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

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

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.

 


Emirates to operate 70% of pre-pandemic capacity by year-end

Emirates to operate 70% of pre-pandemic capacity by year-end
Updated 18 min 41 sec ago

Emirates to operate 70% of pre-pandemic capacity by year-end

Emirates to operate 70% of pre-pandemic capacity by year-end
  • The Dubai flag carrier may obtain further financial support from the Dubai government and could also issue bonds

RIYADH: Emirates Airline will operate 70 percent of its pre-pandemic power by the end of this year, Chairman Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al-Maktoum revealed.
He said the company maintained strong financial solvency despite the devastating impact of the pandemic on the global aviation sector, Bloomberg reported.
The Dubai flag carrier may obtain further financial support from the Dubai government and could also issue bonds, he said.
“We are dealing with an emergency situation that changes on a weekly or even daily basis,” he said. “We are working on long and short trips. We currently have 151 Boeing 777 planes, and about 20 Airbus A380s in service, and we are awaiting the opening of markets and destinations to gradually return them,” he said.
Emirates Airline and flydubai were working to improve cooperation and develop further partnerships, he said.


Saudi family infected with Covid-19 evacuated from India 

Saudi family infected with Covid-19 evacuated from India 
Updated 29 min 18 sec ago

Saudi family infected with Covid-19 evacuated from India 

Saudi family infected with Covid-19 evacuated from India 

RIYADH: A Saudi family infected with coronavirus has returned to the Kingdom from India, the Saudi Press Agency reported late Monday.
The family was airlifted by the Air Medical Evacuation Department of Health Services at the Saudi Ministry of Defense in an implementation of directives issued by Saudi King Salman.  
The plane arrived at King Salman Air Base in Riyadh, with all precautionary measures taken by crew members to combat the spread COVID-19.
Previously, Saudi Arabia transported more than 74 cases infected with COVID-19 through its medical air evacuation planes without infecting the medical and aircrews with the virus.


Egypt to prioritize vaccination of tourism workers

Egypt to prioritize vaccination of tourism workers
Updated 32 min 25 sec ago

Egypt to prioritize vaccination of tourism workers

Egypt to prioritize vaccination of tourism workers
  • About 65 percent of tourists in Egypt head to those coastal destinations

DUBAI: Egypt is prioritizing the vaccination of tourism workers to support the sector’s recovery and is on track to announce full inoculation of two resort areas this month, its tourism minister said.
While Egypt’s tourism industry is still reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic, the sector has picked up in recent months, with more visitors heading to resorts along the Red Sea and Mediterranean coasts.
“We will prioritize workers in the tourism industry, which is an essential sector for Egypt’s economy,” Tourism and Antiquities Minister Khaled Al-Enani told AFP.
“In May, I will announce, along with the minister of health, the complete vaccination of Egyptian workers in hotels, resorts, businesses and restaurants in South Sinai and the Red Sea,” he said on the sidelines of a travel industry conference in Dubai.
About 65 percent of tourists in Egypt head to those coastal destinations, he said.
Enani said other tourist spots will follow, such as Luxor, Aswan and the capital Cairo, home of the Giza pyramids and major museums.
Egypt, which has a population of approximately 100 million, has administered some one million doses, according to authorities.
About two million people work in the tourism industry or organizations linked to it.
Along with its pyramids and pharaonic temples, Egypt is also known for its seaside resorts.
After experiencing “significant and continuous loss” since the coronavirus outbreak, the sector has picked up, said Enani.
He said Egypt welcomed 500,000 tourists in April, more than double the number in January and up from just 200,000 tourists a month in the second half of last year.
“The important thing is there is an upward curve,” Enani said.
“We hope the numbers will increase again in the near future with the opening of some countries and the easing of restrictions, including in Arab countries, Europe and Russia,” he said.
“The return of tourism in Egypt does not only depend on us, but remains linked to other countries.”
Cairo has announced several major new archaeological discoveries in recent months, hoping to revive a sector which was battered by a 2011 uprising, political unrest and jihadist attacks.
While the industry recorded a rebound of nearly $13 billion in revenues for 2018-2019, tourism was hit hard again by the  pandemic.
Official figures show a drop of more than 20 percent in revenues for mid-2019 to mid-2020.
Egypt reopened to foreign tourists in July last year after having closed its borders in March. Visitors only need to produce a negative PCR test.
Russia earlier this year resumed flights to Egypt’s Red Sea resorts after the lifting of a flight ban.
Moscow banned direct flights to Egypt after the 2015 bombing of a Russian airliner shortly after it took off from the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, killing all 224 people on board.
 


