Saudi experts set to uncover secrets of ancient trail to Makkah

Saudi experts set to uncover secrets of ancient trail to Makkah
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Recently, a series of excavation sites have been built on the trail, specifically in the Hail region. (Supplied)
Saudi experts set to uncover secrets of ancient trail to Makkah
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Recently, a series of excavation sites have been built on the trail, specifically in the Hail region. (Supplied)
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Updated 15 March 2021

Saudi experts set to uncover secrets of ancient trail to Makkah

Saudi experts set to uncover secrets of ancient trail to Makkah
  • The path was once common trade route in pre-Islamic era and was later used by worshippers following the spread of Islam

RIYADH: With some of Saudi Arabia’s hidden history still waiting to be discovered underneath the sands, the secrets of one ancient trail are being uncovered with help from archaeologists, one rock at a time.

The Zubaida Trail, also known as the Kufi pilgrimage route, is a historic trail that stretches more than 1,600 km from Kufa in Iraq to Makkah. The ancient path was once a common trade route in the pre-Islamic era and was later used by worshippers following the spread of Islam.
Recently, a series of excavation sites have been built on the trail, specifically in the Hail region. Archaeologists are set to uncover the elaborately engineered route that once served thousands of pilgrims each year.
The Saudi Ministry of Tourism recently gave the green light for archaeologists from the University of Hail, along with several foreign experts, to begin exploration and excavation on sites in Fayd and Al-Bayyaith.




The university’s archaeology department has conducted excavations on rock engravings in the area,  and uncovered work that dates back to the Bronze Age.

Dr. Khalil Al-Ibrahim, rector of the University of Hail, told Arab News that the Department of Tourism and Archeology at the university had signed several agreements with the Ministry of Tourism to explore the untapped archaeological sites in the region.




Dr. Khalil Al-Ibrahim Rector, University of Hail

“Many of the Islamic cities and archaeological sites on the Zubaida Trail in Hail have not been explored and excavated. There is an abundance of information and archaeological remains hidden underneath the area,” said Al-Ibrahim. “Different archaeological sites, including heritage cities, were discovered in the past, in addition to rock engravings that date back 10,000 years, burial mounds, wells, rock statues, pottery, glass, minerals and currencies.”

Initial explorations and surveys were recently undertaken in Hail in collaboration with the Hail Region Heritage and Tourism Office, which represents the ministry. The university’s department is now working with its counterpart at King Saud University on excavation work in the ancient city of Fayd. 

FASTFACT

Named after Zubaida bint Jafar Al-Mansour, the wife of Abbasid Ruler Haroun Al-Rasheed. The Zubaida Trail runs from Kufa, Iraq to Makkah, and was one of the key routes for Hajj pilgrims and traders during the Abbasid dynasty. Caliphs at the time constructed water tanks, wells and minarets along the trail, eventually expanding the route for pilgrims and travelers.

Senior students at both departments are also receiving training at the sites, Al-Ibrahim said. Several foreign archaeologists, including Australians, have expressed a desire to work on the sites in Hail, he added.

Al-Ibrahim said that the Saudi government has attached great importance to archaeology, and has revamped the Kingdom’s heritage law and preservation programs to save ancient sites.
Hail boasts important archaeological sites that date back to different historical periods, including the pre-Islamic age, with ancient tools, structures, burial mounds and engravings belonging to the Thamud civilization being discovered, he added.
“I don’t exaggerate when I say that Hail’s archaeology is more unique and different than that which is found in other regions of the Kingdom, especially rock engravings, which are abundant and copious in Hail, and are similar to museums that give you a peek into ancient history. Some of the sites were registered with UNESCO, such as Jubbah and Al-Shuwaymis, which are replete with rock engravings,” Al-Ibrahim said.
The university’s archaeology department has conducted excavations on rock engravings in the area, and uncovered work that dates back to the Bronze Age. The discovery is thought to be the first of its kind in the Arabian Peninsula.
Though excavation work on Fayd is in its eighth year, university archaeologists recently received state-of-the-art equipment and a laboratory to continue exploring, analyzing engravings and conducting research in greater detail.
The Saudi government has also set up archaeological research centers, and drafted laws to facilitate the work of foreign experts in the Kingdom. More than 20 foreign projects are now working in Saudi Arabia to uncover the Kingdom’s rich history.
Al-Ibrahim, who earned his Ph.D. from Durham University in the UK, said: “Archaeology requires a collective effort and working with foreign archaeology missions because it brings academic benefits to students and professors alike, helping them hone their skills.
“The University of Hail is keen on giving students a chance to work with foreign archaeology missions. The department will sign soon a collaboration agreement with the Australian archaeology mission for this purpose.”
“One of the requirements for graduation is having experience in archaeology excavations and exploration. That is why the department sends students for training for a full semester at Fayd, where they get to know about surveying, restoration, writing reports, and other skills under the supervision of experts that are well versed in ancient and Islamic archaeology.
“The university also allows students to take part in training courses offered by foreign missions on exploration and excavation.”

