From US heartland to KSA deserts, how a camel’s beauty attracted one American to an age of tradition

From US heartland to KSA deserts, how a camel’s beauty attracted one American to an age of tradition
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Joseph, known as Hasan Yousef, is an American from Missouri who discovered the depths of the Saudi experience, the camel’s relationship with the desert and the Bedouins’ profound traditions. (Supplied)
From US heartland to KSA deserts, how a camel’s beauty attracted one American to an age of tradition
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From US heartland to KSA deserts, how a camel’s beauty attracted one American to an age of tradition
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From US heartland to KSA deserts, how a camel’s beauty attracted one American to an age of tradition
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Updated 26 December 2020

From US heartland to KSA deserts, how a camel’s beauty attracted one American to an age of tradition

From US heartland to KSA deserts, how a camel’s beauty attracted one American to an age of tradition
  • A Missouri native’s experience reveals how investors fall in love with Saudi culture

MAKKAH: From an investor-in-training to a competitor on the camel festival’s track, one American learned to appreciate one of Saudi Arabia’s oldest heritages.

It did not occur to 32-year-old Joseph, known as Hasan Yousef, an American from Missouri, when he moved to the Kingdom five years ago that he’d be introduced to the inside world of camels.
He developed his interest in camels from the most basic level to appreciating the fervor of camel beauty pageants.
His interest grew so much that he reached the summit of one of Saudi Arabia’s most reputable heritage events, competing for top prizes at the King Abdul Aziz Camel Festival.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Yousef developed his interest in camels from the most basic level to appreciating the fervor of camel beauty pageants.

• His interest grew so much that he reached the summit of one of Saudi Arabia’s most reputable heritage events, competing for top prizes at the King Abdul Aziz Camel Festival.

• He discovered the depths of the Saudi experience, their relationship with the desert and their profound traditions. That defining moment led him to the singles race in the fifth season of the Camel Festival.

• He found himself heading to the desert, traveling for days to discover new camping sites, sitting next to a bonfire, wearing the traditional Saudi thob and drinking camel milk. 

• Yousef was ready to invest $133,000 to find a camel that suited his abilities and aesthetic standards.

• What Yousef achieved ‘represents the deep transfer of Saudi heritage to investors.’

“I moved to Saudi Arabia five years ago and when I later moved to Riyadh, I met up with Faisal Al-Qahtani and a close friend of his Sultan. Faisal being the genuine friend that he is, took the initiative to show me around the Kingdom,” Yousef told Arab News.
“I’m an outgoing person and have visited 40 countries in the past 15 years and when I made up my mind to move to Saudi Arabia, I committed to being active, engaging with the people and learning about the culture, the traditions, cultural values, and norms,” he added.
Visiting Al-Qahtani’s family in the desert, he was introduced to the Bedouin lifestyle, their customs, food and the simplicity of their lives.
“I received a red carpet-style welcome,” he noted.
Yousef was able to familiarize himself with camels for the first time. He discovered the depths of the Saudi experience, their relationship with the desert and their profound traditions. That defining moment led him to the singles race in the fifth season of the Camel Festival.

New hobby
While working in the education sector in the Kingdom, he acquired a new hobby that would occupy his weekends. As a self-described “city guy,” he found himself heading to the desert, traveling for days to discover new camping sites, sitting next to a bonfire, wearing the traditional Saudi thobe and drinking camel milk.
With time, his passion grew to learning more about the beauty of camels. He began to search for a way to adopt that experience in full, and looked for a way to own his own camel and a caravan for it.
“With 2020 being a very challenging year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, I took time to think during the lockdown ‘what should I do once the Kingdom opens up?’ So I started taking online courses at Harvard University and thought I should later apply to get a postgraduate degree in English or international relations.”
But with the prolonged closure, he consulted with his friend Faisal and decided to venture into the world of business in the Kingdom.
Yousef said Faisal suggested participating in the camel federation’s beauty pageant and described it as a “riveting and new experience,” noting that as a foreigner, he’d be welcomed into this new venture as the Kingdom’s leadership has been opening up to the international community.
With the help of his friend, Yousef was ready to invest SR500,000 ($133,000) to find a camel that suited his abilities and aesthetic standards. Faisal took him to Eid Al-Otaibi’s farm to select a camel from the “Tamamiyat” breed. In a field of camels where some can cost millions of riyals, Yousef found his perfect investment.
In his first experience, Faisal said that he should not pay big sums, because he is not totally captivated with the hobby like native Arabs, but that he expected his interest to grow as he explored the field. Al-Qahtani said that what Yousef achieved represents the deep transfer of Saudi heritage to investors.
Their desire goes beyond the principle of buying and selling, he said, adding that foreigners learn to develop a genuine appreciation for Saudi culture.

