With Taj Mahal turning a bit green, Indian court gets mad

One of the world’s most famous tourist attractions, the Taj Mahal includes a mosque and the graves of the emperor and his wife Mumtaz Mahal. (AFP)
Updated 04 May 2018

With Taj Mahal turning a bit green, Indian court gets mad

NEW DELHI: The Taj Mahal, that shining white monument to love, is turning a little ... green. And yellow. And black.
And India’s Supreme Court is not pleased.
“You all appear to be helpless,” a Supreme Court judge told government officials earlier this week, after an environmental lawyer argued that pollution and insect dung were discoloring the 17th-century building.
“Money should not be the consideration. We might order you to hire experts from within India or abroad. We need to save it,” the judge said, according to numerous Indian media reports. The reports did not give the judge’s name.
The officials, representing the central government and Uttar Pradesh state, where the Taj is located, were given until Wednesday to come up with a plan and report back to the court.
Built by Mogul Emperor Shah Jahan for his favorite wife in the north Indian city of Agra, the monument has been losing its sheen for years. The Archaeological Survey of India, the agency responsible for preserving the country’s monuments, has been coating portions of the Taj with a special clay that, when it is removed, also takes away most discolorations.
But M.C. Mehta, the lawyer who brought the case to the court, said not enough is being done.
“The white sheen is disappearing and instead of that if the green color, the brown color, the other colors ... are visible, then what is the reason? The reason is that the pollution has become alarming,” he said in an interview after the hearing.
One of the world’s most famous tourist attractions, the Taj Mahal includes a mosque and the graves of the emperor and his wife Mumtaz Mahal.
Agra is a major north Indian industrial center, and the city is often covered with a fog of pollution. Experts say air pollution and swarms of breeding insects are threatening the Taj by leaving green, yellow and black patches.
Mehta said authorities have not complied with earlier Supreme Court orders to protect the Taj by shutting down area factories.

Jeddah souvenir shop offers a window to city’s history

Mohammed Sales Albadni fought for his passion and love for his city. (AN Photo by Abdulrahman Mira)
Updated 11 July 2020

Jeddah souvenir shop offers a window to city’s history

  • Shop crafts versions of Jeddah’s historical buildings in miniature size

JEDDAH: Of the most prominent features of old town Jeddah is its historic buildings. With their intricate wooden designed windows and balconies, Made in Jeddah lets you take a part of history back home in miniature size.

Made in Jeddah, a quaint souvenir shop owned by Mohammed Sales Albadni — a native of the city who grew up with a passion for showing its most unique features — is one of the only souvenir shops with original works in the city.

Growing up selling goods in his father’s shop, Albadni was accustomed to seeing foreigners walking around and taking pictures of buildings in Jeddah’s historical downtown. He befriended many tourists and learned some English. With time, many of the neighboring shop owners and their families moved uptown for better opportunities, but Mohammed remained.

“Living in Al-balad is different, you see foreigners walking and taking pictures of the buildings and the life of the locals, it’s something that made me think that there is something much more special about this area,” he said.

In 2014, he decided to pursue his dream and opened his souvenir shop “Tethkar Jeddah,” which roughly translates to Jeddah Souvenirs, hoping that it would become a significant part of the area.

He began by importing low-cost goods from China but was disappointed by the shop’s performance; it wasn’t doing as well as he’d hoped. But one visitor changed everything.

A Saudi customer from the central region entered his store one day and said: “Why open a souvenir shop, when there is nothing special to show about Jeddah?” That question moved Albadni to bring a little bit of Jeddah to his costumers.

Surrounded by buildings that date back over 300 years, the unique homes of Jeddah’s historical downtown tell a story. Builders would mine for coral limestones in the nearby coastline for building foundations. The woodwork was intricately designed by architects from the Levant region and each window or balcony — known as the Roshan — would be painted in green, blue or brown.

Mohammed turned his shop’s story upside down by crafting his own version of the buildings in miniature size, using the same material in the buildings surrounding him today. He would extract the same coral limestone and even carved the miniature Roshan works on his pieces.

Made using local craftsmen and materials, these miniature gifts were bestsellers as soon as he added them to his store.

“I wish business owners walked an extra step and worked hard to localize their products. It will enhance the Saudi economy and encourage companies to make Saudi products since the government has eased the process of starting businesses,” said Albadni.

Mohammed’s path wasn’t easy, but his financial shortage didn’t stop him. Instead, he fought for his passion and his love for his city. He wasn’t as successful as he’d hoped when he opened the shop, but things picked up for the better. “Made in Jeddah” is not a common tagline, but Albadni’s belief in it is what made the difference to his now-popular store.