Al-Turaif: How Saudi Arabia is bolstering future tourism by reviving past treasures

Al-Turaif: How Saudi Arabia is bolstering future tourism by reviving past treasures
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Al-Turaif: How Saudi Arabia is bolstering future tourism by reviving past treasures
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Ad-Dir’iyah, seen in the distance, is the original home of the royal family and the country’s first capital, from 1744 to 1818. (Reuters)
Updated 12 December 2018

Al-Turaif: How Saudi Arabia is bolstering future tourism by reviving past treasures

Al-Turaif: How Saudi Arabia is bolstering future tourism by reviving past treasures
  • Of the many Saudi UNESCO World Heritage Sites declared over the past decade, Al-Turaif is the newest (and oldest) kid in town

JEDDAH: In an increasingly accessible country with no shortage of cultural hidden gems, Saudi Arabia is in a unique position to develop and showcase its most fascinating heritage sites, from the architectural to the archeological.
Five national treasures have already been added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites since 2008, including Al-Ahsa oasis, Al-Hijr archaeological site (Madain Salih), Historic Jeddah and the rock art at Hail.
The fifth site, recognized by UNESCO in 2010, is Al-Turaif Historical District, the remains of a settlement that dates back to the 15th century. Located in the north-western outskirts of the capital, Riyadh, it is one of the Kingdom’s oldest heritage sites, though its potential was only recognized relatively recently.
It is set against the backdrop of the historic Ad-Dir’iyah oasis, a place that is dear to the hearts of the Saudi people and has a special place in the history of the Kingdom, as the original home of the royal family and the country’s first capital, from 1744 to 1818.
The surviving mud-brick structures, in the Najdi architectural style, overlook the oasis and palm gardens of Wadi Hanifa. They include historic palaces, monuments and administrative buildings used by the First Saudi State, such as Salwa Palace, the home of the ruling family at the time, and Saad bin Saud Palace.
When Ad-Dir’iyah was established as the capital, under the rule of Imam Mohammed bin Saud, the founder of the first Saudi State, tribes from across the desert flocked to the city, which expanded to accommodate them.
The city’s borders ran along the edges of the valley, and the mud-brick walls were designed to cope with the harsh desert weather, including summer temperatures hat can reach more than 55 C. With a valley below, vast farm lands and palm trees covering most of the region, the city thrived and flourished.
During Imam Mohammed’s rule, Ad-Dir’iyah became one of the most important cities in Najd, thanks to its position on the trade routes from east to west, the military strength of Al-Saud family, and its importance to pilgrims, granting them protection and accommodation during their journeys.
Now, Al-Turaif district is undergoing a major renovation project to preserve the historically important structures and showcase them as a reminder of the place and time from which the Kingdom’s founding fathers emerged.
This is just one of many projects planned or underway to safeguard Saudi Arabia’s national treasures and develop them as major tourist attractions. As part of the ongoing process, the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage last week added 19 archaeological sites to the National Antiquities Register, which aims to develop and preserve Saudi’s heritage sites.
Ad Dir’iyah has long been considered one of the nation’s greatest treasures. In the run-up to the celebrations in 1999 for the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, King Salman bin Abdul Aziz, at the time the governor of Riyadh, ordered the formation of a committee to develop Ad-Dir’iyah, following a request by Prince Sultan bin Salman, the president of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage. The main aim was to preserve the historic mud-brick buildings and monuments of Al-Turaif, as part of a wider program to develop the Historic Ad Dir’iyah site.
The SCTH has launched many projects across the country as part of an ongoing overall effort to transform Saudi Arabia into one of the top tourism destinations in the Middle East.
In 2010, Al-Turaif District became a registered World Heritage site after a number of development projects were carried out in preparation for its inclusion. The development program, drawn up by the Riyadh Development Authority in corporation with the SCTH and Ad Dir’iyah Governate, focused on the historic and political and cultural value of the city.
Ad-Dir’iyah Salwa Palace Museum and the Imam Mohammed bin Saud Mosque are among the major buildings being developed and preserved. There are four other attractions in the area: a Social Life Museum, a Military Museum, an Arabian Horse Museum and a Trade and Monetary Museum.
Another main attraction is Al-Bujairi Park, a modern development project that includes a spacious park, cafes, restaurants and an art gallery that is popular with international tourists and locals thanks to its relaxing atmosphere away from the city’s hustle and bustle. It serves as the main recreational attraction of Historical Ad Dir’iyah between Al-Bujairi and Al-Turaif Quarter also has steep rock formations, passageways and water creeks, making it a unique location in the capital.
On December 9, 2018, after the GCC Summit in Riyadh, King Salman attended the opening ceremony of Al-Turaif Historical District Development Project in the presence of GCC dignitaries and leading Saudi officials and guests. The project will help transform the Ad-Dir’iyah area into an international and national tourism and cultural hub.
“Al-Turaif has been transformed into an open museum with the restoration and documentation of its archaeological sites,” said Prince Faisal bin Bandar, Emir of Riyadh and chairman of Riyadh Development Authority.
As a key focus of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, tourism is seen as one of the most important sectors that can contribute to job creation in the Kingdom.
It currently employs more than 900,000 Saudis, a number that is expected to rise to 1.2 million by 2030.


