Eye in the sky finds ancient Saudi village beneath the sands

Al-Oshairah, which is located in the valley of Yanbu, is one of the main destinations used by pilgrims while heading to Makkah. The team has so far documented more than 12,000 aerial images. (Supplied)
Al-Oshairah, which is located in the valley of Yanbu, is one of the main destinations used by pilgrims while heading to Makkah. The team has so far documented more than 12,000 aerial images. (Supplied)
Short Url
Updated 02 January 2022

Eye in the sky finds ancient Saudi village beneath the sands

Al-Oshairah, which is located in the valley of Yanbu, is one of the main destinations used by pilgrims while heading to Makkah. The team has so far documented more than 12,000 aerial images. (Supplied)
  • Approach, efforts to preserve Saudi Arabia’s archeological and historical landmarks have earned Erth Aerial Photography Team 1st prize in National Cultural Awards
  • Al-Oshairah in the Yanbu valley is believed to be where the first battle of Islam took place

JEDDAH: A village dating from the early days of Islam has been found in Yanbu by a team of Saudi enthusiasts who are documenting the Kingdom in an innovative way.

The head of the project, Abdulaziz Al-Dakheel, who is the founder of Erth Aerial Photography Team, told Arab News that the team surveyed vast stretches of the region by remote sensing and helicopter in search of Al-Oshairah. “After recording its presence from the air, the team then found the settlement that was lying under the sands,” he said.
Al-Oshairah is thought to be the place where the first battle of Islam took place and where the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be Upon Him) and his companions stayed for more than a month.
The Erth Aerial Photography Team, which was founded in 2015, is a nonprofit national documentary initiative that is documenting Saudi Arabia from the sky. It is made up of 13 members with different skills — photographers, pilots, guides, historians, and others — who want to document various topographical and geographical areas of the Kingdom using a powered parachute aircraft and other technology.  
When the Erth team began searching for Al-Oshairah, they followed the research of Abdul Ullah Al-Aiashi, a historian on the team, which suggested a different location from the one that has become generally accepted.
After gathering all details, the team used satellite images and aerial photographs to search in different locations in the region.

Some are significant to Islam while others hail from the pre-Islamic period, such as Mada’in Saleh, the 2,000-year-old area of AlUla and natural landscapes of the Western region, including volcanoes and wells.

Abdulaziz Al-Dakheel, Founder of Erth Aerial Photography Team

“After 75 minutes of flying, the team was able to discover a destroyed village that is believed to be Al-Oshirah, mentioned in the Sunnah of the noble Prophet’s biography.”
“Our team is comprises of individuals who contribute to the missions by providing every detail needed. Abdul Ullah Al-Aiashi led us to the location of Al-Oshairah, which is located in the valley of Yanbu. It is one of the main destinations used by pilgrims while heading to Makkah,” Al- Dakheel said.
“You can’t find the site of the battle or recognize the village it took place in, but we were able to distinguish some pillar structures of the ancient village from a bird’s eye view.”
The Erth Aerial Photography Team will leave the study of the site and the validity of its claim for the site of the battleground to the competent authorities.




In their documenting missions, the team uses a two-seater powered parachute and a two-seater gyroplane.

Al-Dakheel said that every day they find new archaeological sites, hidden or lost monuments that are often of great interest.
“We document different historical civilizations in the Kingdom, mainly in the western region, such as castles and tombs. We also document the religious and historical landmarks of the Arabian Peninsula. Some are significant to Islam while others hail from the pre-Islamic period, such as Mada’in Saleh, the 2,000-year-old area of AlUla and natural landscapes of the western region, including volcanoes and wells.”
He revealed that last month the team discovered the ancient city of Al-Juhfa, which is located on the left bank of Wadi Al-Ghaidah, east of the city of Rabigh in the Makkah region. It lies about 5 km north of the Miqat Al-Juhfa on a rocky ridge. “It thrived hundreds of years ago, but the sand flooded it, leaving only a part of a single building.”
“The remains are of a fortress called Alia Palace, whose architectural style dates back to the Abbasid era and is still covered with sand, with many pieces of pottery and glass scattered around the site.”
Al-Dakheel explained that the team has overcome so many obstacles but will continue against all the odds: “It is a long process of trial and error. It is worth it, as images of such historical landmarks speak a thousand words and go a long way in preserving the history of Saudi Arabia.”
In their documenting missions, the team uses a two-seater powered parachute and a two-seater gyroplane.
Their innovative approach and their efforts to preserve Saudi Arabia’s archeological and historical landmarks have earned the Erth Aerial Photography Team first prize in the National Cultural Awards.
“It’s our duty as passionate explorers to document and show the beauty that our country has. For us it is not a business, we enjoy what we do from the air and we aim to make people aware of all these landmarks,” Al-Dakheel said.
The team have so far documented more than 12,000 aerial images in 50 different locations.


