Rare book for sale recalls English war hero’s travels in Saudi Arabia

Rare book for sale recalls English war hero’s travels in Saudi Arabia
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De Gaury's first book, a limited edition of which was printed in Cairo in 1943, was “A Saudi Arabian Note Book,” a guide for foreign visitors. (Supplied)
Rare book for sale recalls English war hero’s travels in Saudi Arabia
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De Gaury's first book, a limited edition of which was printed in Cairo in 1943, was “A Saudi Arabian Note Book,” a guide for foreign visitors. (Supplied)
Rare book for sale recalls English war hero’s travels in Saudi Arabia
3 / 4
De Gaury's first book, a limited edition of which was printed in Cairo in 1943, was “A Saudi Arabian Note Book,” a guide for foreign visitors. (Supplied)
Rare book for sale recalls English war hero’s travels in Saudi Arabia
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De Gaury's first book, a limited edition of which was printed in Cairo in 1943, was “A Saudi Arabian Note Book,” a guide for foreign visitors. (Supplied)
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Updated 12 August 2020

Rare book for sale recalls English war hero’s travels in Saudi Arabia

Rare book for sale recalls English war hero’s travels in Saudi Arabia
  • Decorated World War I hero Gerald de Gaury wrote what was probably the first guide to Saudi Arabia for tourists
  • As a soldier-diplomat-agent, the Englishman developed a friendship with the Kingdom’s founder King Abdul Aziz

LONDON: Born in 1897 with a name that spoke to centuries of high breeding, Englishman Gerald Simpson Hillairet Rutland Vere de Gaury was in many ways typical of his class and generation. As such, he appeared destined for a career in the civil service after a stint in uniform.

However, a brush with death as an 18-year-old in the British army during World War I diverted de Gaury from that well-worn path toward a lifetime’s fascination with Arabia.

Classically educated at Oxford, he was commissioned into the British army as a lieutenant at the outbreak of the war. Decorated for his bravery, he was wounded four times while serving at Gallipoli and on the western front in France.

While convalescing from wounds that almost claimed his life, he decided to teach himself Arabic. In the process he developed a passion that would lead to him to become one of the first Britons to visit Riyadh and the court of King Abdul Aziz (Ibn Saud), the founder of Saudi Arabia, and to write what was probably the first guide to the Kingdom for tourists.

De Gaury wrote several books about the Arab world and its rulers, including “Three Kings in Baghdad: The Tragedy of Iraq’s Monarchy,” the biography “Faisal: King of Saudi Arabia,” and “Arabia Phoenix,” which was published in 1947 and includes an account of his first meeting with Ibn Saud, in 1934.

But his first book, a limited edition of which was printed in Cairo in 1943, was “A Saudi Arabian Note Book,” a guide for foreign visitors. Until recently, only five copies were known to exist. One is in private hands, having surfaced at auction, and the others are held by the New York Public Library, the US Department of State, the National Library of Israel and the Orient-Institut in Beirut.

 

Now, even as as the Kingdom opens its doors to international visitors as never before, a sixth copy of the book is about to be offered for sale for £12,500 by Peter Harrington, the London rare-books dealer.

 

As de Gaury wrote in his foreword to the book, which includes 39 of his own photographs, in the early 1940s Saudi Arabia was “still a closed country to all but a few foreigners invited there by Ibn Saud… Photography is still unwelcome to many of the inhabitants, and it was only after receiving special permission that the photographs in this book were taken.”

Visitors, he added, “depend upon the hospitality of Ibn Saud and it was only through his kindness that I have been able to put together these few notes, which are by no means exhaustive, but may be of use to other travelers.”

De Gaury’s respect for, and deep knowledge of, Arab culture is reflected in the cover of the book, which features an illustration of the star cluster Pleiades (Al-Thurayya in Arabic). It is possible it was drawn by the author himself, as he was an accomplished artist.




