Hidden Treasures: The jewelry of Saudi Arabia goes on display in Dubai

Hidden Treasures: The jewelry of Saudi Arabia goes on display in Dubai
Two royal items in the exhibition: (left) A malachite, gold and diamond brooch gifted to Princess Ceeta Al-Dammer, wife of the late King Khalid; and a diamond ring belonging to one of King Abdul Aziz’s daughters. (Supplied photos)
Updated 31 March 2019

Hidden Treasures: The jewelry of Saudi Arabia goes on display in Dubai

Hidden Treasures: The jewelry of Saudi Arabia goes on display in Dubai
  • The items are on display in Dubai for the first time in an exhibition organized by L’École Van Cleef & Arpels
  • The pieces in the Art of Heritage collection reflect the history and lifestyle of various tribes and regions

DUBAI: More than 300 priceless items of jewelry from Saudi Arabia, from Bedouin belts to the brooch of a princess, went on display for the first time in Dubai this weekend, telling the story of the Arabian Peninsula as a crossroads of civilizations and influences.

The pieces in “Hidden Treasures: Jewelry from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia” represent just a fifth of the collection that the Art of Heritage group in Riyadh has been assembling and preserving for more than 30 years, comprising artwork, crafts and objects that reflect the history and lifestyle of various Saudi tribes and regions since the 19th century. With another collection from Art of Heritage being exhibited in Bahrain until May, there is talk about its pieces forming the basis of a museum.

“You’ll get to see just how diverse and varied Arab culture and identity is, and how each piece is an exchange and an interpretation of places, ideas and customs,” Pramod Kumar KG, the curator of the exhibit, said at Thursday’s opening in the Dubai Design District. The exhibit was organized by the French jewelry design school L’Ecole Van Cleef & Arpels.

Each piece, with exquisite details, tells the story of identity and diversity. While the pieces were worn by women in Saudi Arabia, they reflect influences from all over — from coiled, Celtic-style bangles to abstract African designs, Egyptian snake-design bracelets, and shimmering cascades of Indian and Austrian coins. “From the works of the pilgrims that came to Makkah and stayed on and created different crafts … to the goods and influences from the trade routes that passed through, to the newer styles and creations by designers in the Kingdom, the Art of Heritage Museum, when it opens, will be one of a kind,” said Kumar KG.

Art of Heritage was established as a cultural trust, and its objects include jewelry, textiles and garments, carpets, furnishings, ethnographic material, wooden doors, books and manuscripts, maps, photos, audio and video recordings, and printed ephemera.

The trust aims to promote research and study while fostering the revival of Saudi art, craft and culture among newer generations.

Since its establishment in 1986, the collection continues to expand under the guidance of its board, led by Princess Sara Al-Faisal bin Abdul Aziz, Princess Moudi bint Khalid, Princess Haifa Al-Faisal and Princess Basma bint Majid bin Abdul Aziz.

The exhibit demonstrates that besides their role as decorative objects, women’s adornments tell a vast story of connections that reached the very heart of Arabia and amalgamated with existing traditions. “We also wanted to show how Arab culture, as retold through jewelry, is more than just an Islamic culture; it’s very rich, very diverse and very old,” said Kumar KG.

A pair of unique gold tasseled earrings from 1920 illustrates the amount of intricate detail that went into Egyptian-inspired design: A tipped hook with lower registers of filigree, pearl circlets, bezel-set stones, and a conical middle with delicate floral and crescent-shaped tassels embedded with turquoise and ending in dangling pearls.

Traditionally, turquoise stone has been associated with providing protection against the “evil eye” or hasad (envy), and the pearls with femininity and eliteness.

A 1940 ring of gold, silver and diamonds that once belonged to a daughter of the founder of Saudi Arabia, King Abdul Aziz, is an example of the early modern influence of Europe on the Kingdom, with diamonds as a stone of choice instead of the more commonly used coral, turquoise or glass. The ring is also a design innovation with its use of multiple gem setting styles.

A necklace from 1950 of silver, coins, glass and cotton, known as Iqd, has three cylindrical charm pendants that often carried verses from the Holy Qur’an as protection for the wearer.

Connected to red glass beads with dangling tiny silver tassels, the Maria Theresa Thaler coins, with an image of the empress, were renowned worldwide for their purity of silver, and so were frequently used in jewelry across the Arab world.