 


Why this retired engineer is a ‘model’ Saudi citizen

The models include typical houses and traditional shops that served fava beans, barbecued meat, kebabs and mabshoor, a traditional Arab dish of bread in a meat or vegetable broth. (Photos/Huda Bashatah)
The models include typical houses and traditional shops that served fava beans, barbecued meat, kebabs and mabshoor, a traditional Arab dish of bread in a meat or vegetable broth. (Photos/Huda Bashatah)
Updated 1 min 11 sec ago

Why this retired engineer is a ‘model’ Saudi citizen

The models include typical houses and traditional shops that served fava beans, barbecued meat, kebabs and mabshoor, a traditional Arab dish of bread in a meat or vegetable broth. (Photos/Huda Bashatah)
  • Abdul Aziz Taher Al-Hebshi aims to preserve the history of social and cultural life in Saudi Arabia
  • Makkah in those days was a beacon for writers, poets and scientists

MAKKAH: A Saudi agricultural engineer is spending his retirement years helping to preserve the Kingdom’s architectural and cultural history — in the form of extremely accurate models of important buildings and sites in Jeddah and Makkah.

Now Abdul Aziz Taher Al-Hebshi has turned his house in Jeddah’s Al-Rawdah neighborhood into an exhibition space to showcase his models, which represent a fascinating record of daily social and cultural life in the cities in the early-to-mid 20th century.
A good example of this is his model of a “writer’s cafe” in the Misfalah neighborhood of Makkah that was once popular with writers, intellectuals and poets. Through it, he said, he aims to immortalize the role these figures played in the development of literature in Saudi Arabia and the country’s cultural history.
“Knowledgeable people told me that the cafe where Makkah’s writers, poets and intellectuals used to go to was Saleh Abdulhay Cafe, located next to Bajrad Cafe,” 72-year-old Al-Hebshi told Arab News. “Similar cafes were found throughout Makkah’s Misfalah neighborhood in the past.”
He said culture and literature thrived in Makkah in those days, along with the study of science and the quest for knowledge. The city was therefore a beacon for writers, poets and scientists, and the Saleh Abdulhay Cafe was one of the places where they could gather for intellectual and cultural discussions.
“Among the cultural and intellectual figures that used to go to the writer’s cafe … was the Saudi Minister of Culture Mohammed Abdu Yamani,” he said, adding that such venues were the country’s first literary and cultural forums, where people could gather to discuss literary and intellectual issues.
With his models and exhibition, Al-Hebshi said he wants to depict and preserve this history of day-to-day life and culture in Makkah and Jeddah in days gone by. In addition to the cafe, his models include typical houses and traditional shops that served fava beans, barbecued meat, kebabs and mabshoor, a traditional Arab dish of bread in a meat or vegetable broth.
In particular, he said he wants to immortalize the lives of the intellectuals and writers of the era by documenting their daily lives, the ways in which people interacted with them and how neighborhoods such as Misfalah developed as important cultural centers.
So far he has spent three years building his models of cafes, shops, houses and public squares. He has completed four and is working on a fifth. The task requires hard work and patience, he said. For example, it requires great effort to accurately recreate in miniature the rawasheen, the elaborately patterned wooden window frames found in old buildings in Makkah and Jeddah that maximize natural light and air flow. Great accuracy is required throughout the model making process when it comes to the sizes, dimensions and scale.
“One meter in real life is 10 centimeters in the models,” Al-Hebshi said, which represents a scale of one-to-10. “This measure seeks to maintain, as much as possible, the space’s real dimensions.”
The contents of rooms must also be in scale with the building and each other, he explained: “A bottle of Coca-Cola cannot be bigger than a watermelon and so on.” These are all important details in his models, he added, which ensure they are accurate and consistent.
Given the incredible detail and quality of the models, you would be forgiven for thinking Al-Hebshi is a trained carpenter; in fact he is an enthusiastic amateur with a true passion for the craft. Such is his dedication that even hand injuries — and the need for surgery after damaging a finger with a drill — have not kept him from his work for long.