Philippines’ Duterte bans officials from speaking on South China Sea

Philippines’ Duterte bans officials from speaking on South China Sea
Updated 19 min 54 sec ago

Philippines’ Duterte bans officials from speaking on South China Sea

Philippines’ Duterte bans officials from speaking on South China Sea
  • ‘This is my order now to the cabinet... to refrain (from) discussing this West Philippine Sea (issue) with... anybody’

MANILA: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has banned his cabinet from speaking out in public on the South China Sea dispute, after key ministers engaged in a war of words with Beijing.
Tensions between Manila and Beijing over the waterway – which China claims almost entirely – flared in March after hundreds of Chinese boats were spotted inside the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone.
While Duterte has been reluctant to confront China over the issue, his foreign and defense secretaries have repeatedly criticized Beijing for its refusal to withdraw the ships from the disputed waters.
Earlier this month, Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin tweeted an expletive-tagged demand for the Chinese vessels to leave the area.
His online swearing prompted a rebuke from Beijing and Locsin later apologized to his Chinese counterpart.
“This is my order now to the cabinet... to refrain (from) discussing this West Philippine Sea (issue) with... anybody,” Duterte said in a recorded speech late Monday, using the local name for the sea.
“If we have to talk, we talk only among us,” Duterte told several cabinet members, including Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana who previously described the presence of Chinese boats as an “incursion.”
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque was allowed to address the issue in public, Duterte added.
China has ignored a 2016 international tribunal decision that declared its historical claim over most of the South China Sea to be without basis.
Duterte has set aside the ruling in exchange for promises of trade and investment from China that critics say have largely not materialized.


Talisca snubs Al-Hilal for Riyadh rivals Al-Nassr via social media video

Talisca snubs Al-Hilal for Riyadh rivals Al-Nassr via social media video
Updated 49 min 39 sec ago

Talisca snubs Al-Hilal for Riyadh rivals Al-Nassr via social media video

Talisca snubs Al-Hilal for Riyadh rivals Al-Nassr via social media video
  • The Brazilian was expected to join the reigning champions, but confirmed his move from Guangzhou FC to AL-Nassr in a clip that will ensure next season’s derby will have added spice

LONDON: Next season’s Riyadh Derby is going to be even more electric than usual.

Reigning Saudi Pro League champions Al-Hilal had spent much of May negotiating with Brazilian star Talisca, but there he was on Tuesday on Al-Nassr’s Twitter channel announcing a quite unexpected move to the Saudi capital.

In a video that showed him watching a video of Al-Hilal in action, and then laughing out loud, the 27 year-old held up that famous yellow shirt to the camera to inform fans that he was joining Al-Nassr from Guangzhou FC.

 

 

It remains to be seen who will be laughing next season.

The player who was hailed as the next big Brazilian star in his teenage years, and despite being linked at one time with Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool, still has much to prove.

The move has upset a few people in China as well. The attacking midfielder, who can also play further up the pitch, enjoyed two-and-a-half successful seasons in China with Guangzhou FC and won the Chinese Super League title in 2019.

Fans of the two-time Asian champions feel that their club should have held out for more than the reported fee of one million euros.

With just a year remaining on his contract, the figure should perhaps have been five or six times that.

For a player who scored 39 goals in 65 appearances in China and managed 13 assists, Al-Nassr have got themselves a bargain.

One reason for that is that Al-Nassr’s new star hasn’t played this year.

This was not due to injuries or form, but regulations stopping him from re-entering China.

Talisca has been stuck in Brazil and unable to actually get inside the country to play for Guangzhou.

Club coach Fabio Cannavaro, understood that the time was right to release him.

The concern for Guangzhou is that Talisca’s colleague and compatriot Paulinho has the same travel issues, and the club are now keen not to lose their biggest star.

That is not Al-Nassr’s concern, though they will want to know how to get the best out of the player who moved to Benfica in 2014 for $5.790 million.

He started well in Portugal with eight goals in his first 10 games there and was hailed as one of the brightest young talents in Europe, even compared to the likes of Yaya Toure and Rivaldo.

The talent was there for all to see, the left foot was especially beautiful, he could play anywhere in attack — on the wings, in the middle or as a second striker — and cut an imposing figure.

After two years at Benfica during which he won two Portuguese league titles, he didn’t move to the English Premier League as many had predicted, but was loaned out to Besiktas in Turkey.

There, he won the  Super League and then headed to China in 2018.

There was some disappointment when he chose to head east, but some of the best players in the world were doing the same at the time.

Another league title followed for Talisca in 2019.

Everywhere he has been outside his homeland, Talisca has won league championships which bodes well for Al-Nassr fans.

There has been some criticism in China of a tendency to drift through games especially last season, though 2020 was tough for all, with players confined to their hotel rooms for seven months.

He scored and made goals but rarely took control of games. 

Talisca’s arrival may, however, spell the end of Pity Martinez in Riyadh.

The Argentine made headlines last September when joining the club for around $18 million.

Martinez has since endured something of a difficult first season in Saudi Arabia and while he has shown sporadic flashes of the form that made him the 2018 South American Player of the Year, he did not do so on a consistent basis.

And when injury cut his season short and ruled him out of the AFC Champions League group stage, he wasn’t really missed.

New Al-Nassr coach Mano Menezes came in to replace Alen Horvat and the former Brazilian boss guided the Al-Nassr through a difficult group and into the second round.

There have been regular rumors of Martinez leaving Saudi Arabia for months and with Talisca now in the team and playing a similar role, the route back to South America, or as many think, back to MLS, is now open. 

For Al-Nassr, they have got a player who should be at the peak of his career and still has something to prove.

And, thanks to that welcome video and the fact that he had been talking to Al-Hilal for some time, it means that next season will have even more spice than usual.