Another royal piece that is sure to capture the attention of anyone who sees it is a 1970 brooch that was exclusively designed and gifted to Princess Ceeta Al-Dammer, wife of the late King Khalid. The country’s emblem of crossed swords topped by a date palm, adopted in 1950, is made of gold and diamonds, and is mounted on a green malachite, a color that symbolizes paradise, life and hope in Islam.

Allegiance to Saudi Arabia is usually demonstrated by emblazoning the emblem on garments and textiles by way of embroidery. Common Islamic motifs include the crescent moon, stars and geometric designs, along with calligraphic Arabic words and verses. 




The French jewelry design school L’Ecole Van Cleef & Arpels, which organized the exhibit. (Supplied photo)

On the second floor of the exhibit, the powerful impact of what women wore can be felt as the jewelry in all its weight is draped on the busts of blackened mannequins. The faceless figures allow the visitors to imagine themselves wearing the headpieces, from a 1940 black turban of wool, silver and coral — where the talismanic coral rings were added or removed depending on the wearer’s financial wherewithal — to burqas and caps with tassels and embroidery.

“Women were proud of who they were, and they wore it for everyone to see. They maintained and nurtured cultural traditions, and passed them down to their children through their jewelry,” said Kumar KG.

There is also an impressive early-20th-century bridal collection of gold, ruby and precious stones, with an almost shield-like gold necklace and elaborate bangles ending with chains of gold linked to finger rings that would have made any bride shine.

While what they wore made them stand out, one interesting feature in most of the jewelry was tiny bells that alerted others to the presence of women nearby.

It was tradition for men to avert their gaze as a woman passed to respect her presence. At the same time, it was bound to create a sense of allure as one heard a woman pass yet was unable to look at her.

This exhibit is one of four organized by L’Ecole Van Cleef & Arpels that are currently on at the space in the Dubai Design District.

The others are “Pearl Merchants: A Rediscovered Saga between the Gulf and France at the Dawn of the 20th Century”; “Precious Art Deco Objects,” a selection of boxes from the collection of Prince and Princess Sadruddin Aga Khan; and “The Fabulous Destiny of Tavernier’s Diamonds,” a display of replicas of 20 exceptional diamonds sold in the 17th century to French King Louis XIV.

The exhibits are being offered along with courses in jewelry history and design, talks and movie screenings. “We are, beyond doubt, extremely happy to open the doors to the public and look forward to engaging with them on this creative art of jewelry journey,” Marie Vallanet-Delhom, the school’s president, said in a statement before the show.

“The varied range of free activations will provide unique experiences under the tutelage of well-known experts, which will broaden your horizon and knowledge of discovering the enamoring world of fine jewelry.”

Besides the cultural and historic significance, “Hidden Treasures: Jewelry from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia” demonstrates the beauty and craftsmanship found in the smallest and most timeless of objects. 

_________

On April 11, there will be a special talk on the exhibit at 6:30 p.m. at Hai D3 in the Dubai Design District.

 


Why this retired engineer is a ‘model’ Saudi citizen

The models include typical houses and traditional shops that served fava beans, barbecued meat, kebabs and mabshoor, a traditional Arab dish of bread in a meat or vegetable broth. (Photos/Huda Bashatah)
The models include typical houses and traditional shops that served fava beans, barbecued meat, kebabs and mabshoor, a traditional Arab dish of bread in a meat or vegetable broth. (Photos/Huda Bashatah)
Updated 04 August 2021

Why this retired engineer is a ‘model’ Saudi citizen

The models include typical houses and traditional shops that served fava beans, barbecued meat, kebabs and mabshoor, a traditional Arab dish of bread in a meat or vegetable broth. (Photos/Huda Bashatah)
  • Abdul Aziz Taher Al-Hebshi aims to preserve the history of social and cultural life in Saudi Arabia
  • Makkah in those days was a beacon for writers, poets and scientists

MAKKAH: A Saudi agricultural engineer is spending his retirement years helping to preserve the Kingdom’s architectural and cultural history — in the form of extremely accurate models of important buildings and sites in Jeddah and Makkah.