The book is important, said Raphael Cormack, a specialist researcher for Peter Harrington Rare Books. (Supplied)

The book opens with a transcription of “To the Pleiades,” a poem attributed to 18th-century Najdi poet and stargazer Rashiud Al-Khalawi. The cluster of stars, de Gaury writes, “represent to the Bedouin of Arabia the annual renewal of life, the winter rains, the spring showers, which bring once more sap into the bushes on the desert, and life into flowers and man.”

The book is important, said Raphael Cormack, a specialist researcher for Peter Harrington Rare Books, partly because it was de Gaury’s first but also because “it is one of the first attempts to create a guide to Saudi Arabia for visitors — an early attempt to describe the country to the outside world.”

It is clear from de Gaury’s writing that, like a number of British contemporaries, he was irresistibly drawn to the Arab region and its culture.

FASTFACTS

IN NUMBERS

* 6 Known copies of "A Saudi Arabian Note Book" in existence.

* 39 Photographs in the book.

* 50 Pages of text.

* 12,500 Price of the book in pounds sterling.

“He feels the draw of the Middle East like so many of those people, and he knew many of them, including Freya Stark, Wilfred Thessiger and St John Philby,” said Cormack. “He must also have known Gertrude Bell, because they were in Iraq together.

“As with quite a lot of these British travelers, there’s a sense in his writing that the Arabs and the Brits are somehow similar in outlook.”

De Gaury left no record of how his interest in Arabic and the Arabs began. It seems likely it might have been triggered by his experiences as a young soldier on the Gallipoli peninsula in 1915, where more than a third of the Ottoman troops, who drove the British and their allies back into the sea after eight months of bloody fighting, were Arabs.

De Gaury fought bravely at Gallipoli and, later, the Somme, where in 1917 he was awarded the Military Cross, a medal given to British officers for outstanding acts of courage.

As a citation published in “The London Gazette” in July 1917 noted, he “displayed the greatest gallantry…although subjected to heavy machine-gun and rifle fire, he captured an important enemy post. His fine example and disregard of danger were of great value to his men.”

That disregard for danger contributed to him being wounded four times, as recalled in his obituary, which was published in the journal Asian Affairs in 1984.

“On one occasion he lay out all night in the barbed wire, surrounded by dead men, and narrowly missed having a leg amputated on admission to military hospital,” wrote his friend, fellow Arabist and author Molly Izzard. “He bore with stoicism discomfort from these wounds throughout his life.”

De Gaury, Izzard added, “liked, and was liked by, the Arabs”. A “man of action…with an enquiring mind and an imperturbable manner…soldierly, of distinguished carriage and appearance”, there was “a forthright quality about him which appealed to them.”

De Gaury’s love affair with Arabia began after the war when he passed an interpretership exam in Arabic with the British Civil Service Commission.

This led in 1923 to a secondment from the army to the Iraq Levies, an Arab force set up to guard Royal Air Force bases in what was then still a British mandate. In reality, as de Gaury’s service record reveals, his posting had little to do with guarding airfields; his assignment was “intelligence duties.”

As a soldier-diplomat-agent in the Middle East, he developed a professional interest in, and eventually a personal friendship with, Abd Al-Ilah of Hejaz, the regent of Iraq from 1939 until 1953, when King Faisal II came of age.

The relationship ended in tragedy in 1958, when Al-Ilah, the king and many members of his family were murdered during the revolution that overthrew the Iraqi Hashemite dynasty that had been installed by the British in 1921. De Gaury composed and delivered the eulogy for the king and his family during a memorial service in the Queen’s Chapel at the Savoy in London in July 1958.

It speaks volumes for de Gaury’s character that, despite the historical differences between the houses of Saud and Hashim, he was able also to cultivate a friendship with Ibn Saud, who founded Saudi Arabia and became its first king in 1932.

