Saudi Arabia’s Maraya Concert Hall: An architectural wonder of the world

A total of 9,740 square meters of mirrors cover the exterior walls of the cube-shaped structure reflecting the picturesque surroundings of AlUla. (Photos/ Supplied)
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Updated 18 March 2020

Saudi Arabia’s Maraya Concert Hall: An architectural wonder of the world

  • Located in Wadi Ashaar, the hall is equipped with the latest theatrical and operatic sound systems

RIYADH: The magnificent Maraya Concert Hall in the northwestern Saudi province of AlUla has set a Guinness record for the largest mirrored building in the world.

Maraya (meaning mirrors in Arabic) has been dubbed the “mirrored wonder” due to the giant sheets of glass attached to its structure, which reflect AlUla’s breathtaking landscape.
This includes Hegra, the first historical site in Saudi Arabia to be included on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites.
The building has been described as a “site-specific landmark” of true “land-art architecture,” and its extraordinary facade was unveiled at a special ceremony organized by the Royal Commission for AlUla during the second season of the Winter at Tantora festival.
The 500-seat venue has hosted leading international artists, including Egyptian musician Omar Khairat and Italian opera singer Andrea Bocelli. The festival began its artistic journey with a performance by the renowned Moroccan singer Aziza Jalal, who surprised fans with a return after a 35-year hiatus.

Marvelous environment
Located in Wadi Ashaar, near the volcanic freeway, the hall is equipped with the latest theatrical and operatic sound systems. A total of 9,740 square meters of mirrors cover the exterior walls of the cube-shaped structure reflecting the picturesque surroundings of AlUla, a landscape that has captivated artists and architects from the Nabataean civilization through to the present day.




Maraya (meaning mirrors in Arabic) has been dubbed the ‘mirrored wonder’ due to the giant sheets of glass attached to its structure, which reflect AlUla’s breathtaking landscape.

Amr Al-Madani, CEO of the Royal Commission for AlUla, said: “AlUla is a cultural heritage to the world, and this step comes in fulfillment of AlUla’s vision, to create a regional and global cultural center.

HIGHLIGHTS

• The building has been described as a ‘site-specific landmark’ of true ‘land-art architecture.’

• Its extraordinary facade was unveiled at a special ceremony organized by the Royal Commission for AlUla during the second season of the Winter at Tantora festival.

“We have developed Maraya Concert Hall as a hub for world events, concerts, celebrations, gatherings, and business conventions. The mirrored hall is a global platform where nature, culture, and human heritage coexist in harmony.
“We are proud to celebrate the opening of Maraya Concert Hall, and we thank our partners, experts, engineers, and architects, who worked day and night to create this astounding monument in the heart of the marvelous desert environment of AlUla,” he added.
Designer Florian Boje, of Gio Forma, said: “As evident in the architecture of the Nabataeans, Maraya Concert Hall was created utilizing segmentation and (by) sculpting the blocks.

“This unique edifice makes us think about the unique landscape of the geological saga, the radical abstraction of the enchanting environment of AlUla, and the uncommon incursions for man in the natural landscape.

Civilization
“The reflections give an overwhelming balance and a deep sense of the connection of human heritage with nature and its intertwining and harmonizing together, which provides us with the responsibility of protecting our human culture that is combined with the exceptional nature of AlUla.”
The development of the concert hall came within the framework of the cultural and heritage statement of AlUla, which was recently issued and published by the Royal Commission for AlUla, inviting global arts and business communities to join the commission in a new cultural chapter in the rich history of AlUla.
The vision for AlUla states that “the artistic mission of AlUla is clear, and (it) will remain the destination for artists to draw their inspiration from a site that highlights the monuments of historical civilizations.

AlUla is a cultural heritage to the world, and this step comes in fulfillment of AlUla’s vision, to create a regional and global cultural center.

Amr Al-Madani, CEO of the Royal Commission for AlUla

“What remains of great cultures is art and architecture. Successive civilizations have formed the cultural scene with their knowledge and experience, and AlUla will remain the artistic destination for artists to enhance a spirit of imagination and inspiration in their being, and the expression that constitutes the infrastructure of AlUla and its structures and daily life to enrich the encounters of the visitors.”
The second Winter at Tantora festival witnessed a celebration of international events, including the first Hegra Conference of Nobel Laureates 2020, held in the city of AlUla from Jan. 30 to Feb. 1.