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Saudi artist paints elderly back into the social picture

Fawaz Binkolaib. (Supplied)
Fawaz Binkolaib. (Supplied)
Updated 34 sec ago

Saudi artist paints elderly back into the social picture

Fawaz Binkolaib. (Supplied)
  • Fawaz Binkolaib says remaining integrated in society is vital to the well-being of older people

JEDDAH: Art presents us with an opportunity to fight social stigmas and promote inclusion through the positive representation and empowerment of marginalized groups.

In a world where younger generations are celebrated and adulated, the elderly can sometimes feel like they have lost their place and succumb to loneliness due to social exclusion and ageist stigma. But according to a local artist, one way in which older people can remain full and active members of society is through art.
Ageism is a global phenomenon that affects senior citizens across all cultures. In the Saudi context, culture plays a vital role in socially including the elderly, where family solidarity equates to ensuring the well-being of senior members.

FASTFACT

In a world where younger generations are celebrated and adulated, the elderly can sometimes feel like they have lost their place and succumb to loneliness due to social exclusion and ageist stigma. But according to a local artist, one way in which older people can remain full and active members of society is through art.

Fawaz Binkolaib, a Jeddah-based artist with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from the Art Institute of Houston in Texas, said older members of society were all too often left on the sidelines.
“As we grow older, time leaves its marks on our skin, the stages of our lives telling stories of pain and laughter,” the 29-year-old told Arab News.
“We sometimes unintentionally exclude our seniors from daily social activities, treating them as unfit to take part.”
It was while studying in the US that Binkolaib realized how art could be used as a medium for conversation.
“My passion for art was sparked in a general education class I had to take in my first year called art appreciation,” he said. “My mind was woken by the subjective and various art forms and how that can provide different ways of communicating for us as a species.”
In his latest collection, titled “See In My Eyes,” Binkolaib showcases the beauty of a group of elderly subjects through the intricacies of every fold and wrinkle on their faces.
He said that creating the digital images, which he did using an electronic pen and pad, enabled him to really connect with his subjects.
“Speaking to the elderly was peaceful and easy,” he said. “They were excited to be voiced and heard. As we were speaking, other people passed by and joined the conversation, helping them to get across their stories.
“After talking with my senior muses, I became aware that a sense of community can enhance their overall psychological and emotional well-being,” he added.
“For that, I believe that promoting community-engaged art programs can empower and uplift senior citizens. I also think that their absence from social media has made it difficult for them to represent their image and how the younger generation perceives them.”
Binkolaib also said that facilitating and accommodating elderly people’s inclusion in community activities, like art, and familiarizing them with current trends was a good way to reintegrate them into society.
Art serves as a channel of untraditional communication for those unable to find the words to express their feelings, he added. Therefore, creating artistic outlets for senior citizens can help bridge the generation gap and energize their souls, providing solidarity and social cohesion.
Binkolaib says the elderly were us years before our time, leaving their thumbprint on all the places we are yet to experience for ourselves, carrying with them the wisdom of life gained through trials and tribulations.
“Because one day all we are going to have are the marks on our faces that relay our stories better than our words ever can,” he said.
Examples of the artist’s work can be found on his Instagram page, @Fawaz_designs.


