Ancient rock drawings across Saudi Arabia gain increasing attention

 A drawing featuring a carved illustration of two women in the southern Saudi city of Najran — one adorned with jewelry and ornaments, and the other dancing next to a man carrying a spear on his waist — has raised many questions. (Supplied)
A drawing featuring a carved illustration of two women in the southern Saudi city of Najran — one adorned with jewelry and ornaments, and the other dancing next to a man carrying a spear on his waist — has raised many questions. (Supplied)
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Updated 08 January 2022

Ancient rock drawings across Saudi Arabia gain increasing attention

 A drawing featuring a carved illustration of two women in the southern Saudi city of Najran — one adorned with jewelry and ornaments, and the other dancing next to a man carrying a spear on his waist — has raised many questions. (Supplied)
  • Southwest part of Kingdom contains evidence from various periods, starting from Paleolithic age until Islamic times
  • Striking image dating back more than 4,000 years is still a source of mystery

MAKKAH: Rock drawings in Saudi Arabia — long considered crucial sources for the study of ancient civilizations in the Arabian Peninsula — are gaining increasing attention as more are found in unlikely locations across the Kingdom.

The drawings represent the first pillars of writing. Their study reflects the changes and developments in the Arabian Peninsula’s history and cultures, and how ancient humans dealt with the environment.
A drawing featuring a carved illustration of two women in the southern Saudi city of Najran — one adorned with jewelry and ornaments, and the other dancing next to a man carrying a spear on his waist — has raised many questions about the location, significance and period of its creation.
Salma Hawsawi, a professor of ancient history at King Saud University, told Arab News that the most ancient rock drawings in the Arabian Peninsula date back 7,000 years and are found mostly on ancient trade routes. “The rock drawing includes inscriptions written in the Thamudic script used firstly in the eighth century B.C. and the Ancient South Arabian script used firstly in writings in the middle of the second millennium B.C. In some archaeological studies in the ninth and eighth centuries B.C. and, most recently, in the sixth century A.D.,” she said.
Hawsawi said that “the use of two types of scripts on the drawing has several meanings, one of which suggests that ancient humans’ knowledge of several scripts reflects the interaction between communities since it has been known that the Thamudic script originated in the north of the Arabian Peninsula and expanded afterward to most of its regions, noting that the diversity of literature in the region is a testimony of the civilizational progression.”
The region was one of the most important stops for trade convoys heading from the south of the Arabian Peninsula to the north and vice versa, she added.
The drawing also features a man holding three spears, two in his right hand and one in his left, a dagger on his waist, and a pendant for ornamentation purposes or with other religious significances. The spears and dagger symbolize power, or preparations to fight a battle and confront an enemy.
According to Hawsawi, the human form in the rock drawing looks like the god “Kahl” of Al-Faw village, located in the center of the Arabian Peninsula, on a trade route from the south.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Salma Hawsawi, a professor of ancient history at King Saud University, said that the picture features a drawing of two characters who seem to be two women: The first one on the left is seated next to a spear or a musical instrument that looks like the rebab, with writings carved in all directions.

• The second woman is adorned with ornaments and jewels and has her hands raised, indicating dancing and body swaying. A hairstyle is also apparent in the drawing, suggesting the woman’s role in wars.

• The drawing also features a man holding three spears, two in his right hand and one in his left, a dagger on his waist, and a pendant for ornamentation purposes or with other religious significances. The spears and dagger symbolize power, or preparations to fight a battle and confront an enemy.

