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.


Ithra launches cultural and heritage programs

Ithra launches cultural and heritage programs
Updated 25 September 2021

Ithra launches cultural and heritage programs

Ithra launches cultural and heritage programs

DHAHRAN: In celebration of the 91st Saudi National Day, the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture has launched programs and activities to highlight diversity across the Kingdom.

Ithra will engage visitors through a cultural journey that embodies the unity of the Saudi people and their interdependence, from north to south and from east to west, through the Tafaseel exhibition.

The exhibition will express the diversity of fashion as part of Saudi Arabia’s cultural heritage across regions, as well as telling stories about the civilizations that inhabited them.

The national day activities aim to present a collection of interactive art, performances, traditional local crafts, cultural activities, workshops, and knowledge-based games for all age groups.

The activities continue until Saturday.

 


Two Holy Mosques management trains 600 female employees

Two Holy Mosques management trains 600 female employees
Updated 25 September 2021

Two Holy Mosques management trains 600 female employees

Two Holy Mosques management trains 600 female employees

MAKKAH: The General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques announced on Friday that it has so far trained around 600 female employees of its agencies or assisting agencies.

The Women’s Development Affairs Agency, led by Al-Anoud Al-Aboud, deputy president for women’s development affairs, employs 310 of those women.

Around 200 women work for the Agency for Women’s Scientific, Intellectual and Guidance Affairs, led by Noura Al-Thuwaibi.

The rest of the trained women work at the Agency for Women’s Administrative and Service Affairs, under the leadership of Kamelia Al-Daadi, the general presidency said in a statement.

 

 


Saudi Arabia joins global community to celebrate World Sign Day

Saudi Arabia joins global community to celebrate World Sign Day
Updated 25 September 2021

Saudi Arabia joins global community to celebrate World Sign Day

Saudi Arabia joins global community to celebrate World Sign Day

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia joined the international community by participating in World Sign Day, celebrated on Sept. 23.

The Ministry of Health implemented the “We Are with You” initiative to support deaf people, raising staff awareness about the deaf community. The MOH trained its staff to work with individuals who are deaf, teaching them sign language rules and basics, and helping them find ways to support deaf patients overcome challenges.

Sign language includes 35 manual symbols, each representing a letter of the alphabet, and five other symbols representing diacritics.

The Arabic language also includes numbers in its sign language system; Arabic sign language includes 53 manual symbols representing number, in single or multiple digits.

The MOH also launched the Awlawiya (Priority) Card, one of the Patient Experience Center’s initiatives to facilitate and accelerate procedures and services provided to some groups (including the deaf) inside health facilities.

 

 

Other electronic services include the Queries on Treatment Abroad Orders Service and the Mawid (Appointment) Service.

Moreover, it launched the Online Registration initiative for people with disabilities, including the deaf, through its E-Health system. The platform enables MOH officials to follow up on registration and classification electronically, as well as oversee the issuance of Transportation Discount Cards and Traffic Facilitation Cards.

The MOH linked the E-Health platform with other authorities, such as the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development and the Ministry of Education, by automating all procedures to ensure speed and uniformity of service provision. Furthermore, the ministry launched the Eshara app, which provides direct services to the deaf and hearing-impaired, and which allows them to benefit from the services offered by the 937 Service Center.

The app allows visual communication between deaf people and the remote sign interpretation communication center; the interpreter translates the signs as a third party through the digital platform by converting the sign language to spoken Arabic (and vice versa), serving as a mediator between the employee and the deaf person.

The Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development launched a series of training programs about sign language basics in its branches in the Kingdom, trained its members and employees in all sectors to understand sign language, and raised their awareness on how to communicate with deaf people to ensure access of all services with ease.

Decoder

'We Are with You' campaign

It is the Saudi Ministry of Health initiative to support deaf people, raising staff awareness about the deaf community, teaching them sign language rules and basics, and helping them find ways to support deaf patients overcome challenges.


