Saudi Arabia’s caves reveal hidden treasures

The western and northwestern regions of the Kingdom were home to caves and basalt tunnels between layers of lava rock near the craters of volcanoes. (Photo/ Supplied)
The western and northwestern regions of the Kingdom were home to caves and basalt tunnels between layers of lava rock near the craters of volcanoes. (Photo/ Supplied)
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Updated 10 December 2020

Saudi Arabia’s caves reveal hidden treasures

Saudi Arabia’s caves reveal hidden treasures
  • Research project opens door to tourist, scientific adventure

MAKKAH: They are among the region’s most striking natural wonders, formed over millions of years by ancient rivers — and still home to mysterious secrets.
Now Saudi Arabia’s caves, sinkholes and caverns are becoming hidden gems for the adventurous or merely curious to seek out and explore.
More than 230 caves — deep and shallow, and formed of limestone, gypsum and other minerals — have been discovered in the Kingdom’s deserts.
As the mysteries of Saudi Arabia gain wider recognition, these natural treasures are the subject of growing interest.
Mahmoud Ahmed Al-Shanti, a specialist in caves and dunes at the Saudi Geological Survey (SGS), told Arab News that caves are a valuable natural asset, and attract explorers, researchers and others interested in the field.
The SGS has launched an exploration project to determine the location, types and origins of the Kingdom’s caves.
In a study titled “Caves and Sinkholes in Saudi Arabia,” Al-Shanti said that caves or sinkholes vary in size from small, where a person can barely access the main entrance, to vast, with tunnels extending for hundreds of kilometers.
The Mammoth cave in the US state of Kentucky is more than 500-km long, for example.
Caves are a rare geological, tourist and environmental asset that must be preserved and protected, he said.
“Not only are they beautiful, but some caves can be used for academic studies and scientific research,” he said.




More than 230 caves — deep and shallow, and formed of limestone, gypsum and other minerals — have been discovered in the Kingdom’s deserts.

“Countries also can benefit from them economically through financial income, career opportunities in various fields of education and research.” Al-Shanti said the western and northwestern regions of the Kingdom were home to caves and basalt tunnels between layers of lava rock near the craters of volcanoes. Examples include the Habashi cave in Harrat Al-Buqum and the Umm Jarsan cave in Harrat Khyber, about 200 km northeast of Madinah.
Caves also form in sandstone exposed to a variety of environmental factors. Examples include Qarah cave in the Kingdom’s eastern region; Al-Doudah cave, east of AlUla; and Janine cave, near Hail.
Al-Shanti said there are also sinkholes and caves in limestone rock near Saudi Arabia’s northern border, and in the central and eastern regions.
A variety of plants is known to grow in the soil surrounding these natural wonders, with roots breaking up the limestone rock over millions of years, forming long, deep corridors that branch out in different directions.
In the depths of the cave, green plants give way to organisms that can survive without sunlight. Bacteria and algae utilize waste from animals that live inside, while some use minerals in the cave as a source of food and energy.
Al-Shanti said that caves often provide shelter for mammals, including wild cats and various types of rodents.
In desert caves, carnivores, such as foxes, hyenas and wolves, live and reproduce, emerging at night to hunt before returning to the safety of the cave.
With time and effort, more hidden wonders are being discovered beneath Saudi Arabia’s sandy dunes and rocky mountains, opening the door for adventure and discovery for all.


Saudi charity platform receives SR260 million in donations in 24 hours

Saudi charity platform receives SR260 million in donations in 24 hours
Ehsan is designed to be easily accessible to all of Saudi Arabia’s residents, allowing them to donate to causes such as renovating and furnishing the homes of the needy, giving food baskets to families, providing care for the elderly. (SPA)
Updated 3 min 6 sec ago

Saudi charity platform receives SR260 million in donations in 24 hours

Saudi charity platform receives SR260 million in donations in 24 hours
  • Ehsan acts as a safe and legal way of donating money to worthy causes, with people putting their money into trusted hands

JEDDAH: Charity platform Ehsan has received SR260 million (($69.3 million) in donations in the first 24 hours of its launch.

King Salman, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, philanthropists and companies are among those supporting Saudi Arabia’s latest national charity campaign.
Among the largest donations received are: SR40 million from Waqf Sulaiman Al-Rajhi; SR25 million from the late Sheikh Mohammed Abdulaziz Al-Rajhi’s charities Nama and Ataa; SR15 million from Saudi Aramco; SR10 million from Saudi Telecom Co.; SR7 million from Al-Rajhi Bank, and SR5 million each from Saudi Basic Industries Corp. and Saudi National Bank.
The donations, which continue to be made, will benefit hundreds of thousands of people.
Ehsan is designed to be easily accessible to all of the Kingdom’s residents, allowing them to donate to causes such as renovating and furnishing the homes of the needy, giving food baskets to families, providing care for the elderly, helping dialysis patients, and housing orphans.
Each cause has a set limit and users can select which area to donate to and follow the progress of their contributions.
Ehsan has also integrated other charities’ services into its systems: Furijat, an Interior Ministry platform to help prisoners convicted of financial crimes, and the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center.
It also allows users to pay Zakat, a form of almsgiving treated as a religious obligation or tax that covers immediate needs such as food, water, shelter and medicine for those in need.

