Saudi national archives foundation Darah uncovering past with oral history tradition

The King Abdul Aziz Foundation for Research and Archives (Darah) has upgraded its work to record and preserve oral accounts of Saudi history. (Supplied)
The King Abdul Aziz Foundation for Research and Archives (Darah) has upgraded its work to record and preserve oral accounts of Saudi history. (Supplied)
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Updated 23 December 2020

Saudi national archives foundation Darah uncovering past with oral history tradition

Saudi national archives foundation Darah uncovering past with oral history tradition
  • Riyadh-based research center is a historical source complementary to other materials, including books, manuscripts

RIYADH: From one generation to another, history is told and retold. But with time, large fragments are lost, so a Riyadh-based research center is helping preserve some of Saudi Arabia’s most important historical facts.
The earliest forms of storytelling for many cultures were primarily oral, combined with gestures and expressions, and at times, even drawings and paintings. With time these stories differ, their essence forgotten and countless tales lost through time. In recognition of the beauty of this dying art, the King Abdul Aziz Foundation for Research and Archives (Darah) has upgraded its work to record and preserve oral accounts of Saudi Arabian history and make them accessible to researchers.
Speaking to Arab News, Darah spokesman Sultan Alawairdhi said the center’s founding is in line with the government’s policy to preserve its history. He added that it is of vital importance to ensure that historical narratives are accessible to all by using knowledge and historical facts told by the elderly who lived through major historical events that shaped the Kingdom.

“The Oral History Center was founded 26 years ago to document popular narratives from the perspective of the public. Shortly after its foundation, the center became a member of the US Oral History Association and the UK Oral History Society,” he said.
The center acts as a historical source complementary to other materials, including books, manuscripts, documents and more. Anyone who seeks knowledge about certain events can get plenty of information, but written history often neglects the “human element” because of the priority on documentation and research in the past, said Alawairdhi.
He said agricultural methods, crafts, travel, motherhood and childhood and health affairs are often left untouched by written history sources.
“Since its foundation, the center has set standards in line with global centers that have a considerable experience in history. The center has been provided with state-of-the-art technology and tools on a continuous basis to help conduct interviews, record audio, take photographs and make videos, as well as transcribe, archive and store equipment,” he said.
The center meets all the requirements for conducting oral interviews, securing information, preparing main points of discussion and more. It also has venues to conduct interviews that provide the necessary tools to make the most out of research, Alawairdhi said.

Today, the center has recorded more than 2,000 audio and video interviews with people hailing from different parts of the Kingdom. Alawairdhi said the center’s aim is to digitize written material and make it accessible to researchers who wish to listen or read the interviews, thus serving scientific research and progressing knowledge nationally and
regionally.
“Oral history is an important source, such as archeology and historical accounts. Its importance lies in the fact that preservation of key historical accounts, biographies and characters is instrumental for the second state, which is recording. History began as an oral tradition that depended on narrators,” Mohammed Alhelfi, a modern history researcher, told Arab News.
Material derived from an oral tradition is fundamental in reaching accurate historical recounts, such as cross-border travels, which were originally recorded through oral accounts, but later turned to written records. Because oral history preceded written history, it must be subjected to a scientific methodology that criticizes its content and achieves balance between different historical accounts of a certain event, Alhelfi said.

At some points in the past, oral accounts were considered inaccurate compared to written accounts, and recordings were subject to skepticism by researchers, who claimed that narrators could hide or distort the truth based on their relation to historical events.
Eyewitness accounts of historical events are an issue many historical research centers have faced. Experts race against time to question as many of the elderly as they can. Researchers and interviewers depend largely on word of mouth, place blind faith in interviewees and hope for the best. Luckily, the elderly often have a strong belief in keeping with the truth and telling the story as it is, without room for distortion and error.
As with many historical centers, documenting the evolution of a culture is key to understanding its history. One of the Kingdom’s more unique features is a diversity of dialects, fashion, lifestyles and more. Darah holds behind its walls a treasure of local dialect and semiotic language research.
“The center trains its Saudi staff members how to methodologically document oral historical accounts and explains to them the importance of oral documentation as a key source of historical accounts. The center also translated and published several works in the field,” Alawairdhi said.

