has never proved to be an issue. They were polite and nice, regarding him as an ambitious and talented person who shared their love of art.
“I want to help spread this beautiful art in Saudi Arabia and change our people’s perception about all kinds of Western arts. Also, I would like to open an opera house in my country and lend a hand to those willing to learn classical arts.”
Al-Zahrani has joined the Coro Polifonico Musica Creator choir. He said that the story began when he was waiting for a train in Rome and saw a man playing piano at the station.

I have encountered many social and traditional barriers but I luckily managed to overcome those obstacles.

Mohammed Al-Zahrani, Performer

“I noticed that the music he was playing was familiar. I approached him and began to sing. I was just trying to pass time until the train arrived. It turned out that one of the passengers was a member of the choir. She asked for my phone number and arranged a meeting with the director of the choir.”
The director listened to Al-Zahrani sing a few days later and expressed her interest in his voice.
“She immediately chose me as a solo singer in the choir and insisted I take part in an upcoming concert. I remember I was playing an assisting role to the famous singer Francesco Sartori.”
Al-Zahrani is a fan of famous opera singers and wants to become as great as they are one day, listing Pavarotti and Andrea Bocelli as his favorites.
But some Saudis have disagreed with Al-Zahrani’s decision to drop out of college — he spent one year at King Abdul Aziz University — saying he has put his future at risk.
“Wherever you go, there are always people with you and those who are against you. Personally, I will do what I am convinced with no matter what their opinions are,” he said.
Al-Zahrani performed at Riyadh Season and has been invited to perform in other Saudi festivals, including the coming Jeddah Season. “No matter what support I receive or individual successes I make, I will always be in need of my country’s encouragement
and support.”
Saudi Arabia’s first opera house is set to open in Jeddah, the General Entertainment Authority announced last February. It is scheduled for completion in 2022.