How a crown prince project is helping to preserve Saudi Arabia’s Najdi craftsmanship

How a crown prince project is helping to preserve Saudi Arabia’s Najdi craftsmanship
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Updated 06 August 2021

How a crown prince project is helping to preserve Saudi Arabia’s Najdi craftsmanship

How a crown prince project is helping to preserve Saudi Arabia’s Najdi craftsmanship
  • Some 100 pieces of furniture and textiles have been recreated based on traditional Saudi techniques
  • Items have formed backdrop to high-profile meetings with dignitaries such as John Kerry

RIYADH: When Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met with US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry on June 16, there was something about the official photos that caught the eye.

Instead of the usual understated grandeur of a palace interior where such senior officials would usually meet, Kerry found himself surrounded by a splendid display of traditional Najdi decor.

Giant strings of bedouin beads hung on the walls above him and stunning hardwood tables, surrounded with colorful poufs, adorned the floor space.

Arab News can reveal that the interior design is part of a project requested by the crown prince to create more than 100 unique items that represent the heritage of Najd.

Cyma Azyz and Faisal Al-Saadaway were tasked with having the textiles, furniture and other items handcrafted using entirely Saudi tools and materials.




Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (C) meeting with the US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry (2nd-L) in the capital Riyadh in June. (AFP/Saudi Royal Palace/File Photo)

Azyz told Arab News that the crown prince requested that not a single nail from outside the Kingdom be used on the project.

Al-Saadaway is one of the most experienced collectors of Saudi antiquities in Riyadh and has expertise in the architecture and design of Najd, Saudi Arabia’s vast central region, while Azyz was a television anchor with a passion for the preservation of Najdi arts and culture.

The two were first approached for the private project in their outlet in Diriyah — called “Saadaway Najd” — by an interior designer for the crown prince.

The designer was intrigued by their collection and visited their main Arts and Antiques Gallery in Olaya in the summer of 2018. 

“The gentleman paid us a visit and was astonished at the eclectic quality of antiques and delighted to see our large selection of Najdi furniture, accessories, and textiles that were inspired by the Bedouin rugs for upholstery and curtains,” Azyz said.

From there, the construction began. The crown prince’s team wanted to ensure that traditional Najdi craftsmanship and design were represented in every piece of the project.

The most prominent part of the project became known as the “Majlis,” where political leaders and guests like John Kerry meet the crown prince. 




Cyma Azyz and Faisal Al-Saadaway were tasked with having the textiles, furniture and other items handcrafted using entirely Saudi tools and materials. (AN Photo/Lama Al-Hamawi)

The team first researched the authentic Najdi techniques of construction and furnishing that were available through the assistance of local sources and the government. 

They then visited traditional village homes to study the detailing and design of the furniture.

“The sheer quantity of the details and design in the data collection allowed us to create authentic designs efficiently, which is the reason behind the fast completion of the crown prince’s project,” Azyz said. 

“A project of this magnitude realistically cannot be completed in less than one year, but the timeline given was three months,” she said. 

The project included vintage leather water pouches, painted leather panels, armchairs, sofas, coffee tables, study tables, sideboards, chests, chairs, alabaster vases and more. 

The partners spent day and night crafting each piece to perfectly represent Saudi culture. 

There were numerous techniques used in the project including the detailing and hand carving of the side tables, the painting of the gold and copper nails, and the etching, burning and engraving of each piece.

The design of the project was established within the Olaya gallery, but the production of each piece was carried out in a workshop in Saniyah, Riyadh’s industrial area.




Instead of the usual understated grandeur of a palace interior where such senior officials would usually meet, John Kerry found himself surrounded by a splendid display of traditional Najdi decor while meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. (AN Photo/Lama Al-Hamawi)

“I personally oversaw the production of the pieces, from the early hours of the morning to past midnight, in a workshop in Saniyah,” Azyz said.

She was the only woman in the workshop, and her brothers would complete their workday in a bank and help her with the project.

“It is not an area where women are commonly seen, but this project, having such limited time constraints and so many details, called on us to join forces with our factory workers and carpenters.”

