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.”


Misguided advice on diet, gym workouts ‘doing more harm than good’, say fitness specialists

Fitness specialists say that unreliable information on the internet and poorly researched advice can have a negative influence on those eager to join gyms. (Shutterstock)
Fitness specialists say that unreliable information on the internet and poorly researched advice can have a negative influence on those eager to join gyms. (Shutterstock)
Updated 18 sec ago

Misguided advice on diet, gym workouts ‘doing more harm than good’, say fitness specialists

Fitness specialists say that unreliable information on the internet and poorly researched advice can have a negative influence on those eager to join gyms. (Shutterstock)
  • Fitness myth-busters come out fighting

JEDDAH: With interest in sport surging in the Kingdom, Saudis embarking on gym and exercise regimes have been warned to beware of self-appointed “experts” peddling fitness myths that can ruin workouts and even damage health.

Fitness specialists say that unreliable information on the internet and poorly researched advice can have a negative influence on those eager to join gyms.

Extreme diets and exercise programs can cause more harm than good, they warn.

Yumna Khalid, a 23-year-old university student, told Arab News that she has had many such experiences at her gym but has finally learned how to deal with them.

“Someone once told me that the more she sweats, the more fat she will lose, and that if she is not sweating heavily, her workout will not work. I said nothing but sympathized with the woman since she was working out wearing a hoodie in the scorching heat of Jeddah.”

Khalid said that people “should just listen to their bodies” to judge if a workout or diet is right for them.

“The body has a way of telling you. Do the workout that makes you feel good during and afterwards. If a workout or a diet feels wrong then just don’t do it. Listen to your body and you will be set.”

She added: “But listen to it when it is being reasonable and not at 3 a.m. when you want to eat eight donuts and a tub of ice cream.”

Casey Ho, a YouTuber who has been uploading home workout videos since 2009, was subjected to a wave of hate after announcing that she wanted to lose weight and get in the best shape of her life.

In her video, titled “How I lost 17.5 pounds in 12 weeks — My 90-Day Journey,” she said: “No, I don’t have an eating disorder. No, I don’t have a body image disorder. No, I don’t hate myself and, no, this journey wasn’t for you — it was for me.”

In a podcast called Off the Pills, Ho said that the body positive movement has grown so much over the years that now if someone wants to lose weight and look a certain way, they are labeled “anti-body positive” and kicked out of the community.

Returning to unhealthy habits is not the answer, she said. “It is a commitment of a lifetime.”

Nouf Hamdallah, a fitness trainer with nine years’ experience, said: “The problem with these people is that they think what they are doing is the only right way. They should just focus on themselves and not spread information that they aren’t sure about.”

According to Hamdallah, the best way to deal with such people is to ask: “What is the source of the information?”

She added: “They will think back on what they have said and if they do have a genuine source, you can take their advice.”

The trainer also urged gym-goers to avoid training others if they are unqualified, adding that there was a big chance the advice might be harmful.

Hamdallah said that a healthy lifestyle is about changing habits little by little, and is not about following a particular diet. “People tend to get the two mixed. For a healthy life, it’s just a caloric deficit, physical activity and enough sleep. It’s very simple.”

The trainer defined her personal experience as a series of trial and error, and said that still tries new approaches and methods in her diet and during her workouts.

She also said that her schedules are flexible, and she will not force herself to do something that does not feel right.

Depending on body type, results can take up to a year to show, while sometimes it is just three months, Hamdallah added.

However, according to Khalid, adopting a healthier lifestyle is not as tricky as it sometimes appears.

“I promise you, a healthy lifestyle isn’t just boiled chicken breast and white rice or a sad piece of bread. Now, more than ever, you can find delicious foods on the internet that is so good that you won’t even miss the sugar-filled or fried foods that you crave.”

Khalid said that she was discouraged because people kept telling her that she was eating, drinking and exercising the wrong way, and she was not seeing results in fitness. She later discovered that it takes time to change.

“That is OK. I have my own pace and I am happy with that,” she said.

Adding to the warnings, a Saudi champ has joined the fight against fitness myths

Suliman Abduljawad, a Guinness world record holder in fitness, joined social media to campaign for better messaging around fitness and exercise.

“I have heard a lot of wrong facts and tips about sports. A lot of people on social media don’t have a certificate in fitness, and I see them advising people based on their personal experience and not studies,” he told Arab News.

Abduljawad said that he decided to step in and educate people about the “rights and wrongs” of training.

The fitness champ said that he receives messages every day from followers asking him about information they read online.

Female personal trainers in Saudi Arabia are expensive compared with other countries because of the myths, he said.

“One of the mistaken things that people are trading is that the female body is harder to train — that’s not true, it’s a simple science,” Abduljawad said.

He also rejects the claim that training is bad for children. “I have a son, I cannot wait until he is 3 years old to train him. People say that children should not train, which is wrong. Their training is fun and they will enjoy it.”

