How archaeological discoveries in AlUla and Khaybar are unearthing Saudi Arabia’s prehistoric past

Special A Neolithic mustatil next to a Bronze Age pendant burial in Kaybar. (Supplied/Mat Dalton)
A Neolithic mustatil next to a Bronze Age pendant burial in Kaybar. (Supplied/Mat Dalton)
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Updated 19 August 2022

How archaeological discoveries in AlUla and Khaybar are unearthing Saudi Arabia’s prehistoric past

How archaeological discoveries in AlUla and Khaybar are unearthing Saudi Arabia’s prehistoric past
  • Thousands of structures, most between 4,000-7,000 years old, have been found in the Kingdom’s northwest
  • The discoveries are the key to a radical rethinking of the prehistory of the Arabian Peninsula

LONDON: To the bedouin, the mysterious structures of uncertain age and unknown origin scattered across the harsh and dramatic landscapes of northwestern Saudi Arabia have always been simply the works of “the old men.”

To the archaeologists who have just completed a four-year project to catalogue all the visible archaeology of AlUla County and the nearby Harrat Khaybar volcanic field, the tens of thousands of structures they have found, most between 4,000 and 7,000 years old, are the key to a radical rethinking of the prehistory of the Arabian Peninsula.

“A lot of the archaeological focus in the region in the past has been on the Fertile Crescent, running through Jordan, Israel and up into Syria and beyond, and little archaeological attention has been paid to this early material of Saudi Arabia,” said archaeologist Dr. Hugh Thomas, a senior research fellow at the University of Western Australia.

“But as we do more and more research, we’re realizing that there was so much more here than small, independent, communities living on nothing much and not doing much in an arid area.

“The reality in that in the Neolithic period these areas were significantly greener, and there would have been really sizeable populations of people and herds of animals moving across these landscapes.”

In the near future, he believes, “I think we are going to make massive discoveries that are going to change how we view the Middle East completely.”

Dr. Thomas is co-director of the Aerial Archaeology in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia project, set up in 2018 by the Royal Commission for AlUla, as part of the Identification and Documentation of the Immovable Heritage Assets of AlUla program. The following year the project was expanded to include the neighboring, heritage-rich region of Khaybar.

A “core” area of AlUla of 3,300 sq. m was surveyed separately by UK-based Oxford Archaeology. Working with staff and students of King Saud University in Riyadh, they identified more than 16,000 archaeological sites.

Setting out initially to survey the AlUla hinterland, an area of more than 22,500 square kilometers, Dr. Thomas and his colleagues faced a daunting task, which they broke down into three stages.

A remote preliminary survey of the entire area, using satellite imagery, was followed by aerial photography of selected sites and, finally, excavation of a small number of the most promising structures.

The first stage lasted more than a year, with team members poring painstakingly over Google Earth and other satellite imagery and pinning every structure they spotted.

For the University of Western Australia team back in Perth, it meant “hour after hour of patiently scrolling through,” Dr. Thomas said.

“Sometimes it was in areas where there was absolutely nothing, just endless kilometers of remote desert. But then at other times you’d find structures all over the place, and you would get through only a few kilometers in a session, because you were constantly finding and pinning new archaeological sites.”

The hard work paid off handsomely.

By the end, they had identified 13,000 sites in AlUla and an extraordinary 130,000 in Khaybar county, dating from the Stone Age to the 20th century. They logged everything they saw, including some of the remains of the Hejaz railway, built by the Ottomans before World War I, but the vast majority of the sites dated from prehistory.

Each site consisted of anything from one structure to clusters of 30 or more, and they have now catalogued more than 150,000 individual structures of archaeological interest, especially in the Khaybar region, where there is “a really dense, significant concentration of archaeological remains.”

After the remote sensing came the really fun part — flying low over the spectacular landscapes of AlUla and Khaybar in helicopters, using open-door photography to record sites previously identified by the satellite survey as being of particular interest.

The pilots, from the Saudi-based The Helicopter Company, flew from site to site along flight paths created by the archaeologists.




Archaeological discoveries in AlUla and Khaybar are the key to unlocking the secrets of prehistoric Saudi Arabia. (Moath Alofi)

“They were commercial pilots who at first had no idea about the archaeology,” Dr. Thomas said. “But they were very keen, and also pretty good at interpreting and spotting things.

“They ended up having a really great understanding, and that was so beneficial to the project. I could say, ‘I’m after three funerary pendants up on an outcrop’, and the pilot would say, ‘Oh, I can see them, in front of us,’ and they’d steer the helicopter round to give you the best photographic angle.”

By the end, he said, “some of the pilots would have seen more archaeology up close than the majority of archaeologists.”