Saudi Arabia records further drop in daily COVID-19 infections

Saudi police check pilgrims for vaccination details on their smartphone, after Saudi authorities announced the easing of coronavirus restrictions, at the Grand Mosque in Makkah. (Reuters/File Photo)
Saudi police check pilgrims for vaccination details on their smartphone, after Saudi authorities announced the easing of coronavirus restrictions, at the Grand Mosque in Makkah. (Reuters/File Photo)
Updated 22 January 2022

Saudi Arabia records further drop in daily COVID-19 infections

Saudi police check pilgrims for vaccination details on their smartphone, after Saudi authorities announced the easing of coronavirus restrictions, at the Grand Mosque in Makkah. (Reuters/File Photo)
  • A total of 8,918 people have now died from the virus in the Kingdom so far

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia announced another two deaths from COVID-19 and 4,608 new infections on Saturday.

Numbers of confirmed cases have started to drop over the past week, after a sharp increase earlier in January, and it was the second consecutive day with a decrease in cases; with 276 fewer recorded than on Friday.

The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom increased to 594,762 after 4,622 more patients recovered from the virus.

A total of 8,918 people have now died from the virus in the Kingdom so far.

The Saudi health ministry is continuing with the Kingdom's vaccination plan, and more than 55 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine have been administered in the Kingdom to date.

Saudi Arabia recently updated its COVID-19 restrictions, announcing new fines of SR1,000 ($266) for those who flout social distancing rules, and SR100,000 ($266,000) for repeat offenders.

Social distancing is required at Makkah’s Grand Mosque and other public places, while masks are also required in public places, indoors and outdoors.

On Tuesday, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the World Health Organization chief said that the pandemic was “nowhere near over,” and urged against a narrative that the fast-spreading omicron variant was risk-free.


Saudi Arabia and Sweden explore investment opportunities at Expo 2020 event

 Investment opportunities in Saudi Arabia and Sweden were in the spotlight during a two-day Saudi-Sweden event at Expo 2020 Dubai. (Supplied)
Investment opportunities in Saudi Arabia and Sweden were in the spotlight during a two-day Saudi-Sweden event at Expo 2020 Dubai. (Supplied)
Updated 22 January 2022

Saudi Arabia and Sweden explore investment opportunities at Expo 2020 event

 Investment opportunities in Saudi Arabia and Sweden were in the spotlight during a two-day Saudi-Sweden event at Expo 2020 Dubai. (Supplied)
  • The event was organized in collaboration with the Saudi Ministry of Investment (MISA), Invest Saudi, the Embassy of Sweden, and Business Sweden

LONDON: Investment opportunities in Saudi Arabia and Sweden were in the spotlight during a two-day Saudi-Sweden event at Expo 2020 Dubai this week. 

A series of panel discussions explored how to boost trade relations between the two countries on Jan. 16-17 at the two countries’ pavilions as part of the Expo.

The event was organized in collaboration with the Saudi Ministry of Investment (MISA), Invest Saudi, the Embassy of Sweden, and Business Sweden.

The first day, hosted at the Sweden Pavilion, included opening remarks by Niclas Trouvé, ambassador of Sweden to Saudi Arabia; Hussain Hanbazazah, commissioner general of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia pavilion; and Jan Thesleff, Commissioner General of the Swedish Pavilion.

Hanbazazah highlighted how Swedish companies have operated in the Kingdom for more than 70 years, noting that Saudi Arabia is Sweden’s largest economic partner in the Middle East and No. 1 trade partner among the Scandinavian countries, with the volume of trade exchange in the past five years reaching more than US$6 billion.

“As a continuation to our historical relationship, we are inspired by the efforts made by our leaders towards advancing bilateral relations between our two countries, resulting in the recent establishment of the Saudi-Swedish Business Council in Stockholm, exchanging expertise and knowledge, and setting plans and programs to seize investment opportunities and turn them into tangible partnerships,” he said.