FASTFACTS

Among the largest donations received are:

SR40m Waqf Sulaiman Al-Rajhi

SR25m Nama and Ataa charities

SR15m Saudi Aramco

SR10m Saudi Telecom Co.

Ehsan CEO Abdulaziz Al-Hammadi told the Al-Ekhbariya news channel that the campaign’s initial results had been exceptional, demonstrating the extent of giving from members of the community as well as their social solidarity.
“More than 2 million visited the site in the first four hours of the launch of the website, with more than SR70 million donated by private citizens alone so far,” said Al-Hammadi. “Through the platform, more than 500,000 people have promptly benefitted from the donations and more than 300 causes have reached their goals.”
Ehsan acts as a safe and legal way of donating money to worthy causes, with people putting their money into trusted hands.
Jameel G., a 67-year-old retired businessman, has traveled to a number of East Asian countries during the past four decades and made strong bonds and connections in a number of Muslim provinces and regions.
He said that, through this network, acquaintances would ask for help to build water wells or mosques in poor communities.
Over time, and amid less frequent traveling, he observed that construction prices were increasing and so were the funding demands. Also, the final results of the projects were not what were initially agreed on.
“Though most of my contacts are good and trustworthy people, it’s the third parties that I found to be making these demands and something was off,” he told Arab News. “The moment I found (out) that the money I was sending was swindled was when two mosques were being built at the same time and the pictures that I received were one of the same, same surroundings, same white-washed exterior and details. This incident happened 10 years ago and that was the last time I did any kind of philanthropic work.
“As I’m not very tech-savvy, I’ve requested the help of my daughter to show me how I can use the Ehsan platform to donate and I’ve also encouraged many of those I know who would like to donate money to go through the system. Too many Saudis have lost money with the aim for it to go to a good cause. It isn’t right. It’s not the Muslim way. Ehsan relieves us from that burden.”
Ehsan was launched on Friday by the Saudi Authority for Data and Artificial Intelligence (SDAIA).
The platform aims to promote the values of charitable work in Saudi society by encouraging donations and developing the nonprofit sector, increasing its efficiency and reliability, and contributing to enhancing the reliability and transparency of charitable and development activities.


Saudi expats’ Ramadan agony as loved ones pray for end to flight curbs

Saudi expats’ Ramadan agony as loved ones pray for end to flight curbs
International flights suspended due to coronavirus travel restrictions will resume on May 17, Saudi Arabia’s civil aviation authority GACA said in a circular. (AFP/File)
Updated 11 min 8 sec ago

Saudi expats’ Ramadan agony as loved ones pray for end to flight curbs

Saudi expats’ Ramadan agony as loved ones pray for end to flight curbs
  • International flights suspended due to coronavirus travel restrictions will resume on May 17, Saudi Arabia’s civil aviation authority GACA said in a circular

RIYADH: While most families look forward to gatherings around the iftar table during the holy month of Ramadan, many expatriates in the Kingdom face an agonizing wait on relatives stranded in their homelands by flight suspensions.
Every Ramadan, with sunset nearing, families sit together during iftar to break their dawn-to-dusk fast, giving everyone a chance to catch up during the month-long festivity culminating in Eid Al-Fitr.
However, many expats are anxiously watching airline schedules as countries ease travel curbs, opening the way for family reunions.
International flights suspended due to coronavirus travel restrictions will resume on May 17, Saudi Arabia’s civil aviation authority GACA said in a circular.
Anwar Pasha Ansari, an Indian expatriate working in Jeddah, told Arab News that his daughter Heba Anwar is stranded in India.
“No father and mother should go through this agony,” he said.
Ansari said that his daughter left Jeddah to appear for her bachelor’s final exam in New Delhi, hoping to rejoin her family to celebrate Eid last year.
“But perhaps destiny was preparing another fate,” he said.
Ansari said that travel bans “brought the curtain down for all parents like us whose children were held up in India.”
He added: “To add insult to injury, all students were asked to vacate their hostel and make their own living arrangements, which was a nightmare for parents working overseas.”

HIGHLIGHT

Every Ramadan, with sunset nearing, families sit together during iftar to break their dawn-to-dusk fast, giving everyone a chance to catch up during the month-long festivity culminating in Eid Al-Fitr.