The delivery process was also very intricate because there were so many fragile pieces that took hours to create. 

“The classic Najdi furniture doesn’t come with loose screws and washers to be boxed and sent. Actually, it cannot be easily assembled on-site, so we had to send finished pieces, meaning larger truckloads,” Azyz said. 

Azyz and Al-Saadaway said they were passionate to take on the project because of its importance in preserving the local heritage.

“In this era of modernization, it is very important to keep the heritage and culture alive for younger generations to learn about their past and history,” Azyz stated. 

“I have personally met and worked with craftsmen from different parts of the Kingdom and was devastated to learn that most of them do not care about passing their handicrafts onto their children, as they want them to pursue brighter career prospects following education in big institutes and life in bigger cities,” Azyz said.

“Our crown prince is not only living by example but has taken it one step further with mega projects that are heralding the era of ‘made in Saudi Arabia’ for the revival and preservation of our folk arts.”


Digital infrastructure enabled Saudi Arabia to confront pandemic

Digital infrastructure enabled Saudi Arabia to confront pandemic
Updated 26 September 2021

Digital infrastructure enabled Saudi Arabia to confront pandemic

Digital infrastructure enabled Saudi Arabia to confront pandemic
  • Kingdom’s technological progress contributed to raising level of transparency, efficiency, says Saudi envoy to UN

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s strong digital infrastructure has enabled the public and private sectors to meet the devastating challenges of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, the Kingdom’s envoy to the UN has said.

“Guided by the national transformation program, the Kingdom’s technological progress has contributed to raising the level of transparency and digital efficiency,” said Abdallah Al-Mouallimi, Saudi Arabia’s permanent representative to the UN.

Al-Mouallimi made these remarks during a high-level side event organized by the Digital Cooperation Organization under the theme “Shaping a Comprehensive Digital Age,” a recently established global organization working toward achieving “digital prosperity for all.”

The DCO works with governments, the private sector, international and nongovernmental organizations and civil society to push for an inclusive digital transformation and the growth of digital industries.

The DCO’s seven-member body includes Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Nigeria, Oman, and Pakistan. It accounts for a population of 480 million, 80 percent of which are under the age of 35. It said it is open to any new member that shares the same goals of “empowering youth, women, and entrepreneurs and leapfrogging the digital transformation.”  

In his remarks, Al-Mouallimi highlighted the Kingdom’s digital achievements and the efforts of the DCO during the pandemic. 

“They helped to make it possible to work remotely and adapt to the new conditions imposed by the pandemic,” said the ambassador, adding that the world is undergoing a shift towards digital transformation at a faster pace than ever before. 

“Digitization creates opportunities and challenges that go beyond borders, making digital collaboration an essential element in facilitating digital transformation at the international level, so that our digital future must be more inclusive and global efforts ensure that technology is available to all.”

Al-Mouallimi underlined that multilateral cooperation is necessary to meet digital challenges and opportunities. Countries must harness their full potential to integrate into the digital age, mainly dependent on global collaboration.

Al-Mouallimi said it is clear that the DCO emphasizes promoting digital cooperation to meet the current challenges.

“The core objectives of the DCO are about accelerating the growth of the digital economy, as well as promoting social prosperity to include all,” the envoy said, adding: “The organization also seeks to develop an ambitious model for promoting global digital efforts, making us, as members of the organization’s coordination office, forced to exert all efforts to reach our goals and objectives.”

He said that the Kingdom accelerated the growth of the digital economy in the region and around the world as a member of the DCO, stressing that the Kingdom will continue its commitment to maximizing digital capabilities at the national and international levels.

He added: “The Kingdom has put digitization at the forefront of the technological progress it seeks, and as a result, several outstanding achievements have enabled Saudi Arabia to make significant progress in global indicators, ranking first among the G20 countries in digital competitiveness according to the European Centre for Digital Competitiveness.”


Taste of history as Saudi turns old police station into heritage eatery

Taste of history as Saudi turns old police station into heritage eatery
Updated 26 September 2021

Taste of history as Saudi turns old police station into heritage eatery

Taste of history as Saudi turns old police station into heritage eatery
  • Abha restaurant draws visitors from around the Gulf with traditional southern flavors

ABHA: A young Saudi “jack of all trades” has used his creative talent and love of cooking to transform a former police station in Abha into a traditional restaurant.

