New doc reveals how Gaza fishermen found — and lost — ancient treasure

Abu Ahmed, one of those who discovered the coins on the seabed just off the coast of Blakhiya, Gaza, tells the filmmakers he sold 10 of the Alexander decadrachms to local dealers. (YouTube)
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Updated 14 February 2020

New doc reveals how Gaza fishermen found — and lost — ancient treasure

AMMAN: In the spring of 2017, a group of fishermen in Gaza discovered treasure that could change their lives: A hoard of ancient Greek coins — over 2,000 years old — which included dozens of silver decadrachm coins from the time of Alexander the Great. Only 12 such coins had been officially recorded previously, and each is worth thousands of dollars (some, depending on their condition, are worth over $100,000).

A new documentary from the BBC — “Treasure Hunters,” available on YouTube — tells the story of the hoard’s discovery and what happened next. Abu Ahmed, one of those who discovered the coins on the seabed just off the coast of Blakhiya, Gaza, tells the filmmakers he sold 10 of the Alexander decadrachms to local dealers. He received a total of $150. “What can I say? I was happy,” he says.

“(The coins) are in the hands of people who don’t know what they are, why they are here, and what they represent for our country,” says Gaza-based archaeologist Fadel Alatol, to whom the fishermen brought a bag of coins to ask if he knew what they were. “It’s very painful.”

Before long, the coins were no longer in the possession of the fishermen. Most likely, they had been smuggled out of Gaza by the local dealers and sold on around the world. Officially, the find should have been declared to the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities in Gaza, but the fishermen say they had no choice but to sell them. “Why should we be considered thieves?” one asks. “Our work, thank God, is honest. We are poor people. We want to live and eat and spend on our children.”




A new documentary from the BBC — “Treasure Hunters,” available on YouTube — tells the story of the hoard’s discovery and what happened next. (YouTube)

Months later, a number of Alexander decadrachm coins began to show up for sale at auction houses around the world. One sold for $130,000. No proof of origin (beyond, say, “Private Canadian collector”) was given for any of them (which is not illegal, but is “very unusual for extremely rare coins”) and many experts suspect they came from the Gaza hoard. But there is no way of proving it. Someone, somewhere, is making a lot of money from the find. But it isn’t the fishermen. And it isn’t Gaza.

“This was our only chance to get rich,” says Abu Ahmed. “But God didn’t approve it. We’ve woken up now.”


Saudi designer and musician: ‘You don’t need an excuse to fail’

Updated 26 February 2020

Saudi designer and musician: ‘You don’t need an excuse to fail’

  • An accomplished pianist, composer and artist Labeed Assidmi is known for his passion and hard work

DAMMAM: Saudi graphic designer, artist, musician and entrepreneur Labeed Assidmi is known for his passion and hard work.

Assidmi is a designer and art director for corporate events at Saudi Aramco. However, it’s not all he’s known for. An accomplished pianist and composer, he has been playing piano since he was a child and is often asked to perform at events. He also owns and operates the company Pinnizer, where he sells retro and Saudi-centric lapel pins.

He wants people to know that there are different levels to what he does and how he wants to be perceived. “I want to be known as a designer first, a musician second and a pin maker last,” he said.

His passion for design began with a trip to Disneyland, where he saw how effectively a logo could be used with the iconic image of Mickey Mouse. “They were so creative with it. It was everywhere; the hats, the shirts, the buses, the tickets and the food. It was never boring. I started to think about what kind of job a person could have that would allow them to create these things. I knew that that was what I wanted to do.”

After studying graphic design in the US, he returned to Saudi Arabia to pursue a career as a designer. He said that becoming a designer can unlock plenty of paths for aspiring creatives: “Design is like an airport, there are so many directions you can go in as long as you know the principles.”

His journey in music started in the fourth grade “on the half-functional keyboard that everyone had somewhere in their house during that era.” He tinkered around with it until he managed to teach himself a few simple tunes.

He started taking the piano more seriously in college, eventually composing songs.

“I always play my own songs, I don’t really like doing covers,” he said.

He finds composing and playing music cathartic, and an effective way of stretching his creative muscles without overexerting himself. “When I’m not making art, I’m making music, and vice versa. I love the piano, it’s my escape from everything,” he said.

He also supports local musicians and wants to see more people enter the field. “I do perform sometimes at my own events, but lately I’ve been trying to give local talent a chance. I know how many of them are out there that just need someone to take a chance on them and give them their big break.”

As for Pinnizer, he said that pin collecting had started growing in popularity as a pastime in the Kingdom, but he knew that there were few places to get pins with imagery familiar to his generation. “I found a gap in the market and decided to capitalize on it by creating designs with characters and symbols that were familiar to us,” he said.

Assidmi designs all the pins himself, and works with a company in China to produce molds for them, which he then sells on his website. He has created pins with iconic images of the past such as the old logos of Saudi TV and Saudi Airlines, as well as anime characters like Grendizer and Maroko.

“When people see my pins, and their voice goes up an octave when they give that nostalgic little ‘oh my God!’, I know I’ve succeeded,” he said.

He admits that balancing the triple workload and still managing to make time for himself and family is tough, but he has ways of getting around it.

He believes that compartmentalizing different aspects of your life into “pillars” can help people see the bigger picture and avoid getting too caught up in one thing.

Assidmi hopes that he can be an inspiration to future generations of Saudis, especially people who want to enter a creative field but don’t believe in themselves.

“My purpose is to leave a legacy that inspires people, to have people see what I’ve done and realize that this is something that they can do to. That’s how I want to be remembered.”

Shop Pinnizer at https://salla.sa/pinnizer/ or follow Assidmi on Instagram @labeed and his work at @labeed.design and @pinnizer