HIGHLIGHT

Abdul Aziz Taher Al-Hebshi says he was inspired by Jeddah’s Old Town and its magnificent Hijazi buildings with rawasheen, beautifully crafted doors, ornate engravings and delicate details, along with the beauty of its landscape and old streets.

He said his model making began after he found some tools that had been abandoned in a carpentry shop, and for materials he used wood and discarded kaftans he found in stores he shopped at. Wood cutting requires great skill, he added, and while he makes most parts of his models, he said he imports some items from abroad to ensure the highest levels of accuracy. For example he buys miniature signs advertising popular international brands such as Pepsi, Miranda and 7-Up, which are difficult to recreate through woodworking.
Al-Hebshi was director of the Agricultural Bank in Jeddah when he was forced to retire in 2006 as a result of a back injury, and he found himself wondering what he could do with his time. A few years earlier he had developed an interest in woodworking but the demands of his job left him with little time to pursue it. A friend who was aware of this suggested he do something with the wood from a large felled neem tree that had been dumped in Jeddah.
“That tree turned out to be the start of me professionally building models,” he said. He added that he was inspired by Jeddah’s Old Town and its magnificent Hijazi buildings with rawasheen, beautifully crafted doors, ornate engravings and delicate details, along with the beauty of its landscape and old streets. The Saudi leadership has put a special focus on the area to showcase its history and splendor and Al-Hebshi said that this has helped him research his detailed designs.
He added that he welcomes all those who wish to visit his house, in Al-Rawdah neighborhood 3, to see his models. He plans to build more to add to his incredible picture of past life in the Kingdom, and the people who helped the country become the nation it is.


Saudi Arabia says working with US to ensure global maritime navigation

Saudi Arabia says working with US to ensure global maritime navigation
Updated 03 August 2021

Saudi Arabia says working with US to ensure global maritime navigation

Saudi Arabia says working with US to ensure global maritime navigation

Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said Riyadh is working with Washington to ensure global maritime navigation.
He said Iran threatens international shipping operations in the Gulf, adding that the Iranian regime is a negative actor in the region by providing the Houthi militia with weapons.
“The biggest challenge is to reach an agreement to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” he added.
More to follow...


Saudi Arabia confirms 11 COVID-19 deaths, 1,075 new infections

Saudi Arabia confirms 11 COVID-19 deaths, 1,075 new infections
Updated 03 August 2021

Saudi Arabia confirms 11 COVID-19 deaths, 1,075 new infections

Saudi Arabia confirms 11 COVID-19 deaths, 1,075 new infections
  • The Kingdom said 1,113 patients recovered in past 24 hours
  • 5 mosques reopened in 4 regions after being sterilized after 5 people tested positive for COVID-19

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia recorded 11 new COVID-19 related deaths on Tuesday, raising the total number of fatalities to 8,270.
The Ministry of Health confirmed 1,075 new cases reported in the Kingdom in the previous 24 hours, meaning 528,952 people have now contracted the disease. 
Of the total number of cases, 10,575 remain active and 1,433 in critical condition.
According to the ministry, the highest number of cases were recorded in Makkah with 209, followed by the Eastern Province with 188, the capital Riyadh with 184, Jazan recorded 107, and Asir confirmed 89 cases.
The health ministry also announced that 1,113 patients had recovered from COVID-19, bringing the total number of recoveries in the Kingdom to 510,107.