“Kahl,” referred to as the “moon,” is considered the first god in the ancient religious Arab ideology. It was linked to the commercial convoys for economic purposes, with offerings, vows and votive inscriptions. Al-Faw village was a transit city for many, with an intermingling of peoples. “A religious, social, economic, and cultural exchange resulted from this intermix,” she said.
Hawsawi said that the resemblance between both forms might indicate a type of sacred ritual. The repetition of the scene in terms of details of the weapons, music instruments, and general form of the character in many rock drawings gives the impression that it is a war dance. She explained that the picture features a drawing of two characters who seem to be two women: The first one on the left is seated next to a spear or a musical instrument that looks like the rebab, with writings carved in all directions.
The second woman is adorned with ornaments and jewels and has her hands raised, indicating dancing and body swaying. A hairstyle is also apparent in the drawing, suggesting the woman’s role in wars. Overall, the artistic drawing shows the social, religious and cultural state of an ancient civilization in Saudi Arabia, with evidence of different scripts throughout the image, she added.
“Despite their different interpretations, they represent the history and civilization of human beings who lived in the southwest of the Arabian Peninsula.”
Hawsawi said that the southwest region of the Kingdom is considered one of the most ancient human settlements, with archaeological evidence from various historical periods, starting from the Paleolithic age until Islamic times.
Inscriptions and rock drawings in the region offer information on clothing, ornamentation tools, weapons, stone fireplaces, rectangular and conical constructions, and basins. Drawings also show camels, cows, ibex, geese and wild animals, such as lions and wolves. Images also feature battles with knights using spears and hunting scenes. Larger-than-life drawings of humans show some wearing headscarves, with images of men with beards and pendants around their necks.
Saleh Al-Mureeh, a historical researcher, told Arab News that Najran is rich in archaeological and historic sites, making it a unique touristic model locally, regionally and globally.
“The ruins date back 4,000 years and, therefore, it is qualified to be a touristic and archaeological shrine by excellence.”
He said that the “two women drawing” is located in Sadr Al-Nakha in the governorate of Yadma in Najran, adding that the archaeological image has been subject to study, research and controversy for years.
“Some say they are reaching for the sky, while others say that these are a celebration and war dances. It gained a lot of attention from researchers, and it is located on the highest mountain. The Antiquities and Museum Commission discovered it and was shot by a professional Mexican photographer affiliated with the antiquities commission. The picture was publicly published in around 1997,” he said.
Al-Mureeh said that Najran is the home of civilizations and cultures stretching back thousands of years.
Archaeological sites were protected and fenced to avoid damage, while media campaigns have helped to raise residents’ awareness of the importance of these treasures and the need to preserve them as part of the historical identity of the region.


Saudi and British ministers discuss developing cooperation

Saudi Deputy Foreign Minister Waleed Al-Khuraiji holds talks with UK Minister of State for the Middle East and North Africa James Cleverly. (SPA)
Saudi Deputy Foreign Minister Waleed Al-Khuraiji holds talks with UK Minister of State for the Middle East and North Africa James Cleverly. (SPA)
Updated 28 January 2022

Saudi and British ministers discuss developing cooperation

Saudi Deputy Foreign Minister Waleed Al-Khuraiji holds talks with UK Minister of State for the Middle East and North Africa James Cleverly. (SPA)

LONDON: Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Waleed Al-Khuraiji held talks with British Minister of State for the Middle East and North Africa James Cleverly, via video conference.
During the meeting, they reviewed aspects of cooperation between the two kingdoms and ways to enhance and develop them in all fields, in addition to discussing regional and international developments and the importance of strengthening joint coordination.
Cleverly also held a phone call with the Saudi ambassador to Yemen, Mohammed Al-Jaber, to discuss developments in the Yemeni crisis and the efforts made to establish security and peace in Yemen, and the region in general.
The call comes a day after Cleverly and Al-Jaber met in person on the sidelines of a UK-hosted conference on Yemen, with senior representatives from the UAE, Oman, the US and the UN.

