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)
1 / 5
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
2 / 5
(AN photos by Huda Bashatah)
Saudi Arabia’s Ithra Islamic Art Conference examines history of mosques
3 / 5
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
4 / 5
(AN photos by Huda Bashatah)
Saudi Arabia’s Ithra Islamic Art Conference examines history of mosques
5 / 5
(AN photos by Huda Bashatah)
Short Url
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.

FASTFACT

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 and Egyptian armed forces conclude joint exercise

The Royal Saudi Land Forces conclude the Tabuk 5 joint exercise with the Egyptian Armed Forces in the northwestern region. (SPA)
The Royal Saudi Land Forces conclude the Tabuk 5 joint exercise with the Egyptian Armed Forces in the northwestern region. (SPA)
Updated 21 January 2022

Saudi and Egyptian armed forces conclude joint exercise

The Royal Saudi Land Forces conclude the Tabuk 5 joint exercise with the Egyptian Armed Forces in the northwestern region. (SPA)

RIYADH: The Royal Saudi Land Forces and the Egyptian Armed Forces concluded a joint exercise in the Kingdom’s northwestern region, the defense ministry said on Thursday.
The Tabuk-5 maneuvers, which began on Jan. 6, were concluded in the presence of the commander of the northwestern region, Maj. Gen. Hussain bin Saeed Al-Qahtani, and a number of senior officers of the RSLF and the Egyptian armed forces.
The exercises concluded with participating forces carrying out a number of combat scenarios, which they were trained on during the exercise.
Special forces carried out parachute landings and free-jumping using helicopters to clear and storm the fortified sites. The armored divisions carried out support operations using live ammunition for light and heavy weapons.
Maj. Gen. Khalid bin Mohammed Al-Khashrami, director of the exercises, said the drill was one of the most important, due to the diversity and nature of the participating forces.
He emphasized its benefits to both forces in refining their combat skills and raising their readiness, while praising the high proficiency of all the operations assigned to them during the exercise.
The Tabuk-5 exercise aimed to unify military approaches and exchange training expertise between the armed forces of both countries.


KSrelief continues aid projects in Yemen, Sudan

KSrelief continues aid projects in Yemen, Sudan
Updated 21 January 2022

KSrelief continues aid projects in Yemen, Sudan

KSrelief continues aid projects in Yemen, Sudan
  • KSrelief has implemented 1,814 projects worth more than $5.5 billion in 77 countries

TAIZ: The mobile nutrition clinics of the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center in Al-Khawkhah district, Yemen, have continued to provide treatment services.

In one week, the clinics received 6,978 patients with various health conditions in different clinics and departments and provided them with necessary medical services. The clinics also provided 2,614 individuals with various medications.

The center distributed more than 42 tons of food baskets in Al-Shamaitain district of Taiz governorate, benefiting 1,723 people.

Yemen is among the top beneficiaries of KSrelief assistance. In total, the center has implemented 644 projects in Yemen at a cost of $3.9 billion.

Meanwhile, KSrelief has continued distributing food and shelter aid to those affected by the floods and the neediest families in Sudan. The center distributed more than 28 tons of food baskets in Sennar state, benefiting 5,700 people.

Worldwide, KSrelief has implemented 1,814 projects worth more than $5.5 billion in 77 countries, carried out in cooperation with 144 local, regional and international partners since the inception of the center in May 2015.


Saudi decision to resume in-class education praised

Saudi decision to resume in-class education praised
Updated 21 January 2022

Saudi decision to resume in-class education praised

Saudi decision to resume in-class education praised
  • The ministry said that elementary and kindergarten students in all the regions of the Kingdom would begin returning to school from Sunday

RIYADH: UNICEF has praised Saudi Arabia’s decision to reopen its schools for kindergarten and elementary students.

Jumana Haj Ahmad, the agency’s deputy representative for the Gulf area, said it was an important step, adding that during the COVID-19 pandemic schools should be the last to close and first to reopen.

Ahmad’s remarks came during a visit to the Kingdom’s Satellite Broadcasting School, where Education Ministry’s Undersecretary for Public Education Mohammed bin Saud Al-Migbel gave a briefing on how lessons delivered by the facility were recorded and supervised. He also gave a presentation on the Madrasati and Rawdati platforms.

Ahmad said that Saudi Arabia’s provision of online education through the two platforms and the EIN channels was worldleading. She also noted the Ministry of Education’s efforts to ensure children’s psychological and social growth, and programs to protect them from abuse.

The ministry said that elementary and kindergarten students in all the regions of the Kingdom would begin returning to school from Sunday.

Schools in remote areas would be the first to open as there were fewer coronavirus cases there, it said.


Mangroves: Saudi efforts to protect nature’s guardians of the ecosystem

Mangroves: Saudi efforts to protect nature’s guardians of the ecosystem
Updated 21 January 2022

Mangroves: Saudi efforts to protect nature’s guardians of the ecosystem

Mangroves: Saudi efforts to protect nature’s guardians of the ecosystem
  • Authorities plan to plant 10 billion mangrove trees across the Kingdom as part of the Saudi Green Initiative

JEDDAH: As part of the Saudi Green Initiative, which was launched last year with the aim of tackling climate change, reducing carbon emissions and improving the environment, 10 billion mangrove trees will be planted across the Kingdom.

Mangroves, ancient coastal plants that grow partly submerged in salt water and thrive in warmer climates around the world, are considered a cornerstone of coastal environmental development and so have a key role to play in achieving the objectives of the initiative.