The last aerial photography was carried out in March this year and, by then, the team had captured more than a quarter of a million images across AlUla and Khaybar.

Among the structures they photographed were more than 350 examples of one of the most extraordinary types of large-scale structures scattered across Saudi Arabia’s prehistoric landscape — the mysterious mustatil.

Mustatil is the Arabic word for rectangle, and these often huge, rectangular structures, built by an unknown people more than 8,000 years ago, may be unique to the Arabian peninsula.

More than 1,600 are now known to exist across 300,000 sq. km of northwestern Saudi Arabia, concentrated mainly in the vicinity of AlUla and Khaybar.

Mustatils vary in type — some are more complex than others — but usually they consist of two parallel walls, or occasionally more, joined at either end by shorter walls to create a rectangle. They range in length from 20 to 620 meters and often they are clustered together, in groups numbering anything from two to 19.




Of the 1,600 mustatils identified via satellite imagery and the 350 photographed from the air, 39 were selected for ground survey by Thomas’ team. (Rebecca Repper)

In some places, mustatils have been “overbuilt” by subsequent generations who have constructed circular ringed tombs, or so-called pendant tombs, on or very near them.

Building some of the mustatils would have been a big commitment for a considerable number of people. The largest structure ground-surveyed by the AAKSA team, situated on the Harrat Khaybar lava field 50 km south of Khaybar town, was built from basalt boulders and measures 525m in length.

It is estimated that the structure weighs about 12,000 tons, with individual stones weighing between 6 and 500 kg.

Extrapolating from experimental studies carried out on Mayan structures in Guatemala, the archaeologists have estimated that it would have taken a group of 10 people two or three weeks to build a mustatil more than 150m long. Larger structures, up to 500m, could have been constructed by a group of 50 people in about two months.

As Dr. Thomas and his colleagues wrote in a paper published recently in the journal “Antiquity,” not only are mustatils “an important component of the ancient Arabian cultural landscape,” they are also among the earliest stone monuments in Arabia, and “globally one of the oldest monumental building traditions yet identified.”

Of the 1,600 mustatils identified via satellite imagery and the 350 photographed from the air, 39 were selected for ground survey by Thomas’ team. Of these, just a handful were excavated, and these have revealed a wealth of previously unknown information.

In late 2018 and 2019, for example, archaeologists from both the UWA and Oxford teams began excavating undisturbed mustatils east of AlUla valley, and discovered evidence that the structures had served a ritual purpose. Collections of horns and other cranial bone fragments, from animals including cattle, goat and gazelle, were found in chambers in the structures, which could suggest offerings had been made to some long-forgotten deity.

“These are ritual structures, I’d bet my house on it,” Dr. Thomas said.

“We have now excavated five of them, the Oxford Archaeology team has excavated three, and other teams are excavating others too. With the artefacts that are inside, and also the construction techniques that are involved in creating them, there is no practical function for these structures, other than ritual, that would make any sense.”




In addition to Mustatils, there are an estimated 917 kites around Khaybar built in varying shapes and sizes and some dating back to between the fifth and seventh centuries B.C. (Moath Alofi)

There is no roofing, the walls are too low for them to have been used for keeping animals in them, and some of them are built on the slopes of mountains that are incredibly steep and difficult to walk up.

Organic remains can be carbon-dated, and the animal bones revealed that the site was late Neolithic – about 7,000 years old. In the past season, however, in a collaboration with the archaeology department at Durham University in the UK, the team has been employing another sophisticated dating technique called Optically Stimulated Luminescence.

This, Dr. Thomas said, “basically allows you to date the last time that sand had light fall directly upon it, which is a really useful technique for dating structures that don’t have any kind of organic deposits within them.”

So far, nothing has been unearthed to suggest why the mustatils were built where they were.

“In some of the locations where we find them we just can’t understand why they were built there,” Dr. Thomas said.

“They might be in a random valley with seemingly not much happening around them. It suggests that people are coming to that spot, creating them, then moving on and probably coming back periodically.”

That, of course, poses the question: what was so special about these sites to these people?

Another, possibly connected, mystery is that the mustatils and even the later Bronze Age burial structures in the region were clearly built to be appreciated not from ground level, but from up above, in the sky.

“What’s fascinating is when you see them from the ground, they’re not that spectacular, just a series of walls,” Dr. Thomas said.

“But as soon as you get in a helicopter, or you look at it on satellite imagery, these things just come to life.”

One theory is that the structures might have been built to be viewed from above by the dead. Another possibility is that they were ritual structures constructed for the benefit of some deity in the sky.

