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.
 


Saudi Green Initiative forum

Saudi Green Initiative forum
Updated 29 min 16 sec ago

Saudi Green Initiative forum

Saudi Green Initiative forum

The Saudi Green Initiative forum in Riyadh taking place on Saturday will discuss Saudi Arabia's environmental efforts with guests that include high-profile government leaders and international personalities.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is opening the forum to announce the Kingdom’s new “green” objectives. 

Other Saudi ministers will also be speaking at the forum, exploring specific themes around business and the environment, marine and ocean life, and the oil and gas industry. 

Big corporate icons, including Paddy Padmanathan of ACWA Power and Jasper Graf of Daystar Power US, are also participating in the forum.  


First full Friday prayers at Two Holy Mosques

First full Friday prayers at Two Holy Mosques
Updated 23 October 2021

First full Friday prayers at Two Holy Mosques

First full Friday prayers at Two Holy Mosques
  • Worshippers return to holy cities as restrictions eased

MAKKAH: After more than a year and a half, Muslims worldwide were delighted to see Friday prayers at the Two Holy mosques return to full capacity.

Considered the two holiest sites in Islam, painful images of the mosques devoid of worshippers due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March of 2020 affected Muslims everywhere, but particularly citizens of Makkah and Madinah.

“It’s a blessing, to walk in the mosque’s pathways and you’re surrounded by people again,” said Abdullah Mahdi, a private-sector worker and longtime resident of the holy city. “Though masked still, it doesn’t really matter, the place is alive with movement and worshippers again.

“It’s truly a sight to behold and to see the Grand Mosque’s courtyard around the Kaaba filled with people on the first Friday after the easing of the restrictions is a sign that it’ll be alright, God-willing.”

Last Saturday, the Ministry of Interior announced the easing of restrictions across the Kingdom, including those affecting the Grand Mosque in Makkah and the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah, which are returning to full operations and capacity.

Deputy Secretary-General for the Affairs of the Grand Mosque Dr. Saad bin Mohammed Al-Muhaimid told Arab News that the Presidency of the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques had used all of their human and mechanical resources to implement the plan to return to full capacity.

FASTFACTS

• Last Saturday, the Ministry of Interior announced the easing of restrictions across the Kingdom, including those affecting the Grand Mosque in Makkah and the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah, which are returning to full operations and capacity.

• Those working at the Two Holy Mosques had been asked to abide by and enforce the directives issued by the authorities concerned with fighting the coronavirus pandemic to ensure everyone’s safety.

“They did so through an integrated plan of capabilities and services that were harnessed to preserve the safety of the Grand Mosque’s visitors and facilitate the performance of their rites in a spiritual, safe and reassuring atmosphere,” he said.

“Based on the directives of the president of the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques, Sheikh Dr. Abdulrahman Al-Sudais, we have accelerated the pace of work and raised the level of readiness in an effort to provide the Grand Mosque’s visitors with better services and means of comfort.

“We have also doubled our efforts since we started implementing the plan to return to full capacity while achieving the highest-quality standards.”

The deputy secretary-general said that those working at the Two Holy Mosques had been asked to abide by and enforce the directives issued by the authorities concerned with fighting the coronavirus pandemic to ensure everyone’s safety.

The ministry and authorities stressed the importance of visitors adhering to the directives included in the Interior Ministry’s statement by wearing face masks at all times inside the Grand Mosque and booking their Umrah and prayer appointments through the official applications (Eatmarna and Tawakkalna).


Saudi Arabia’s carbon-rich mangroves are key to combating climate change

Saudi Arabia’s carbon-rich mangroves are key to combating climate change
Updated 23 October 2021

Saudi Arabia’s carbon-rich mangroves are key to combating climate change

Saudi Arabia’s carbon-rich mangroves are key to combating climate change
  • Mangrove forests are vital for climate change, as highly productive and biodiversity-rich inter-tidal forests sequester carbon faster than terrestrial forests
  • Saudi Green Initiative starts on Oct. 23-24 and aims to assert the country’s work to achieve change domestically and regionally regarding climate change

JEDDAH: Plans to establish Saudi Arabia’s first national mangrove park are underway to enhance the Kingdom’s efforts in environmental protection and tourism development through vast green spaces.

The plans were announced by the Ministry of Environment, Water, and Agriculture. They are part of the ministry’s initiative to add more green spaces and national parks in the country, which currently has 27 national parks.

Mangroves are mainly found off the south-western waters in the Jizan region. They help to protect marine habitats, seagrass, coral reefs, and more from harmful runoffs from passing boats and human waste. 

They are known to residents of the Farasan Islands and Jizan as shura trees, and the area is frequented by residents and visitors all year round.

To further protect mangrove forests, the ministry planted more than 875,000 mangrove trees in the southern regions of the Red Sea coast. 