 


137,000 Saudis benefit from tourism sector human capital development initiative

Ministry of Tourism celebrates training 137,000 Saudi men and women as part of the tourism human capital development program during 2021. (Ministry of Tourism)
Ministry of Tourism celebrates training 137,000 Saudi men and women as part of the tourism human capital development program during 2021. (Ministry of Tourism)
Updated 28 January 2022

137,000 Saudis benefit from tourism sector human capital development initiative

Ministry of Tourism celebrates training 137,000 Saudi men and women as part of the tourism human capital development program during 2021. (Ministry of Tourism)
  • The initiative helped 2,614 Saudis to gain professional qualifications and enhance their leadership skills
  • The Ministry of Tourism will launch more quality training and education programs this year

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Tourism hosted an event on Wednesday to celebrate its Your Future is Tourism education and training initiative, as part of its human capital development strategy for the tourism sector.
The participants included leaders from the public and private sectors, along with some of the initiative’s beneficiaries, who shared their stories to help motivate and inspire the young people who will be the future leaders of the sector in the Kingdom.
The initiative, launched by the ministry last year, has so far benefited about 137,000 employees and job seekers, and helped 2,614 Saudis to gain professional qualifications and enhance their leadership skills. About 226,000 people have registered with the digital educational platform since launch.
“We have a strategic goal in the Ministry of Tourism, which is to attract the largest number of Saudi men and women to work in the tourism sector and qualify them in the best possible way,” said Minister of Tourism Ahmed Al-Khateeb.
“Yesterday, we celebrated the success of the Your Future is Tourism initiative in 2021, and about 137,000 Saudis benefited from it, but the future will be much better and more beautiful,” he added in a message posted on Twitter on Thursday.

Mohammed Bushnag, the deputy minister for human capital at the Ministry of Tourism, said that the ministry is working to develop the capabilities of local human capital in the sector, and that investing in future generations contributes to the development of competency and diverse skills within the tourism industry, which is a major provider of jobs worldwide. He also stressed the importance of motivating employees and job seekers to take advantage of the quality training and education programs that the ministry will launch this year.
The Saudi cabinet recently approved plans for establishing a global tourism academy, in cooperation with the World Tourism Organization, that will provide professional academic programs that support those working in the local and international tourism sectors, and develop national competencies to compete globally.


Saudi, Italian officials discuss cultural ties

Saudi, Italian officials discuss cultural ties
Updated 28 January 2022

Saudi, Italian officials discuss cultural ties

Saudi, Italian officials discuss cultural ties

RIYADH: Saudi Heritage Commission CEO Dr. Jasser Al-Harbash on Thursday met Italian Cultural Attache in Saudi Arabia Tommaso Claudi in Riyadh.

Al-Harbash praised the ongoing cultural cooperation between the Kingdom and Italy, and reviewed with Claudi the results of the Italian mission’s archaeological excavations in the Kingdom.

They discussed areas of heritage cooperation and ways to enhance them, and touched on scientific archaeological teams and their pivotal role in archaeological discoveries in the Kingdom. 


How a culture of recycling can reduce waste generation in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia produces around 15 million tons of garbage every year, with 95 percent ending up in landfill, and just 5 percent of total waste recycled. (Shutterstock)
Saudi Arabia produces around 15 million tons of garbage every year, with 95 percent ending up in landfill, and just 5 percent of total waste recycled. (Shutterstock)
Updated 47 min 38 sec ago

How a culture of recycling can reduce waste generation in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia produces around 15 million tons of garbage every year, with 95 percent ending up in landfill, and just 5 percent of total waste recycled. (Shutterstock)
  • Culture of consumerism in GCC countries has created mountains of trash, most of the content of which is nonbiodegradable
  • “Circular economy” opens up huge opportunities for Saudis to reduce, reuse and recycle the waste they generate

JEDDAH: As is the case in many other parts of the world, a combination of population growth, urbanization and economic expansion has not only increased personal consumption across the Middle East but is also generating colossal amounts of waste.

Five Gulf Cooperation Council countries — Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar and Kuwait — rank in the top 10 worldwide in terms of per capita generation of solid waste.

Thanks to their oil wealth, consumer spending in these countries has grown over recent decades to become a key driver of domestic economies. But as in many advanced countries, a culture of consumerism has created mountains of trash, most of the content of which is nonbiodegradable and extremely harmful to the environment.