Ahmed Almansi, a coastal and marine environment consultant at the National Center for Vegetation Cover and Combating Desertification, told Arab News that mangroves grow along the coasts of the Red Sea and the Arabian Gulf.

“This provides an impetus for the center to cultivate more mangroves in these environments,” he added.

According to the center, two types of mangroves commonly grow on the Red Sea coast: Avicennia marina, commonly known as gray or white mangrove, and Rhizophora mucronata, also known as loop-root, red or Asiatic mangrove. They are highly sensitive to cold. 

“Mangroves grow in the form of scattered patches in the intertidal areas of the Red Sea coast and are lower in height in the northern regions,” the center said. “The reason for these differences in height may be the low temperatures that the bushes are exposed to in the northern part of the Red Sea in winter.”

The avicennia marina type of mangroves that grow in the Asir and Jazan regions are the largest found on the Saudi coast, the center said, and “the coastal areas and patches of the Red Sea that contain mangroves in the Kingdom cover an estimated area of about 35,500 hectares.”

There are a number of reasons why mangroves are considered so important to environmental and conservation efforts. They have the ability to absorb pollutants such as heavy metals and other toxic substances from water, which helps to protect seagrass and coral reefs.

FASTFACT

• The trees can protect coastal communities, provide shelter for wildlife, absorb pollution and help to combat climate change.

They also act as natural filters for sewage, preventing pollutants originating on land from reaching deep waters. And the trees help to mitigate the effects of climate change as they can absorb larger amounts of carbon from the atmosphere compared with other tropical trees.

Mangroves also form “green barriers” that serve as a first line of defense for coastal communities, protecting them from damage caused by storms and waves, preventing erosion and helping to stabilize beaches.

“These green barriers absorb at least 70 to 90 percent of wave energy generated by the winds,” said Almansi. “They are also able to reduce the intensity of tsunami waves by mitigating the catastrophic amount of wave energy associated with them, which helps reduce the loss of life and property damage.”

In addition, mangroves act as shelters and incubators for many species of fish, crustaceans and birds, providing them with a good source of nutrition. They provide nesting and resting locations for many types of resident and migratory birds, strong communities of which are considered a biological indicator of ecosystem quality. The National Center for Vegetation Cover and Combating Desertification has identified 125 species that use mangrove habitats at some point in their life cycles.

Land-based animals also benefit from mangrove swamps. They provide pastures for camels on islands in the Red Sea, and provide high-quality nutrition for camels in coastal locations during the winter.

Despite their clear environmental benefits, mangroves are under threat globally from urbanization, encroachment, overgrazing, pollution, the use of fertilizers and pesticides, and the improper disposal of waste. The development of the tourism industry is another significant threat. But efforts are being made in Saudi Arabia to preserve and enhance this precious natural resource.

“The center is planting mangroves to rehabilitate these environments, using 60 cm long seedlings,” Almansi said, adding that nylon nets are used temporarily to protect the young plants, prevent seaweed and waves from damaging them, and encourage strong root growth and stability.


Fun concludes at four of Riyadh Season’s zones

Fun concludes at four of Riyadh Season’s zones
Updated 21 January 2022

Fun concludes at four of Riyadh Season’s zones

Fun concludes at four of Riyadh Season’s zones
  • The zones — Combat Field, AlSalam Tree, Riyadh Safari and the Old Village — offered a wide range of memorable experiences

JEDDAH: Four zones that have entertained thousands of people from all around the world during Riyadh Season recently concluded their programs of events and activities.

The zones — Combat Field, AlSalam Tree, Riyadh Safari and the Old Village — offered a wide range of memorable experiences.

Events at Combat Field concluded on Jan. 16. It hosted 22 activities, including a thrilling zombie hotel war game, a drone zone and simulated battles. It also featured a museum showcasing a variety of weapons from throughout history.

Riyadh Safari offered something to suit all age groups and proved a particular favorite with the crowds, especially families.

It gave visitors the chance to experience nature up close and personal, including 250 different types of rare birds, wildcats and gazelles in natural habitats.

“I went to the Riyadh Safari about five times with my husband and two daughters,” said Asma Khalid, who added that it is the attraction she will miss it the most.

“My daughters love animals but it depressed me to take them to a zoo as the animals are caged. This safari allowed my children to see animals the way they should be and that is very important to me.”

Events and activities at Al-Salam Tree included stage shows, live music, a farmer’s market, an artificial flower garden, an aviary containing rare and colorful parrots, live cookery shows and shopping booths.

For the more active visitors there was a thrilling zipline activity and bungee trampolines, while those looking for a more relaxing time could enjoy the area’s lush greenery and lake.

“Al-Salam Tree had become a place where I would go to read,” said Hafsa Ayub, a university student. “I would find a quiet a tree and just sit there, especially since the weather has been cold.”

The Old Village, or Qariat Zaman, mixed history with entertainment.

It showcased Arab culture, art and heritage from different eras, including regional classics from the 1960s to 1990s.

The Intel Al-Tayyib theater presented 176 performances by folkloric bands and performers. A variety of live shows were staged each day, including traditional musical performances and Arabic game shows for children.

The zone was like a doorway to the past, giving older generations of Saudis a chance to recall and relive memories of their youth.

While the four zones have now concluded their programs of events for the season, the fun continues until March in other zones.

“I am not too sad to see these places go because a lot of other places are still open, so I am not really out of places to go,” said Omar Uthman, who lives in the capital.