“Saudi Arabia welcomes and invites Swedish companies to invest in our country and to take advantage of the opportunities and initiatives of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, especially in sustainability, smart cities, manufacturing industries and areas such as e-commerce and information technology.”

Swedish ambassador Trouvé, Ambassador of Sweden to Saudi Arabia, said talks over the two-day event were mainly about “progressive performance.”

He continued: “Saudi Arabia and Sweden have a fantastic journey ahead, to protect people and the planet through sustainable and green solutions. We have to do this together through strengthening partnerships between governments and the private sector in order to move forward together.”

The two-day event concluded with a cultural performance, and guests were invited to attend another key event on Feb. 7, when the Saudi Pavilion will be partnering with MISA and Invest Saudi to host a full-day business forum at the Dubai Exhibition Center where sectorial investment opportunities in Saudi Arabia will be discussed.


Saudi elementary, kindergarten students excited about return to school

For the first few weeks after schools reopen the program will in particular focus on psychological efforts to help students get back into the school routine. (Supplied)
For the first few weeks after schools reopen the program will in particular focus on psychological efforts to help students get back into the school routine. (Supplied)
Updated 22 January 2022

Saudi elementary, kindergarten students excited about return to school

For the first few weeks after schools reopen the program will in particular focus on psychological efforts to help students get back into the school routine. (Supplied)
  • Psychological preparation and support important for the children as it will help them resume their studies and interactions with their peers, says mother-of-two

JEDDAH: As teachers and education authorities prepare for the long-awaited return of younger children to school classrooms on Sunday, so too are the students and their parents.

The Saudi Ministry of Education announced last week that elementary schools and kindergartens will reopen on Jan. 23, almost two years after they closed as a health precaution to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The resumption of in-person teaching for the under-12s had been postponed from October last year.
“It’s a decision we must face one day and my children are excited to return to school and it is better for them,” Ala’a Alama, mother of two, told Arab News.
Schools in Saudi Arabia closed classrooms and switched to online learning soon after the pandemic began in early 2020. More than 5 million students across the Kingdom used specially developed distance-learning platforms called Madrasati and Rawdati.  Jumana Haj Ahmad, UNICEF’s deputy representative for the Gulf region, said that Saudi authorities had played a world-leading role in the provision of online education.
In preparation for the long-awaited return of students, senior school officials across the Kingdom have implemented a program to prepare pupils, parents and teachers for a safe resumption of classes.

HIGHLIGHTS

• In preparation for the long-awaited return of students, senior school officials across the Kingdom have implemented a program to prepare pupils, parents and teachers for a safe resumption of classes.

• It focus on four key areas: Reassuring students and parents about the return to school and face-to-face learning; reminding them of the importance of adhering to safety protocols while in school; providing parents with a platform through which they can ask questions and share concerns; and motivating students to study and participate in activities.

It focus on four key areas: Reassuring students and parents about the return to school and face-to-face learning; reminding them of the importance of adhering to safety protocols while in school; providing parents with a platform through which they can ask questions and share concerns; and motivating students to study and participate in activities.
For the first few weeks after schools reopen the program will in particular focus on psychological efforts to help students get back into the school routine. As part of the program, schools will offer art activities, children’s theater, cultural and entertainment workshops, take photos and shoot videos as students return, and distribute gifts.
Alama said that psychological preparation and support is important for the children as it will help them to resume their studies and interactions with their peers.
Schools will also provide 22 cultural, sports and awareness activities to give students plenty of opportunities to get physically active again after a hiatus of almost two years.
Meanwhile, the online education facilities will remain available for children with serious health conditions that prevent them from returning to the classroom.
Educators in charge of kindergartens and elementary schools across the Kingdom will follow safety guidelines from the Saudi Public Health Authority: Morning assemblies will remain suspended; sports activities must be conducted in spacious, well-ventilated locations; organized entry and departure from school will be organized; and social-distancing measures must be followed in classrooms.
Alama said her children, who are 7 and 10 years old, are aware of all the precautionary measures they need to follow.
“During the pandemic, they learned the importance of washing their hands, maintaining social distancing, and using masks, sanitizers and disinfecting wipes, which are all kept in a kit prepared for them to take to school,” she said.
UNICEF’s Ahmad this week praised the decision by Saudi authorities to resume in-person teaching for children under the age of 12. Older children have already returned to classrooms.
Ahmad said it is an important step and added that during a pandemic, schools should be the last places to close and first to reopen.
 In addition,  Saudi Arabia’s provision of online education through its two platforms and TV and video channels was world-leading. She also praised the Ministry of Education’s efforts to ensure children’s successful psychological and social growth, and programs designed to protect them from abuse.