Abduljawad said that he read Guinness World Records books as a child and wondered why there were no Saudi record-holders. It was then that he decided to work hard on himself.

He eventually broke two world records after a long journey — one in side jump push-up and one in archer push-up in 2020.

“I believe that a lot of Saudis can break a lot of records. I’ve seen the potential they have, but I think they just don’t know how to do it. I am more than happy to guide and help them.”

Abduljawad offers online training and dreams of having his own gym one day. “I’m aiming break 10 more world records.”


Afghan Taliban on the agenda as India, Saudi foreign ministers hold talks

Afghan Taliban on the agenda as India, Saudi foreign ministers hold talks
Updated 19 September 2021

Afghan Taliban on the agenda as India, Saudi foreign ministers hold talks

Afghan Taliban on the agenda as India, Saudi foreign ministers hold talks
  • Expert says Prince Faisal’s visit “very significant” amid political changes in the region
  • New Delhi urges Riyadh to resume flights as two officials discuss COVID-19 challenges, trade and bilateral ties

NEW DELHI: India’s Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar held talks with his Saudi counterpart on Sunday that included measures to bolster bilateral and trade ties, cope with COVID-19 challenges, and a “very useful” exchange on political developments in Afghanistan.

Saudi Arabia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Prince Faisal bin Farhan bin Abdullah Al-Saud arrived in New Delhi for a two-day visit on Saturday and is expected to call on Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday.

It marks the first high-level ministerial visit by a Saudi official to India since the COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent travel curbs early last year.

“(It) was a cordial and productive meeting with (the) Saudi foreign minister,” Jaishankar said in a Twitter post on Sunday after the meeting at Hyderabad House in New Delhi.

Prince Faisal’s visit comes amid the recent political changes in Afghanistan after the Taliban’s return to power last month, marking the first official interaction between the two allies.

“Very useful exchange of views on Afghanistan, the Gulf and the Indo-Pacific,” Jaishankar said.

Saudi FM Prince Faisal bin Farhan and India’s FM Subrahmanyam Jaishankar meet in New Delhi. (@DrSJaishankar)

No further details were available, but experts termed the timing of the meeting and Prince Faisal’s visit as “a very significant one.”

As the Taliban surrounded the Afghan capital, Kabul, on Aug. 15, President Ashraf Ghani, with whom New Delhi had cultivated a close relationship, fled Afghanistan.

Earlier this month, the Taliban announced an interim government, weeks after taking over Afghanistan in a stunning military sweep, as US-led foreign forces withdrew after 20 years — ending the country’s longest conflict.

“Saudi Arabia and India have shared concerns as to whether Afghanistan will become the sanctuary for extremists because then it would become extremely dangerous for the neighborhood as a whole,” Talmiz Ahmad, former Indian ambassador to Saudi Arabia, told Arab News.

“It’s natural that both the close partners would discuss Afghanistan. It reflects very close relations that India and Saudi Arabia have established with each other.”

Ahmad cited the “strategic partnership” formed after signing the Riyadh Declaration of 2010 and taken forward “very vigorously” by Prime Minister Modi as the first step toward bringing the two countries closer.

“We now have a strategic council at the apex level. Therefore, the relationship that began with cooperation on counter-terrorism has now become a very strong and deep strategic partnership,” he said.

The two officials also reviewed progress in implementing the Strategic Partnership Council Agreement, signed during PM Modi’s visit to Saudi Arabia in October 2019, and bilateral cooperation at multilateral forums such as the UN, the G20 and the Gulf Cooperation Council.

Jaishankar congratulated Prince Faisal for Saudi Arabia’s successful presidency of the G20 last year, at the pandemic’s peak, a statement by India’s Foreign Ministry said.

“Both sides discussed further steps to strengthen their partnership in trade, investment, energy, defense, security, culture, consular issues, health care and human resources,” it added.

The foreign ministers also agreed to “work closely” to deal with pandemic-related challenges, with Jaishankar thanking Saudi “for the support provided to the Indian community during the COVID-19 pandemic,” urging the Kingdom to relax travel restrictions for visitors from India further.

In July, Riyadh imposed a travel ban on 13 countries, including India, to curb the spread of the coronavirus and its new variants, but removed the UAE, Argentina and South Africa from the list and re-allowed citizens to travel to the three countries starting Sept. 8.

According to Indian foreign ministry data, more than 2 million Indians are living and working in the Kingdom, employed in various sectors of the Gulf state. However, the COVID-19 pandemic rendered thousands jobless, with a majority unable to return to work due to travel curbs.

Jaishankar urged an early resumption of direct flights to Saudi Arabia while both nations “agreed to work closely on all COVID-19 related challenges.”

In April and May, Saudi supplied more than 140 tons of medical oxygen to Indian to help the South Asian nation tide over a health crisis amid a deadly second wave of the coronavirus that claimed the lives of more than 400,000 in a country of 1.36 billion people.


