JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Culture Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan Al-Saud announced this week the completion of the Jeddah Dome restoration project, a famous city landmark that experienced decades of neglect.
“Jeddah Dome has been restored and will soon host the first cultural and artistic event,” Prince Badr tweeted.
He visited the decaying site last June and said it would soon regain its value and position in the Kingdom’s cultural and art scene.
The dome, which is in the city’s Sharafiyah district, was established as an art gallery in 1978. It became a venue for events, lectures and poetry readings before the Kingdom’s cultural scene gradually diminished because of the religious conservatism that swept across Saudi Arabia from the early 1980s.
The ministry was keen to retain the shape and location of the dome, despite the erosion of its foundation due to decades of heat, humidity and a lack of maintenance. Its aim was to preserve the dome as people remembered it.
It now has a new modern design with aluminum cladding and glass, instead of wooden panels, to allow natural light into the building. The total site area is about 1,500 square meters, including the dome which occupies 450 sq m.
Saudi artist, researcher and art philosophy graduate from Boston University, Fouz Al-Jameel, said the dome was part of a 1970s project to beautify Saudi cities.
“According to various sources, the credit for the beautification projects goes to engineer and architect Mohammed Saeed Farsi, who was the mayor of Jeddah from 1968 to 1980,” she told Arab News. “However, the history of Saudi art galleries began in 1960.”
She said art galleries acted as historical evidence and documented art in any society from every age, making them a valuable element of any nation’s history.
“Art is a historical event in itself. It is an ever renewable expression of all the intellectual, psychological and cultural transformations that individuals experience within their societies.”
She said the viability and continuity of galleries with permanent or temporary art exhibitions were a way to preserve the authenticity of history. “That is how artworks continue to independently express themselves without any other medium of expression,” she added.
The dome restoration project is the result of a partnership agreement signed last year between the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs.
The agreement sees the two ministries working hand in hand to improve the Kingdom’s urban landscapes and preserve key historical and cultural landmarks.
It was driven by the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reform plan goal to recognize the importance of preserving the country’s heritage in order to “promote national unity and consolidate true Islamic and Arab values.”
The Culture Ministry said the partnership would have an impact on the shape of public places in Saudi cities. It would ensure that all components of the urban landscape, including streets, squares, fields and parks, reflected the Kingdom’s identity.