Call of the wild puts historic Saudi village on tourist trail

Call of the wild puts historic Saudi village on tourist trail
Ayn Zubaida (Zubaida Springs) in Makkah. (Supplied)
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Updated 23 January 2022

Call of the wild puts historic Saudi village on tourist trail

Call of the wild puts historic Saudi village on tourist trail
  • Winter festival offerings range from wildlife sightings to poetry evenings
  • Over 60 young male and female volunteers are overseeing festival activities, including interactive games

LAYNAH/MAKKAH: Desert tourists are heading to Saudi Arabia’s historic Laynah village as the first edition of the Zubaida Trail Winter Festival attracts visitors from the region and beyond with the promise of everything from poetry readings to rare wildlife sightings.

The nine-week festival, which will continue until Feb. 26, 2022, promises a seasonal escape and the chance to enjoy winter activities, as well as glimpse one of the more than 60 animal species in the region, including the Arabian bustard, Arabian wolf and spiny-tailed lizard.

More than 120 plant species, including acacia and sidr trees, and rare shrubs, such as awsaj, arfaj and ramth, can also be found in the area.




Ayn Zubaida (Zubaida Springs) in Makkah. (Supplied)

The festival is organized by the Imam Turki bin Abdullah Royal Reserve Development Authority, which is known for launching a wide range of environmental initiatives.

“The festival has become a great escape for locals and visitors to the area because of its appealing winter atmosphere. The festival’s numerous events are ideal for families, young people, the elderly and children, ” said Menahi Mite’eb, editor-in-chief of Rafha Today, an electronic-based newspaper. 

Moneef Ali, who lives in Aewe, about 30 kilometers from Laynah, has taken his family to the festival twice in recent weeks to enjoy the winter activities, as well as a break from PlayStation and VR games. 

Ali said that he hoped to see the King Abdul Aziz Historical Palace and the vintage cars on display.

“This is the best time to go to the festival,” he said.

Crafts, food and drinks made by productive families attracted a large crowd of visitors who came to buy gifts for their loved ones and friends.

Over 60 young male and female volunteers are overseeing festival activities, including folklore segments, poetry nights, a museum and interactive games. 

Abdulsalam Alowaijan said that volunteering is helping reshape his skills and will assist him in his future career. 




Ayn Zubaida (Zubaida Springs) in Makkah. (Supplied)

The 18-year-old said that he is learning how to deal with people and understand their needs.

Visitors to the festival can visit the historic palace, wells, routes and monuments via designated trips and paths.

“The festival has revitalized the region’s economy and tourism,” Mite’eb said, adding that the poetry nights have drawn large numbers of people because of well-known poets taking part.

Laynah, one of the oldest settlements in the Arabian Peninsula, is situated on a route that was part of the Zubaida Trail used by Iraqi pilgrims during their Hajj and Umrah journeys to Makkah. 

The area is known for the abundance of waters and wells, as well as its historical significance. Historic sites include King Abdul Aziz Palace, built in 1935, and the old market or “souk,” named after Iraqi merchants who used to exchange goods with the people of Najd.

The Zubaida Trail, or Al-Kufi pilgrimage route, runs from Kufa in Iraq to Makkah, passing through the north and center of the Kingdom.

It was named after Zubaida bin Jafar, wife of the Abbasid Caliph Harun Al-Rashid, in recognition of her charitable work, in addition to the number of stops she ordered to be established along the trail.

The trail functioned as a trade route in the pre-Islamic era, but its importance later increased and it flourished during the time of the early caliphate. The trail reached its peak during the Abbasid era between 750 and 1258 when it became a properly paved road.

Stations, wells, pools and dams were established, and houses built along the trail leading to Makkah. Twenty-seven major stations have been identified, including Al-Sheihiyat, Al-Jumaima, Faid, Al-Rabadha, That-Erq and Khuraba.

With the increase in the number of Muslims in the early Islamic time, especially the Umayyad and Abbasid eras, the lack of water sources in Makkah and the holy sites posing a serious problem for residents, especially during the Hajj season.




Visitors to the festival can visit King Abdul Aziz Historical Palace, wells, routes, and historical monuments via designated trips and paths. (SPA)

Dr. Mohammed Al-Sharif, a researcher into the history of the Makkah region, said that water scarcity was a problem, and a challenge for the people of Makkah and the pilgrims. At times, the price of Al-Badrah (a small bagpipe) was 10 dirhams or more, a very high price for most pilgrims. 

When Zubaida learned about the water shortages the pilgrims had been facing, she ordered the digging of Ayn Zubaida, or Zubaida springs, in 810. This helped to ease water scarcity at the holy sites and surrounding villages for hundreds of years.

Al-Sharif told Arab News that Zubaida commissioned and paid for construction of Ayn Zubaida. She called on architects and engineers to address the problem.
 
The springs are an enduring symbol of the golden era of Arab culture, Al-Sharif said.

“It constituted a great example of Islamic heritage and a masterpiece of engineering that embodies the greatness of the people who lived in the vicinity of the two holy mosques. It is a testament to their determination to adapt to the difficult terrain and to build a great human civilization,” he 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.


Saudi authorities seize amphetamine pills hidden in plastic beans

Saudi authorities seize amphetamine pills hidden in plastic beans
Updated 26 May 2022

Saudi authorities seize amphetamine pills hidden in plastic beans

Saudi authorities seize amphetamine pills hidden in plastic beans

RIYADH: Authorities in Saudi Arabia foiled an attempt to smuggle thousands of amphetamine pills and arrested two suspects, the General Directorate of Narcotics Control said on Wednesday.