Online platform for research chairs hailed as key development for Saudi universities

Saudi universities have made progress at the international level. (AFP/File)
Saudi universities have made progress at the international level. (AFP/File)
Updated 22 min 5 sec ago

Online platform for research chairs hailed as key development for Saudi universities

Saudi universities have made progress at the international level. (AFP/File)
  • Remarkable progress has been made in recent years in improving the standards of research in Saudi Arabia

MAKKAH: The recent launch of an online platform for research chairs at universities in Saudi Arabia is an innovative step, experts said, that aims to enhance the management of research and innovation at Saudi universities and encourage the development of innovative solutions, so that the nation can more effectively benefit from the progress they bring.
Research chair positions, reserved by educational institutions for top researchers whose work can advance the frontiers of knowledge, are relatively new in Saudi Arabia. But they are already having a positive effect on the research community in terms of fostering talent, encouraging innovative research and helping to develop the leaders of the future in a number of academic fields. This in turn is benefiting the wider education system and culture in the Kingdom.
Last week, Mohammed Al-Sudairi, the deputy minister of education for universities, research and innovation, officially launched the Research Chairs Forum during an event at Princess Nourah bint Abdulrahman University. Experts and researchers from 40 universities and colleges joined 70 research chairs from Saudi universities and other guests at the launch of the platform.
The participants discussed the development of a model for efficient funding strategies for research chairs at universities and reviewed the role they can play in addressing important national development issues.
“The organization of the Research Chairs Forum comes in the context of the Ministry of Education’s constant interest in maximizing the role of universities and developing their research facilities, through research chairs,” Al-Sudairi said during the launch.

HIGHLIGHT

The participants discussed the development of a model for efficient funding strategies for research chairs at universities and reviewed the role they can play in addressing important national development issues.

“They are a bridge with the community to keep pace with its (the community’s) requirements and meet its developmental needs, thus achieving the aspirations of the leadership, in line with the priorities of Saudi Vision 2030”.
Remarkable progress has been made in recent years in improving the standards of research in Saudi Arabia. This is reflected in the fact that in January, the Kingdom ranked first in the Arab world and 14th globally in terms of publishing research about COVID-19, according to the Web of Science website. More generally, 65 percent of all scientific papers published by universities in Arab countries were from institutions in Saudi Arabia.
In addition, Saudi universities have made progress at the international level in the field of innovation. Three state universities ranked among the top 50 on the list of universities granted patents in 2020, in terms of the number of patents registered in the US, according to annual figures compiled by the National Academy of Inventors and the Intellectual Property Owners Association.
King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals ranked 14th globally last year, according to data released by the United States Patent and Trademark Office, which highlights the vital role of patents in university research and innovation.
King Abdulaziz University ranked 33rd, an improvement of 50 positions in just one year. King Saud University was in 45th place.
Ahmed Al-Thobaity, supervisor of the Office of Scientific and Academic Chairs at Imam Abdulrahman bin Faisal University in Dammam, told Arab News that Saudi universities have made great strides in recent years in the area of scientific research, in keeping with the aims of Saudi Vision 2030, and that the significant progress made by several universities in global rankings is testimony to their successes.
He said the launch of an online platform for research chairs reflects the interest of the country’s leaders in supporting science and scientists. He added that he hopes it will be provide a starting point for enhanced cooperation among researchers from all the country’s universities to help build effective scientific partnerships between institutions to improve the quality of scientific research.
Al-Thobaity said that the platform is particularly important for promoting the sharing of expertise between well-established universities and those founded more recently, thereby reducing gaps in the quality of scientific study that can exist between older and newer institutions.
“This platform is also important in establishing a comprehensive database for research chairs that helps researchers in the country and acts, for media platforms, like a source to promote the Kingdom’s great advances in science, in accordance with numbers, data and accurate statistics,” he added.
“Another benefit is establishing lines of communication between the private sector and universities, to channel financial support to the most modern findings of science in various fields.”
Manal Abdul Aziz Al-Shadde, a former dean of scientific research at Princess Nourah bint Abdulrahman University, predicted that the new platform will indeed help to enhance cooperation between researchers and universities.
“Universities take private initiatives to promote scientific research between researchers from different universities,” she told Arab News. “However, this platform is the culmination of these initiatives, with the Ministry of Education’s systematic work, with all its technical and human potential.”
Al-Shadde said the language of science has no boundaries or borders and aims to serve all people.
“We aspire to make this platform a pioneer in enhancing cooperation, sharing expertise and optimizing human and financial resources and equipment,” she added. “We will soon see the great impact of this platform in supporting our research efforts at our universities, institutions and research centers.”


