Saudi exhibition on Hijrah highlights universal message of Prophet Muhammad’s journey 1,400 years ago

Special Exhibition on the Prophet Muhammad’s migration from Makkah to Madinah highlights the Hijrah’s universal message. (Supplied/Ithra Center)
Exhibition on the Prophet Muhammad’s migration from Makkah to Madinah highlights the Hijrah’s universal message. (Supplied/Ithra Center)
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Updated 05 August 2022

Saudi exhibition on Hijrah highlights universal message of Prophet Muhammad’s journey 1,400 years ago

Saudi exhibition on Hijrah highlights universal message of Prophet Muhammad’s journey 1,400 years ago
  • Migration from Makkah to Madina by Islam’s founder in 622 CE is told through a comprehensive new Ithra event
  • Curators say exhibition’s aim is to make the Hijrah story accessible to an international, non-Muslim audience 

DHAHRAN: The route from Makkah to Madinah passing through Saudi Arabia’s rocky Hijaz mountains is not a well-trodden one today. But 1,400 years ago, the Prophet Muhammad, Islam’s founder, was forced to take it when he had to leave Makkah to escape persecution for his religious teachings.

He and his followers set off overland for Madinah, some 450 kilometers to the north, on a journey that became known as the Hijrah.

To mark the anniversary of the defining moment in the history of Islam, the journey undertaken in 622 has been told through a comprehensive exhibition in Dhahran, in the Kingdom’s Eastern Province. The display aims to share the impact and relevance of the Hijrah through its themes of love, peace, freedom, tolerance, perseverance, courage, and companionship.

Ashraf Ehsan Fagih, head of programs at the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra) where the exhibition is currently taking place, told Arab News: “We are targeting a global audience, not Arabs or Muslims per se, with this exhibition. We are targeting everyone who wants to be enlightened by the universal messages of Hijrah.”




The Ithra team spent three years preparing the show, which includes Islamic artifacts, contemporary artworks by Saudi and Arab artists, and interactive installations, photography and videos. (Supplied/Ithra Center)

Ithra is one of the Kingdom’s foremost cultural institutions, built by Saudi Aramco and inaugurated by King Salman in December 2016.

The team at Ithra spent three years preparing the exhibition, titled “Hijrah: In the footsteps of the Prophet,” which will run for five years. Following its initial nine months at Ithra, the exhibition will move to Riyadh and Jeddah before heading overseas.

It was curated by Ithra’s in-house team of experts in collaboration with Dr. Abdullah Hussein Alkadi, who is considered the world’s leading authority on the Hijrah and one of the greatest living biographers of the Prophet Muhammad.

The first-of-its-kind exhibition charts the sequence of events which led to the Prophet Muhammad’s decision to leave Makkah for the city of Yathrib, the pre-Islamic name of Madinah, and the struggles he faced along the way.




Portraits of the Al-Saidi tribe by South African photographer Ebrahim Hajee. (Supplied/Ithra Center)

Following threats and persecution by the Makkans, culminating in an attempt on his life, the Prophet Muhammad and his father-in-law, friend and companion, Abu Bakr, and his small band of followers set off for Yathrib, where he was warmly welcomed by the Ansar, or helpers — members of the region’s Al-Khazraj and Al-Aws tribes.

In recognition of their generosity, the city was later renamed Al-Madinah Al-Munawwarah, meaning The Enlightened City. 

“The Hijrah journey marks the passage of time and the beginning of the Islamic calendar and for over 1 billion Muslims all over the world Hijrah is considered the mother of all journeys,” Idries Trevathan, Ithra’s in-house curator of Islamic art and culture, told Arab News.

“It marks when the Prophet Muhammad and his followers went from being a persecuted minority to being a community in world civilization. It was the most important event of his life, and it changed the course of history.”

To curate the exhibition, the team extracted the story from old manuscripts written during the first century of Islam, before, as Fagih described, they “walked the walk.” The team spent around a month trekking from Makkah to Madinah, following in the footsteps of the Prophet Muhammad.




To mark the anniversary of the defining moment in the history of Islam, the journey undertaken in 622 has been told through a comprehensive exhibition in Dhahran. (Supplied/Ithra Center)

Kumail Almusaly, Ithra’s in-house curator of traveling exhibitions, told Arab News: “You reach a different level of consciousness during the journey.