They met in 1934, when de Gaury became one of the first Britons to visit Riyadh. In March 1935 he was appointed attache to Sir Andrew Ryan, the first British minister to the Saudi court in Jeddah. That same year, de Gaury returned to Riyadh, this time with Sir Andrew, to present Ibn Saud with the Grand Cross of the Bath, a gift from King George V.

De Gaury’s next appointment in the region was as British political agent in Kuwait from 1936 to 1939, during which time he again visited Riyadh as special emissary to Ibn Saud.

There is no record of the Saudi king’s opinion of de Gaury, but the fact he invited the Englishman to accompany him on long trips in the desert, during which they hunted gazelle, bustard and hare with hawks and Saluki, suggests the two men got on well.

They were certainly comfortable in each other’s company. In “Arabian Journey,” published in 1950, de Gaury recalled being teased by the king. “In reality I abhor all foreigners,” Ibn Saud told him. “I would have none of them. The best of them are the British and I would that they were on the far shore of a sea of flame and fire.” The king, noted de Gaury, “said it without rancor or ill humor and smiled.”

Soldiers both, the men shared a special bond to which de Gaury alluded in “Arabia Phoenix:” the marks of battle, sustained by the Briton during World War I and by the king as he fought to unite the territories that would become Saudi Arabia.

The king’s right hand, de Gaury wrote, “is scarred from an old wound, received at the battle against the Turks and his Rashidi rivals at Al-Baikairiya. On the field of Qanzan, in battle with the Ajman tribe, he was wounded over the right thigh. When the weather changes suddenly, when the winter winds come sweeping down from the Taurus after the summer heat, he sometimes has from this the aches old wounded soldiers know.”

Such was the trust that grew between the two men that when Prince Faisal, the future Saudi king, was sent to London on a diplomatic mission in Nov. 1943, at the height of World War II, Ibn Saud approved de Gaury’s appointment as his liaison and interpreter for the trip.

In “Arabia Phoenix” de Gaury revealed that his visit to Ibn Saud in Riyadh in 1935 had an ulterior motive. “While we were there,” he wrote, “we might be able to see and hear enough to know whether the new state (Saudi Arabia) would endure or fall.”

In 1946, as oil began to carry the Kingdom toward a new and uncertain future, de Gaury felt this issue remained in the balance.

“Since the days of the Prophet Muhammad,” he wrote, “there has been no more important moment in Arabian history than now. How sturdily will she face her dilemma? Her secrets from the past and civilization of two thousand years ago are not forgotten, but must she abandon them in order to receive advantages of another kind from the West?”

Although he witnessed the early stirrings of the modern Saudi Arabia, and recorded some of them in “A Saudi Arabian Note Book,” de Gaury could not have imagined the rapid transition and modernization that is under way in the Kingdom now.

And yet, in the closing words of “Arabia Phoenix,” a book named for a bird that in ancient legend rises from the ashes of its former existence, de Gaury offered a prediction that, almost four decades after his death, has come to pass.

“Arabia and the Arabs are now astir,” he wrote. “He who visits the Arabian lands may yet see again that wondrous rare Arabian bird — a Phoenix.”

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@JonathanGornall


King Salman calls for global approach to tackling climate change

King Salman speaking at the virtual Climate summit. (Photo: Bandar Galoud)
King Salman speaking at the virtual Climate summit. (Photo: Bandar Galoud)
Updated 23 April 2021

King Salman calls for global approach to tackling climate change

King Salman speaking at the virtual Climate summit. (Photo: Bandar Galoud)
  • Saudi ruler tells summit of world leaders the challenges created by global warming do not respect national borders
  • Biden says US will reduce emissions by up to 52 percent by 2030; China, Russia also pledge to make cuts

NEW YORK: Boosting international cooperation is the “optimal solution” to tackling climate change, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman told a summit of world leaders on Thursday.

He said global warming threatens lives on our planet and that the challenges “recognize no national borders.”

“The objective is sustainable development, and in order to achieve this there must be a comprehensive methodology that takes into account the different developments and circumstances that exist around the world,” King Salman said during the Leaders Summit on Climate, which was hosted by the US.