The first is in a location dubbed Bahar1 and is near the cultural village south of Jizan city where 440,000 trees were planted. There were 435,000 mangrove trees planted in Bahar2 in the town of Al-Sawarmah.

Greenhouse gases drive climate change. 

Mangrove forests are vital for climate change, as highly productive and biodiversity-rich inter-tidal forests sequester carbon faster than terrestrial forests. The more CO2 the mangroves capture, the faster the greenhouse gases are removed from the atmosphere. The distinctive ecosystems also protect shores and can help prevent direct damage in case of storms.

More than a quarter of the world’s mangroves have been lost over the past decade due to artificial intrusions.

The Saudi Green Initiative starts on Oct. 23-24 and aims to assert the country’s work to achieve change domestically and regionally regarding climate change, to build a better future, and improve the quality of life. The country has made significant efforts to protect the environment and mitigate the effects of climate change. Reducing carbon emissions is crucial to slow the impact of climate change and restore environmental balance. 

Ten billion trees will be planted throughout the Kingdom to transform the desert into green land and rehabilitate 40 million hectares of land in the upcoming decades.


Diriyah, Jewel of the Kingdom: DGDA tour guides shine at Expo Dubai Saudi Pavilion

Diriyah, Jewel of the Kingdom: DGDA tour guides shine at Expo Dubai Saudi Pavilion
Updated 23 October 2021

Diriyah, Jewel of the Kingdom: DGDA tour guides shine at Expo Dubai Saudi Pavilion

Diriyah, Jewel of the Kingdom: DGDA tour guides shine at Expo Dubai Saudi Pavilion

Diriyah Gate Development Authority’s talented tour guides are working hard at the Saudi Pavilion during Expo 2020 Dubai to share the history of Diriyah, the birthplace of the Kingdom, the land of kings and heroes where it all began.

The DGDA is proud that seven of the guides from its talented team are currently in Dubai to support the Saudi Pavilion, help drive the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, and represent the spirit of Saudi youth.

The pavilion reflects the Kingdom’s past, present and shared future. It soars five stories high, covering an area the equivalent of two football fields, making it the second-largest at the event after the UAE pavilion.

Thanks to its dazzling design features that beam multicolored bursts of light over the surrounding areas, including 8,000 LED floor lights and the world’s largest digital mirror screen, visitors will enjoy a different experience each time they stop by. It is a design that honors four main themes: the Saudi people, the nation’s heritage, opportunity and nature.

The DGDA tour guides will be working in the pavilion for the duration of Expo 2020 Dubai, sharing with visitors the amazing history and culture of the Kingdom, and Diriyah in particular. Their duties include leading public tours of the entire pavilion, guiding school tours, looking after VIP guests and groups, and training the temporary staff and interns working at the pavilion.

Their extensive training in Diriyah has prepared them well for their participation in Expo 2020 Dubai, and their involvement is a unique recognition of their talent, knowledge and passion.

Rahaf Alharbi, one of DGDA’s rising stars and a passionate tour guide at the Saudi Pavilion, said: “It is a great honor for me to be here at Expo 2020 Dubai to represent Saudi Arabia and to tell the world about Diriyah’s rich history. I am looking forward to the whole world learning about the birthplace of the Kingdom, with its unique history and culture. I am proud to be part of this team and truly enjoy the new experiences we can make here.”

The DGDA is leading the transformation of Diriyah into Saudi Arabia’s foremost historical, cultural and lifestyle destination. The authority was established in July 2017 to preserve Diriyah’s history, celebrate its community, and develop the historic UNESCO World Heritage site of At-Turaif into one of the world’s greatest gathering places, at the heart of Saudi Arabian culture and heritage.

The protection and preservation of Saudi history and culture, including the stories of the nation’s forefathers and its physical heritage, is a key pillar of the work of the DGDA. It is running an extensive program to train specialist tour guides to share the rich history of the birthplace of Saudi Arabia. This training can last months or even years, during which trainees are taught about the Kingdom’s history, archaeology and hospitality.


Saudi Arabia’s chief of general staff receives commander of US Central Command

Saudi Arabia’s chief of general staff receives commander of US Central Command
Updated 23 October 2021

Saudi Arabia’s chief of general staff receives commander of US Central Command

Saudi Arabia’s chief of general staff receives commander of US Central Command

RIYADH: Air Chief Marshal Fayyadh bin Hamed Al Ruwaili, chief of the general staff of the Saudi Arabian Armed Forces, received Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., commander of US Central Command, and the accompanying US delegation at King Salman Air Base.

During the meeting they discussed aspects of cooperation between the two countries, especially in the defense sector, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

They reviewed the importance of strengthening military cooperation and also discussed issues of common interest with regards to regional security and stability.

The meeting was also attended by a number of senior officers from both sides.