Saudi Arabia alone produces about 15 million tons of garbage a year, 95 percent of which ends up as landfill, polluting the soil and releasing greenhouse gases, including methane, into the atmosphere for decades.

What is not buried often ends up as litter on city streets, in the form of discarded polythene bags, fast-food containers, plastic bottles and empty soda cans.

Between the start of 2020 and the first half of 2021, Saudi Arabia recycled only 5 percent of its total waste, including plastic, metal and paper.

To reduce waste generation, protect fragile ecosystems and make the most of reusable materials, Saudi Arabia can rely on the “circular economy” concept, a closed-loop system that involves the 3-R approach: Reduce, reuse and recycle.

The leading agent of change in this effort is the Saudi Investment Recycling Company, which was established in 2017 as a wholly owned subsidiary of the Public Investment Fund.

FASTFACTS

* Plastic takes more than 400 years to degrade.

* Only 12 percent of plastic is incinerated worldwide.

SIRC seeks to divert 85 percent of hazardous industrial waste, 100 percent of solid waste, and 60 percent of construction and demolition waste away from landfills by 2035. The only types of waste not covered by its remit is that created by the military and nuclear energy, both of which are handled by specialist organizations.

The circular economy model opens up huge opportunities, whether in terms of products, energy creation or services, which can make a major contribution to the diversification of the Saudi economy away from oil and its derivatives, in line with the aims of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reforms strategy.

Saudi Arabia aims to invest almost SR24 billion ($6.4 billion) in the recycling of waste by 2035 as it attempts to switch to a more sustainable waste-management system. It will invest about SR1.3 billion in construction and demolition waste, and about SR900 million in industrial waste. Investments in municipal solid waste will exceed SR20 billion, while investments in other types of waste will amount to more than SR1.6 billion.

There are several ways to create value in a circular economy. One of them is “waste-to-energy,” which involves drying and incinerating garbage, raw sewage and industrial sludge to power steam turbines.

Volunteers in Saudi Arabia removing waste from beaches to stop its flow back to the waters. (Supplied/World Clean Up Day)

Burning waste produces carbon dioxide but leaving it to decompose in landfill sites results in 20 to 40 times the amount of greenhouse-gas emissions, in the form of methane, over a period of many years.

Unsurprisingly, the circular economy approach is catching on. In 2020, when Saudi Arabia held the presidency of the G20, the Kingdom proposed to allies the concept of a circular carbon economy as a means of mitigating the accumulation of carbon in the atmosphere.

But a circular economy model cannot succeed without the active involvement of big companies, small-business entrepreneurs and the general public.

Experts say that the construction of recycling facilities in the Kingdom is only part of the solution; it must go hand in hand with efforts to instill in the Saudi population a culture of household recycling and responsible consumption.

“We have to invest in the infrastructure but, equally, we have to provide education and create outreach programs,” Ziyad Al-Shiha, the CEO of SIRC, told Arab News in October. “Once we achieve 25-35 percent recycling, we can say to the public: ‘Look, this is your effort and this is the result that we’re bringing back to you.’”

TIMELINE OF SAUDI ENVIRONMENTAL PROGRESS

2016: Launch of Saudi Vision 2030.

2017: National Renewable Energy Program announced.

2018: Launch of the National Environment Strategy.

2019: Saudi Arabia joins International Solar Alliance.

2020: Launch of Environmental Fund.

March 27, 2021: Launch of Saudi Green Initiative and Middle East Green Initiative.

Sept. 16, 2021: Farasan Islands added to UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves.

Oct. 23, 2021: Saudi Arabia announces goal of Net Zero greenhouse-gas emissions by 2060.

Oct. 23, 2021: Saudi Arabia joins Global Methane Pledge.

Progress has already been made in fostering environmentally conscious behavior at the community level. Saudi highways are better maintained now than before. Even in cities, drains are no longer clogged with cigarette butts, tissue paper, paper cups and discarded food packaging.