Spokesman Maj. Mohammed Al-Nujaidi said security officials who monitor drug smuggling and distribution networks that target the Kingdom intercepted 403,000 amphetamine tablets. They were found in the possession of a Syrian national and a Saudi citizen in Jeddah, hidden in a shipment of fake plastic bean pods, he added. The two men were referred to the Public Prosecution.

Al-Nujaidi said that the Ministry of Interior’s security forces, in coordination with the Zakat, Tax and Customs Authority, will continue to work to uncover plots to smuggle narcotics into the Kingdom and arrest those responsible.


US congress delegation hails work of Muslim World League during meeting with its leader

US congress delegation hails work of Muslim World League during meeting with its leader
Updated 26 May 2022

US congress delegation hails work of Muslim World League during meeting with its leader

US congress delegation hails work of Muslim World League during meeting with its leader

RIYADH: A delegation from the US Congress has praised the work of the Muslim World League in promoting common human values and promoting the urgent need for peace in the world. It came during a meeting with Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdul Karim Al-Iss, the MWL’s secretary-general, in Riyadh on Wednesday.

The American delegates included Chris Stewart, a representative from Utah, Lisa McClain, a representative from Michigan, and Guy Reschenthaler, a representative from Pennsylvania, all three of them Republicans. They were accompanied by a number of officials.

(Supplied)

During the meeting, they discussed a number of issues of common interest, and Al-Issa affirmed that the Saudi Arabia represents the unifying spirit of the Islamic world.

The US delegation also hailed the MWL for its leading role in building effective alliances at the national level and between international organizations to consolidate the values of friendship and cooperation among nations and peoples.


DiplomaticQuarter: US Embassy celebrates 80 years of ‘shared history’ with Saudi Arabia

DiplomaticQuarter: US Embassy celebrates 80 years  of ‘shared history’ with Saudi Arabia
Updated 25 May 2022

DiplomaticQuarter: US Embassy celebrates 80 years of ‘shared history’ with Saudi Arabia

DiplomaticQuarter: US Embassy celebrates 80 years  of ‘shared history’ with Saudi Arabia
  • The US Legation opened in Jeddah in 1942. Full diplomatic relations began in 1940 and the US Mission, located in a traditional house in the old city center, was upgraded to the status of an embassy in 1949

RIYADH: The US Embassy in Riyadh has marked the 80th anniversary of the establishment of its first diplomatic presence in Saudi Arabia, highlighting what it described as “eight decades of shared history, strong partnership and united vision” with the Kingdom.

The US Legation opened in Jeddah in 1942. Full diplomatic relations began in 1940 and the US Mission, located in a traditional house in the old city center, was upgraded to the status of an embassy in 1949.

In 1952, the embassy moved to the current consulate general location, which at the time was an isolated, beachfront property to the north of the city.

Along with all other foreign missions, the US Embassy was transferred to Riyadh in 1984. The former embassy compound in Jeddah is now a consulate general in the heart of one of the Middle East’s most dynamic cities.

The theme of this year’s celebration was “Shared History, Strong Partnership and United Vision,” highlighting the enduring foundation of the strategic ties and friendship between the US and Saudi Arabia.

“From the very early days of modern Saudi Arabia, the US, its leaders, its companies and its people supported their Saudi friends on their remarkable journey toward success and prosperity,” the US Embassy in Riyadh said in a statement to Arab News.

“The US-Saudi relationship has naturally evolved over the years. It has grown to encompass trade, culture, education, security, and especially the close ties between the Saudi and American people. What has not changed during the past 80 years is the shared vision that has always guided the cooperation between the US and Saudi Arabia in these and many other areas,” it added.

“As Saudi Arabia pursues the ambitious goals of Vision 2030, the US is supporting the Kingdom’s efforts in the same spirit of partnership that has been one of the key pillars of US–Saudi ties. Today, in every field, in every sector, Americans and Saudis are working together, learning together, conducting research together and, more recently, performing together in concerts, films and athletic competitions.”

This engagement translates into $54 billion annually in US-Saudi trade and investment.

American companies have been an integral part of the Vision 2030 economic transformation of Saudi Arabia, while the US and Saudi Arabia also enjoy robust cultural and educational ties.


Saudi Arabia reports 540 new COVID-19 cases, 1 death

Saudi Arabia reports 540 new COVID-19 cases, 1 death
Updated 25 May 2022

Saudi Arabia reports 540 new COVID-19 cases, 1 death

Saudi Arabia reports 540 new COVID-19 cases, 1 death
  • Of the new infections, 146 were recorded in Jeddah, 122 in Riyadh, 50 in Makkah, 38 in Dammam and 32 in Madinah

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia reported 540 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, according to the Ministry of Health. As a result, the total number of cases in the Kingdom grew to 764,789.

The authorities also confirmed one new COVID-19-related death, raising the total number of fatalities to 9,135.

Of the new infections, 146 were recorded in Jeddah, 122 in Riyadh, 50 in Makkah, 38 in Dammam and 32 in Madinah. Several other cities recorded fewer than 20 new cases each.

The ministry also announced that 570 patients had recovered from COVID-19, bringing the total number of recoveries to 749,141. It said that 6,513 COVID-19 cases were still active.