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.
 


Overdue business rents waived by Saudi court

Overdue business rents waived by Saudi court
If a contract obliges one of the parties to carry out a task, which cannot be completed on time due to the pandemic, the court can temporarily suspend the implementation of the obligation. (SPA)
Updated 19 January 2021

Overdue business rents waived by Saudi court

Overdue business rents waived by Saudi court
  • The new regulations cover construction contracts, supply contracts, and the like, which have been affected by the pandemic

RIYADH: The General Assembly of the Saudi Supreme Court has ordered the waiving of overdue rents on businesses hit by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, and called for a review of such contracts between tenants and owners.

The steps have been taken in view of the circumstances caused by the pandemic, wherein an obligation or contract cannot be implemented without unusual losses.

The president of the Supreme Court, Khalid bin Abdullah bin Muhammad Al-Luhaidan, approved the decisions backed by 32 members of the assembly, Okaz newspaper reported.

Authorities have set conditions that have to be met before a case can be considered for review under the new regulations.

If a contract was concluded before the commencement of the preventive measures announced in the wake of the pandemic, then the impact was direct and unavoidable. If in such a case, an affected party was not compensated or did not reach a deal to mitigate the impact of the health crisis, then it qualifies for a review and the new regulations will then take effect, said legal sources.

The Supreme Court said a competent court will issue its verdict based on facts and circumstantial evidence, and may order amendments to a contract.

It also said the new provisions will be applicable to tenancy contracts and movable properties affected by the pandemic.

It clarified that if, due to the pandemic, a tenant was unable to use the leased property, in whole or in part, the court would reduce the rent as much as the usually intended benefit was reduced.

A lessor, meanwhile, does not have the right to terminate the contract if a tenant is late in paying rent for the period during which it was impossible to fully or partly use the property due to the pandemic.

HIGHLIGHT

The Supreme Court said a competent court will issue its verdict based on facts and circumstantial evidence, and may order amendments to a contract.

The new regulations also cover construction contracts, supply contracts, and the like, which have been affected by the pandemic.

If the pandemic causes an increase to the cost of materials and labor wages, etc., the court shall increase the value of the contract while ensuring the obligor can afford to bear the expense. The obligee, upon increasing the obligation, has the right to request the termination of the contract. If the increase in the cost of materials is temporary, the court reserves the right to temporarily suspend the contract.

If the pandemic causes a shortage of material in the market, the court can reduce the quantity to the extent it deems sufficient to protect the obligor from harm.

Moreover, if the shortage of materials is temporary, the court can temporarily suspend the contract if the person obligated to it is not severely affected by this suspension. If he is harmed, he may request termination of the contract. If the materials were not available at all, leading to the impossibility of implementing the contractual obligations or some of them, the court will terminate the clauses that are impossible to implement upon the request of one of the parties to the contract.

If a contract obliges one of the parties to carry out a task, which cannot be completed on time due to the pandemic, the court can temporarily suspend the implementation of the obligation. If the other party fears unusual damage due to the suspension, he may request termination of the contract.

In addition, the court also stressed the need to carefully assess the damages on a case-to-case basis, and that one or more experts should do the assessment. While assessing damages, it should be made clear what losses were incurred directly due to the pandemic and had nothing do to with seasonal upswing in certain activities.

The Supreme Court explained that a court is bound, when considering cases arising from contracts and obligations affected by the pandemic, not to apply penalty clause or fines in whole or in part — depending on the case.

In the event that a contract includes a clause of exemption from liability for one of the contracting parties when an emergency or force majeure occurs, the condition has no effect, and the party that breaches the obligation must provide evidence that the pandemic was the reason for the breach.

The affected contracts that are not covered by the provisions of this principle shall be subject to the legal and statutory litigation principles, said the court.

Commenting on the decision, Talal Albotty, the regional director of the Central Region, Salama Insurance Co., said there is a type of insurance called “suspension of operations” because of continuous epidemics, and falls under property insurance.

“This type of insurance can be found in European countries and some Asian countries but it is not applicable in Saudi Arabia,” he told Arab News. “The insurance against projects does not exist because when the project stops, insurance stops.”

Regarding the rise in prices of commodities, or the increase in prices because of pandemics and suspension of imports, a condition must be added stating that the value of property or project must increase by 10-25 percent, he added.

“Now most reinsurance companies around the world stopped offering insurance related to pandemics and contagious diseases in most countries, including COVID-19, because their impact was huge and the companies sustained huge losses,” he said.

Saudi lawyer Reem Alajmi said the resolution aims to treat and remedy the losses incurred by parties to the contract in terms of obligations.

“The parties could not fulfil their obligations because of a lack of sufficient resources or suspension of working hours during the pandemic. Fulfilling the obligation fully or partially was difficult because COVID-19 pandemic was a force majeure,” she told Arab News.

According to Alajmi, the effects or damage caused by the pandemic must not be covered by other laws. “Proving the occurrence of damage is the responsibility of the plaintiff and the defendant based on evidence submitted to the court,” she added. “The contracts and obligations are amended accordingly.”