Over 28 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine have been administered in the Kingdom to date through 587 centers..
The ministry renewed its call on the public to register to receive the vaccine, and adhere to the measures and abide by instructions.
The Ministry of Islamic Affairs reopened five mosques in four regions after temporarily evacuating and sterilizing them after five people tested positive for coronavirus, bringing the total number of mosques closed and reopened after being sterilized to 1,934 within 178 days.
The coronavirus pandemic has affected over 199 million people globally and the death toll has reached around 4.25 million.


Jordan’s king thanks Saudi Arabia for its support

Jordan’s king thanks Saudi Arabia for its support
Updated 03 August 2021

Jordan’s king thanks Saudi Arabia for its support

Jordan’s king thanks Saudi Arabia for its support
  • King Abdullah said Saudi Arabia’s positions reflect its policy that always supports Jordan in all circumstances
  • He added that Amman and Riyadh share strong and solid relations

RIYADH: Jordan’s King Abdullah II received Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan in the capital, Amman, on Tuesday and expressed his appreciation for the the Kingdom’s support of his country.
Prince Faisal delivered a message from King Salman that dealt with “ways of strengthening the historical relations between the two kingdoms and enhancing cooperation and coordination on regional issues,” Petra news agency reported.
King Abdullah praised Saudi Arabia’s supportive stance of Jordan, while it faced various challenges, including the recent sedition case that Jordan was able to nip in the bud.
He said Saudi Arabia’s positions and its explicit messages of support reflect its policy and the policy of its leadership that always supports Jordan in all circumstances.

The king said that the security of Jordan and Saudi Arabia is one and that they stand united in the face of all challenges, pointing to the centrality of the historical relations that unite their two countries.
He added that Amman and Riyadh share strong and solid relations, as he conveyed greetings to King Salman and wished Saudi Arabia and its people further progress and prosperity.
Prince Faisal said his country was keen to enhance cooperation with Jordan.
The two sides reviewed bilateral relations and ways of enhancing them in all fields, and called for the need to maintain coordination and consultation between the two countries on various issues of common interest, in a way that achieves their interests and serves Arab issues.
“During the meeting, we touched on ways to strengthen the deep-rooted brotherly relations and the long-standing ties of cooperation between the two countries in all fields,” the foreign minister said in a tweet following the meeting.
They also discussed opportunities to increase bilateral trade exchange, and support inter-investment related to the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, which provides many promising opportunities, especially in technology, innovation and renewable energy, Saudi Press Agency reported.


Saudi Arabia candidate for UK ‘green list’: reports 

Saudi Arabia candidate for UK ‘green list’: reports 
Updated 03 August 2021

Saudi Arabia candidate for UK ‘green list’: reports 

Saudi Arabia candidate for UK ‘green list’: reports 
  • Four other countries are also on the “green watch list”

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia has reportedly been “earmarked” for the “green watch list” for the United Kingdom according to British daily iNews, which could allow fully vaccinated travellers to enter without quarantining upon return to the UK. 

Four other countries are also on the “green watch list,” the report said, including Bhutan, French Polynesia, North Macedonia, and Norway. 

A leading British consultancy, PC Agency, also said a number of countries were expected to be moved into the green category of rules for entry into England in the wake of an analysis of the latest coronavirus disease (COVID-19) infection and vaccination rates.

It found that 12 destinations, including Germany, Poland, Canada, Austria, Bosnia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Romania could go green.

Iceland, Malta, Madeira, and Israel were among destinations that may move from green to amber, while countries such as Greece and Spain could go on the amber list, PC Agency CEO Paul Charles told The Guardian  newspaper.

The British government reviews its traffic travel system every three weeks. The next review is expected on Thursday with any changes coming into place the following Monday.