Now Ibrahim bin Mansour Bashashah Al-Asiri’s Al-Hosn Al-Turathi — or Abha castle heritage restaurant — has become a landmark attraction, serving up traditional southern flavors to tourists visiting the historic southwest Saudi city.

Diners from around the Kingdom and Gulf states regularly visit the eatery for a taste of southern hospitality.

Al-Asiri, a plastic artist, and gift and flower designer, told Arab News that the restaurant was previously a coffeeshop owned by his brother.

“The building was originally the Asir police station. I did not favor strong additions and alterations that would erase the designs that characterize the building,” he said.

“My main objective was for the visitor to be able to sense the history of a place that is 40 or 50 years old.”

Being a jack of all trades, Al-Asiri decided to invest his talents and help preserve the city’s heritage by turning the coffeeshop into a restaurant.

He used his talent with lighting and art to transform the site into a heritage icon that takes diners back in time.

Initially, the restaurant served only breakfast, but the menu quickly expanded until meals became available throughout the day. 

Ibrahim bin Mansour Bashashah Al-Asiri, owner of Al-Hosn Al-Turathi. (Supplied)

One form of art found in the restaurant is Al-Qatt Al-Asiri, a traditionally female interior wall decoration and ancient art form considered a key element in Asir’s history.

Al-Hosn Al-Turathi restaurant relies on the work of two people — Al-Asiri, who cooks and oversees artistic tasks, and his brother, who handles management.

“There aren’t many restaurants that offer popular southern meals, especially in Abha, while there are many popular restaurants in Khamis Mushayt,” he said.

Menu favorites offered at Al-Hosn Al-Turathi include al-arika, a traditional dessert in the southern region made with brown flour mixed with warm water, oil and ghee to form a dough, and flavored with a drizzle of honey and cardamom.

The restaurant is the first to serve “miva” or southern “tannour” bread, Al-Asiri said, adding that he is the first Saudi in the Kingdom to cook while wearing a traditional Saudi outfit.

Al-Asiri also launched the Asiri bouquet, a collection of local plants with aromatic scents, gifting them to a number of princes and other high-profile personalities.

Al-Hosn Al-Turathi heritage restaurant supports local productive families. A coffee and hot beverages corner is managed by one of the sisters, Umm Joud, who holds a master’s in business management, and supervises the preparation of hot drinks using traditional ingredients.

Al-Asiri urged Saudi youth to work hard, saying Saudi Arabia offers many opportunities to realize the objectives of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030. “We need to be patient and active, and try to reach the top with the capabilities that we have. So we need to be persistent and work hard,” he said.


Saudi Arabia, Egypt, UAE, Greece complete military exercises

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, UAE, Greece complete military exercises
Updated 26 September 2021

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, UAE, Greece complete military exercises

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, UAE, Greece complete military exercises
  • The drills are part of a program to enhance military cooperation between friendly countries

RIYADH: Special security forces of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Greece and Egypt completed joint drills in the Greek capital, Athens.

Taking part what was hailed as further cooperation between allied states were the Royal Saudi Land Forces paratroopers, Emirati Special Forces, the Egyptian Army’s El-Saa’ka (Thunderbolt) Forces and Paratroopers and the Greek Joint Special Operations Forces.

The drills are part of a program to enhance military cooperation between friendly countries, to exchange training and experience and to increase the level of combat readiness to confront challenges in the region.

The training plan was conducted by the Royal Saudi Land Forces to maintain a high level of performance, training and combat efficiency as part of the annual training programs that are implemented with friendly countries.

The drills were observed by the Greek Deputy Minister of Defense, the Chief of the Hellenic National Defense General Staff, the commanders of the Greek Ministry of Defense’s forces, the Saudi ambassador in the Republic of Greece, Saad bin Abdul Rahman Al-Ammar, and the Assistant Commander of Paratrooper Units and Special Security Forces Major General Sultan Islam.