With no end to travel restrictions in sight, Ansari’s daughter planned to travel to Saudi Arabia via the UAE after spending 14 days in Dubai.
Ansari said that when his daughter arrived in Dubai in January, they were elated at the prospect of reuniting with her.
But with only three days left of her quarantine, a temporary traveling restriction from Dubai to Saudi Arabia came into force and all hope was gone.
“Heba spent a substantial time hoping against hope that flights would be resumed and checking any news pertaining to flight resumption to Saudi Arabia,” said Anwar.
“She was only a couple of hours away from us.”
Finally, after all options were exhausted, Heba was forced to return to India, bravely telling her parents: “Papa and mummy, stay well, this phase will pass, too.”
Ansari’s story will be familiar to thousands separated from their children as the coronavirus pandemic challenges everyone’s patience, endurance and capacity to endure the hardships of separation.
Technology and video apps help, but are not enough to bridge the gap as families face even more time apart.
Raafat Aoun, a Lebanese expat working in the Kingdom, told Arab News: “The closure of flights has affected many expat families. My brother-in-law had to travel to Beirut to attend to an emergency. Now he finds himself in a very difficult situation as he is stuck there, and his wife and four young children are all alone in Jeddah.”
Aoun said that his brother-in-law had been stranded for more than three months.
“I am supporting them and extending them all the help I can. But this festive season is becoming very difficult for me, too. I hope and pray flights resume soon so that my brother-in-law can return to his family.”
Pakistani expatriate Syed Faiz Ahmad said that two of his relatives were stranded after traveling to Pakistan.
“One went to help his ailing father, leaving his family behind in Riyadh. But he got stuck. His wife and two children are all alone here and are desperately waiting for him to return, especially during this month of Ramadan.”


Saudi crown prince congratulates Djibouti president on re-election

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has sent a cable of congratulations to President Ismail Omar Guelleh of Djibouti. (SPA/AFP/File Photos)
Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has sent a cable of congratulations to President Ismail Omar Guelleh of Djibouti. (SPA/AFP/File Photos)
Updated 17 April 2021

Saudi crown prince congratulates Djibouti president on re-election

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has sent a cable of congratulations to President Ismail Omar Guelleh of Djibouti. (SPA/AFP/File Photos)
  • Ismail Omar Guelleh obtained 98.58 percent of the vote

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has sent a cable of congratulations to President Ismail Omar Guelleh of Djibouti after he won a fifth term in the country’s recent presidential elections 

In his cable, the crown prince wished the president success, stressing keenness on enhancing bilateral relations between the Kingdom and Djibouti. 

He also wished the president good health and happiness as well as the people of Djibouti steady progress and prosperity, Saudi Press Agency reported.

“President Ismail Omar Guelleh obtained 167,535 votes, which is 98.58 percent,” Interior Minister Moumin Ahmed Cheick announced last Friday.

He added that the confirmed results would be released by the Constitutional Council.

 


UN Security Council welcomes Saudi initiative to end Yemeni crisis

The UN Security Council has welcomed Saudi Arabia’s peace initiative to end the Yemeni conflict and reach a political solution to the crisis. (AFP/File Photo)
The UN Security Council has welcomed Saudi Arabia’s peace initiative to end the Yemeni conflict and reach a political solution to the crisis. (AFP/File Photo)
Updated 17 April 2021

UN Security Council welcomes Saudi initiative to end Yemeni crisis

The UN Security Council has welcomed Saudi Arabia’s peace initiative to end the Yemeni conflict and reach a political solution to the crisis. (AFP/File Photo)
  • The Council also called on Yemeni parties to continue implementing the provisions of the Riyadh Agreement
  • Members denounced recent cross-border attacks by Iran-backed Houthi militia on Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: The UN Security Council has welcomed Saudi Arabia’s peace initiative to end the Yemeni conflict and reach a political solution to the crisis.

In a press statement issued on Friday, the UNSC said the Saudi initiative is in line with the UN Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths’ peace proposal, Saudi Press Agency reported.

The Saudi proposal entails a nationwide cease-fire, the reopening of Sanaa International Airport and allowing fuel and food imports through the port of Hodeidah.

The statement indicated that the UNSC called on all Yemeni parties to engage constructively with the UN Special Envoy and negotiate without preconditions, for an immediate ceasefire throughout the country and a comprehensive political settlement, in accordance with the relevant provisions of the UN Security Council resolutions.

The UNSC also urged the participation of Yemeni women and the country’s youth in talks in accordance with relevant resolutions, underlying its members' commitment to the sovereignty and territorial unity of Yemen. 

The Council also called on Yemeni parties to continue implementing the provisions of the Riyadh Agreement.

The Security Council members denounced the recent cross-border attacks by the Iran-backed Houthi militia on Saudi Arabia, calling for an immediate end to the Houthis’ escalation against Yemeni city of Marib.

The council also held the Houthi militia accountable for the danger posed by the Safer oil tanker, calling on Houthis to ensure an immediate and unconditional access of the UN experts to inspect and repair the long-abandoned fuel tanker off the coast of Yemen.


Saudi Arabia announces 9 more COVID-19 deaths

Saudi Arabia announces 9 more COVID-19 deaths
Updated 17 April 2021

Saudi Arabia announces 9 more COVID-19 deaths

Saudi Arabia announces 9 more COVID-19 deaths
  • The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom has increased to 387,795
  • A total of 6,810 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia announced nine deaths from COVID-19 and 948 new infections on Saturday.
Of the new cases, 419 were recorded in Riyadh, 210 in Makkah, 133 in the the Eastern Province, 34 in Asir, 32 in Madinah, 23 in Jazan, 20 in Hail, 15 in Tabuk, 12 in the Northern Borders region, nine in Najran and seven in Al-Jouf.
The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom increased to 387,795 after 775 more patients recovered from the virus.
A total of 6,810 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far.