Interactive screens guide visitors at Makkah’s Grand Mosque

It aims to facilitate access to ritual sites as well as key locations, including the Mataf. (SPA)
It aims to facilitate access to ritual sites as well as key locations, including the Mataf. (SPA)
Updated 22 January 2022

Interactive screens guide visitors at Makkah’s Grand Mosque

It aims to facilitate access to ritual sites as well as key locations, including the Mataf. (SPA)
  • The interactive screens display data in six major languages and provide a QR code

MAKKAH: As part of its plan to develop and upgrade the quality of the guidance system, the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques has launched a new service for worshippers, providing them with interactive screens that display the guidance map of the Grand Mosque and its facilities.
It aims to facilitate access to ritual sites as well as key locations, including the Mataf (the area for circumambulation around the Holy Kaaba) and Mas’a building, through providing direct movement paths from the location of the user to the destination.
The interactive screens also display data in six major languages and provide a QR code so that the routes can be viewed via personal devices. 


Experts praise new Saudi specialist anti-fraud units

 Legal and financial experts emphasized the importance of combating financial fraud crimes, which have serious criminal and economic ramifications on society. (Supplied)
Legal and financial experts emphasized the importance of combating financial fraud crimes, which have serious criminal and economic ramifications on society. (Supplied)
Updated 21 January 2022

Experts praise new Saudi specialist anti-fraud units

 Legal and financial experts emphasized the importance of combating financial fraud crimes, which have serious criminal and economic ramifications on society. (Supplied)
  • The new legislation defines all aspects of financial crimes in detail and sets out the maximum penalties while taking into account the rapid pace of technological advances

RIYADH: Legal and financial experts have supported the decision of the Saudi Attorney General Saud Al-Mojeb to create new specialized units for investigating financial fraud.
Zahra Al-Nasser, an assistant professor in the department of finance and banking at Dar Al-Uloom University, told Arab News that the move to form new specialized units to investigate financial fraud will significantly enhance business sector governance and protect against the degradation of the pillars of economic prosperity.
“The best example is the collapse of the Saudi financial market in 2006. The market lost more than SR1 trillion ($266 billion), which is still fresh in the minds of investors, affected investor confidence, and resulted in the loss of much of their wealth and savings. One of the reasons was the Saudi market’s weak legislation,” Al-Nasser said.

Legal advisor, Thamer Al-Enezi. (Supplied)

Thamer Al-Enezi, a legal adviser, told Arab News that financial fraud has become an international issue, deceiving some highly educated workers due to its professionalism.
Al-Enezi said it was necessary to have highly efficient specialists to deal with fraud.

The Public Prosecution stressed the importance of addressing all cases of financial fraud, particularly those that involve cross-border networks.
The new legislation defines all aspects of financial crimes in detail and sets out the maximum penalties while taking into account the rapid pace of technological advances.
The Public Prosecution added that the new units have specialists in financial fraud crimes who are members of the Public Prosecution Office and have received investigation training courses.
The courses include criminal patterns and methods, tracking perpetrators, and stolen funds.

The possible punishments for individuals convicted of committing financial crimes include up to seven years in prison and a maximum fine of SR5 million ($1.3 million).

Al-Enezi, who owns a law firm, added that some financial frauds use the corporate entity as a cover, affecting the corporate sector’s reliability.
Therefore, a package of preventive measures was taken by government agencies such as the Saudi Central Bank and other authorities such as the Public Prosecution to protect society from money fraud. These measures help adhere to high governance standards and maintain formidable cybersecurity levels.
Al-Enezi pointed out that some of these crimes have technical flaws that facilitate financial fraud detection.
The law for combating financial fraud stipulates that guilty parties will be imprisoned “for no more than seven years and fined no more than SR5 million.”
Al-Nasser said that companies are now expected to take bolder steps to fight fraud, such as updating frameworks and approaches, increasing commitment and compliance, enhancing precautions and using deeper audits.
She said that companies may incur additional costs as they update procedures because many of them fall into financial fraud due to “weak internal governance mechanisms.”
The assistant professor praised the new units and focus on financial fraud, which she said would improve investor confidence and contribute to “the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 goals through the Financial Sector Development Program, which aims to deepen the financial market, increase liquidity levels and improve transparency.”