Saudi researcher uses images to explore heritage, share Kingdom’s past with others

Saudi researcher uses images to explore heritage, share Kingdom’s past with others
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Ghadal Al-Muhanna Abalkhail began collecting old pictures of Saudi Arabia and the wider Gulf region as a tool to fight homesickness. Later, with support from friends she streamlined her collection for others to get a glimpse of the region. (Photo/Supplied)
Saudi researcher uses images to explore heritage, share Kingdom’s past with others
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Ghadal Al-Muhanna Abalkhail began collecting old pictures of Saudi Arabia and the wider Gulf region as a tool to fight homesickness. Later, with support from friends she streamlined her collection for others to get a glimpse of the region. (Photo/Supplied)
Saudi researcher uses images to explore heritage, share Kingdom’s past with others
3 / 3
Ghadal Al-Muhanna Abalkhail began collecting old pictures of Saudi Arabia and the wider Gulf region as a tool to fight homesickness. Later, with support from friends she streamlined her collection for others to get a glimpse of the region. (Photo/Supplied)
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Updated 03 February 2021

Saudi researcher uses images to explore heritage, share Kingdom’s past with others

Saudi researcher uses images to explore heritage, share Kingdom’s past with others
  • Ghada Al-Muhanna Abalkhail says archives remain the only way to look into the history of civilizations and nations

MAKKAH: Inspired by a strong sense of belonging, a Saudi “Berliner” is discovering the roots of Arabia one precious image at a time.

For thousands of Saudis temporarily leaving the Kingdom to continue graduate studies or work, home is where family is and memories were made — along with the familiar and comforting sights and sounds of their city or region.

The bond grows stronger with distance, but homesickness at times hits harder than many would like.

It is in these moments that Ghada Al-Muhanna Abalkhail turns her field of expertise into a tool to face her predicament, inadvertently giving Saudis everywhere a glimpse of home and foreigners an insight into the Kingdom’s humble beginnings.

After moving to Berlin three years ago and working as a nonresident researcher at the Gulf Research Center, Abalkhail, like thousands before her, grew homesick for the flavors and sights of her homeland.

“Everywhere I looked in Berlin, I tried to find something resembling Riyadh. I missed the blazing heat, the chatter of people, the crowded streets and, most importantly, my family,” she told Arab News.

“So, as a way to deal with my predicament, I used to look through archives for everything related to Saudi Arabia. I would spend hours searching and reading about whatever I found, and doing so on a daily basis gave me comfort and eased the feeling of longing,” she said.

In doing so, Abalkhail hit a gold mine and began sharing the material she was allowed to on Twitter. With time, many grew interested and fellowship increased. 

“More people began following and commenting about how this photograph belonged to a family member of theirs or how this film showed their region’s history and so on,” she said.

“I knew they were missing their families, too, and that fueled me. I began feeling a sense of responsibility to find the bigger family — my Arabian family,” she said.

Excited and energized by the support, Abalkhail found herself telling the story of the Kingdom and Gulf region to many Berliners one image at a time, only to realize that the story is still not being told right, and that there is a lot more left to tell.

She began structuring the account to provide information to whoever needed it, trying her best to relay stories to which people could relate. 

“The reaction was more than positive. It was outstanding, and I’m extremely thankful to the followers for always helping to improve the account and its content, whether by adding more comments to the original post or correcting some of the information that was wrongly written in the archives,” she said.

“Over time, and with more follower interactions, I realized how essential it is for us to have an archive. Everyone uses an archive — from scientists to artists, journalists to filmmakers and beyond. They all rely on information provided from archives to further the product that they are working on.”

Abalkhail said that by using the ancient art of storytelling, it was easy to start compiling material to tell the story of Arabia, with images revealing the culture, lifestyle, fashion, struggles and more that made the Kingdom what it is today.

Saudi Arabia is the creation and representation of its past — and archives remain the only way to look into the history of civilizations and nations, and understand who they are as a people, she said.

“I dream of one day seeing a national archive that holds all materials related to the Kingdom, and where a citizen, resident or foreigner can access and learn more about the beautiful history and culture of our country,” Abalkhail said.

“We owe it to the ancestors who sacrificed so much for us to be here today.”


What Saudi citizens need to know to travel safely

What Saudi citizens need to know to travel safely
Travelers will not be allowed into airports or planes without showing their health statuses through the government-approved health app, Tawakkalna. (Supplied)
Updated 10 May 2021

What Saudi citizens need to know to travel safely

What Saudi citizens need to know to travel safely
  • COVID-19 insurance mandatory for those under the age of 18 wishing to travel

JEDDAH: With one week to go before international travel resumes, Saudis are being encouraged to cover all the necessary basics before leaving the country.

During a joint press conference on Sunday, the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) and the Council of Cooperative Health Insurance (CCHI) shared new instructions and updated travel insurance policies for all Saudis wishing to travel abroad following a previous announcement stating the four categories allowed.
Ibrahim Alrwosa, GACA official spokesman, outlined the new travel procedures for citizens, health protocols followed at airports, and the shipment, transport and reception of vaccines at the Kingdom’s airports.
“After a week, our airports will witness the resuming of flights for citizens starting 1 a.m. We call on everyone to thoroughly follow the set health precautions to achieve a completely safe trip,” said Alrwosa, adding that the authority will update its safety instructions to add COVID-19 health measures in a new leaflet.
Travelers will not be allowed into airports or planes without showing their health statuses 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.
Alrwosa stressed that travelers follow their country of destination’s health precautions to avoid any problems.

HIGHLIGHT

Travelers will not be allowed into airports or planes without showing their health statuses 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. 