But, as the structures were built long before human beings developed writing, the truth is likely to remain a mystery.

Equally mysterious is where the people came from who built the mustatils — and where they ended up. As yet, no Neolithic burial sites from the same period have been found.




Archaeologist Don Boyer measures a tower of stones next to a 525m long Mustatil in Khaybar. (David Kennedy)

“The hope is that, in the future, we might identify some Neolithic burials,” Dr. Thomas said. “But the reality now is that we’re not sure where the people of the Neolithic are.”

They could have been buried in unmarked graves at random sites, which would make it very hard to find any of them.

“Alternatively, there may be other things that they did to their bodies, which means that we will never find them.”

However, a series of finds in some mustatils has hinted at a perhaps macabre practice in about the mid-fifth millennium BC. Some human remains have been found — but only fragments.

“In one, we found part of a foot and five vertebrae and a couple of long bones. We can tell that while there was still soft tissue attached and holding the bones together, fragments of that body were taken and placed within this mustatil, or next to it.”

There are, however, multiple burial sites in the region — and sometimes close to mustatils — from the Bronze Age, dating from about 2,500 years later. 

“There are thousands upon thousands of tombs, pendant burials and larger monumental tombs in the region, indicating that there were large, thriving populations here,” Dr. Thomas said.

The most dramatic examples are located in Khaybar county, to the southeast of AlUla.

“Projecting out of Bronze Age oases are these long pathways, funerary avenues, flanked by thousands of tombs, creating a really significant funerary landscape.”

The next objective for the team is “to focus on this shifting idea of monumentality. In the Neolithic period, for whatever reason, something occurred that meant that people started creating these absolutely massive ritual structures, over a 300 to 500-year period.

“Then it stopped. Archaeologically, from about 4,800 down to about 2600 BC, we find very little — some domestic structures, but not many graves.




In addition to the mustatils, the site has kites whose geometric shapes may be connected or unconnected to each other. They may be part of a building or separate, or stone piles. (Duhim Alduhim)

“Then suddenly these monumental burials start appearing across the landscape. Why this shift from the mustatil, monumental ritual structures, to the focus 2,000 years later on the individual, or family groups, that were being buried in these structures?

“What happened in those few thousand years?”

Whatever the answer, the vast number of mustatils identified — about 1,600 in an area roughly the size of Poland — not only puts Saudi Arabia’s ancient past in a Neolithic class of its own, but has global repercussions.

“When we look at Neolithic landscapes across the world, often you’re only finding a handful of structures, less than a dozen,” Dr. Thomas said.

“So to have something like the mustatil, where you’ve got well over 1,000, covering such a significant area, really changes how we have to view the Neolithic.

“It indicates that the Neolithic is much more complex than we originally thought.

“And, as more research comes out about the mustatil, I think that will completely revolutionize how we view Neolithic societies, not just in Arabia but across the rest of the world.”

There will be 12 archaeological teams at work in the field this autumn, exploring the past cultures of AlUla and Khaybar from prehistory to the early 20th century. Stone structures of the late prehistoric period will remain a key focus.

 

Decoder

What's a mustatil?

Mustatil is the Arabic word for rectangle, and these often huge, rectangular structures, built by an unknown people more than 8,000 years ago, may be unique to the Arabian peninsula. More than 1,600 are now known to exist across 300,000 square kilometers of northwestern Saudi Arabia, concentrated mainly in the vicinity of AlUla and Khaybar.


SDRPY participates in Mahri Forum in Yemen

SDRPY participates in Mahri Forum in Yemen
Updated 04 October 2022

SDRPY participates in Mahri Forum in Yemen

SDRPY participates in Mahri Forum in Yemen
  • The purpose of the forum is to contribute to raising and developing awareness toward cultural heritage, as well as to protect it from extinction

Al-MAHRA, Yemen: On Mahri Language Day, the Mahri Forum was held at Qishn School, Al-Mahra governorate, with the participation of the Saudi Program for the Development and Reconstruction of Yemen.

The purpose of the forum is to contribute to raising and developing awareness toward cultural heritage, as well as to protect it from extinction.

The SDRPY participation comes with reference to strengthening ties between both countries, as well as supporting culture in Yemen.

“We wish Yemen all the best, and may it recover within a secure, prosperous, and stable environment. May Yemen be able to contribute to the projects and initiatives hosted by the SDRPY, which amounted to 224 programs and initiatives in total, including more than 50 projects in Al-Mahra, with the purpose of improving its daily life and raising the efficiency of infrastructure in various sectors,” said Abdullah Basilman, director of the SDRPY’s program office in Al-Mahra.

