Saudi Arabia’s Ithra Islamic Art Conference examines history of mosques

 Showcasing mosque aesthetics, evolution and function, the exhibit brings together the most extensive collection of Islamic art masterpieces ever displayed in Saudi Arabia. (AN photos by Huda Bashatah)
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Showcasing mosque aesthetics, evolution and function, the exhibit brings together the most extensive collection of Islamic art masterpieces ever displayed in Saudi Arabia. (AN photos by Huda Bashatah)
Saudi Arabia’s Ithra Islamic Art Conference examines history of mosques
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(AN photos by Huda Bashatah)
Saudi Arabia’s Ithra Islamic Art Conference examines history of mosques
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The root of the word masjid (Arabic for mosque) is sujood, which is the act of prostration. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)
Saudi Arabia’s Ithra Islamic Art Conference examines history of mosques
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(AN photos by Huda Bashatah)
Saudi Arabia’s Ithra Islamic Art Conference examines history of mosques
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(AN photos by Huda Bashatah)
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Updated 27 November 2021

Saudi Arabia’s Ithra Islamic Art Conference examines history of mosques

 Showcasing mosque aesthetics, evolution and function, the exhibit brings together the most extensive collection of Islamic art masterpieces ever displayed in Saudi Arabia. (AN photos by Huda Bashatah)
  • Using recent studies, experts discuss how 3.5m mosques around the world will transform with time

DHAHRAN: For thousands of years, mosques have served as sacred ground for Muslims around the world. But there is more than meets the eye, with Ithra’s Islamic Art Conference examining the deeper meaning and spiritual effects that mosques have on their communities.

The conference is a collaboration between the Abdullatif Al-Fozan Award for Mosque Architecture and Ithra, a leading destination for art and culture.




(AN photos by Huda Bashatah)

It was held from Nov. 24-25, and involved many perspectives, covered several themes and included studies by a group of elite speakers from around the world.

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Items and pieces originally from the Two Holy Mosques of Makkah and Madinah on loan from the National Museum in Riyadh, 84 works from the Museum of Islamic Arts in Cairo under the Supreme Council of Egyptian Antiquities, and 34 objects from Ithra’s collection are showcased.

Ashraf Fagih, head of the programs division at Ithra, told Arab News: “We have philosophers, historians, the museum board of trustees and thinkers all discussing the different aspects of the mosque, not only as a building, but as a living entity which has been a vital part of human civilization since the dawn of Islam.

“When we talk about the objects, we talk about the tangible and intangible parts of the mosque, crafts, endowments, schools of thought and opinions that revolved around the mosque as a living entity. All of that is an essential and crucial part of our identity, not only as Muslims and Arabs, but as global citizens,” he added.

Using recent studies, Abdullah Al-Rashid, director of Ithra, discussed the mosque of the future, outlining its shape and function, and discussing how the 3.5 million mosques around the world will transform with time.

Al-Rashid announced that Ithra is launching a competition related to mosques that will focus on university students. As part of the event, organizers will gather an array of specialists from universities across the Kingdom and collect Saudi youth opinion, creative ideas and visions of future mosques.

The conference facilitates a more profound discussion and a crucial understanding of the historical development of mosques, with a particular focus on Islamic art and the preservation and revitalization of culture.

 

Its six themes were the evolution of the mosque, beauty, and function of mosque objects, mosque aesthetics, traditional architecture, and the preservation and revival of the mosque from mosque to museum.

One of the outstanding abstracts presented during the first day of the conference was the sonorous audible mosque, a new perspective on Islamic architecture by Michael Frishkopf, professor of ethnomusicology at the University of Alberta in Canada.

Frishkopf told Arab News: “Architecture is for life. It is to be used by people, and people live in social arrangements. In the case of the mosque, there is a spiritual relationship which involves sounds. It is critical for social life, and because of speech and expression, it conveys emotions. So I called the mosque a sonorous object, which is much closer to the spiritual function of the mosque than the visual.