“We spent days climbing to the tops of various caves, experiencing muscle soreness, and also admiring the beauty of the landscape. We experienced the perseverance the Prophet Muhammad needed for the journey.”

A documentary about Trevathan and Almusaly’s journey in the Prophet Muhammad’s footsteps is currently in production and due for public screening at the end of this year.

Trevathan recalled that the journey was strenuous but deeply rewarding.

“When you walk the route, it is a spiritual experience. It is difficult, and most of the route is still inaccessible by car. You must walk it,” he said. “It was an enormous privilege to walk that route myself and to have a connection with the Prophet Muhammad through the landscape.

“What we wanted to draw upon in the exhibition were these incredible traditions in pre-Islamic culture but also in what is known as wuquf ‘ala al-atlal, or stopping by the ruins, to contemplate what happened there.”




A late 8th century milestone from the Darb Zubayda, made from granite or basalt, on loan from National Museum of Saudi Arabia in Riyadh. This milestone was discovered along the famous Darb Zubayda – the pilgrimage road connecting Kufa in Iraq with Makkah. It was placed by the Abbasid dynasty and was used in the postal and communications system and for pilgrims travelling from Iraq. (Supplied/Ithra Center) 

The exhibition was established in collaboration with the Prince of Wales’ Turquoise Mountain, a charity supporting arts and heritage in the Middle East, the National Museum of Saudi Arabia in Riyadh, the House of Islamic Arts in Jeddah, and the King Abdulaziz Complex for Endowment Libraries in Madinah, all of which contributed pieces to the display.

It includes Islamic artifacts, specially commissioned contemporary artworks by Saudi and Arab artists, as well as interactive installations, photography, and videos, which recreate the experience of the Prophet Muhammad’s arduous journey.

“We wanted to create something exceptional and different to commemorate Hijrah. When the Prophet Muhammad left his tribe 1,400 years ago, it was unheard of, because back then you were defined by your tribe,” Fagih said.

“What happened was miraculous in all aspects. He abandoned his tribe, he was accepted by other tribes in a different town, and they accepted him as a leader of society.”

FASTFACTS

* Ithra’s Hijrah exhibition marks 1,400 years since the Prophet Muhammad’s migration from Makkah to Madinah.

* Curators of the exhibition travelled the length of the Hijrah route, much of which is inaccessible by road.

* Organizers say the exhibition’s aim is to make the Hijrah story accessible to an international, non-Muslim audience.

In sum, Fagih said: “The Hijrah story is full of miracles and struggles, which everyone around the world can relate to. Being lonely is one of them. The Prophet Muhammad was 53 years old at the time of Hijrah. He was given another chance and he succeeded. He lived only another 10 years.”

The story is also one of humility, hardship, and beauty, whereby the past and present intertwine in a fully immersive recollection of the journey.

“When the Ansar took in these migrants from Makkah and the preparation of the constitution of Madinah set down how migrant communities are treated, this was setting up a precedent for later generations,” Trevathan said.

“Despite his persecution in Makkah, when the Prophet Muhammad arrived in Madinah, he prepared this constitution, which protected the rights of all religions and communities in Madinah.”




The first-of-its-kind exhibition charts the sequence of events which led to the Prophet Muhammad’s decision to leave Makkah for the city of Yathrib. (Supplied/Ithra Center)

According to Trevathan, in contrast with acts of persecution often seen in the news today, “some of the oldest religions you find are in the Middle East because they were preserved by Muslim civilization, which goes back to Prophet Muhammad’s constitution.”

The theme of brotherhood is also emphasized throughout the show. Indeed, the Prophet Muhammad and his followers were accepted as muhajirun, or immigrants, by the feuding Al-Khazraj and Al-Aws tribes, who overcame their differences to serve a greater common cause.

This is viewed as one of the miracles of Hijrah and a lesson about tolerance, which the organizers hope will resonate with global audiences.

The inclusion of many contemporary artworks from throughout the Islamic world is also viewed as a potential draw that couches the values and ongoing significance of Hijrah in a modern context.

