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.”


Residents in Saudi Arabia above 50 set for second vaccine dose

Residents in Saudi Arabia above 50 set for second vaccine dose
Updated 25 June 2021

Residents in Saudi Arabia above 50 set for second vaccine dose

Residents in Saudi Arabia above 50 set for second vaccine dose
  • More than 48 percent of the country’s population has received at least 1 dose

JEDDAH: The Saudi Ministry of Health (MoH) announced that residents in the Kingdom above the age of 50 will now be able to receive their second dose of the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine after completing more than 40 days from their first dose.

More than 17 million doses have been administered as 48.8 percent of the country’s population has been inoculated with at least one dose.

The Kingdom recorded 1,255 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 479,390.

Most new cases were in the Makkah region with 340, followed by the Eastern Province (282) and Riyadh (203) while Jouf had only six people who tested positive.

There are 11,322 active cases while the number of critical cases dropped to 1,451 compared to the day before. Fourteen new COVID-19-related deaths have raised the total number of fatalities to 7,730.

The MoH said that a further 1,247 patients had recovered from COVID-19, bringing the total number of recoveries in the Kingdom to 460,338. The country’s recovery rate is currently at 96 percent and holding steady.

In addition, 91,021 new polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests conducted in the past 24 hours have raised the number of tests conducted in the Kingdom to over 21.3 million.

Testing hubs and treatment centers set up throughout the country have dealt with hundreds of thousands of people since the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak.

Among them, Taakad (make sure) centers provide COVID-19 testing for those who show no or only mild symptoms or believe they have come into contact with an infected individual. Tetamman (rest assured) clinics offer treatment and advice to those with virus symptoms such as fever, loss of taste and smell, and breathing difficulties.

Appointments for both services can be made via the ministry’s Sehhaty app.

Meanwhile, Jeddah authorities closed 32 commercial outlets for breaching COVID-19 protocols.

Municipalities in the Kingdom have stepped up their efforts to ensure compliance with COVID-19 safety measures designed to protect public health.

The municipality of Jeddah governorate carried out 3,899 inspection tours of commercial centers and facilities in one day, identifying 57 violations.

The violations varied between noncompliance with social distancing and wearing a mask, leniency in measuring the temperature of customers, overcrowding issues and failure to effectively use the Tawakkalna app.

Officials have urged the public to report any suspected health breaches by phoning the 940 call center number or using the Balady app.


Saudi Arabia reports 120% jump in research published in major journals

Saudi Arabia reports 120% jump in research published in major journals
Updated 25 June 2021

Saudi Arabia reports 120% jump in research published in major journals

Saudi Arabia reports 120% jump in research published in major journals
  • The ministry has contributed to defining the national priorities in scientific research and innovations by organizing scientific events in cooperation with national authorities and industrial sectors

JEDDAH: The number of scientific research papers and innovations from Saudi Arabia’s government universities has increased dramatically in the past year.

The number of scientific publications from Saudi universities published in international refereed magazines and journals rose by 120 percent in 2020. The number of research papers rose to 33,588, almost doubling the target set last year at 18,000 publications. 

The Kingdom ranked first in the Arab world and second in the Middle East and North African region for the quality of published research papers for the third consecutive year according to the Nature Index 2020, one of the world’s most important international indexes for institutional research performance, evaluating and comparing international academic institutions. 

Saudi Arabia also ranked 14th worldwide in the publication of distinguished research papers and provision of solutions for the coronavirus pandemic. Saudi Arabia’s Education Ministry has supported scientific research and innovation across governmental universities. 

Its efforts have ensured that the universities keep up with contemporary changes, improve learning outcomes and support the innovation-based national economy through setting the Kingdom’s research priorities.

The ministry has also developed a strategy for scientific research, including a special research identity for each university, to improve the rate of publishing and optimize its impact in line with national needs and Vision 2030’s goals.

Several programs have also been launched to support research and innovation across universities, such as the institutional funding initiative to support scientific research serving the national priorities and needs of the industrial sector. 

The ministry has contributed to defining the national priorities in scientific research and innovations by organizing scientific events in cooperation with national authorities and industrial sectors. These efforts have allowed the ministry to define 12 priorities.


Historic palace inspires Saudi design blueprint for the future

Historic palace inspires Saudi design blueprint for the future
Updated 25 June 2021

Historic palace inspires Saudi design blueprint for the future

Historic palace inspires Saudi design blueprint for the future
  • The wide-ranging blueprint reflects the authority’s ambitions to launch a fresh and innovative start for the Saudi architectural sector

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Culture has unveiled a comprehensive strategy to take the architecture and design sector in the Kingdom “to the next level” by empowering talented architects and designers.

The Murabba strategy, announced by the ministry’s Architecture and Design Authority, takes its name from the historic palace in Riyadh.

The wide-ranging blueprint reflects the authority’s ambitions to launch a fresh and innovative start for the Saudi architectural sector, going beyond traditional limits, and serving members of the sector through a range of initiatives and programs.  

