Diriyah Gate to be a global, historical and cultural landmark

Salwa Palace, located in the northeastern part of Al-Turaif district forms an integrated architectural system with its residential, administrative, cultural and religious units. (Photo/Supplied)
Updated 22 November 2019

Diriyah Gate to be a global, historical and cultural landmark

  • Diriyah is home to Al-Turaif District, built in 1744 and known as one of the largest clay cities in the world

DIRIYAH: With the establishment of the Diriyah Gate Development Authority (DGDA), the historical site of Diriyah will become one of the largest and most important international destinations.

The DGDA seeks to transform the site into a location to host activities and events aimed at exchanging historical and cultural knowledge through museums and venues spread throughout
Al-Turaif District.

 The DGDA aims to celebrate the people of Diriyah by telling their stories and demonstrating their social, cultural and historical the roots, as the cradle of the first Saudi state and a symbol of the beauty of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and
its people.

 Diriyah is home to Al-Turaif District, built in 1744 and known as one of the largest clay cities in the world. It was registered by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 2010 — one of five Saudi sites listed.

Not far from Al-Turaif District is the historic Al-Bujairi District, which was a center for spreading science and knowledge during the prosperity of Diriyah, as the capital of the first Saudi state. 

Today it houses many commercial centers and cafes and is the perfect destination to experience Saudi cuisine.

One of the historical landmarks in Al-Turaif District is Salwa Palace, which is located in the northeastern part. It is the largest of its landmarks and spans over 10,000 square meters. It was founded by Imam Abdul Aziz bin Mohammed bin Saud in 1765, and is historically known as the home of the first royal family. 

The palace houses the Diriyah Museum, which presents the history and development of the first Saudi state through works of art, drawings, models and documentaries.

BACKGROUND

At the northern end of old Diriyah, the town of Ghusaybah sits atop of a plateau surrounded by the Hanifa Valley on three sides.

Salwa Palace forms an integrated architectural system with its residential, administrative, cultural and religious units.

 Al-Turaif District also includes the Imam Muhammad bin Saud Mosque, known as the Great Mosque or Al-Turaif Mosque. It is adjacent to Salwa Palace on the north side, and Imams used to lead Friday prayers there.

 To make movement between the mosque and the palace easier, Imam Saud bin Abdul Aziz built a bridge to connect them on the upper floor. The mosque houses a religious school to teach religious sciences. It was formerly the largest mosque in the Arabian Peninsula and was built to symbolize the strength and unity of the Saudi state.

 At the northern end of old Diriyah, the town of Ghusaybah sits atop of a plateau surrounded by the Hanifa Valley on three sides. It was settled by Mani’ Al-Muraydi, the oldest ancestor of the House of Saud, in the 15th century. 

Ghusaybah is a well-established location, carefully chosen for the establishment of the new governorate, and its location played a major role in the protection of Hajj convoys and trade passing through its areas of influence in Al-Arid region.

 Ghusaybah was the seat of an independent governorate before the founding of the first Saudi state. It provided protection for the northern gate of Diriyah during the campaign of Ibrahim Pasha in 1818.

 Samhan is one of the historical areas south of Ghusaybeh on a triangle overlooking the valley when it meets another tributary, the villages of Omran. It directly overlooks the districts of Qusayrin, Mrayih, and Al-Turaif. This location was important during the reign of Imam Mohammed bin Saud and his son Samhan, being a well-fortified site during the siege of Diriyah. It was selected by Imam Abdullah to be his defense headquarters.

 In the field of philanthropy, one may mention “Sabala Moudhi” which was founded by Imam Abdul Aziz bin Mohammed bin Saud, who made it a charitable endowment in the name of his mother, Moudhi bint Sultan bin Abi Wahtan, wife of Imam Mohammed bin Saud. 

It is located east of the Salwa Palace on the southeast of Al-Turaif District. It is a two-story building and was established to provide free accommodation for visitors coming to the city of Diriyah.


Akiba Cafe: Your manga escape in Saudi Arabia

Visitors to the cafe can order their drinks and browse Akiba’s collection for free at diner-style tables, or enjoy their experience solo as they catch up on their favorite manga tales. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)
Updated 10 August 2020

Akiba Cafe: Your manga escape in Saudi Arabia

  • Jeddah destination provides a taste of Japan with anime, comics, desserts and films

JEDDAH: Japanese comic books, known as manga, have captured the hearts of some Saudis so much that a 31-year-old citizen decided to give the genre’s fans a specialist Jeddah cafe so that they can pursue their passion as well as meet others who share it.