“The balance between Islamic and contemporary art throughout this exhibition is important to show the evolution and progression of the narrative of this exhibition in our modern day,” Farah Abushullaih, head of Ithra Museum, told Arab News.




Also commissioned specially for the exhibition were several works by master craftsmen from Afghanistan, India, Saudi Arabia, and Syria. (Supplied/Ithra Center)

“By providing content that speaks to both types of work throughout the journey of the Prophet Muhammad, we take an abstract concept and try to bridge the gap of stories from a collective narrative to a more tangible contemporary perspective.”

For example, the idea of brotherhood is poignantly expressed in a contemporary art installation by Saudi artist Zahrah Al-Ghamdi, one of the Kingdom’s most recognized female artists, whose work has been shown at the Venice Biennale, The British Museum, and Desert X Coachella in California.

Al-Ghamdi’s installation, aptly titled “Brotherhood,” features knots made out of fabric and clay, depicting how the Ansar, “selflessly welcomed the muhajireen into their home, supporting them by sharing everything they owned.”

In a statement ahead of the exhibition, she said: “I wanted to create an artwork that highlights this bond and the strength of their roots in creating a fruitful relationship. The knots signify close relationships rich in love between the muhajireen and the Ansar.”

Also among the contemporary works is Moroccan Younes Rahmoun’s painted copper object titled “House-Boat,” which reflects on the Hijrah theme of migration.




The exhibition was established in collaboration with the Prince of Wales’ Turquoise Mountain, a charity supporting arts and heritage in the Middle East among others. (Supplied/Ithra Center)

“I used the shape of the boat to embody a person in a humble sitting position for remembrance and meditation, while I borrowed the shape of the house to embody the home,” Rahmoun said in a statement.

Nuria Garcia Masip, a Spanish master calligrapher, created “Umm Ma’Bad Hilye,” a calligraphic work about Umm Mabad, an elderly woman from the tribe of Khuza’ah, who the Prophet Muhammad met during the Hijrah and who later moved to Madinah to embrace Islam.

The Hilye, or calligraphic panel, created by Masip presents the encounter in exquisite 22-carat gold and gouache pigments on paper.

“I found it remarkable that the words of this Bedouin woman describing the Prophet Muhammad have been transmitted and preserved over time so beautifully,” Masip told Arab News.




Ashraf Ehsan Fagih, author and head of programs at Ithra. (Supplied/Ithra Center)

“As a female artist, I was doubly inspired and honored to be able to write and compose her words into a hilye, which is, in essence, a calligraphic icon of the prophet.”

Also commissioned specially for the exhibition were several works by master craftsmen from Afghanistan, India, Saudi Arabia, and Syria. Their work, using age-old techniques, pays homage not only to the story of Hijrah but to Islamic heritage and its preservation.

Thalia Kennedy, creative director at Turquoise Mountain, said: “So many of the craftsmen who made pieces for the exhibition have experienced such great challenges in their own lives, so I think creating these pieces that were about Hijrah and the mosque in Madinah has a personal resonance for them.

“This is a story of perseverance and of overcoming challenges and finding new places of spirituality.”

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Saudi-US military exercise ‘Native Fury 22’ continues in the Kingdom

Saudi-US military exercise ‘Native Fury 22’ continues in the Kingdom
Updated 41 min 7 sec ago

Saudi-US military exercise ‘Native Fury 22’ continues in the Kingdom

Saudi-US military exercise ‘Native Fury 22’ continues in the Kingdom
  • The exercise, involving the Royal Saudi Armed Forces and the US Marine Corps, began several days ago in the western city of Yanbu
  • It includes a number of scenarios and drills focusing on mobilization, deployment and logistics operations

RIYADH: Native Fury 22, a military exercise in the Kingdom involving the Royal Saudi Armed Forces and the US Marine Corps that began several days ago in the western city of Yanbu, continued on Wednesday, the Saudi Ministry of Defense said.

It includes a number of scenarios and drills focusing on mobilization, deployment and logistics operations. It also includes communications, field medicine, a life-saving combat exercise, shooting with live ammunition, and supply and evacuation operations.