He said the Kingdom has launched packages of strategies and introduced regulations with the aim of using clean, renewable sources to produce 50 percent of the country’s energy needs by 2030.

“Enhancing the level of international cooperation is the optimal solution to meeting the challenges of climate change,” the king said.

“During our G20 presidency last year we advocated the need to adopt a notion of a circular carbon economy, launching two international initiatives to curb land degradation and to protect coral reefs.”

He added that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman recently announced two new environmental plans: the Green Saudi Initiative and the Green Middle East Initiative. They aim to reduce carbon emissions in the region by more than 10 percent of current global contributions.

“These initiatives also aim at planting 50 billion trees in the region,” he said.

The Kingdom, he added, will work with its partners to achieve these goals and host forums for both initiatives later this year.

“Finally we would like to affirm our keenness and commitment to cooperation to combat climate change, in order to create a better environment for future generations, wishing success for our efforts to protect our planet,” he said.

Earlier, US President Joe Biden — who convened the summit with a view to building global momentum for climate action ahead of COP26, the UN’s

Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland, in November — pledged to cut US fossil fuel emissions by up to 52 percent by 2030.

“Meeting this moment is about more than preserving our planet,” Biden said. “It’s about providing a better future for all of us.” He called it “a moment of peril but a moment of opportunity.”

In his presidential campaign last year, Biden made tackling climate change one of his top priorities. While Republicans oppose his plans on the grounds they will cost jobs in the coal, oil and gas industries, Biden believes that a transition to cleaner energy sources will create millions of well-paid jobs, a stance echoed by many of the world leaders who attended the summit.

“This is not bunny-hugging, this is about growth and jobs,” said the UK’s Conservative prime minister, Boris Johnson.

Forty leaders are taking part in the two-day summit. The UN has described 2021 as a “climate emergency” year, with scientists warning that climate change caused by the use of coal and other fossil fuels is exacerbating natural disasters such as droughts, floods, hurricanes and wildfires. There are fears that the world now faces a race against time to avoid the disastrous extremes of global warming.

The world’s most powerful nations have announced various measures to address the crisis. They include targets for reductions in harmful emissions, plans to stop the public financing of coal, and a commitment to integrating climate action into economic-stimulus plans in an effort to “build back better” after the pandemic-related economic collapse, with the goal of “leaving no one behind.”

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin also made commitments to reduce emissions. Neither of them made any mention of their respective non-climate disputes with Biden.

Xi — whose country is the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, followed closely by the US — said that “to protect the environment is to protect productivity, and to boost the environment is to boost productivity. It’s as simple as that.”

Putin, who Biden recently referred to as a “killer” because of the Russian leader’s crackdown on opponents, said his country is “genuinely interested in galvanizing international cooperation so as to look further for effective solutions to climate change as well as to all other vital challenges.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel joined a number of other leaders who spoke at the summit in welcoming the US back to the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change, from which President Donald Trump withdrew.

She told Biden: “There can be no doubt about the world needing your contribution if we really want to fulfill our ambitious goals.”

Small states and island nations, which contribute the least to greenhouse- gas emissions but face the most severe dangers and damage resulting from climate change as they are increasingly affected by hurricanes and rising sea levels, asked the major world powers for help.

Gaston Alfonso Browne, prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda, said his people are “teetering on the edge of despair.” He asked the international community for debt relief and assistance to help his country recover from the effects of storms and the pandemic, to “prevent a flow of climate refugees.”

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres described the commitments made during the summit to achieving carbon neutrality as “a much-needed boost to our collective efforts to address the climate crisis ahead of COP26 in November in Glasgow.”

He added: “It is now urgent that all countries, especially other major emitters, present their 2030 climate plans well before COP 26.”

Guterres also urged leaders to deliver on $100 billion of climate commitments made to developing countries a decade ago.

“The world will be watching carefully, particularly those already experiencing severe climate impacts and an ongoing economic crisis,” he said.