Now Abdul Aziz Taher Al-Hebshi has turned his house in Jeddah’s Al-Rawdah neighborhood into an exhibition space to showcase his models, which represent a fascinating record of daily social and cultural life in the cities in the early-to-mid 20th century.
A good example of this is his model of a “writer’s cafe” in the Misfalah neighborhood of Makkah that was once popular with writers, intellectuals and poets. Through it, he said, he aims to immortalize the role these figures played in the development of literature in Saudi Arabia and the country’s cultural history.
“Knowledgeable people told me that the cafe where Makkah’s writers, poets and intellectuals used to go to was Saleh Abdulhay Cafe, located next to Bajrad Cafe,” 72-year-old Al-Hebshi told Arab News. “Similar cafes were found throughout Makkah’s Misfalah neighborhood in the past.”
He said culture and literature thrived in Makkah in those days, along with the study of science and the quest for knowledge. The city was therefore a beacon for writers, poets and scientists, and the Saleh Abdulhay Cafe was one of the places where they could gather for intellectual and cultural discussions.
“Among the cultural and intellectual figures that used to go to the writer’s cafe … was the Saudi Minister of Culture Mohammed Abdu Yamani,” he said, adding that such venues were the country’s first literary and cultural forums, where people could gather to discuss literary and intellectual issues.
With his models and exhibition, Al-Hebshi said he wants to depict and preserve this history of day-to-day life and culture in Makkah and Jeddah in days gone by. In addition to the cafe, his models include typical houses and traditional shops that served fava beans, barbecued meat, kebabs and mabshoor, a traditional Arab dish of bread in a meat or vegetable broth.
In particular, he said he wants to immortalize the lives of the intellectuals and writers of the era by documenting their daily lives, the ways in which people interacted with them and how neighborhoods such as Misfalah developed as important cultural centers.
So far he has spent three years building his models of cafes, shops, houses and public squares. He has completed four and is working on a fifth. The task requires hard work and patience, he said. For example, it requires great effort to accurately recreate in miniature the rawasheen, the elaborately patterned wooden window frames found in old buildings in Makkah and Jeddah that maximize natural light and air flow. Great accuracy is required throughout the model making process when it comes to the sizes, dimensions and scale.
“One meter in real life is 10 centimeters in the models,” Al-Hebshi said, which represents a scale of one-to-10. “This measure seeks to maintain, as much as possible, the space’s real dimensions.”
The contents of rooms must also be in scale with the building and each other, he explained: “A bottle of Coca-Cola cannot be bigger than a watermelon and so on.” These are all important details in his models, he added, which ensure they are accurate and consistent.
Given the incredible detail and quality of the models, you would be forgiven for thinking Al-Hebshi is a trained carpenter; in fact he is an enthusiastic amateur with a true passion for the craft. Such is his dedication that even hand injuries — and the need for surgery after damaging a finger with a drill — have not kept him from his work for long.

HIGHLIGHT

Abdul Aziz Taher Al-Hebshi says he was inspired by Jeddah’s Old Town and its magnificent Hijazi buildings with rawasheen, beautifully crafted doors, ornate engravings and delicate details, along with the beauty of its landscape and old streets.

He said his model making began after he found some tools that had been abandoned in a carpentry shop, and for materials he used wood and discarded kaftans he found in stores he shopped at. Wood cutting requires great skill, he added, and while he makes most parts of his models, he said he imports some items from abroad to ensure the highest levels of accuracy. For example he buys miniature signs advertising popular international brands such as Pepsi, Miranda and 7-Up, which are difficult to recreate through woodworking.
Al-Hebshi was director of the Agricultural Bank in Jeddah when he was forced to retire in 2006 as a result of a back injury, and he found himself wondering what he could do with his time. A few years earlier he had developed an interest in woodworking but the demands of his job left him with little time to pursue it. A friend who was aware of this suggested he do something with the wood from a large felled neem tree that had been dumped in Jeddah.
“That tree turned out to be the start of me professionally building models,” he said. He added that he was inspired by Jeddah’s Old Town and its magnificent Hijazi buildings with rawasheen, beautifully crafted doors, ornate engravings and delicate details, along with the beauty of its landscape and old streets. The Saudi leadership has put a special focus on the area to showcase its history and splendor and Al-Hebshi said that this has helped him research his detailed designs.
He added that he welcomes all those who wish to visit his house, in Al-Rawdah neighborhood 3, to see his models. He plans to build more to add to his incredible picture of past life in the Kingdom, and the people who helped the country become the nation it is.