Meanwhile, CCHI spokesman, Othman Al-Qasabi, revealed that the new insurance policy will include benefits that cover the risks of COVID-19 infection, and that it is mandatory for those under the age of 18 wishing to travel.
“This is in cooperation with the Saudi Central Bank. Persons vaccinated with two doses, first dose, and immune by recovery with the required timeline, will have the travel insurance available for them, but it has been made mandatory for those under the age of 18 to reduce the risks accompanied by the virus.”
The travel insurance, which is only valid for 30 days, will cover emergency medical expenses related to COVID-19 such as emergency rooms, urgent care and transportation. It also covers quarantine-related accommodation costs, medical evacuation and issues related to canceling flights due to COVID-19 conditions.
“These new benefits have been added to the already existing travel insurance benefits.”
The council revealed that a consortium of 12 companies has been approved for people to receive travel insurance from, with Tawuniya Insurance Company chosen to lead the alliance.


King Salman appoints Abanmi as governor of Zakat, Tax, and Customs Authority

King Salman appoints Abanmi as governor of Zakat, Tax, and Customs Authority
Updated 10 May 2021

King Salman appoints Abanmi as governor of Zakat, Tax, and Customs Authority

King Salman appoints Abanmi as governor of Zakat, Tax, and Customs Authority

RIYADH: King Salman has issued a royal order appointing Suhail bin Mohammed bin Abdulaziz Abanmi as governor of the Zakat, Tax, and Customs Authority, with the rank of minister, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) announced on Saturday.

The new body is a merger of the former General Authority of Zakat and Tax (GAZT), which Abanmi headed since 2017, and the Saudi Customs, of which he was named acting governor since March.

Abanmi has worked as an executive in various private companies and government agencies, including as head of business development and manager of the Tadawulaty program, general supervisor of the Ministry of Commerce’s agency for internal trade, and member of the advisory committee for the Capital Market Authority.


Saudi crown prince allocates 20 million square meters for housing units north of Riyadh

Saudi crown prince allocates 20 million square meters for housing units north of Riyadh
Updated 10 May 2021

Saudi crown prince allocates 20 million square meters for housing units north of Riyadh

Saudi crown prince allocates 20 million square meters for housing units north of Riyadh
  • The additional lands will provide more than 53,000 various housing units
  • Riyadh aims to become one of the 10 largest economic cities in the world

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has directed the allocation of 20 million square meters for new residential land north of Riyadh.
The ownership will be transferred to the Ministry of Municipal, Rural Affairs and Housing, and is part of a drive to improve the housing sector and hep families, Saudi Press Agency reported.
The allocation aims to increase the residential area of ​​Al-Jawan suburb from 10 million square meters to 30 million square meters, and build up to 53,000 housing units through integrated projects, facilities and services in partnership with the private sector. This is on top of the 20,000 housing units that have already been announced.
Support for the housing sector has led to Saudi home ownership increasing from 47 percent to 60 percent in the last four years.
The Kingdom hope that figure will reach 70 percent under the Vision 2030 reform programs.
“The additional lands allocated to the housing sector north of Riyadh will provide more than 53,000 various housing units that real estate developers will work on, taking into account the quality of services that meet the aspirations of citizens,” the statement said.
The move is also in line with the city’s growth with the aim of becoming one of the 10 largest economic cities in the world and an increase in population from 15 to 20 million by 2030.
Minister of Municipal and Rural Affairs and Housing Majed Al-Hogail said the housing sector contributes more than SR115 billion ($30.6 million) to GDP and provides about 40,000 direct and indirect jobs.
Riyadh’s housing sector has witnessed rapid growth over the past two years.


UAE condemns Houthi drone targeting Saudi Arabia’s Khamis Mushait    

UAE condemns Houthi drone targeting Saudi Arabia’s Khamis Mushait    
Updated 10 May 2021

UAE condemns Houthi drone targeting Saudi Arabia’s Khamis Mushait    

UAE condemns Houthi drone targeting Saudi Arabia’s Khamis Mushait    

RIYADH: The UAE repeated its “strong condemnation and denunciation” of the Iran-backed Houthi militia launching drone attacks at innocent civilians in Saudi Arabia.

The comments come after the latest attempted attack on the Kingdom’s southern regions. The Arab coalition said on Sunday that an explosives-laden drones was intercepted after it was launched towards Khamis Mushait. 

The UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said the latest drone attack showed Houthi's “blatant defiance of the safety of the international community and its disregard for all international laws.”

The UAE said it stands against any threat to Saudi Arabia’s security and stability.


Weather warnings issued across Saudi Arabia until Friday

Weather warnings issued across Saudi Arabia until Friday
Updated 10 May 2021

Weather warnings issued across Saudi Arabia until Friday

Weather warnings issued across Saudi Arabia until Friday
  • Civil defense warns of thunderstorms and risk of flooding in some areas

RIYADH: Weather warnings have been issued for several regions across Saudi Arabia from Monday until Friday, the Kingdom’s civil defense said on Sunday.
The authority warned of thunderstorms with moderate to heavy rain and brisk winds that may lead to torrential flows in Asir, Al-Baha, Jazan, Najran, and Makkah.
The regions of Madinah, Qassim, Hail, the Northern Borders Province, Al-Jawf, and Tabuk will be affected by moderate rain, while the Eastern Province will be affected by light to moderate rain.
The warnings were based on data from the National Center of Meteorology.
Lt. Col. Mohammed Al-Hammadi, civil defense spokesman, called on everyone to be wary of the potential dangers of severe weather conditions, to stay away from places that could flood, and to abide by the civil defense’s instructions and updates announced through media and social media outlets.