AlUla: A wonder of Arabia

The AlUla: Wonder of Arabia exhibition introduces visitors to this dual natural and human heritage. (Supplied/Royal Commission for Al-Ula)
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Updated 19 December 2019

AlUla: A wonder of Arabia

  • The exhibition is a tribute to the most important archaeological work carried out over the past 20 years
  • The exhibition recreates an AlUla garden in which visitors can stroll around and soak up local essences

ALULA: The region of AlUla is an exquisite sight, from the deep green of the oasis and the ochre of the sand, to the red of the sandstone canyons and the black tones of the volcanic rocks. This enchanting setting is home to one of the most fertile valleys in the Arabian Peninsula.
 

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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In AlUla, numerous societies and civilizations have followed one another: Neolithic, Nabataean, Roman, Umayyad, Abbasid and Ottoman, among others. Their remains have been exceptionally preserved.
The AlUla: Wonder of Arabia exhibition introduces visitors to this dual natural and human heritage.
It includes rare archaeological objects and artefacts, as well as digital, sound and sensory devices, all supported by exclusive videos by Yann Arthus-Bertrand, an environmentalist, activist, journalist and photographer.
The exhibition is a tribute to the most important archaeological work carried out over the past 20 years, led by its two curators: French archaeologist and epigraphist Laila Nehme, and Saudi archaeologist Abdulrahman Al-Suhaibani.
Their research has brought to light exceptional remains, some of which will be exhibited for the first time.
Arthus-Bertrand’s monumental images project visitors into the majesty of AlUla’s reliefs and colors.
There is a Nabataean funeral ceremony in a replica of one of Hegra’s famous tombs. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is comparable in scale and importance to Petra in Jordan.
Monumental statues and numerous archaeological objects punctuate the exhibition and illustrate the richness of AlUla’s past.
An inscription dated 280 AD, a real missing link between the Nabataean and Arabic alphabets, is on display for the first time, demonstrating how AlUla offers a unique testimony to the birth of the Arabic language.
The exhibition ends with a guided tour of the old town of AlUla, which was inhabited for 800 years by indigenous communities and by pilgrims journeying to Makkah.
AlUla remains a vibrant place. Visitors to the exhibition will learn about the daily life of people who have occupied the valley over the centuries and up to the present day, via activities, archaeological specimens, plants, traditional tools, photographs and contemporary testimonies.
The exhibition recreates an AlUla garden in which visitors can stroll around and soak up local essences — such as moringa, date and fig — through olfactory installations.
“We are delighted that the first international exhibition dedicated to the inhabitants, heritage and history of AlUla is being launched at the Arab World Institute,” said Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan Al-Saud, governor of the Royal Commission for AlUla.
“A true crossroads between three continents and the former gateway from Arabia to the Mediterranean, AlUla is home to some of Saudi Arabia’s most important cultural and historical sites,” he added.
“This exhibition expands the global understanding of Nabataean, Dadanite and ancient Islamic civilizations, and supports our mission to conserve the important heritage of AlUla for future generations.”
Jack Lang, president of the Arab World Institute, said it is “delighted to introduce civilizations that have flourished in the amazing lunar landscape of AlUla — a landscape composed of mountains, hills and rivers, adorned with colors that change from morning to evening, where calm, silence, tranquility and mystery are intertwined.”

He added: “The exhibition we are preparing must be grandiose, in line with AlUla’s greatness. It will give you the opportunity to dream, and will invite you to participate in a journey between heaven and earth in an exceptional place.”

 

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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Experimental cocoa bean harvest: A sweet opportunity for Saudi Arabia

Gebran Al-Maliki, owner of a cocoa plantation, says introducing cocoa will help reshape the agriculture sector. (Photos/Supplied)
Updated 01 December 2020

Experimental cocoa bean harvest: A sweet opportunity for Saudi Arabia

  • Saudi Arabia provides an environment conducive to the shrub’s growth, says expert

MAKKAH: In an unprecedented experience for the Kingdom, a harvest season of more than 200 cocoa shrubs began this year in Jazan following several years of planting the Filipino seedlings.