He added that the process of recording oral history is “extremely difficult” and requires interviewers to travel long distances through desert and tough terrain to conduct interviews. The process also requires good negotiation skills on the part of the interviewer, who must convince people to answer questions.
“In fact, the teams working in the center have interviewed different people and some experiences were funny while some were painful. One of the saddest stories happened a while ago when the teams went to interview an elderly person only to know later that day that he had died,” said Alawairdhi.
Evolution has changed the tools available to storytellers. With the advent of writing and the use of modern technology, historians are linked by one common theme, to identify historical significance and keep traditions alive.
 


Arabic calligraphy’s fusion with Japanese Kanji captures beauty of both worlds

Arabic calligraphy’s fusion with Japanese Kanji captures beauty of both worlds
Noha Raheem says when she was younger, she discovered the three famous Japanese written scripts — including Kanji, Katakana and Hiragana — and she was awestruck. (Supplied)
Updated 23 June 2021

Arabic calligraphy’s fusion with Japanese Kanji captures beauty of both worlds

Arabic calligraphy’s fusion with Japanese Kanji captures beauty of both worlds
  • My enthusiasm for Kanji script started six years ago, says Saudi designer and calligrapher Noha Raheem

JEDDAH: Saudi artist, designer and calligrapher Noha Raheem ventured into the world of calligraphy in an unconventional way, fusing her interest in Kanji — the logographic Chinese characters used in the Japanese writing system — with Arabic calligraphy.

The result has been a portfolio of unique and eye-catching works that capture the beauty of both worlds
“I’m fond of Arabic calligraphy and graphics in general. My enthusiasm for Kanji script started six years ago,” Raheem told Arab News.
“Any calligraphic font has its roles and system. When I was younger, I discovered the three famous Japanese written scripts — including Kanji, Katakana and Hiragana — and I was awestruck. The impressive vertical letters, the way they are formed and their meaningful symbols were like a secret code.”

FASTFACT

In Arabic calligraphy, writing proceeds from right to left and forms a horizontal line. Artists rarely confine themselves to convention, though.

In Arabic calligraphy, writing proceeds from right to left and forms a horizontal line. Artists rarely confine themselves to convention, though.
“For Kufic calligraphy and freestyle in Arabic, I was driven by passion. I was inspired by Hajji Noor Deen in my beginnings, and later on, I created Arabic calligraphy in the Kanji style to show the beauty and flexibility of this complex yet innovative mix,” Raheem said.


The self-taught calligrapher discovered the roles and philosophy behind the beauty of Kanji script. “It is said that the only rule for Japanese and Chinese calligraphy is that it is beautiful, no matter what is written. What matters is how it is written. That’s why I believe the Kanji style can be merged and fitted with our Arabic letters to create a masterpiece for both eye and mind,” she said.
She explained that Arabic letters are equally malleable. “They can be shaped in any way, and still keep their form and meaning. Today I wrote my letters in the Kanji style. Later, I might do it in Urdu just to show the world how flexible and beautiful Arabic letters are.”
Raheem’s artworks, including famous sayings and poetry in Arabic, are written freestyle — a tricky task.


She also writes Qur’anic verses in Kanji: “I love to write words that anyone can relate to, including poetry and short verses with iconic and universal messages. I can apply this art to any word, as long as it makes sense to me.”
Raheem is faithful to the cultures she draws inspiration from, using traditional Sumi ink and off-white, antique-style background colors with black script, or vice versa, to mirror the essence of the Japanese style.
She also uses Japanese calligraphy brushes, Xuan rice paper, and Kakejiku, a Japanese hanging scroll used to display and exhibit paintings and calligraphic inscriptions and designs.
Her love for and dedication to Japanese art drove her to share her knowledge and display her works at art cafes, galleries, and sushi restaurants in Saudi Arabia and Dubai.
She encourages other Arab artists to explore the beauty and flexibility of the Arabic language and preserve it through art. Raheem can be found at her Instagram account @noha_raheem.