Sumaya Al-Sulaiman, CEO of the Architecture and Design Authority, said that the strategy will develop the sector and help its members meet the aspirations of the Culture Ministry, led by Minister Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan. 

“The strategy covers multiple themes and aspects, such as the legislative and regulatory aspects, as well as supporting and enabling an educational and practical environment related to the targeted sector, along with a set of initiatives and programs aimed at supporting architects and designers across the Kingdom,” she said.

Under the slogan “the north star,” the authority’s strategy has defined its vision and mission to reflect its major objectives.

The authority has also elaborated its own vision of the sector, which it defined as “the creative expression of designing the built environment, products and communicating ideas with aesthetic and functional value, and includes the disciplines of architecture, interior design, urban planning/urban design, landscape architecture, graphic design, and industrial design, as well as all activities, professions, products, and services related to these practices.”  

The strategy covers six strategic objectives: Developing the sector through promoting its integration, contributing to the Kingdom’s gross domestic product by developing the sector of innovative industries and design services, building the skills and talents of present and future professionals, obtaining global recognition for the Kingdom’s architecture and design sector, achieving environmental sustainability in the built environment, and finding a local community for research and innovation in architecture and design fields.   

The authority is planning 33 initiatives that fall under six programs to achieve its strategic objectives, set to be implemented in the five next years.  The first program, titled “architecture and design sector regulation,” focuses on setting the guidelines, laws and regulations of the commercial and professional practices in the sector and includes two initiatives.

The second program, titled “development of the architecture and design sector” focuses on promoting the development of the sector and empowering practitioners to make a greater and broader impact on the architecture and design community, and includes seven initiatives.

The third program, titled “professional development and education,” focuses on supporting local practitioners throughout a comprehensive professional journey, from education to professional excellence, and includes seven initiatives.

The fourth program, titled “content development,” aims to contain, collect, create and promote the cultural content of architecture and design to enrich cultural practices, and includes eight initiatives.

The fifth program focuses on the societal participation and communication, where it aims to set the schedules for cultural events and awards of the authority provided for the local and international community. It includes four strategic initiatives.

The sixth program, titled “activating the architecture and design authority” aims to activate the authority while focusing on internal initiatives and communication to implement the operational model. It includes five strategic initiatives.


Saudi Arabia to announce approved Hajj pilgrims on Friday

Saudi Arabia to announce approved Hajj pilgrims on Friday
Updated 25 June 2021

Saudi Arabia to announce approved Hajj pilgrims on Friday

Saudi Arabia to announce approved Hajj pilgrims on Friday
  • Due to the pandemic, 60,000 pilgrims will be allowed to perform pilgrimage as registration was only open to citizens and residents of the Kingdom
  • Electronic portal for domestic pilgrims received more than 540,000 applications before registration closed on Wednesday

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Hajj and Umrah will announce on Friday the names of the 60,000 pilgrims selected to perform the Hajj pilgrimage this year.
The ministry said that the electronic portal for domestic pilgrims received more than 540,000 applications from Saudi citizens and residents before registration closed on Wednesday, adding that there was no priority for early registration.
The ministry also said that the selected pilgrims will be able to start booking and purchasing packages at 1 p.m. on Friday.
Due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the emergence of new mutations, the Ministries of Health and Hajj announced earlier this month they would cap the total number of people allowed to perform the pilgrimage this year at 60,000. 
Registration was only open to citizens and residents of the Kingdom.
Males accounted for 59 percent of the registered pilgrims, according to the Hajj Ministry, while the age group ranging between 31 and 40 years old occupied the most registration slots at 38 percent. Registered pilgrims aged 60 and over represented the lowest age group at two percent.
Those wishing to perform Hajj must be free of any chronic diseases, and be within the ages of 18 to 65 years for those vaccinated against the virus, according to the Kingdom’s vaccination measures. 
Hajj pilgrims should be fully vaccinated, or those who took one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at least 14 days before, or those who are vaccinated after recovering from coronavirus infection.


Saudi security officials arrest national in possession of over 7,000 amphetamine pills, firearm

Saudi security officials arrest national in possession of over 7,000 amphetamine pills, firearm
Updated 25 June 2021

Saudi security officials arrest national in possession of over 7,000 amphetamine pills, firearm

Saudi security officials arrest national in possession of over 7,000 amphetamine pills, firearm

RIYADH: Security officials in Saudi Arabia arrested a citizen who was found with a large quantity of amphetamine pills and a firearm in his possession, Saudi Press Agency reported on Thursday.
Spokesman for Najran police, Maj. Abdullah bin Mohammed Al-Ashwi said that officials from the Special Forces for Road Security in the region managed to arrest a Saudi national in his thirties, who was found in possession of 7,160 amphetamine tablets and an unauthorized pistol-type firearm with live ammunition.
He added that he had been arrested, initial legal measures have been taken against him, and he was handed over to the competent authority, in preparation for his referral to the Public Prosecution.