Saudi authorities ready to receive passengers as travel ban ends

Saudi authorities ready to receive passengers as travel ban ends
Updated 42 min 56 sec ago

Saudi authorities ready to receive passengers as travel ban ends

Saudi authorities ready to receive passengers as travel ban ends
  • Saudia airlines says it completed preparations to operate flights to 71 destinations from 95 airports
  • Interior ministry said a ban on travel to countries where the virus is not under control still stands

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s passport authority on Sunday said it was ready to operate international flights at full capacity at the Kingdom’s land border crossings, sea and air ports, as a travel ban is set to end on Monday.
The Ministry of Interior announced that citizens would be permitted to travel and all ports would reopen as of 1 a.m.
The General Directorate of Passports said those wishing to travel outside the Kingdom are required to follow the instructions issued by the interior ministry depending on what category they fall into.
The categories include those who have received two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, those who received one dose at least two weeks prior to travel, those recovering from the virus within six months from the date of travel, and citizens under 18-years-old provided they present a travel insurance policy approved by the Saudi Central Bank (SAMA), covering the risks of COVID-19 outside the Kingdom before travel.
Saudi Arabian Airlines said it has completed preparations to operate flights to 71 destinations from 95 airports, including 28 domestic and 43 international destinations.
The airline said since the beginning of the pandemic, it has operated more than 100,000 flights and transported more than 10 million passengers.
Its fleet is regularly sterilized using UVC disinfection systems and all crew have been vaccinated.
The General Authority of Civil Aviation said that around 385 flights are expected to operate throughout the Kingdom’s airports on Monday.
Meanwhile, the interior ministry said travel to a number of countries, directly or via another country, is still banned without prior permission.
In January, the ministry banned travel to Libya, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, Iran, Turkey, Armenia, Somalia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Afghanistan, Venezuela, Belarus, and India were the outbreak is till not under control or were the mutated strain is being spread.


Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister discusses Palestine with US Secretary of State Blinken

Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister discusses Palestine with US Secretary of State Blinken
Updated 44 min 32 sec ago

Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister discusses Palestine with US Secretary of State Blinken

Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister discusses Palestine with US Secretary of State Blinken
  • They reviewed strategic bilateral relations and ways to enhance them in all fields
  • The two ministers also discussed developments in Palestine and the region

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan on Sunday discussed the ongoing efforts to calm tensions in Israel and the West Bank and Gaza and bring the current violence to an end, during call with US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken.
Blinken “lamented the loss of Palestinian and Israeli lives and urged engagement to prevent a deepening of the crisis,” the State Department said, adding he also “expressed his belief that Palestinians and Israelis deserve equal measures of freedom, dignity, security, and prosperity.”
During the phone call, the two ministers reviewed the strategic relations between their two countries and ways to enhance them in all fields, the Kingdom’s foreign ministry said on Sunday.
They also discussed the most prominent developments, foremost of which are developments in Palestine and the region.
The two ministers also discussed other important priorities, including bolstering Saudi defenses, achieving a comprehensive cease-fire and transition to a political process in Yemen, the State Department added. 
Blinken also conveyed his best wishes to the foreign minister and the Saudi people for Eid Al-Fitr.


Saudi Arabia condemns Afghan mosque bombing during Eid Al-Fitr

Saudi Arabia condemns Afghan mosque bombing during Eid Al-Fitr
Updated 16 May 2021

Saudi Arabia condemns Afghan mosque bombing during Eid Al-Fitr

Saudi Arabia condemns Afghan mosque bombing during Eid Al-Fitr
  • A bomb ripped through a mosque in northern Kabul during Friday prayers killing 12 worshippers
  • Saudi foreign minister receives call from his Afghan counterpart

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia on Sunday said it condemns and denounces an explosion inside a mosque on the outskirts of the Afghan capital Kabul that killed at least 12 people and wounded 15.
Daesh claimed responsibility for the attack in Shakar Dara district, as worshippers gathered for Friday prayers on the second day of the Eid Al-Fitr holiday.
The attack also occurred during a three-day cease-fire for the Muslim holiday declared by the Taliban.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the Kingdom stands in solidarity with Afghanistan in combating violence, extremism and terrorism, adding that it rejects “these criminal acts that are inconsistent with all religious principles and moral and human values.”
The ministry offered condolences to the families of the deceased and the Afghan government and people, and wished the injured a speedy recovery.
Also on Sunday, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan received a phone call from his Afghan counterpart Mohammad Hanif Atmar.
During the call, they reviewed relations between their two countries, and opportunities to develop them in various fields.
They also discussed a number of regional issues, developments in Palestine, and other international developments.