“Today’s summit shows the tide is turning for climate action, but there is still a long way to go. To avert a permanent climate catastrophe, we must now urgently build on the momentum delivered today, in this make-or-break year for people and the planet.”


‘Let’s Make it Green’ campaign plants 10 million trees across Saudi Arabia

The campaign focused on planting native tree species which have adapted to Saudi Arabia’s environment and require limited irrigation. (Supplied)
The campaign focused on planting native tree species which have adapted to Saudi Arabia’s environment and require limited irrigation. (Supplied)
Updated 23 April 2021

‘Let’s Make it Green’ campaign plants 10 million trees across Saudi Arabia

The campaign focused on planting native tree species which have adapted to Saudi Arabia’s environment and require limited irrigation. (Supplied)
  • Efforts will continue to plant more trees, in line with the ‘Green Saudi’ and ‘Green Middle East’ initiatives

RIYADH: A campaign to plant 10 million trees in 165 sites across the Kingdom to develop vegetation cover and limit desertification has been successfully completed.

The Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture and the National Center for Vegetation Cover announced the success of the “Let’s Make it Green” campaign that was launched in October 2020. 

The campaign covered all of the Kingdom’s 13 provinces. The Eastern Province topped the list with more than 2.6 million trees planted, followed by more than 2.1 million in Madinah, over 1.3 million in Makkah, around 1 million in both Jazan and Riyadh, 462,000 in Qassim, and 270,000 in Asir.

Baha reached nearly 300,000, and more than 142,000 trees were planted in the Northern Border, followed by Jouf with more than 113,000, then Hail with about 85,000, Tabuk with over 75,000, and finally Najran with nearly 52,000 trees.

The campaign focused on planting native tree species which have adapted to Saudi Arabia’s environment and require limited irrigation. (Supplied)

The CEO of the center, Dr. Khaled Al-Abd Al-Qader, said that the campaign planted endangered trees and shrubs in areas that were environmentally degraded due to overgrazing, logging, uprooting, and urban sprawl.

“The campaign focused on planting native tree species which have adapted to Saudi Arabia’s environment and require limited irrigation,” he added.

The ministry ensured that the campaign was aligned with sustainability and water conservation requirements and by using treated wastewater or seawater for irrigation, in line with the best international practices.

The center and ministry worked in cooperation with various governmental authorities, private sector organizations, environmental associations, and community groups.

Minister of Water, Environment and Agriculture Abdul Rahman Al-Fadli said: “What we have accomplished is the result of the support and directions of the Saudi leadership to make the Kingdom a pioneer in protecting the Earth, achieve the international objectives in protecting the environment, increase the vegetation cover, reduce carbon emissions, combat pollution and land degradation, and preserve marine life.”

Efforts will continue to plant more trees, in line with the “Green Saudi” and “Green Middle East” initiatives, he added.

Al-Qader said that the “Let’s Make it Green” campaign has recovered biodiversity, rehabilitated degraded vegetation cover sites, promoted positive behaviors to preserve the nation’s environment and improve the quality of life in Saudi Arabia.


Volunteers in Asir donate 2 million hours of their time

Volunteers in Asir donate 2 million hours of their time
Updated 23 April 2021

Volunteers in Asir donate 2 million hours of their time

Volunteers in Asir donate 2 million hours of their time

MAKKAH: More than 11,000 volunteers in Asir region have donated more than 2 million hours of their time as part of an initiative that aims to encourage people to get involved in their communities, in particular with efforts to tackle the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Nashama Asir initiative was launched last Ramadan to boost voluntary work and raise awareness in the region of its importance, in support of government efforts to increase participation.

“It was launched by the Coronavirus Crisis Management Chamber in Asir, under the leadership and vision of Asir Gov. Prince Turki bin Talal,” Nasser Qmeshan, who is supervising the initiative, told Arab News.

“It came as a response to the significant societal readiness to assist the government in its efforts to address the coronavirus pandemic and its repercussions.”