Iraq gets back looted ancient artifacts from US, others

Iraq gets back looted ancient artifacts from US, others
Updated 03 August 2021

Iraq gets back looted ancient artifacts from US, others

Iraq gets back looted ancient artifacts from US, others
  • The majority of the artifacts date back 4,000 years to ancient Mesopotamia and were recovered from the US in a recent trip by PM Mustafa Al-Kadhimi
  • Iraq’s antiquities have been looted throughout decades of war and instability since the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein

BAGHDAD: Over 17,000 looted ancient artifacts recovered from the United States and other countries were handed over to Iraq’s Culture Ministry on Tuesday, a restitution described by the government as the largest in the country’s history.
The majority of the artifacts date back 4,000 years to ancient Mesopotamia and were recovered from the US in a recent trip by Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi. Other pieces were also returned from Japan, Netherlands and Italy, Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein said in a joint press conference with Culture Minister Hasan Nadhim.
Nadhim said the recovery was “the largest in the history of Iraq” and the product of months of effort between the government and Iraq’s Embassy in Washington.
“There’s still a lot of work ahead in this matter. There are still thousands of Iraqi artifacts smuggled outside the country,” he said. “The United Nations resolutions are supporting us in the international community and the laws of other countries in which these artifacts are smuggled to are on our side.”
“The smugglers are being trapped day after day by these laws and forced to hand over these artifacts,” he added.
The artifacts were handed over to the Culture Ministry in large wooden crates. A few were displayed but the ministry said the most significant pieces will be examined and later displayed to the public in Iraq’s National Museum.
Iraq’s antiquities have been looted throughout decades of war and instability since the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein. Iraq’s government has been slowly recovering the plundered antiquities since. However, archaeological sites across the country continue to be neglected owing to lack of funds.
At least five shipments of antiquities and documents have been returned to Iraq’s museum since 2016, according to the Foreign Ministry.


Mideast, North Africa region to get 50 Best Restaurants list in 2022

Mideast, North Africa region to get 50 Best Restaurants list in 2022
50 Best Restaurants lauds Trèsind as one of the best dining establishments in Dubai. Courtesy
Updated 03 August 2021

Mideast, North Africa region to get 50 Best Restaurants list in 2022

Mideast, North Africa region to get 50 Best Restaurants list in 2022

DUBAI: In February 2022, some of the most lauded restaurateurs, fine chefs and food lovers will congregate in the UAE for the reveal of the 50 top restaurants in the region.  

It’s been announced that The World's 50 Best Restaurants, owned and run by William Reed Business Media and established in 2002, is launching a new regional restaurants list and awards program that will be hosted in Abu Dhabi early next year.

It will be the first time that a Middle Eastern country will play host to the prestigious event, which is informally known as the Oscars of fine dining.

“We are delighted that Abu Dhabi will be playing host to the awards ceremony, as the UAE capital has been establishing itself as a culinary force over recent years,” William Drew, Director of Content for 50 Best, said in a released statement.

Middle East & North Africa’s 50 Best Restaurants is the latest regional restaurants list and awards program since 2013, when both Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants and Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants were established. 

The list, which was born out of the magazine pages of Britain’s “Restaurant” is now widely regarded as the most highly influential ranking of its kind.

The inaugural Middle East & North Africa’s 50 Best Restaurants list will be revealed in a live countdown, along with a series of special awards, culminating in the announcement of The Best Restaurant in the Middle East & North Africa 2022. 

“The diversity of cuisines and restaurants across this wide region will ensure this new list is a vital addition to the international gastronomic landscape,” added Drew.

The ranking will be determined by 250 voters, made up of anonymous restaurant experts from 19 countries across the region, based on their best restaurant experiences. Dining establishments cannot apply to be on the list.

Meanwhile, a program of events, including a forum, chef masterclasses and dining events, will be hosted in the UAE capital in partnership with the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi from Feb. 4-11, as part of the Abu Dhabi Culinary Calendar.

Some events will be open to the public on a ticketed basis, with details to be revealed later.

The gala awards ceremony is set to take place on Feb. 7.