Eighteen Nobel laureates of peace, economics, literature, physics, chemistry, physiology, and medicine took part in the event along with an elite group of intellectuals, politicians and social leaders from 32 countries around the world.
They presented theses to meet the challenges affecting humanity and the world. The conference aimed to make a significant impact on, and offer solutions to, urgent global dilemmas, with discussions putting forward ways to tackle future issues related to education, health, agriculture, and the world’s economy.

 


Do Arab views on white nationalism hide more than they reveal?

Updated 5 min 18 sec ago

Do Arab views on white nationalism hide more than they reveal?

  • Arab News/YouGov survey asked residents of 18 Arab countries about their idea of the three biggest threats facing the US
  • Complex set of sentiments and emotions cited behind Arab views on racial strife abroad given the divisions closer to home

NEW YORK CITY: When George Floyd drew his last breath under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer on May 25 this year, footage of his death flooded television screens and social media platforms around the world.

Months later, civil unrest continues to rage across the US. Americans from all walks of life are marching to demand equality, justice and the abolition of institutional racism, especially among the police, under the flag of Black Lives Matter.

Floyd’s death also struck a painful chord in the Arab world. From Cairo to Beirut, vigils were held for this African-American victim of police brutality — another “one too many.”

Arab empathy, however, appears to be mitigated by a complex set of sentiments and emotions in response to racial strife in America.

When a recent Arab News/YouGov survey asked Arabs across 18 Middle East and North African countries what they believe are the three biggest threats facing America, white nationalism came out first with 32 percent.

Emad El-Hady, Washington-based author and political analyst, believes there is an element of schadenfreude in the way Arabs view the US race protests as highlighting the chronic inequality between whites and ethnic minorities.

 

“Part of the Arab reaction was: ‘Look at America! This is the country that is lecturing us day and night about human rights! Now, look at how they treat their people!’” he said.

“But also, to a certain extent, (survey participants) are right in singling out white nationalism. There is a lot of talk today that America is on the verge of a civil war, because the tension is really high. But I think this could only happen if the election results are disputed, and more likely so if Trump loses.”

Donald Trump, the White House incumbent, has been accused by his critics of flirting with the white nationalist vote and refusing to condemn ‘alt-right’ movements. This stance has been interpreted by groups such as the far-right Proud Boys as a rallying cry for them to prepare to fight a “fraudulent” election on Nov. 3, “rigged by the far-left.”

Beyond the ghost of “civil war” brandished by US media commentators on both sides of the partisan divide, El-Hady believes America has reached a reckoning. “Let’s not forget that racism is 400 years old and cannot be overcome overnight. But now, a lot of white people are looking back and saying, ‘What have we done to these people?’”

However, El-Hady says his own views are in closer alignment with the 22 percent of participants in the Arab News/YouGov survey who identified China as the biggest threat to the US.

“White nationalism is containable and contained. But who can beat China? It is the biggest threat because it has beaten the West at its own game. Beijing played into the hands of market capitalism but with an advantage of being a one-man show. Here in the US, we fight every election over immigration, healthcare, arms possession. In China, the guy just has to press a button and the problem is solved.”

It could be that those Arabs who say white nationalism is America’s greatest peril are in fact exposing their own anxieties about ethnicity, sectarianism and violent extremism.

“Islamic extremism, be it in its Salafist or Muslim Brotherhood versions, uses force to change the world view, starting in their own country, and expanding to include infidels of other nations. Look what just happened in France,” El-Hady said, referring to Samuel Paty, a teacher who was beheaded near his school on Oct. 6 for showing cartoons of Prophet Muhammad in class.

The perpetrator, an 18-year-old ethnic Chechen named as Abdullakh Anzorov, is alleged to have had ties to Islamic extremist groups abroad.

A supporter of US President Donald Trump wears a "Proud Boys" shirt prior to his arrival for NBC News town hall event at the Perez Art Museum in Miami on October 15, 2020. (AFP/File Photo)

“These terrorist organizations that have plagued the Arab world are much more dangerous than white nationalism,” said El-Hady.

Arabs also appear to relate to the inequality suffered by ethnic minorities in America, with 35 percent of them identifying inequality is the biggest woe for average Americans.

“When Egyptians took to the streets they chanted: ‘Bread. Freedom. Social justice.’ Iraqis rose in anger against corruption, the lack of opportunity, and inequality. And it took Algerians three months to unseat a government amid high unemployment. Libya is tearing itself apart. Sudan’s deprivation is unrivaled. And Yemen is a poor country by definition,” El-Hady said.

“It is all about a fair share of the wealth and opportunity. This is a very American term upon which the whole American model is based — that everybody should have a shot at wealth, success, and education. If America is failing at this, what do you expect from the Arab world?”

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Twitter: @EphremKossaify