The exercise is hosted by the Kingdom with the participation and support of several ministries and other official organizations. The aim is to give personnel an opportunity to practice and train in the implementation of bilateral military, operational and logistical plans; strengthen Saudi and American military coordination and partnership; improve joint-working capabilities; and gain experience in the use of the Kingdom’s military bases and road networks, the ministry said.

“It also aims to train in the integrated government work to implement mixed military exercises,” it added.

Native Fury 22 is one of several military exercises conducted by the Saudi Armed Forces throughout the year with allies to raise levels of combat efficiency, gain field experience, and work on standardizing military concepts and terminology among the participants.


INTERVIEW: Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan have ‘similar clear visions for progress,’ Uzbek Deputy FM Furqat Sidiqov tells Arab News

INTERVIEW: Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan have ‘similar clear visions for progress,’ Uzbek Deputy FM Furqat Sidiqov tells Arab News
Updated 18 August 2022

INTERVIEW: Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan have ‘similar clear visions for progress,’ Uzbek Deputy FM Furqat Sidiqov tells Arab News

INTERVIEW: Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan have ‘similar clear visions for progress,’ Uzbek Deputy FM Furqat Sidiqov tells Arab News
  • Saudi Vision 2030 plan and ‘New Uzbekistan’ road map have many similarities, says Furqat Sidiqov
  • Sidiqov spoke to Arab News in Jeddah ahead of President Shavkat Mirziyoyev’s state visit to Saudi Arabia 

JEDDAH: There are striking parallels between Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 reforms agenda and the Uzbek government’s bold transformation plan, New Uzbekistan, according to Furqat Sidiqov, the Uzbek deputy foreign minister.

Speaking a day before the arrival on Wednesday of Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev in the Kingdom for a state visit — the first by a leader of the country since Islam Karimov’s visit in 1992 — he said that these shared visions augur well for the future of bilateral trade and cooperation.

“Saudi Arabia has the capabilities to achieve its Vision 2030 goals,” Sidiqov told Arab News ahead of Wednesday’s meeting of the Saudi-Uzbek Business Council, hosted by the Uzbek consulate in Jeddah.

Uzbek Deputy Foreign Minister Furqat Sidiqov being interviewed by Arab News' Rawan Radwan in Jeddah. (Photo by Sultan Baajajah)
​​​​​​

He added that the reforms and road maps the two nations have developed are similar, representing clear visions for progress, as are the young and dynamic populations of the countries.

“Both nations are working closely and moving forward in joint cooperation within the framework of our strategies,” Sidiqov said. “We are closely following the Kingdom’s ambitious Vision 2030 strategy and we support its bid for Expo 2030.”

Over the past five years, he explained, Uzbekistan has implemented a domestic development strategy aimed at easing its transition to a market economy, which has offered fertile ground for the growth of small- and medium-sized enterprises and a more diversified economy.

An Uzbek chef prepares plov — a dish known around the world as pilaf — at a small cafe in Tashkent.  Eager to diversify its sources of revenue, the country has opened up to foreign investment in agriculture, food security, energy, information technology and other sectors. (AFP)

He said the strategy echoes that of Saudi Vision 2030, which has opened up the Kingdom’s economy to capitalize on new sectors beyond hydrocarbons and actively encourages entrepreneurism, along with the development of technical skills and creativity among its young population.

For decades, Uzbekistan relied heavily on just a handful of staple exports, including cotton, gold, oil and gas. Eager to diversify its sources of revenue, the country has opened up to foreign investment in agriculture, food security, energy, information technology and other sectors.

On Wednesday, in keeping with their complementary visions, Uzbekistan and the Kingdom signed more than 10 investment agreements worth SR45 billion ($12 billion).

The Saudi and Uzbek delegations signed a number of agreements between private sector institutions in the two countries on Wednesday in Jeddah.  
(Photo by Sultan Baajajah)

Among them was a 25-year deal, worth $2.4 billion, for Saudi utility developer ACWA Power to build a 1,500-megawatt wind-power project in Uzbekistan, to help the country achieve its goal of sourcing 40 percent of its electricity needs from renewable sources by 2031.

Uzbek officials said that in recent years, Saudi investments in various sectors of the Uzbek economy have increased significantly. There are now 38 joint ventures, 20 of which involve direct Saudi investors. Still, Sidiqov said, there is the potential for even closer business cooperation, particularly in food processing and distribution.