“The root of the word masjid (Arabic for mosque) is sojood, which is the act of prostration. It is a postural sonic act, so a mosque goes away behind the idea of a building, and if we look at the spiritual essence of the mosque, we should focus on prostration. As when the forehead touches the ground the visual field is blocked but the ears are open,” Frishkopf added.

The discussions featured in the conference show the value through time of mosques should be preserved and integrated into the future.

Under the theme of the revival of mosque arts, Minwar Al-Meheid, a Jordanian project manager with a particular emphasis on architectural engineering and design, discussed the Minbar of Saladin at Al-Aqsa Mosque, the most famous Islamic pulpit in design, industry and art, and how it was made with inlaid wood and carved ivory, and crafted with ornamentation and inscriptions by skilled craftsmen.




(AN photos by Huda Bashatah)

This shed light on great efforts made across the Arab world to create a substitute minbar, which would revive the remains of the original pulpit that was burned to ashes in a 1969 incident. The new version was reconstructed in Jordan by Turkish and Asian craftsmen and woodworkers, and was then relocated to Al-Aqsa Mosque. Al-Meheid said that the delicate nature of geometry in Islamic art also applies to the ancient mosque and its value.

Shatr Al-Masjid: The art of orientation

Farah Abushullaih, the head of museum at Ithra, told Arab News: “There is an increased interest in and recognition of Islamic art and culture globally, but Ithra’s research has identified established misconceptions and perceptions in this field. The complementing exhibition, “Shatr Al-Masjid: The art of orientation,” the first of its kind in the world, addresses this gap in knowledge and understanding of the significant impact, history and culture around this topic.”

Showcasing mosque aesthetics, evolution and function, the exhibit brings together the most extensive collection of Islamic art masterpieces ever displayed in the Kingdom in unprecedented partnerships on a global and national level. It features several pieces from the greatest Islamic dynasties, from the Ayyubids and Fatimids to the Mamluks and Ottomans, covering different styles and periods over 1,000 years of history.




Visitors were given the honor of participating in weaving part of the Kiswah located over the black stone. The section will be placed later this year, using raw silk threads and silver wire coated with gold water. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)

Items and pieces originally from the Two Holy Mosques of Makkah and Madinah on loan from the National Museum in Riyadh, 84 works from the Museum of Islamic Arts in Cairo under the Supreme Council of Egyptian Antiquities, and 34 objects from Ithra’s collection are showcased.

The exhibit also showcases 10 3D models of ancient mosques from around the world displayed in a sequenced timeline, starting with Thee Prophet’s Mosque. It also shows how other mosques are inspired by their structure, function and architecture.

Dr. Sami Angawi, founder and director of the Hajj Research Center, which he established in 1975, is one of the leading researchers who helped to reach the final result of the 3D modeling of The Prophet’s Mosque in the era of Prophet Muhammad, which is displayed in the exhibition.




(AN photos by Huda Bashatah)

“I have been searching and working in Makkah and Madinah for the last 40 years. We have cooperated with Ithra in making this particular model of The Prophet’s Mosque,” Angawi told Arab News.

“Dealing with Makkah and Madinah’s mosques and reconstructing them to be showed in virtual reality through time and place is of huge significance, as we are trying to turn what is documented in books into visual reality. This is one of the results which was conducted with Ithra and we have many other things we are working on,” he added.

The exhibit uses four techniques to enhance and enrich the visitor experience: Audio guides, screens, interactive timelines and virtual reality headsets that showcase five mosques around the world. Once a visitor wears the headset, they will be taken on a tour through the mosques, which gives non-Muslims the chance to feel and walk through the Two Holy Mosques.

Abdullah Alkadi, a professor of urban and regional planning at the University of Dammam, told Arab News that tried to find links between astrolabe and GPS devices as part of his research for the exhibition. “I focused on time and space because everything, every transaction in the world falls between these two aspects,” he said.




(AN photos by Huda Bashatah)

“I was also trying to link that with GPS and with old instruments used in the past such as an astrolabe. I was trying to show how the astrolabe was introduced for the last several centuries. It was a navigating system where people can easily know time and directions and they also have used it to determine prayer time, so here lies the connection between the ancient tool and the new technology of GPS. Place and time can be utilized, analyzed and linked to many things from the past, present and future,” he added.