The foreign plant is a new experiment for the Kingdom as it plans on testing out the long-term success of planting the favored sweet treat.

Specialists in the region pointed out that the cocoa shrub resembles the famous coffee shrub found in the south region of the Kingdom, where a number of farmers have already begun to evaluate the experience and continue cultivating land to make room for more, while others were not so successful.

The supervisor of the Mountain Areas Development and Reconstruction Authority in Jazan, Eng. Bandar Al-Fifi, said: “The cocoa shrub is a tropical or subtropical shrub and is native to South America and East Asia. It was presented to the Mountain Regions Development and Reconstruction Authority a few years back, specifically to the agricultural research station.”

FASTFACTS

• The Jazan region is known for its lush, green lands and fertile soil that possesses the necessary ingredients to ensure the development of other crops.

• Rainfall is abundant, seasonal fluctuations in rainfall are scarce and humidity is high, ensuring that soil continues to retain the moisture it requires for harvests.

He added: “The cultivation process was carried out six years ago by bringing seeds and seedlings from the Philippines. The seeds were cultivated and seedlings were distributed to some interested farmers in the region.

“We in the station’s field have cocoa, banana, mango and guava trees, as well as many tropical and subtropical trees. The field is being used as a guarantor of seeds, in addition to conducting tests and real experiments in an area of 200 meters, in particular on 15 cocoa plants and the first cocoa shrub in Saudi Arabia.”

He told Arab News that it was difficult at first to encourage farmers to invest in the plant, as many were hesitant to introduce a plant not indigenous to the region in order to facilitate the establishment of manufacturing factories and grow a local market.

Al-Fifi said that in Ethiopia, companies buy crops from farmers and then start an integrated industrial process of sorting, cleaning, drying and roasting, because to complete the whole process is not economically viable for farmers alone.

“If every farmer owns 30 cocoa shrubs, this will be an additional source of income for their future,” he added.

The Jazan region is known for its lush, green lands and fertile soil that possesses the necessary ingredients to ensure the development of other crops that guarantee continuity and different harvest times for each type of plant harvested in the area. Rainfall is abundant, seasonal fluctuations in rainfall are scarce and humidity is high, ensuring that soil continues to retain the moisture it requires for harvests.

“In addition to the fact that the temperature gap between small and mature shrubs is not big, due to our proximity to the equator, Saudi Arabia is located below the tropical line, which creates environmental conditions that help the shrub grow,” said Al-Fifi.

Gebran Al-Maliki, one of the owners of a cocoa plantation in Jazan, told Arab News: “Adding cocoa to the Kingdom’s agricultural field is one of the innovative things in Saudi Arabia and it began to give good results that would broadly stimulate the development process, provide an agricultural model that can be trusted and improve experience in a country that supports its farmers and provides them with all the required capabilities.”

He received seeds and seedlings by the end of 2016 as an experiment in which everyone was granted support. “Some wanted to give this new experience a try, because it is similar to the coffee plant. It is an ordinary shrub, just like fruit and citrus trees, but it is a drought-tolerant shrub that is watered once a week.”

To successfully cultivate the fruit, Al-Maliki said that shrubs need shade when first planted in the ground as they are “quite finicky,” but that with the proper care and attention, a tree will flower at about three to four years of age and can grow up to two meters in height.

With up to 400 seeds, the product testing began on his farm after just four years.

“You can find 30 to 50 seeds inside a pod, which are later dried under the sun and ground to become a ready-to-use powder. Cocoa powder can be found in chocolate, oils and cosmetics, in addition to several other uses,” Al-Maliki said.

He said that the seed is very bitter and explained that the more bitter, the better the quality. He added that he has four shrubs, and what hindered the spreading process was waiting for the product quality test results, indicating that the fruit was tried and was found very successful.

The agricultural research station for the Development and Reconstruction of Agricultural Areas aim to reach 50 shrubs in the region to provide enough fruit to produce seeds and seedlings for farmers. Al-Fifi said that they aim to reach 400 seedlings per year that will be distributed, on top of seedlings grown by the region’s farmers themselves.