Daily virus tally hits 10-month high in Saudi Arabia

Daily virus tally hits 10-month high in Saudi Arabia
Health authorities urged the public to continue to follow all precautionary measures. (SPA)
Updated 23 June 2021

Daily virus tally hits 10-month high in Saudi Arabia

Daily virus tally hits 10-month high in Saudi Arabia
  • Authorities urge compliance with health guidelines

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia on Tuesday recorded the highest single-day total of new COVID-19 cases since Aug. 13, 2020.
Authorities in the Kingdom reported an additional 1,479 infections, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 476,882. Of these, 11,131 remain active and 1,487 patients are in critical condition.
The Health Ministry also said there have been a further 12 virus-related deaths, raising the death toll in the country to 7,703.
Makkah region has the highest number of new infections, with 431, followed by the Eastern Province with 280 and Riyadh region with 256.
The ministry said that an additional 920 patients have recovered from COVID-19, bringing the total number of recoveries in the Kingdom to 458,048. It added that about 16.8 million doses of coronavirus vaccine have been administered, an average of 94,104 a day, which is a rate of 48.2 doses per hundred people.
Health authorities urged the public to continue to follow all precautionary measures and ministry guidelines to prevent the spread of the virus. All ministries and other government bodies in the Kingdom are working together to ensure compliance with health guidelines.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Saudi Arabia reported 1,479 new cases on Tuesday.

• The Makkah region reported the highest number of infections.

• With 12 new fatalities, the death toll has risen to 7,703.

The Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development carried out 448,126 inspections of commercial establishments in the private sector throughout the country in the first five months of this year. The aim is to ensure employers are following all rules and regulations relating to pandemic-related health protocols and to Saudization legislation. The teams recorded 45,421 violations and issued 51,005 warnings.
The ministry called on employers to adhere to its decisions and legislation relating to the labor market, improve the working environment and implement localization rules, as well as precautionary measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Unannounced inspections of the private sector institutions will continue throughout the Kingdom, it added


Saudi education portal among global top 4, says UNESCO official

Saudi education portal among global top 4, says UNESCO official
Saudi Education Minister Dr. Hamad bin Mohammed Al-Asheikh held a meeting with UNESCO’s top official Stefania Giannini in Italy on Tuesday. (SPA)
Updated 23 June 2021

Saudi education portal among global top 4, says UNESCO official

Saudi education portal among global top 4, says UNESCO official
  • The UNESCO official said the Kingdom’s success in introducing distance learning in a short time has propelled it into a leadership role in this field

RIYADH: UNESCO’s assistant director general for education on Tuesday lauded Saudi Arabia for promptly switching over to online learning methods in the wake of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
During a meeting with Saudi Education Minister Dr. Hamad bin Mohammed Al-Asheikh on the sidelines of the G20 education ministers’ meeting in Catania in Italy, Stefania Giannini said the Kingdom has achieved great success in e-learning and distance education during the pandemic.
She praised the swiftness of the Saudi authorities in switching over to online learning without compromising on the quality of education.
The UNESCO official said the Kingdom’s success in introducing distance learning in a short time has propelled it into a leadership role in this field. Giannini said the Madarasti online learning platform introduced by the Kingdom is among the top four global models.

FASTFACT

The Madarasti platform provides students with virtual classes, homework assignments, and delivery tools and is used in conjunction with the iEN YouTube channel and the iEN national education portal.

The fully interactive platform was developed as a response to the coronavirus pandemic, which shut down schools across the Kingdom. It is designed so that students can log in and attend their lessons digitally, interact with their teachers and track their progress.
It provides students with virtual classes, homework assignments, and delivery tools and is used in conjunction with the iEN YouTube channel and the iEN national education portal.
School leaders consistently monitor the educational process via Madrasati, prepare class schedules, communicate with absent students, and provide technical support for students and their parents.