The Art of Masjid

On the sidelines of the Conference, an exhibit titled “The Art of Masjid” showcased contemporary works related to mosques from around the world through collaborations with Turquoise Mountain. The exhibition highlights calligraphy and architectural ornaments, including panels, furniture, prayer mats and more.

The King Abdulaziz Complex for Holy Kaaba Kiswah also took part in the three-day conference, exhibiting tools used for washing the Holy Kaaba, as well as some antiquities, a 3D model of Maqam Ibrahim and more.

Visitors were given the honor of participating in weaving part of Kiswah located over the black stone. The section will be placed later this year, using raw silk threads and silver wire coated with gold water.

Abushullaih said: “Ithra takes the conversation into communities with an outreach project, where the public can share their photos and stories for publication on Ithra’s platform. The combined information from the exhibitions and conference represents the importance of learning, disciplinary development, and the preservation of mosques and cultural heritage.”


Saudi chief of staff attends Dragon Group meeting in UK

Saudi chief of staff attends Dragon Group meeting in UK
Updated 7 sec ago

Saudi chief of staff attends Dragon Group meeting in UK

Saudi chief of staff attends Dragon Group meeting in UK
  • The Dragon Group is an annual forum for Middle East defense chiefs
  • Al-Ruwaili held bilateral talks with UK Chief of Defense Staff Adm. Sir Tony Radakin

LONDON: Saudi Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Fayyad bin Hamed Al-Ruwaili recently headed a Saudi delegation at the fifth annual meeting of the Dragon Group in London.
The Dragon Group is an annual forum for Middle East defense chiefs, with 10 countries taking part in the latest meeting, in addition to the GCC General Secretariat’s military affairs.
On the sidelines of the forum, Al-Ruwaili held bilateral talks with UK Chief of Defense Staff Adm. Sir Tony Radakin at the headquarters of the UK Ministry of Defense.
They reviewed strategic relations linking the two countries, opportunities to enhance military cooperation and ways to confront common challenges.
Earlier, Al-Ruwaili attended the Dragon Group meeting at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. Defense chiefs discussed security challenges and threats to the region, most notably weapons smuggling and the dissemination of technologies to terrorist militias.
The Saudi chief of staff also held bilateral meetings with representatives from countries that attended the Dragon Group meeting.
During the meetings, he stressed the need to strengthen intelligence and security cooperation among Dragon Group member states to confront aggressive behaviors that target the stability of the region.
He urged the importance of meetings to exchange views, unify efforts and increase levels of coordination to support the security of the region.


Riyadh hosts second edition of luxury jewelry event

Riyadh hosts second edition of luxury jewelry event
Prince Sultan Hall in the Al-Faisaliah Hotel that is hosting the second edition of the Riyadh International Luxury Week. (AN pho
Updated 26 May 2022