“The numbers don’t reflect the capabilities of the two countries,” he said. “We’re working with the Kingdom to raise the number of joint ventures. 

A woman works at a cotton plantation near Tashkent. Uzbekistan is diversifying its sources of revenue and has opened up to foreign investment in agriculture and other sectors. (AFP)

“Agriculture plays an important role in Uzbekistan’s economic development and we’re one of the top nations in food production, food security and we have the capabilities to export food products, organic fruits and vegetables to the Kingdom.

“The plan is to have the Kingdom become a midway station for food processing and packaging, to ready them for export to other countries.”

Opinion

This section contains relevant reference points, placed in (Opinion field)

Although they do not share a border, Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan have been linked by religion, knowledge and culture for hundreds of years. Among the historical figures who traveled and studied across the Arab and Muslim worlds are four who hailed from places that are part of modern-day Uzbekistan: physician Ibn Sina, mathematician Muhammad ibn Musa Al-Khwarizmi, and Islamic scholars Imam Al-Bukhari and Imam Al-Tirmidhi.

Among Uzbekistan tourism attractions is the historic architecture of Itchan Kala, a walled inner town of the city of Khiva, which has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. (Shutterstock)

The exchange of ideas and cultures continues in the modern era thanks to the expansion of air travel between Uzbekistan and Arab countries, notably Saudi Arabia, and more flexible visa rules.

“To further boost the exchange of cultures, direct flights will begin in October, via Flynas and Uzbekistan Airways, and Saudis will be exempt from entry visas for a 30-day stay,” said Sidiqov.

A view of Uzbekistan's Islam Karimov Tashkent International Airport. (Shutterstock photo)

Present-day Saudi-Uzbek cooperation extends far beyond trade and cultural exchange into the diplomatic sphere, guided by shared interests in security and humanitarian efforts across the wider region.

In the year since the Taliban returned to power in Afghanistan following the US military withdrawal from the country, regional powers such as Uzbekistan have sought to engage with the new government in Kabul to assist the Afghan people in their time of hardship.

“The humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan is among the highest priorities and our government has set up various initiatives and programs to support Afghanistan,” said Sidiqov.

“In the spirit of neighborly solidarity, we ensured that our relationship is of continued support. By working closely with the government, we want not only to provide humanitarian assistance, but also help them provide job opportunities to their youth and to be a gateway for Central and South Asia.”

An Afghan businessman works on his aluminum cauldron workshop near Uzbekistan's southern city of Termez. Uzbekistan is playing a key role in helping deal with Afghanistan's humanitarian crisis. (AFP)

He added that in the southern Uzbek city of Termez, for example, the government has established centers to help young Afghans receive an education and develop their skills to prepare them for the job market.

“We’re working to help reconstruction programs and developing its economy to help turn it into a country of opportunities,” said Sidiqov. “Our allies are helping us and supporting us in this endeavor.”

Prince Faisal bin Farhan, the Saudi minister of foreign affairs, took part in an international conference titled Central and South Asia: Regional Connectivity. Challenges and Opportunities in the Uzbek capital, Tashkent, in July last year.

Saudi Minister of Investment Khalid Al-Falih leading a delegation on an official visit to Uzbekistan in 2021. (Reuters file photo)

In July this year, a Saudi delegation also attended the international Afghanistan: Security and Economic Development conference, also in Tashkent, during which the Kingdom reaffirmed its commitment to the promotion of regional cooperation.

In June, Saudi Arabia announced a $30 million grant to support the Afghanistan Humanitarian Trust Fund, which operates under the umbrella of the Islamic Development Bank in coordination with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, of which both the Kingdom and Uzbekistan are members.

“As a neighbor to Afghanistan, our main aim is to provide safe passage of aid to those in need in Afghanistan,” said Sidiqov.

“We are working closely with the Afghan government to develop a food-security road map and to provide youth job opportunities. We serve as a broker between the world and the Taliban, and as ‘the voice of Central Asia’ we have encouraged the Afghan government to commit to their promises.”