Saudi Arabia confirms 15 COVID-19 deaths, 825 new cases

Saudi Arabia confirms 15 COVID-19 deaths, 825 new cases
Updated 16 May 2021

Saudi Arabia confirms 15 COVID-19 deaths, 825 new cases

Saudi Arabia confirms 15 COVID-19 deaths, 825 new cases
  • The Kingdom said 1,028 patients recovered in past 24 hours
  • 13 mosques temporarily closed after 13 people tested positive for coronavirus

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia recorded 15 new COVID-19 related deaths on Sunday, raising the total number of fatalities to 7,162.
The Ministry of Health confirmed 825 new confirmed cases reported in the Kingdom in the previous 24 hours, meaning 433,094 people have now contracted the disease. 
Of the total number of cases, 8,145 remain active and 1,376 in critical condition.
According to the ministry, the highest number of cases were recorded in the capital Riyadh with 263, followed by Makkah with 231, the Eastern Province with 98, Madinah recorded 62 and Asir confirmed 56 cases.
The health ministry also announced that 1,028 patients had recovered from COVID-19, bringing the total number of recoveries in the Kingdom to 417,787.

The Ministry of Interior recorded 22,442 violations against coronavirus preventative measures across the Kingdom from May 9 to 15, with the highest reported in Riyadh with 8,202, followed by Makkah with 3,734, the Eastern Province with 3,504, and Qassim with 1,737. 
The ministry renewed its call on the public to register to receive the vaccine, and adhere to the measures and abide by instructions.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Islamic Affairs temporary closed 13 mosques in five regions after 13 people tested positive for coronavirus, bringing the total number of mosques closed to 1,201 within 99 days, 1,175 of which have reopened after being sterilized.
The coronavirus pandemic has affected over 163 million people globally and the death toll has reached around 3.38 million.


Saudi Arabia reopens King Fahd Causeway for travelers to and from Bahrain

Saudi Arabia reopens King Fahd Causeway for travelers to and from Bahrain
Updated 16 May 2021

Saudi Arabia reopens King Fahd Causeway for travelers to and from Bahrain

Saudi Arabia reopens King Fahd Causeway for travelers to and from Bahrain
  • Travel suspension for citizens, and the opening of land, sea and air ports would be lifted starting Sunday
  • A coronavirus insurance certificate is required for travelers below 18 years

DUBAI: Hundreds of thousands of daily travelers between Saudi Arabia and Bahrain through the King Fahd Causeway may once again access the border crossing when travel restrictions are lifted on Monday, May 17.
Residents shuttle between the two countries via King Fahd Causeway, but the travel artery was closed on March 8, 2020, because of COVID-19 safety precautions.
Travel suspension for citizens, and the opening of land, sea and air ports would be lifted starting Sunday, state news agency SPA reported.
An additional 10 lanes were installed to the departure area, bringing the total to 27 lanes, in addition to 36 lanes in the arrival area, Duwaihi Al-Sahli, director of King Fahd Causeway Passports, was quoted by the report as saying.
However, only those who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 or those who have recovered from the disease would be allowed to leave the Kingdom, authorities. They would be required to present proof via the Tawakkalna app installed in their mobile phones.
A coronavirus insurance certificate is required for travelers below 18 years.
For travelers heading from Bahrain to Saudi Arabia, they will be required to carry any of the health applications approved in the GCC countries, which confirm whether they are vaccinated or have recovered from the virus, Bahrain’s news agency BNA reported.
They can also present PCR certificates which should not exceed 72 hours from the time of taking the sample, BNA added.
Jordan meanwhile said that exemptions previously announced for passengers’ entry through the Omari border post with Saudi Arabia have been canceled effective on Monday.
The decision was made after a series of measures were taken recently to help ease the entry of Jordanians and visitors from Saudi Arabia and other Arab Gulf countries, state news agency Petra reported, citing Interior Minister Mazen Al-Faraya.
Border regulations previously required the presentation of a certificate proving they received two coronavirus vaccine doses and a negative PCR test 72 hours prior.
Travelers can now pass without registering on the platform or having a PCR test on the border, the report said.