Lebanese artist Nadim Karam creates memorial sculpture at Beirut Port

Lebanese artist Nadim Karam creates memorial sculpture at Beirut Port
Nadim Karam's 'The Gesture' (2021). Supplied
Updated 03 August 2021

Lebanese artist Nadim Karam creates memorial sculpture at Beirut Port

Lebanese artist Nadim Karam creates memorial sculpture at Beirut Port

DUBAI: A towering sculpture made of scrap metal from the wreckage following last year’s explosions at the Beirut Port on Aug. 4 was unveiled at the site on Monday. Titled “The Gesture,” the giant memorial sculpture is the work of Lebanese artist, architect and Beirut resident Nadim Karam, who said he wanted to honor the families of the victims of the explosions that left more than 200 dead, more than 6,000 injured and over 300,000 people displaced. Karam said he also wanted to show “the will of the Lebanese people to continue to go on.”

Nadim Karam's 'The Gesture' (2021). Supplied

The massive work, which, when seen from afar, seems to tower over the destructed silos with its commanding presence, was funded by several private companies and individuals. “It is a giant made of ashes, traces from the explosions, scars of the city, that still exist everywhere in Beirut,” Karam told Arab News. “The work represents the scars of the people that still have not healed. This figure is every single one of us and a reminder that we are the living energy of Beirut.”

One year after the Beirut Port blast damaged the lives of thousands of Lebanese and tore apart large chunks of the city, which to this day remains in a process of reconstruction, no top officials have been held accountable. Efforts to investigate the root cause of the explosions have stalled and the Lebanese, with their country in a continual state of freefall due to a collapsed banking system and stagnant government, continue to live in a state of trauma, with many fleeing the country for a better life elsewhere.

Nadim Karam's 'The Gesture' (2021). Supplied

While Karam hopes the Lebanese will support the massive sculpture, some have raised questions as to whether artwork should be placed at the Beirut Port when justice still has not been served. Many will agree that the fact that the sculpture has been made from scraps of steel from the site is a powerful statement in itself, which Karam and others hope will recall the importance of solidarity among the people and the desperate need for answers. As Karam says, “‘The Gesture’ also represents the will of the Lebanese to know the truth about what happened. Only when we know the truth will we have justice.”


Chefs Fariyal Abdullahi, Nasim Alikhani to dish up dinner for this year’s Met Gala

Chefs Fariyal Abdullahi, Nasim Alikhani to dish up dinner for this year’s Met Gala
The menu for this year's Met Gala is a collective effort by10 New York-based chefs. Supplied
Updated 03 August 2021

Chefs Fariyal Abdullahi, Nasim Alikhani to dish up dinner for this year’s Met Gala

Chefs Fariyal Abdullahi, Nasim Alikhani to dish up dinner for this year’s Met Gala

DUBAI: For the first time, the Met Gala is introducing a sustainable plant-based menu for its annual event taking place this year on Sept. 13, 2021. 

Guests will be treated to a healthy dinner curated by a group of 10 notable New York-based chefs and Instagram influencers, handpicked by Ethiopian-Swedish chef Marcus Samuelsson and Bon Appétit.

Among the chefs selected is US-Ethiopian Fariyal Abdullahi and American-Iranian Nasim Alikhani.

Abdullahi is the culinary manager of R+D Kitchen in Dallas, while Alikhani spearheads a hot spot in Brooklyn, New York, called Sofreh.

They join other New York-based chefs, cookbook authors and culinary enthusiasts Emma Bengtsson, Lazarus Lynch, Junghyun Park, Erik Ramirez, Thomas Raquel, Sophia Roe, Simone Tong and Fabian von Hauske.

“I am honored to participate in an initiative that highlights the incredible work of these 10 New York chefs at the Met Gala,” said Samuelsson in a press release issued from the Met. 

“After a difficult two years for the restaurant industry, this will showcase the work and tell the stories of a dynamic group of chefs while presenting an exciting menu of delicious, plant-based dishes. The gala offers an incomparable opportunity for emerging talent to elevate their careers and share their perspectives and craft.”

In the weeks leading up to the gala, the 10 chefs will share plant-based recipes via Instagram Reels, powered by a partnership with the photo-sharing social media platform.

The Met Gala is an annual fundraising gala that celebrates New York’s the Costume Institute’s new exhibition on a changing theme. It typically occurs on the first Monday in May, however, due to COVID-19, it is set to take place as a smaller affair on Sept. 13.