ThePlace: Dawqara, in KSA’s Northern Borders region, yield signs of early civilization

ThePlace: Dawqara, in KSA’s Northern Borders region, yield signs of early civilization
Updated 25 September 2021

ThePlace: Dawqara, in KSA’s Northern Borders region, yield signs of early civilization

ThePlace: Dawqara, in KSA’s Northern Borders region, yield signs of early civilization

ThePlace: Dawqara,  in KSA's Northern Borders region, shows signs of civilization during late late Roman period 

Dawqara is located 40 kilometers west of At-Turaif, near a mountain known as Aqrun or Dawqara. The site is registered in a comprehensive archeological survey program.

Rainwater accumulates on the northern side of the site and forms a large lake. The southern side is made up of volcanic rocks with many stone circles. Some stone tools have also been found.

One of the site’s most important artifacts is a square palace that was built from large volcanic stones. Its construction takes into consideration the straightness and solidity of pillars, linked by clay.

The palace’s door is located in the middle of the eastern wall and is 2.85 meters long. The palace comprises two parts. The first is a yard that constitutes the largest part of the building. The second has seven rooms on the western wall, each 4.5 meters wide.

The history of the palace is not clear, as an archeological excavation is required to extract, study and compare artifacts. 

But, according to preliminary studies, the palace was built in the pre-Islamic era and there is other evidence indicating that it was used until the Umayyad era. 


Pakistani spends four decades in service of Makkah’s Grand Mosque

Pakistani spends four decades in service of Makkah’s Grand Mosque
Updated 25 September 2021

Pakistani spends four decades in service of Makkah’s Grand Mosque

Pakistani spends four decades in service of Makkah’s Grand Mosque
  • The Pakistani worker witnessed the restoration of the Kaaba during the reign of the late King Fahd and said it was one of the most important and beautiful stages of his life
  • 61-year-old Qandal is a supervisor for sanitation work at the Grand Mosque

MAKKAH: Ahmed Khan Qandal, who came from Mandi Bahauddin in Pakistan in late 1983 at the age of 23, never thought that he would spend the next 40 years of his life in Saudi Arabia, specifically as a sanitation worker at the Grand Mosque in Makkah.
Qandal initially promised his parents he would return home as soon as possible. But Makkah and the service of the Grand Mosque kept him preoccupied as his parents have since passed on.
The years flew by and today the 61-year-old Qandal is a supervisor for sanitation work at the Grand Mosque.
His memory is made up of different Saudi events, the most important of which were the Grand Mosque’s second and third Saudi expansions projects, and the Kaaba restoration project.
“Since I came to Saudi Arabia almost 40 years ago, I felt that I was among family and I never felt alienated,” Qandal told Arab News. 
“Whenever I meet someone new, they tell me how lucky I am
to be able to serve the Grand Mosque and pray there. I was always near the Holy Kaaba and this is a great honor that only a person with a special relationship with God can have. I was blessed to be able to do this work for four decades.”
He noted that he came to Saudi Arabia during the reign of the late King Fahd bin Abdulaziz. 

“I worked in cleaning the outer courtyards, and approximately four years later, the second Saudi expansion of the Grand Mosque happened,” Qandal said. “I was a witness to how Muslims began to perform their rituals more comfortably.”
The Pakistani worker witnessed the restoration of the Kaaba during the reign of the late King Fahd and said it was one of the most important and beautiful stages of his life.
Qandal believes God chose him to witness many significant events, including the third Saudi expansion during the reign of the late King Abdullah.
Aside from his time at the Grand Mosque, Qandal also worked with a cleaning company for 11 years until he moved to the Saudi Binladin Group. Over the years, he became known for his efficiency and hard work.
Working with warm, welcoming people from all over the world is what has stuck out the most for Qandal during his time at the Grand Mosque.
“We were all loving brothers,” he said. “All the workers in the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Grand Mosques and the Prophet’s Mosque operate as a united team to show the Two Holy Mosques in the best way possible.”
Qandal has two sons and a daughter. One of his sons works in the electrical department at the Grand Mosque and the other is with his sister in Pakistan.
He stressed that his wish is to be buried in Makkah, the city he lives in, pointing out that whoever lives in the service of the Two Holy Mosques cannot in any way feel bored or lonely.
“Happiness, love, harmony, tolerance, mercy, and peace can be found in all corners of the Grand Mosque,” Qandal said. “Where Muslims coming from all over the world come to praise God.”