Saudi FM meets Colombian, Qatari counterparts 

Saudi FM meets Colombian, Qatari counterparts 
Updated 26 September 2021

Saudi FM meets Colombian, Qatari counterparts 

Saudi FM meets Colombian, Qatari counterparts 

NEW YORK: Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan on Saturday met Colombia’s Vice President and Foreign Minister Marta Lucía Ramírez on the sidelines of the 76th session of the UN General Assembly in New York.

The meeting discussed relations between the two countries and the means to strengthen them to serve common interests. They also exchanged views on regional and international issues of common interest.

The meeting was attended by the Saudi ambassador to the US, Princess Reema bint Bandar; the undersecretary of the Foreign Ministry for multilateral international affairs, Abdulrahman Al-Rassi; and the director general of the Saudi foreign minister’s office, Abdulrahman Al-Daoud.

In a separate meeting, Prince Faisal met Qatar’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al-Thani. They reviewed relations between the two countries and considered how to best promote them.


Saudi content creators set up local production studio

Saudi content creators set up local production studio
Updated 26 September 2021

Saudi content creators set up local production studio

Saudi content creators set up local production studio
  • The idea of Karkand is to have a studio space for social media influencers

JEDDAH: Making social media videos is a competitive business, and for content creators and entrepreneurs the stakes are high.

Saudi social media content creators Sultan Al-Saggaf and Ahmed Al-Kiyadi have made this process easier with the opening of “Karkand” rental studio.

For content creators, videos are what attract viewers and must be done well. Issues of background noise, poor lighting and finding the right setting can be intimidating for those starting out in the business.

The idea of Karkand is to have a studio space for social media influencers. According to the founders, whether the videos are about gaming, unboxing gifts, beauty and makeup tutorials or fashion, anyone can visit Karkand Productions and create a professional clip.

“Located in Jeddah, we launched Karkand Productions when we realized that we don’t have a professional space for content creators. As YouTubers we struggled to make professional videos and we thought that there must be a lot of creators who are struggling too,” Al-Kiyadi, Karkand co-founder, told Arab News.

Fellow co-founder, Al-Saggaf, said that Karkand provided a comfortable space for creators. “Basically the creator can book a room per hour and this room is equipped with soundproof walls, microphones, cameras, and we can edit anything for the creator,” he said. “After we finish producing the video, we email it to the creator.”

“We have the technology, just bring your idea and come.”

HIGHLIGHTS

• For content creators, videos are what attract viewers and must be done well. Issues of background noise, poor lighting and finding the right setting can be intimidating for those starting out in the business.

• According to the founders, whether the videos are about gaming, unboxing gifts, beauty and makeup tutorials or fashion, anyone can visit Karkand Productions and create a professional clip.

Al-Kiyadi said that they were trying to create an environment and space for online content creators who struggled to find a place to film their content, and Karkland provided professional video and audio solutions using their experience in multimedia.

The idea behind the name was to have an identity based on a creature. “Since we also do a lot of video cutting during the post-production phase, we wanted a unique name that is both Arabic and easily pronounced in English. The closest name we could come up with was the lobster, which translates in Arabic as karkand.”

Al-Saggaf said that one of the obstacles they enountered had been price range. “As this is our first business venture, the normal obstacles were faced and many lessons were also learned. Understanding market pricings and scoping down our real value compared to the local market, and finding the right location, were important to get the right footing as soon as we launched.”

“Karkand is a first of its kind locally, we can say that it is a monopoly, and we try to be more flexible with timings and restrictions since we are dealing with a creative field.”

Al-Saggaf said that aside from their primary target audience — online content creators — they also welcomed business owners who sought to advertise their products and services.

Vision 2030 had made people aware of media and content creation, he said. “The interest in developing online content is growing among people, and there are a lot of upcoming YouTubers, including many Saudi women, who are entering the field of online content. They are more than welcome to book a room with us, the price range is affordable, ranging around SR300 ($80) per hour.”

Al-Saggaf advised young content creators to start with a small sum to “scope your strength and find your weakness, follow your passion, and specialize in one field.”