Riyadh hosts second edition of luxury jewelry event

Riyadh hosts second edition of luxury jewelry event
  • In a luxurious hall in the center of the Saudi capital, visitors move between pavilions displaying latest jewelry products
  • Timepieces displayed include Christophe Claret’s limited-edition AlUla watch crafted especially for Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: Prince Sultan Hall in the Al-Faisaliah Hotel in Riyadh is hosting the second edition of Riyadh International Luxury Week featuring some of the best-known names in the jewelry sector.
Krayem Al-Enazi, president of the National Committee for Precious Metals and Gemstones, officially inaugurated Riyadh International Luxury Week on Tuesday, May 24. Guest of honor Prince Bandar bin Abdullah bin Abdulaziz bin Msaad bin Galaw Al-Saud also visited the event on its opening day.
Riyadh International Luxury Week, which will run until Saturday, May 28, is a curated event showcasing creations presented by international watch and jewelry brands and aiming to consolidate Saudi Arabia’s position as a key luxury market in the Middle East.
“We are proud to have inaugurated the second annual Riyadh International Luxury Week and welcome all our participants. It is a pleasure for us to bring together such a diverse range of brands, all under one roof in Saudi Arabia,” said Abdulrahman Al-Zeer, CEO of Riyadh International Luxury Week.
“The number of watch and jewelry collectors is growing here. And the appreciation for luxury goods is definitely on the rise. So, it is exciting to be providing the opportunity for brands to engage with enthusiasts on a more personal level,” Al-Zeer added.
Timepieces displayed include Christophe Claret’s limited-edition AlUla watch crafted especially for Saudi Arabia; Reservoir’s Kanister Silver, which pays tribute to the spirit of freedom and speed from the 1950s, and Timeless’ new neo-vintage watch, inspired by the design codes of yesterday and tomorrow.
Some of the jewelry brands to present their creations include Daniel K, which is featuring its Dani line of attainable jewelry for women who want a variety of designs with the versatility to transition from day to night, and Nsouli Jewelry, which combines exceptional gems with unique aesthetics to shape its timeless pieces. Luxury Italian brand FerrariFirenze, recognized for its meticulous craftsmanship, is also showcasing a collection of its new and best-selling creations.
The event saw a seminar on May 25 supported by Sotheby’s and the Saudi National Committee for Precious Metals and Gems. A second one, on watchmaking and collecting, is taking place on Thursday, May 26.
Misk Jewelry, which was established in Dubai in early 2020, also showcased its gems at the event, displaying “contemporary jewels reimagining traditional Emirati motifs…with each piece expertly handcrafted in the UAE,” according to founder and CEO Maher Khansaheb.
Khansaheb told Arab News: “After gaining exposure through our online store and excited clientele from our Gulf Cooperation Council market, we were eager to start venturing into markets outside the UAE, where we could provide our clients a physical presence. Saudi Arabia is one of our first international locations to do that.”
Khansaheb, who has 15 years of experience in jewelry designing, said that “clients from Saudi Arabia are particularly excited for the modern heritage-inspired designs of our collections, which give them a pop of their favorite colors through the gemstones that complement each piece.
“Saudi clients choose Misk for the quality of the items they would like to purchase and keep with them to treasure for years,” he added.
Abeer Al-Saeed, executive director of Dalal Jewelry, is also displaying her jewelry in a small booth at the exhibition.
Dalal Jewelry is a Saudi brand whose establishment seeks to tell stories about Saudi heritage and culture in a modern, inspiring way that aims to “raise the value of the Saudi brand in the field of jewelry,” according to Al-Saeed.
 


Saudi Arabia approves uniform for taxi, transport app drivers

Saudi Arabia approves uniform for taxi, transport app drivers
Updated 26 May 2022

Saudi Arabia approves uniform for taxi, transport app drivers

Saudi Arabia approves uniform for taxi, transport app drivers
  • From July 12 the uniform is a requirement in accordance with the provisions of the regulations governing the activity of taxi and taxi intermediaries
  • The TGA called on those interested in its services to visit its website, tga.gov.sa, to view the details of the approved uniform

RIYADH: The Saudi Transport General Authority has revealed a uniform for public transport, airport taxi and private hire taxi drivers, as well as drivers of passenger transport applications.

From July 12 the uniform will be mandatory for drivers in these roles.

The uniform is a requirement in accordance with the provisions of the regulations governing the activity of taxi and taxi intermediaries.

Uniforms will contribute to strengthening development efforts and will raise the quality of services in transport activities, the TGA said.

It added that the decision came as part of updates and improvements to taxi transport and passenger transport applications, including changes to the technical specifications of taxis.

The TGA has also rolled out electronic payment systems for taxi customers.

The authority affirmed its keenness to serve beneficiaries and strive to achieve the highest standards of quality in transport services throughout Saudi Arabia’s regions.

It called on those interested in its services to visit its website, tga.gov.sa, to view the details of the approved uniform. The public can also call the unified number 19929 to obtain further information.


Youth take center stage at MISK pavilion at WEF

Youth take center stage at MISK pavilion at WEF
Updated 26 May 2022

Youth take center stage at MISK pavilion at WEF

Youth take center stage at MISK pavilion at WEF
  • “Youth Majlis” hosted discussion panels involving Saudi ministers, global policymakers and youth leaders
  • Pavilion hosted the inauguration of a Youth Council and the second edition of its Global Youth Index

DAVOS: Saudi youth took center stage at the World Economic Forum (WEF) this week at the Mohammed bin Salman Foundation (MISK) pavilion in Davos. 

