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. 

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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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The five historic sites inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List tell a story of universal importance

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Saudi Arabia announces 'Founding Day' as official holiday on Feb. 22

Saudi Arabia announces 'Founding Day' as official holiday on Feb. 22
Updated 24 sec ago

Saudi Arabia announces 'Founding Day' as official holiday on Feb. 22

Saudi Arabia announces 'Founding Day' as official holiday on Feb. 22
  • According to the royal decree, this will enable the public to celebrate Muhammad bin Saud’s successors.

DUBAI: February 22 is to become an annual national holiday in Saudi Arabia under the name of ‘Founding Day,’ commemorating the reign of Imam Muhammad bin Saud, who founded the first Saudi state in 1727, it was revealed on Thursday. 

According to the royal decree, this will enable the public to celebrate Muhammad bin Saud’s successors.

‘Founding Day’ will also mark Imam Turki bin Abdullah bin Muhammad bin Saud who was the successor in 1824 and helped restore the nation by establishing the second Saudi state, which lasted until 1891. 

Ten years later, King Abdulaziz bin Abdulrahman Al Faisal Al Saud then succeeded in 1902 in establishing the third Saudi state by uniting it under the name of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. 

The new order will be communicated to relevant entities, who will be required to adopt and implement ‘Founding Day’, which will be celebrated annually.


Saudi Arabia reports 4,738 new COVID-19 cases, 2 deaths

Saudi Arabia reports 4,738 new COVID-19 cases, 2 deaths
Updated 27 min 33 sec ago

Saudi Arabia reports 4,738 new COVID-19 cases, 2 deaths

Saudi Arabia reports 4,738 new COVID-19 cases, 2 deaths
  • The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom has increased to 622,087
  • A total of 8,929 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia announced two deaths from COVID-19 and 4,738 new infections on Thursday.

Of the new cases, 1,559 were recorded in Riyadh, 573 in Jeddah, 189 in Dammam, 172 in Hofuf, 156 in Makkah, and 114 in Jazan. Several other cities recorded less than one hundred new cases each.

The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom increased to 622,087 after 4,973 more patients recovered from the virus.

A total of 8,929 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far.

Over 56.2 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine have been administered in the Kingdom to date.


Adventurous family of expats share their voyages of discovery in Saudi Arabia

Adventurous family of expats share their voyages of discovery in Saudi Arabia
Updated 57 min 26 sec ago

Adventurous family of expats share their voyages of discovery in Saudi Arabia

Adventurous family of expats share their voyages of discovery in Saudi Arabia
  • Dale Shannon, his wife Jenny and son Noah have been exploring remote parts of the Kingdom for two years and now have 25,000 fans on YouTube who follow their exploits

JEDDAH: Intrepid expats Dale Shannon, his wife Jenny and their son Noah are on a mission to explore Saudi Arabia and reveal to the world the country’s natural beauty, incredible landscape and authentic culture.

They have been going on epic adventures that take them off the beaten track across the Kingdom for almost two years, sometimes alone and sometimes in the company of friends they describe as “a united team.”

They film their trips and experiences, and Jenny edits the footage to create entertaining travelogues that are uploaded to the couple’s YouTube channel, called Epic Everyday Adventures. Launched in August 2020, it now has more than 25,000 subscribers and has become particularly popular with Saudi viewers.

“We are so humbled to know how viewers have been inspired by our travels through some of the most remote parts of Saudi Arabia,” Dale told Arab News. “With more than 45 videos of adventures, we have seen families and individuals alike find inspiration and education through sharing our story and experiences.”

Dale, a US national who works in the aerospace industry as an aircraft mechanic and advisor, said he came to the Kingdom in 2015 to experience life in another country and grow as a person. Jenny, a nurse from the Philippines, came to work in Saudi Arabia in 2009. The couple married in 2016 and Noah, was born in Tabuk in 2017. They said they fell in love not only with each other but also their adopted country.

Dale said he comes from a small town in the US and grew up camping and hiking. Jenny, on the other hand, who grew up in a city and wanted to experience the great outdoors.

“Being outdoors and exploring nature really creates some positive character traits and memories, and we wanted to share and create our own experiences with Noah and give him an opportunity to grow up with those amazing outdoor adventures,” said Dale.

Along the way, he added, they have made some great friends.

“One of the things that makes Saudi Arabia really pull on our hearts is how easy it is to meet new people and become real friends,” said Dale. “People here really seem to genuinely care about each other and are some of the most welcoming people we have been fortunate enough to experience.

“One of the things we enjoy the most about our YouTube channel is how many awesome people we have been able to meet here in Saudi Arabia and establish personal relationships with.

“People here really seem to genuinely care about each other and are some of the most welcoming people we have been fortunate enough to experience.”

The idea for exploring the length and breadth of Saudi Arabia came to the couple about two years ago, after s trip to AlUla.

“We had gone on a tour to AlUla in early 2020, around February,” said Dale. “We enjoyed the scenery and the places and the desert so much that after that trip we knew that we wanted to continue and explore more. So, definitely our AlUla experience was the turning point that motivated and inspired us to explore more.”

Shannon had some vacation time saved up and Jenny, who was by then a stay-at-home mom, learned how to become a videographer and editor to produce their YouTube videos. They also invested in proper equipment and a new vehicle suitable for off-road exploring and began their adventure of a lifetime.

“After our AlUla trip, we bought some gear and changed our vehicle to a proper off-road exploring vehicle, a Nissan Patrol Super Safari, and we slowly started exploring the Kingdom.

“We fell in love with the landscapes, the open-air museum of history you find here and the hospitality and friendliness of the people of all areas … and then we started exploring. We just became naturally curious to see and know more.”