Mahri is a Semitic language like Soqotri and Shehri, among others. SDRPY aims to contribute to the revival of the Mahri language and avoid its extinction through its participation in the forum.


Tawqeer initiative launched for elderly pilgrims

Tawqeer initiative launched for elderly pilgrims
Updated 03 October 2022

Tawqeer initiative launched for elderly pilgrims

Tawqeer initiative launched for elderly pilgrims

MAKKAH: The General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques, represented by the social, voluntary and humanitarian services, has launched the “Tawqeer” (elderly care) initiative, through which several programs and services are provided for elderly people to enable them to perform rituals in ease and comfort, enriching their experience.

Two Holy Mosques chief Sheikh Abdulrahman Al-Sudais affirmed the presidency’s keenness to provide the best social, voluntary and humanitarian services to pilgrims while applying preventive measures, following health instructions and providing visitors with a safe and healthy environment in the Grand Mosque in Makkah.


Saudi Arabia’s children now have holistic sports program for skills development

Saudi Arabia’s children now have holistic sports program for skills development
Updated 04 October 2022

Saudi Arabia’s children now have holistic sports program for skills development

Saudi Arabia’s children now have holistic sports program for skills development
  • Focus on play and not competition, says agency designing programs
  • Multiple sports for ages 4-10 including dance, yoga, gymnastics

RIYADH: A local organization, Sports Hub KSA, is designing tailor-made sports programs for children that emphasize play and skills development rather than competition, and which encourages the involvement of parents.

Simon Muller, CEO and co-founder of Sports Hub KSA, said of the approach to programs: “We want to give children a chance to do sports differently than in a school environment. There’s no pressure, it’s not in 45 minutes the teacher doesn’t have to teach something specific … the children can play in the time frame that they are with us.”

Sports Hub KSA is a Saudi Arabia-based agency that specializes in creating and delivering sports programs for stakeholders such as Inspire Sports, schools, families, and individual children aged between four and 10.

This year, for example, Inspire Sports organized a summer camp program, one of the first in the Kingdom after COVID-19, allowing children to interact with others their age.

Unlike other sports programs, Inspire does not urge competition or being the best, it rather sets a foundation for children to develop their skills while enjoying multiple activities and sports in one session.

Sports Hub KSA is a Saudi Arabia-based agency that specializes in creating and delivering sports programs for stakeholders such as Inspire Sports, schools, families, and individual children aged between four and 10. (Supplied)

“It’s a mix of sports, multi-sport is the core of our concept, it isn’t one single sport, children always need to explore different things and one sport can get boring after four or five sessions,” Muller said.

Muller believes that it is important to play with children especially “those aged between four and 10, as it is way more important than specializing in one sport.”

There can be five to eight sports or games in a session such as athletics, dodgeball, basketball, football, gymnastics, dance and yoga. “We are more focused on the game rather than the sport. “It’s very interesting that the children are interested in many different things.”

Muller said that yoga, which was done at least once a week, was quite popular in the program.

The three-hour summer program only offered apples, bananas, and water. “We just want to set examples and offer something healthy during our sessions to influence other parents and see what we are offering. We are also using social media channels to promote healthy eating,” he said.

Muller said that inclusivity is a major aspect of their programs, so the role of parents is important and coaches encourage them to be involved and present during sessions.

“Inclusion is a very important aspect of what we are doing, we don’t want to exclude anyone. We try to have games for children of different levels and age and development stages to have fun together,” Muller said.

“We are totally aware that what we are doing is something new and we as a company are new and we also know that trust is the most important thing for parents when they decide to send their children to programs, especially when the children are so young,” he said.

“Inclusion is a very important aspect of what we are doing, we don’t want to exclude anyone. We try to have games for children of different levels and age and development stages to have fun together,” CEO and co-founder of Sports Hub KSA said. (Supplied)

“So, we have open days where families can come with their children and just try it and see what we are doing but we also invite the parents all the time. The doors are completely open so parents can come in and see what we are doing at any time of the program,” he said.

“Everything is important at a young age, between three and six it’s very clear in the scientific world that this is the most important age in developing certain behaviors and having a positive association with certain things,” Muller said.

“The ultimate goal is that the children are with us, especially in the age group of four to nine, are with us for two to three years, and not just summer. When they spend couple of hours with us every week, their fundamentals are way more developed than other children that don’t have that opportunity,” he said.

Muller believes it is important for children in their early years to try different things. After the initial first few years enrolled in the sports program, children will then be able to choose the sports that they love.