 


Saudi crown prince receives Uzbek president in Jeddah

Saudi crown prince receives Uzbek president in Jeddah
Updated 18 August 2022

Saudi crown prince receives Uzbek president in Jeddah

Saudi crown prince receives Uzbek president in Jeddah
  • The crown prince and Uzbek president then attended the exchange of various agreements between the two countries
  • The two nations inked a number a deals worth over SR45 billion ($12 billion) on Wednesday

RIYADH: Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman received Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev in Jeddah on Wednesday.

The pair held a meeting and discussed bilateral relations and cooperation in various fields, in addition to reviewing a number of issues of common interest, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The crown prince and Uzbek president then attended the exchange of various agreements between the two countries.

(SPA)

The two nations inked a number a deals worth over SR45 billion ($12 billion) on Wednesday, including a wind project in Uzbekistan by ACWA Power.“We want to make this relationship one of the most important for Saudi Arabia.

We are here to facilitate. We are here to serve,” said Saudi Minister of Investment Khalid Al-Falih.

(SPA)

The agreements cover a range of investment sectors, including air transport services, livestock, agriculture, sports, education, science, media, energy and technology.

They aim to explore investment opportunities, advance the partnership between the Saudi and Uzbek private sectors, encourage and enhance mutual investments in a number of target sectors.

Senior officials from both sides attended the meeting.


Who’s Who: Wael Al-Hazzani, CEO of  the Saudi Securities Clearing House

Who’s Who: Wael Al-Hazzani, CEO of  the Saudi Securities Clearing House
Updated 18 August 2022

Who’s Who: Wael Al-Hazzani, CEO of  the Saudi Securities Clearing House

Who’s Who: Wael Al-Hazzani, CEO of  the Saudi Securities Clearing House

Wael Al-Hazzani has been CEO of  the Saudi Securities Clearing House (Muqassa) since its establishment in 2018.

He has led the company in its drive to reduce counterparty risk, improve market efficiency and enable the introduction of new products and services.

Muqassa performs a critical role in the Saudi capital market’s development as one of Saudi Tadawul Group’s subsidiaries. It is the only authorized entity that can act as a central counterparty clearing center in the Kingdom.

The establishmnet of Muqassa was one of the critical initiatives of the Financial Sector Development Program and is reflective of the group’s commitment to Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030.

Al-Hazzani has a breadth of knowledge about capital markets and risk management. Before he was appointed CEO of Muqassa, he held leading positions within the Saudi Tadawul Group across post-trade and risk-management specialties.

Al-Hazzani also holds three other positions, including as a member of the board of directors at the security depository center company (Edaa) since 2018, at Tadawul Advanced Solution Company (WAMID) since August 2020, and at the Saudi Exchange since April 2021.

In April 2022, Al-Hazzani successfully led the implementation of post-trade transformation on the Saudi capital market and introduced the largest bundle of enhancement in the history of the market.

The upgrades aim to strengthen post-trade infrastructure and increase efficiency by providing a more streamlined trading experience, supporting market participants to develop a wide range of products and services.

He also facilitated the first launch of the Repurchase Agreement clearing service, enabling Saudi financial entities to provide this service without contracting an international counterpart.

Al-Hazzani holds a master of business administration, which he gained in 2015, and a bachelor’s degree in computer science from King Saud University in Riyadh.

He has participated in many executive leadership and development programs at Harvard, INSEAD, and IMD Business Schools.


Saudi authorities urge caution amid thunderstorm warning until Sunday

Saudi authorities urge caution amid thunderstorm warning until Sunday
Updated 18 August 2022

Saudi authorities urge caution amid thunderstorm warning until Sunday

Saudi authorities urge caution amid thunderstorm warning until Sunday

RIYADH: Authorities in Saudi Arabia have urged the public to show caution after storm warnings were issued for areas of the Kingdom until Sunday.

The Civil Defense said that moderate to heavy rain is forecast for the Asir, Al-Baha, Najran, Jazan, Makkah, Madinah, Hail and Tabuk regions.

Parts of the capital Riyadh, Qassim and the Eastern Province may be affected by moderate rainfall, with a chance of heavier falls, it added in a statement.

The Civil Defense urged people to stay away from dams and places where torrents gather and follow the authority’s safety advice issued through various media and social networking sites.