Summer vacations: Insurance providers step up to cover travel risks

Summer vacations: Insurance providers step up to cover travel risks
Saudis will not be allowed to enter airports or board aircraft without showing their health status through the Tawakkalna app. (AN photos by Huda Bashatah)
Updated 23 June 2021

Summer vacations: Insurance providers step up to cover travel risks

Summer vacations: Insurance providers step up to cover travel risks
  • Countries are demanding travelers have travel insurance in order to lift the financial burden of medical bills in case of emergencies
  • A traveler is exposed to losses such as quarantine and treatment costs of COVID-19, cancellation of a flight or shortening its duration or missing flights, or loss of luggage or delay of luggage

RIYADH: With summer vacations underway and more countries easing restrictions on international travelers, health risks from COVID-19 remain a source of concern.
Citizens are being encouraged to follow health precautions before departure to ensure a safe trip, while health insurance is also an entry requirement for some countries.
Pre-flight tests are required and more countries are demanding travelers to their countries have travel insurance in order to lift the financial burden of medical bills in case of emergencies. Others require visitors to buy healthcare policies from their destination’s government.
For travelers under 18, health insurance that covers COVID-19 infection is mandatory. The 12 accredited health insurance service providers are following the guidelines.
In a joint press conference with the Saudi General Authority of Civil Aviation last month, Council of Cooperative Health Insurance (CCHI) spokesman Othman Al-Qasabi said that a new insurance policy in conjunction with the Saudi Central Bank (SAMA) will include benefits that cover the risks of COVID-19 infection.
The policy is mandatory for those under 18 planning to travel.
Talal Albotty, regional director of the Central Region at Salama Insurance Co, told Arab News that the central bank initiative in collaboration with the CCHI aims to distribute risks and losses if these occur.
Comprehensive coverage is included for travelers on international flights against all risks related to travel outside Saudi Arabia, he said.
“A traveler is exposed to losses such as quarantine and treatment costs of COVID-19, cancellation of a flight or shortening its duration or missing flights, or loss of luggage or delay of luggage. The policy includes coverage of emergency medical expenses, personal accidents, or transportation of a deceased from or to Saudi Arabia and liability toward others as per the conditions and exceptions delineated in the unified insurance policy,” he said.
Albotty said the cost of an insurance policy does not exceed SR375 ($100) a month. However, if more services are added, these will be calculated proportionately as per the duration of the policy.

Saudis will not be allowed to enter airports or board aircraft without showing their health status through the Tawakkalna app. (AN photos by Huda Bashatah)

The policy is for people vaccinated against COVID-19 and is required for anyone under 18 traveling outside Saudi Arabia since they are not required to take a vaccine under global protocols, he said.
Husain Quhal, a senior executive with a leading insurance company, told Arab News: “The Saudi Central Bank has launched a campaign to educate people on the importance of travel insurance covering COVID-19 risks as well as reducing costs of traveling abroad.”
Feroz Khan, vice president of sales in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain for Webbeds, a leading accommodation supplier to the travel industry, told Arab News: “Resumption of flights in May, opening of borders, and relaxation in travel and quarantine protocols have all resulted in positive travel sentiments.”
Webbeds is in touch with its partner company in the Kingdom and will make this travel insurance available for travel agents to book online shortly, he said.
Saudis travelers will not be allowed to enter airports or board aircraft without showing their health status through the government-approved health app, Tawakkalna.
Travelers who have received two vaccine doses, those who have completed two weeks since receiving the first jab, those who are immune by recovery no more than six months since infection and children under the age of 18 who have travel insurance obtained in cooperation with the Saudi Central Bank will be the only groups allowed to cross international borders.


Saudi rights chief meets top Philippines official

Saudi rights chief meets top Philippines official
Saudi human rights chief meets top Philippines official in Riyadh. (SPA)
Updated 23 June 2021

Saudi rights chief meets top Philippines official

Saudi rights chief meets top Philippines official
  • Saudi Arabia hosts more than 800,000 Filipinos, the highest in any Gulf state, according to a 2020 government estimate

RIYADH: The president of Human Right Commission, Dr. Awwad Al-Awwad, held a meeting with Robert Eric Borje, chief of presidential protocol and presidential assistant on foreign affairs of the Philippines, in Riyadh on Tuesday.
They discussed ways to enhance cooperation in all field especially human rights.
Al-Awwad highlighted the Kingdom’s efforts in streamlining the local labor market and the steps Saudi Arabia has taken to ensure the safety of all in the wake of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
The Philippines and Saudi Arabia have agreed to increase cooperation on labor reforms and ensure the well-being of over 800,000 Filipino migrant workers in the Kingdom.
Saudi Arabia hosts more than 800,000 Filipinos, the highest in any Gulf state, according to a 2020 government estimate.