The venue, titled the “Youth Majlis,” hosted several discussion panels involving Saudi ministers, global policymakers and youth leaders on how best to empower young people, not just in Saudi Arabia but globally, and how the younger generation can find solutions to global concerns of the future. 

Saudi Minister of Economy and Planning Faisal Al-Ibrahim at the MISK pavilion in Davos. (KSAMOFA)

During the week, the pavilion hosted the inauguration of a Youth Council, as well as the announcement of the second edition of its Global Youth Index (GYI), which was launched by MISK to discover how young people perceive opportunities in 30 countries and what they identify as the most important future opportunities for them. 

The GYI, first launched in 2018, compiles metrics on the factors, policies and institutions that drive youth development. 

Saudi Minister of Finance Mohammed Al-Jadaan at the MISK pavilion in Davos. (KSAMOFA)

The findings of the GYI’s second edition, which were showcased via a digital interactive display in the pavilion, pinpointed four key areas of improvement for the 30 countries surveyed, as well as the wider world as a whole.

It focused on the need for better national digital strategies, better industry-to-vocational training, better health support, especially surrounding mental health issues, and more efforts to tackle social inequality. 

Discussions are held at the MISK pavilion in Davos. (KSAMOFA)

For MISK CEO Dr. Badr Al-Badr, capturing the voice and sentiments of the youth at an event such as the WEF was important. 

“As one of the few youth-focused platforms at Davos, the Youth Majlis highlighted a crucial perspective at the annual meeting,” he said. 

The MISK pavilion in Davos. (Supplied)

“By convening thought leaders and speakers from a variety of sectors and industries, the sessions held constructive dialogues aimed at driving youth-focused solutions to the greatest challenges facing us today. 

“The second Global Youth Index was launched at the Youth Majlis with a unique digital activation, showcasing the G20 countries and 10 more.” 

He added: “The data and sentiment gathered by the GYI report offers a unique set of insights for policymakers and officials and demonstrates how young people feel about the issues that matter most to them.” 

Saudi Minister of Energy Khalid Al-Falih at the MISK pavilion in Davos. (Supplied)

Saudi government officials, including Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan and Minister of Economy and Planning Faisal Al-Ibrahim visited the pavilion, with the latter telling a discussion panel that he would be sharing the results of the GYI with ministries across the Saudi government. 

Much like its Saudi Tourism Authority counterpart, the MISK pavilion also sought to showcase elements of Saudi culture to business and political figures and policymakers attending the WEF, as well highlighting the progress in the Kingdom under its Vision 2030 reform plans. 

Saudi Minister of Finance Mohammed Al-Jadaan at the MISK pavilion in Davos. (Supplied)

“I think it’s very interesting to see how important youth development is to a country like Saudi Arabia, which is, perhaps, perceived as a more traditional society,” said Manuel Pedreira, a Brazilian financial consultant who visited the pavilion. 

Another attendee, Laryssa Tsarnovska from Ukraine, said that despite the conflict in her own country, the GYI findings gave her hope that the world’s youth can play a role in shaping future development. 

“We definitely need to see youth more engaged in decision-making, what is happening in my country shows what can happen if populations are complacent, so I welcome the findings in this report,” she said.


Human Rights Commission chief and New Zealand Foreign Ministry official hold talks in Riyadh

Human Rights Commission chief and New Zealand Foreign Ministry official hold talks in Riyadh
Updated 26 May 2022

Human Rights Commission chief and New Zealand Foreign Ministry official hold talks in Riyadh

Human Rights Commission chief and New Zealand Foreign Ministry official hold talks in Riyadh

RIYADH: Awwad Al-Awwad, president of the Saudi Human Rights Commission, met Jonathan Kerr, the director-general of the Middle East and Africa Department at the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, in Riyadh on Wednesday to discuss a number of issues relating to human rights and the development of bilateral cooperation.

Also present at the meeting was Barney Riley, New Zealand’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia.