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)
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Updated 04 August 2021

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 announces 4 more COVID-19 deaths

Saudi Arabia announces 4 more COVID-19 deaths
Updated 58 min 44 sec ago

Saudi Arabia announces 4 more COVID-19 deaths

Saudi Arabia announces 4 more COVID-19 deaths
  • The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom has increased to 535,842
  • A total of 8,688 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia announced four deaths from COVID-19 and 51 new infections on Friday.

Of the new cases, 14 were recorded in Riyadh, 12 in Makkah, five in the Eastern Province, four in Madinah, three in Jazan, three in Najran, two in Asir, two in Tabuk, one in Hail, one in Al-Jouf and one in the Northern Borders region.

The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom increased to 535,842 after 59 more patients recovered from the virus.

A total of 8,688 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far.

Over 41.3 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine have been administered in the Kingdom to date.


Saudi foreign minister meets US Special Envoy for Iran

Saudi foreign minister meets US Special Envoy for Iran
Updated 24 September 2021

Saudi foreign minister meets US Special Envoy for Iran

Saudi foreign minister meets US Special Envoy for Iran

Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan met on Friday with the US Special Envoy for Iran Affairs Robert Malley, state news agency SPA reported.
The two officials met on the sidelines of the 76th United Nations General Assembly in New York.
During the meeting, they discussed enhancing joint action, and developments towards the nuclear program.
Iran has been urged to return rapidly to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) negotiations in Vienna to reduce tensions over Tehran’s nuclear programme.


Coalition forces thwart Houthi attempts to disrupt Saudi National Day celebrations with drone attacks

Coalition forces thwart Houthi attempts to disrupt Saudi National Day celebrations with drone attacks
Updated 24 September 2021

Coalition forces thwart Houthi attempts to disrupt Saudi National Day celebrations with drone attacks

Coalition forces thwart Houthi attempts to disrupt Saudi National Day celebrations with drone attacks

RIYADH: Iran-backed Houthi terrorists launched five armed drones toward Saudi Arabia late on Thursday as the Kingdom celebrated its 91st national day, state media Al-Ekhbariya TV and the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.

The weaponized drones, which came in waves, were intercepted and destroyed by coalition air defenses before they could do any harm, the Joint Forces Command of the Coalition supporting Yemen's legitimate government was quoted by state media as saying.

"The Joint Forces Command affirmed that all necessary operational measures are taken to protect the security of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its citizens and residents in order to neutralize and destroy these hostile cross-border attacks," the SPA report said.

In a tweet, Al-Ekhbariyah TV said the 4th and 5th drones came just before midnight as Saudi National Day celebrations continued.

On Wednesday, Houthi terrorists launched three drones toward the southwestern Saudi city of Khamis Mushayt, all of which were shot down. On Monday, Coalition forces destroyed two bomb-laden boats that the Houthis were planning to use in Yemen's northwestern port city of Hodeidah.

Critics say the Houthis have been emboldened with the lifting by the US government of their designation as a global terrorist organization.

Washington removed the designation last February in a policy shift by the Biden administration, in hopes of getting the Houthis back to the negotiation table.

The Houthis, however, have refused to respond positively to UN-brokered peace talks.


International community condemns latest Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia

International community condemns latest Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia
Updated 24 September 2021

International community condemns latest Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia

International community condemns latest Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia
  • Dr. Yousef Al-Othaimeen praised the efficiency of Coalition air defenses in intercepting Houthi missiles and drones

RIYADH: The UAE, Bahrain, and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation on Thursday joined a chorus of international condemnation of a failed ballistic missile attack by the Iran-backed Houthis on civilians in Saudi Arabia.

OIC Secretary-General Dr. Yousef Al-Othaimeen praised the efficiency of Saudi-led coalition air defenses in intercepting and destroying the missile before it reached Jazan in the southwest of the Kingdom.

He renewed his call for the international community to take decisive action to stop the ongoing threats from ballistic missile and bomb-laden drone attacks by Houthis operating from Yemen.

Al-Othaimeen pointed out that the OIC considered the militia group’s actions to be war crimes and a challenge to international humanitarian law.

Coalition forces supporting Yemen’s legitimate government on Wednesday thwarted another wave of Houthi drone attacks targeting Saudi Arabia that came two days after an attempted boat-bomb strike was foiled in Hodeidah.

The UAE and Bahrain condemned the latest attacks and gave their full backing to measures taken by Saudi Arabia to protect its security, stability, and the safety of its citizens.

In a statement, the coalition said Saudi air defenses on Wednesday intercepted and destroyed three explosive-laden drones launched by the Houthis toward the southern city of Khamis Mushayt. One drone had been launched in the morning, and the other two later in the day.


Bahrain, UAE radio join in on Saudi National Day celebrations

Bahrain, UAE radio join in on Saudi National Day celebrations
Updated 24 September 2021

Bahrain, UAE radio join in on Saudi National Day celebrations

Bahrain, UAE radio join in on Saudi National Day celebrations

BAHRAIN/SHARJAH: Bahraini radio and television stations have joined Saudi Arabia’s 91st National Day celebrations with various programs commemorating the day.

Radio and television hosts gathered several personalities from both nations, discussing the relations between the two brotherly countries, their shared history, achievements, and more.

Also joining in on the celebrations is the UAE’s Sharjah Radio, which has allocated various programs about the Kingdom, including historical, religious, cultural aspects that distinguish Saudi Arabia.

Sharjah Radio Director Abeer Al-Shawi congratulated the Kingdom’s leadership on the occasion of Saudi National Day, adding that the radio station has dedicated many of the day’s broadcasts to cover various topics about the country.