Who’s Who: Dr. Mubarak Al-Suwailem, secretary-general of the International Camel Organization

Dr. Mubarak Al-Suwailem. (Supplied)
Dr. Mubarak Al-Suwailem. (Supplied)
Updated 36 min 38 sec ago

Who’s Who: Dr. Mubarak Al-Suwailem, secretary-general of the International Camel Organization

Dr. Mubarak Al-Suwailem. (Supplied)

Dr. Mubarak Al-Suwailem is the secretary-general of the International Camel Organization, a position he has held since March 2019.
Al-Suwailem supervised the establishment of the European Camel Ranch Owners’ Association in Zurich in 2019, and of the North American Camel Ranch Owners’ Association in North Carolina in 2020.
He organized an international symposium titled “The Camel in Ancient Art, History and Culture in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” the first of its kind. He organized with UNESCO the first ICO International Experts Congress in June 2021.
He is a former officer of the Saudi Armed Forces, where he rose to the rank of brigadier general. He served as an adviser to the governor of Makkah region for 14 years and as an adviser to the governor of Riyadh.
He is an expert on sport, politics, security and administration. He has written two books on parachuting and published academic papers in the field of education.
Al-Suwailem is the president of both the Air Sports Federation of Asia and the Saudi and Arab Federations, and has been the Saudi representative in the International Parachute Commission for 13 years. He is an arbitrator at the Saudi Sports Arbitration Center.
He received a skydiving D license in the US in 1992 and joined several American clubs. He was the first Arab to skydive over the North Pole in 2004 and has participated in international competitions.
He received a Mohammad bin Rashed Al-Maktoum Award for Creative Sport.
Al-Suwailem took his bachelor’s degree in Security Sciences at King Fahd Security College. He earned his master’s and Ph.D. in educational management and planning from Umm Al-Qura University.


Saudi Arabia reopens consular section of Kabul embassy

Saudi Arabia reopens consular section of Kabul embassy
Updated 30 November 2021

Saudi Arabia reopens consular section of Kabul embassy

Saudi Arabia reopens consular section of Kabul embassy
  • The decision stems from the Kingdom’s keenness to provide all consular services to the Afghan people

RIYADH:  Saudi Arabia reopened the consular section of its embassy in Kabul on Tuesday.

The decision stems from the Kingdom’s keenness to provide all consular services to the Afghan people, Saudi Press Agency reported.

The Kingdom has previously called on the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to urgently convene an extraordinary ministerial meeting to discuss the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan and pathways for a humanitarian response.

Pakistan has offered to host this meeting in Islamabad on Dec. 17.


In Jeddah, Italian gastronomic delights whet the Saudi appetite

‘It’s great to learn about Italian cuisine, drinks and desserts that we did not know about before. (Supplied)
‘It’s great to learn about Italian cuisine, drinks and desserts that we did not know about before. (Supplied)
Updated 30 November 2021

In Jeddah, Italian gastronomic delights whet the Saudi appetite

‘It’s great to learn about Italian cuisine, drinks and desserts that we did not know about before. (Supplied)
  • World Week of Italian Cuisine in Saudi Arabia concludes with feast in Jeddah

JEDDAH: The celebrations in Saudi Arabia for the sixth annual World Week of Italian Cuisine concluded with a showcase of Italian gastronomic delights, accompanied by authentic Italian music, at the country’s consulate general in Jeddah.
A number of Italian food brands, restaurants and catering companies took part in the event on Sunday, which celebrated Italian culinary arts by serving up traditional dishes to representatives of the Italian and Saudi communities.
“It’s great to learn about Italian cuisine, drinks and desserts that we did not know about before,” said Abdulrahman Rammal, one of the Saudi guests. “Our previous knowledge of Italian food was limited to certain meals, such as pizza and pasta, but the Italian Cuisine Week created more-knowledgeable awareness of the world of food.”
He said that a number of Italian sweets companies also presented their latest products, and added that such cultural events encourage Saudis to learn more about other nations and their peoples.
Stefano Stucci, the consul general of Italy in Jeddah, told Arab News: “The event is a worldwide initiative of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, with the support of Italian embassies and consulates around the world, aimed at promoting the quality and heritage of Italian cuisine, as distinctive signs of our identity and culture.”
The consulate general in Jeddah said it organizes, with selected partners, a number of events designed to promote Italian cuisine culture, and the uniqueness and diversity of authentic Italian ingredients and products.

Food exports play a vital role in the Italian economy. With an annual turnover of more than $163.4 billion, they represent the second-highest-ranking Italian manufacturing sector and account for 8 percent of national gross domestic product, according to Federalimentare, which protects and promotes the Italian food and beverage industry.