Akiba Cafe is the brainchild of Mohammed Saeed Baghlaf, an urban planning engineer who spent over a year living in Japan after graduating from college in the US and was working on a project for Tokyo’s 2020 Olympics.
Manga cafes can be found in most cities across Japan. They are a place where people can spend hours reading manga, and they are also considered to be a cultural space where people can relax and have conversations about manga.
He was inspired by the concept of manga cafes while he was in Japan, and took notice of the growing love for manga in the Kingdom. As an urban planner, he was able to grasp the Japanese concept and implement it in Saudi Arabia with a few tweaks and changes to suit the local audience.
“Manga cafés are all over Japan, albeit executed differently,” Baghlaf told Arab News. “They’re a little like internet cafés where people can spend the night. Of course, recreating that here doesn’t go along with our culture and traditions, so we recreated the concept in a way that accommodates that.”

Signature drinks
Akiba has only been open for a few months but, by the time Arab News visited the manga hotspot, people have already been flocking to the cafe to try out its signature drinks and read their favorite comics.

We have contracted a company in Tokyo to get the rights for a bunch of shows and, after many discussions, we get to air an episode an hour after it airs in Japan with Arabic subtitles for our customers.

Mohammed Saeed Baghlaf, Urban planning engineer

Friends and families can be seen relaxing together on the ground floor flicking through the pages of a comic book, or delving into a more accessible e-reading option as manga is still in short supply in Saudi Arabia.
Visitors to the cafe can order their drinks and browse Akiba’s collection for free at diner-style tables, or enjoy their experience solo as they catch up on their favorite manga tales.
Akiba also airs popular anime and animated films throughout the day, uploading their schedule on their Twitter and Instagram pages.
Baghlaf is an avid gamer, but watching anime and reading manga is definitely on his list of favorite things to do. Keeping up with popular stories also helps him to figure out what manga volumes to acquire and which anime films to screen.
The urban planning engineer noticed the Kingdom’s approach in linking many objectives in the Vision 2030 reform plan to entertainment and, as cafes continue to draw large crowds in Saudi Arabia, he felt encouraged about going for Akiba.
“Specialty cafes are very popular here nowadays, so how am I going to be special? I went for a manga or anime cafe,” he said.
The cafe’s target audience are those who are interested in specialty coffee, manga and anime. For people with a sweet tooth there are Japanese desserts on offer, including cheesecake.

BACKGROUND

• Akiba Cafe is the brainchild of Mohammed Saeed Baghlaf, an urban planning engineer.

• He spent over a year living in Japan after graduating from college in the US and was working on a project for Tokyo’s 2020 Olympics.

• He was inspired by the concept of manga cafes while he was in Japan, and took notice of the growing love for manga in Saudi Arabia.

• The name Akiba comes from Akihabara, a popular area in Tokyo that is a hub for anime, gaming and electronics retailers.

• It also has specialty cafes throughout its busy maze of streets.

• Mohammed Saeed Baghlaf wants to support local talent by initiating artist nights at Akiba so that people can come and get sketches and put local manga on display for readers to discover.

Baghlaf has to make frequent trips to Japan to discuss screening rights with creators in Tokyo. “We’ve contracted a company in Tokyo to get the rights for a bunch of shows and, after many discussions, we get to air an episode an hour after it airs in Japan with Arabic subtitles for our customers.”
Due to the deals Baghlaf has made with distributors, he receives the episodes prior to their airing date to green-light them in terms of translation accuracy and censorship, in order not to air anything that goes against the Kingdom’s culture.
The same goes for manga. “I would bring in a story with 70-something volumes and, out of those, one book could end up with something inappropriate and I’d have to shelve the whole series.”


Baghlaf believes that the market for Japanese storytelling is massive in Saudi Arabia and continues to grow each day.
“It’s definitely popular and it’s why you see major events happening like Comic Con and Anime Expo, which I’ve been to myself with 200,000 others. It was so crowded,” he said.

Friendship
The Saudis have grown up with Japanese stories for decades, as well as slapstick US cartoons such as Tom and Jerry and the Loony Tunes that lack storytelling or arcs, according to Baghlaf. The Japanese stories have taught generations of Saudis about friendship, brotherhood, integrity and how to deal with others.
“There’s also a huge likeness between Japanese and Arabic culture. Within families, respecting those older than you whether through language, which has levels of formality where elders deserve the most respectable form when talked to and they have a lot of respect for familial bonds as well.”
The cafe owner revealed that the name Akiba comes from Akihabara, a popular area in Tokyo that is a hub for anime, gaming and electronics retailers. It also has specialty cafes throughout its busy maze of streets.
Baghlaf wants to support local talent by initiating artist nights at Akiba so that people can come and get sketches and put local manga on display for readers to discover.