It was necessary to develop a strategy, identify targets and set up a mechanism to ensure the efficient implementation of the project, he added. The strategy that was developed by the chamber included a vision for the initiative, specific fields of work, and clear goals.

“Those able to provide ideas, financial support or volunteer services in certain health, economic and social fields can apply through the initiative’s website,” said Qmeshan. “The site was visited by about 4,000 people in the first week after the initiative was announced.”

“Hundreds of activities not requiring assistance — such as financial support, in-kind support and physical preparation — were referred to the bodies that would directly benefit from them,” said Qmeshan.

“As for those that required assistance, a project was set up, partners were identified and approached, an action plan was developed, and standards were set along with performance indicators and launch mechanisms.”

HIGHLIGHT

  • The Nashama Asir initiative was launched last Ramadan to boost voluntary work and raise awareness in the region of its importance, in support of government efforts to increase participation.
  • Specific projects included the provision of quarantine facilities, hygiene tools, and food baskets for families and employees who were struggling as a result of the pandemic, along with fundraising support.

Specific projects included the provision of quarantine facilities, hygiene tools, and food baskets for families and employees who were struggling as a result of the pandemic, along with fundraising support.

In response to the initiative 11,077 people volunteered to help and so far they have carried out 2,008,841 hours of work.

Some of the activities were technical in nature, Qmeshan said, such as one “where a qualified group of young Saudi volunteers helped with maintenance work at family homes during the lockdown period.

“The requests for this service were processed automatically and the service was provided free of charge, while taking into consideration all precautionary health measures,” he added.

The initiative also helped to improve awareness of health and security issues among the residents of Asir region. Announcements and advice from the health and security authorities were translated into a number of languages, for example, and volunteers supported the work of the healthcare sector by highlighting the importance of social distancing and other precautions to slow the spread of the disease. They also provided healthy meals for workers during Ramadan, along with other types of community assistance.

Another project is helping municipalities implement pandemic precautions in markets and shopping centers. “The implementation of this project will start with the reopening of markets by the end of the holy month of Ramadan,” said Qmeshan.

A specialized, medical-manufacturing project was proposed to develop and manufacture spare parts for ventilators, along with various types of protective equipment, using 3D printers in engineering laboratories at King Khalid University.

Qmeshan said that dozens of officials and tribal delegations, including princes, ministers, tribal sheikhs and social figures, have visited the initiative’s operations center.


83 Jeddah outlets shut for COVID-19 breaches

83 Jeddah outlets shut for COVID-19 breaches
Updated 23 April 2021

83 Jeddah outlets shut for COVID-19 breaches

83 Jeddah outlets shut for COVID-19 breaches

JEDDAH: Authorities in Jeddah have shut down 83 commercial outlets for breaching coronavirus disease (COVID-19) protocols.
Municipalities in the Kingdom have stepped up their efforts to ensure compliance with COVID-19 safety measures designed to protect public health.
The municipality of Jeddah governorate carried out 4,166 inspection tours of commercial centers and facilities and identified 116 violations for issues related to overcrowding and the failure to effectively use the Tawakkalna app. Authority officials in the Red Sea port city urged people to report any suspected breaches of COVID-19 regulations to the 940 call-center number.


KAICIID-organized forum of experts look to counter hate speech in Europe

KAICIID-organized forum of experts look to counter hate speech in Europe
Updated 23 April 2021

KAICIID-organized forum of experts look to counter hate speech in Europe

KAICIID-organized forum of experts look to counter hate speech in Europe

RIYADH: The King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz International Center for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue (KAICIID) organized an expert forum on combating hate speech in collaboration with religious institutions and other organizations.
The meeting was held in cooperation with the European Council of Religious Leaders, the Religions for Peace in Europe, and the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights.
The consultation aimed to explore pathways and efforts to combat hate speech in Europe by strengthening ties between religious and political entities and civil society.