Venturing into the desert wilderness is not easy and requires a financial investment. As their videos grew in popularity the Shannons last year joined Patreon, a platform that provides content creators with the tools to build a subscription service for fans of their work. For the Shannons, it means that people who enjoy their videos can contribute toward the costs of creating future content. They said that about 70 percent of their supporters on Patreon are Saudi.

“We are so thankful for their support and hope to grow our small Patreon family so we can continue these adventures,” said Dale.

“It is expensive to take trips as much as we do. We don’t have any sponsors or anything like that, so up until recently we financed our own adventures so that we could continue sharing our experiences here in Saudi Arabia. We are thankful for the support of our small Patreon family.”

There have been some challenging moments during the family’s adventures, including a worrying incident during a journey through Al-Nafud Al-Kabir (The Great Desert) this month, when they were accompanied by other members of their team.

“We had prepared for this trip six months in advance,” said Dale. “This was the final leg of our overlanding trip. The terrain is difficult and full of sand dunes. We entered the desert just north of Hail and drove about 230km into the desert through the sand dunes. There was no cell service.

“We camped for three nights and drove for three days. The trip through the desert consumed most of our fuel and for some, all of their fuel.

“The stress you face and the quick decisions that have to be made are really challenging but, at the end of the day, it is so rewarding. I am happy our overlanding team trusted me enough to let me lead the expedition through Al-Nafud.”

His family has done so much traveling in the Kingdom during the past two years that Shannon said it is hard to keep count of their destinations.

“I am not exactly sure on the number of places we visited, but we drive everywhere we go and we have driven from Haql in the northwest all the way down to Fayfa in the south, and everywhere in between,” he said. “We have been from Hail down to Riyadh and in between. We hope to get enough time in the future to make it to the north and the east of the Kingdom.”

Wherever they have traveled in Saudi Arabia, Shannon said he has never felt concerned for the safety of his family.

“I mention this on many occasions in our videos because in comparison to most places I have been around the world, it’s extremely safe here and this is part of the reason we feel so comfortable exploring here,” he said.

In fact the most difficult aspect of the experience in Saudi Arabia so far has been language barrier.

“It would be really great to be able to learn Arabic,” he added.

Both Shannon and his wife said they adapted easily to life in Saudi Arabia after leaving their home countries behind.

“We found it to be quite easy transitioning to living in a foreign country,” he said. “I think part of the reason is because we had set our minds that this is what we wanted to do, but also because we both really fell in love with the people and the culture here in Saudi Arabia — those two things made the transition extremely easy.”

Asked if he had any advice for newcomers to the Kingdom or people considering moving there, Shannon said: “My advice to others moving to Saudi Arabia is always to come with an open mind, embrace the culture and the people, and once you arrive and settle in, go out there and meet people and get to know the people of Saudi Arabia. It will be one of the best things you have ever done.”


Empowerment of women in Saudi museums sector in spotlight at open discussion forum

Empowerment of women in Saudi museums sector in spotlight at open discussion forum
Updated 27 January 2022

Empowerment of women in Saudi museums sector in spotlight at open discussion forum

Empowerment of women in Saudi museums sector in spotlight at open discussion forum
  • The event, hosted by the Kingdom’s Museum Commission, explored ways in which the role of women could be enhanced in the sector

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Museum Commission hosted an open discussion on Wednesday about the empowerment women in the museums sector.

The event, at the National Museum in Riyadh, was moderated by Maha bint Amer Al-Shukhil, a faculty member at Princess Nourah Bint Abdulrahman University, and the participants included Stefano Carboni, the CEO of the commission.

The topics addressed during the discussion included the roles and work of Saudi women, creating change in the Museums Commission, and the need to develop job opportunities for women in the museums field.

Participants also discussed how to foster cooperation between universities and the Museums Commission, the role and importance of museums in society, encouraging and highlighting efforts by women in the field, providing training and volunteering opportunities in the commission, and giving women more opportunities to work in the museums sector.

Carboni said that the objectives of the commission include providing advisory services, providing specialized courses and programs on museum management, offering opportunities to learn about specialized establishments in the sector, and working to develop communication skills between museums and visitors.

On the sidelines of the session, Hind Al-Turki, the head of the history department at Princess Nourah University, spoke about the necessity of offering field-training opportunities for female students specializing in the museums sector, to improve their knowledge and provide practical experience, and to present programs and workshops.

The commission said that the session was part of its efforts to communicate with the public and promote dialogue with workers in the sector to identify their needs and aspirations, and work to achieve them, based on the authority’s responsibility for developing and enhancing the museums sector in the Kingdom, and supporting and empowering its employees.
 


KSrelief, UNICEF sign agreement to provide basic health services for mothers and children in Yemen

KSrelief, UNICEF sign agreement to provide basic health services for mothers and children in Yemen
Updated 27 January 2022

KSrelief, UNICEF sign agreement to provide basic health services for mothers and children in Yemen

KSrelief, UNICEF sign agreement to provide basic health services for mothers and children in Yemen

RIYADH: The Saudi-based King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center signed a cooperation agreement with UNICEF to provide basic health services for mothers and newborns, according to the humanitarian response plan for Yemen, with a value of $10 million.
KSrelief supervisor general Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah and UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore signed the agreement, Saudi Press Agency reported on Wednesday.

The agreement stipulates providing free basic health services for obstetrics and gynaecology emergency and care services, increasing the preparedness of the Yemeni health sector with medical equipment for newborns, localizing the sustainability of providing health services for mothers and children, and training 156 midwives for emergency cases to obstetric care and emergency care for newborns. The agreement is expected to benefit 43,533 individuals in several Yemeni governorates.
It is part of the humanitarian and aid projects implemented by Saudi Arabia, through KSrelief, in partnership with UNICEF to develop the Yemeni health sector and increase care services offered to children and mothers in all Yemeni governorates.