In part, such improvements are as a result of the introduction of penalties; the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs and Housing can now impose fines of $133 on anyone caught littering or spitting in a public place.

But concern about the environment and public interest in recycling and reducing household waste have also increased markedly, thanks to campaigns conducted by civil society groups.

One such group, Mawakeb Alajer, has worked for 17 years to encourage community-level recycling in Jeddah by providing sorting facilities where the public can drop off a wide range of recyclables, from scrap paper and waste plastic to unwanted furniture and even old wedding dresses.

“As a second-hand shop, we encourage people to give away what they don’t need to charity, which helps protect the environment by reducing waste,” Sara Alfadl, a spokesperson for Mawakeb Alajer, told Arab News.

“We believe that everyone plays a part in the community and we’re providing a service everyone can benefit from. We sort out everything we receive. This takes a lot of time, requires a lot of manpower and is hard. Thankfully, most of the items we receive, whether clothes or recyclable waste, are in good condition.”

In cooperation with local businesses, truckloads of recyclable materials are brought to Mawakeb Alajer’s facility where they are sorted and then sold, donated, or sent to be reused, recycled or repurposed. In the process, the group is helping to gradually change public attitudes.

“Awareness is still in its infancy but spreading nonetheless,” Alfadl said.

Schools have begun to play an important part in shaping attitudes among the next generation, by adopting “environmental literacy” projects that give pupils the chance to learn by participating in school-based recycling schemes and science projects.

Saudi mayor honors British expat, Neil Walker, for 27 years of beach cleaning and who inspired creative environmental initiatives in Alkhobar. (Supplied)

For their part, many Saudi businesses are adjusting to the circular economy model, in line with the Kingdom’s pursuit of sustainable-development goals.

Mona Alothman, the co-founder of Naqaa, a local provider of business-to-business environmental-sustainability solutions, said that many companies are now integrating recycling and waste reduction into their business models.

“It’s not just a phase,” she told Arab News. “Many Saudi companies are adopting ingenious ways to reduce, reuse and recycle their office supplies and better manage their waste, among other things.

“A lot has changed in recent years. Regulations have become stricter in order to adhere to international standards. Our company’s core ethos revolves around sustainability, and recycling is one part of the picture.

“Companies today are not only applying our recommended solutions to office waste but also initiating campaigns to promote and encourage people to be more conscious of how they throw away their trash.”

This multi-pronged approach, encompassing education, charity schemes, stricter rules and penalties, is encouraging the Kingdom’s business establishments to adopt eco-friendly practices and communities to think more about the effects of lifestyle on the environment.

Alfadl and her colleagues at Mawakeb Alajer believe there is a lot that Saudis can do to encourage their employers, neighbors and local authorities to implement more environmentally responsible practices in homes and workplaces.

“I believe that recycling will pick up fast here in Saudi Arabia,” Alfadl said. “With growing awareness, what was once a project or short-term initiative has become a necessity.

“Our approach was always bottom-up. When employees join the sustainability drive with their actions, it won’t be long before others do the same and create a community of people who follow the same approach.”


Saudi project clears 3,640 Houthi mines in Yemen

Saudi project clears 3,640 Houthi mines in Yemen
Updated 27 January 2022

Saudi project clears 3,640 Houthi mines in Yemen

Saudi project clears 3,640 Houthi mines in Yemen

RIYADH: The Saudi Project for Landmine Clearance in Yemen dismantled 3,640 Houthi mines in the third week of January.

This figure includes 2,994 anti-tank mines, 505 unexploded ordinances and 141 other explosive devices.

The project is one of several initiatives undertaken by Saudi Arabia to help ease the suffering of the Yemeni people.

The demining took place in Marib, Aden, Jouf, Shabwa, Taiz, Hodeidah, Lahij, Sanaa, Al-Bayda, Al-Dhale and Saada.

A total of 311,658 mines have been cleared since the start of the project.