KSrelief chief meets UN humanitarian coordinator for Yemen in Riyadh

KSrelief chief meets UN humanitarian coordinator for Yemen in Riyadh
Updated 19 September 2021

KSrelief chief meets UN humanitarian coordinator for Yemen in Riyadh

KSrelief chief meets UN humanitarian coordinator for Yemen in Riyadh

RIYADH: The head of the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center met the UN’s humanitarian coordinator for Yemen in Riyadh on Sunday.

Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah and David Gressly discussed the humanitarian situation in Yemen and relief efforts made to alleviate the suffering of people in the war-torn country.

Gressly expressed his pride in the strategic partnership with KSrelief and his appreciation for the important and prominent role of the center in Yemen.

He also praised the professional manner in which the center operates to provide aid and implement various humanitarian and relief programs and projects in countries that require them.


Saudi Arabia announces 5 more COVID-19 deaths

Saudi Arabia announces 5 more COVID-19 deaths
Updated 19 September 2021

Saudi Arabia announces 5 more COVID-19 deaths

Saudi Arabia announces 5 more COVID-19 deaths
  • The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom has increased to 535,531
  • A total of 8,661 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia announced five deaths from COVID-19 and 70 new infections on Sunday.

Of the new cases, 21 were recorded in Riyadh, 19 in Makkah, seven in the Eastern Province, six in Madinah, three in Asir, three in Najran, two in Jazan, one in Tabuk,  one in Al-Jouf, one in Hail, and one in Al-Baha.

The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom increased to 535,531 after 81 more patients recovered from the virus.

A total of 8,661 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far.

Over 40.6 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine have been administered in the Kingdom to date.


Coronavirus booster dose ‘unnecessary,’ say Saudi experts

More than 40.7 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Saudi Arabia. (SPA)
More than 40.7 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Saudi Arabia. (SPA)
Updated 19 September 2021

Coronavirus booster dose ‘unnecessary,’ say Saudi experts

More than 40.7 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Saudi Arabia. (SPA)
  • New recoveries reported amounted to 77, raising the total number to 535,450

JEDDAH: A third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine is unnecessary, according to Saudi health experts.

“If the two doses of the vaccine prevent severe illness/staying in hospital/death, it does not make sense for the general population to receive a third dose,” said deputy health minister for preventive health, Dr. Abdullah Assiri.

Assiri, who is also an infectious diseases consultant, added: “At this stage of excellent vaccination coverage, we need to reconsider the rationale and method of laboratory testing for COVID-19, and judge the pandemic only from the perspective of the burden of disease on society.”

The comments came after news of proposed booster shots of Pfizer and BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine for the general public, and third jabs for people aged 65 and older and other vulnerable groups.


Meanwhile, infectious disease expert, Ahmed Al-Hakawi, said that accelerating demand for approval of a third (booster) dose for everyone was not supported by a study he cited.

FASTFACT

546k

The total number of coronavirus cases in KSA reached 546,479.

Titled “Safety and Efficacy of the BNT162b2 mRNA Covid-19 Vaccine through 6 Months,” the study, published on Sept. 15, was conducted on more than 45,000 participants in 152 sites in six countries.

The study concluded that “through 6 months of follow-up and despite a gradual decline in vaccine efficacy, BNT162b2 had a favorable safety profile and was highly efficacious in preventing COVID-19.”

“The vaccine still provides protection against severe disease even six months after the second dose,” said Al-Hakawi, who is also a hospital epidemiologist in Riyadh.

Saudi Arabia recorded 68 new cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) on Saturday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 546,479, the Ministry of Health said.

Of Saturday’s cases, 20 were in Makkah, 17 in the Riyadh region and seven in the Eastern Province. Hail and Najran were the regions with the lowest case count, posting just one each.

New recoveries reported amounted to 77, raising the total number to 535,450.

With the high recovery rate, the number of active cases has declined to 2,373, of which 361 are in critical care.

Five people have died in the past 24 hours, raising the total number of deaths to 8,656.

More than 40.7 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in the Kingdom at the rate of 201,505 a day.

At this rate, Saudi Arabia could have 70 percent of its population fully vaccinated by Oct. 31.

The Ministry of Health said that 587 centers across all regions of the Kingdom processed the inoculations. Those who have not yet received a vaccine were urged to get one.

The ministry renewed its call for citizens and residents to adhere to precautionary measures and to register with the Sehhaty app to receive vaccines.

Meanwhile, testing hubs and treatment centers set up throughout the country have helped millions of people since the pandemic outbreak.

Taakad centers provide COVID-19 testing for those who show no or only mild symptoms or believe they have come into contact with an infected individual.

Tetamman clinics offer treatment and advice to those with virus symptoms such as fever, loss of taste and smell, and breathing difficulties.

Appointments for both services can be made via the ministry’s Sehhaty app.