Photographer Faisal bin Zarah’s exhibition is a love letter to the Kingdom 

Photographer Faisal bin Zarah’s exhibition is a love letter to the Kingdom 
Updated 03 October 2022

Photographer Faisal bin Zarah’s exhibition is a love letter to the Kingdom 

Photographer Faisal bin Zarah’s exhibition is a love letter to the Kingdom 

 

RIYADH: Photographer Faisal bin Zarah’s first three-day solo exhibition, “Raw Kingdom,” transformed Lakum Art Space in Riyadh into a vivid love letter to Saudi Arabia — a result of 15 years of hard work.  

The exhibition, which took place from Sept. 27 to Oct. 2, showcased photos of the vast spaces of the northern region to AlUla in the west, and the beautiful landscapes of Riyadh in the central region. 

“Every Saudi knows his work, but they don’t realize it’s Faisal,” Dana Qabbani, the exhibition’s curator, told Arab News. “His photos are in the passport sector, in the Absher app, all the ministries that you think of. His commercial work is very known.” 

Spending a large part of his life photographing for commercial purposes, Bin Zarah found that the copious amounts of time and effort spent on his unique shots made them more valuable than a mere business transaction.

He views his work as something to be contemplated and reflected upon. In a single exhibition, he rerouted his path from corporate to creative. 

“A photo that took me two years in the making should not be posted on a website or used for commercial or advertisement purposes. A better use of it is to consider it as a piece of fine art,” Bin Zarah told Arab News. 

But how does one transform a commercial photographer’s work into an art piece? For the exhibition’s curator, the challenge was not within the content, but the presentation.

“We chose the best materials to showcase his work and we chose a certain sequence for these (photographs), we sort of gave his work a timeline. We took you on a trip,” Qabbani said. 

“I did this art gallery because everything you see is our limited edition prints exclusively for collectors and art enthusiasts,” he added.

Photographer Faisal Bin Zarah, for only three days in his first solo exhibition “.RAW KINGDOM,” has transformed Lakum Art Space into a vivid love letter to Saudi Arabia, a result 15 years in the making. (Lakum Art Space/Mohammad Fattal)

Bin Zarah believes that the widespread use of his images for social media or commercial advertising purposes will degrade the value of his work.  

“To me, a photo is much deeper than a click of a shutter and you’re able to see it. It’s a message. It’s an idea. It’s a story. I am a storyteller,” Bin Zarah said. 

The story of this long-awaited love letter springs from love itself: Bin Zarah began his journey with photography when his wife gifted him his first camera in 2007 and taught him the basics, which he proudly proclaims. 

He began to visually feed his eye through photo-sharing websites like Flickr until he found his style, gravitating towards land and cityscape photography.

His work is two-fold: One aspect of it focuses on the growing civilization and the other industrialization in Riyadh.

He describes his shot of the full moon rising over Faisaliyah Tower in his work titled “Lift Off” as a “moment of joy.” 

For someone working in the telecommunications field during the day and taking caring for four children, he sees his photography escapades as a getaway from all the stress and negativity.

“This time is enjoyment to me. This is what drives me … When you create something, anything— even Lego or puzzles — once you finish, there’s a reward, you get the sense of achievement and completion. This is what I get when I complete a project,” Bin Zarah said. 

The exhibition, which took place from Sept. 27 to Oct. 2, showcased photos of the vast spaces of the northern region to AlUla in the west, and the beautiful landscapes of Riyadh in the central region. 
(Lakum Art Space/Mohammad Fattal)

His unique angles even impressed the owner of the Kingdom Tower,  Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, who has the photo of it hanging in his office. 

At Lakum Art Space, it was showcased as part of Bin Zarah’s “Dawn to Dusk” photo series, which takes you on a trip to various sites in Riyadh through the turning of the sun. 

His dedication is apparent in his work. Bin Zarah spent two years awaiting the full moon every month to capture the perfect moment as it grazed both the Faisaliah and Kingdom towers in his moon series.

“His work ethics really made this a piece of cake to curate, to install, so what I loved is that it wasn’t just a photography exhibition, it’s basically taking someone’s career from A to Z, a different destination,” Qabbani said. 

The other aspect of his work pursues his love for traveling to discover gems within the Kingdom. With that, he hopes to inspire people to venture into these spaces and appreciate their beauty. 

“My message is: We have an amazing vibrant Kingdom from north to south, east to west, and it has so many undiscovered jewels, untouched by humans or others. I’m only a person that’s showing one side of the beauty. The real beauty is when you visit the place physically and see it,” Bin Zarah said. 

In his AlUla collection, he features various self-portraits taken under the night sky of the city’s northern part, Al-Gharamil, encapsulating all the stars within single shots, found in his works “Interstellar” and “Message to the Galaxy.”

Bin Zarah uses a Sony A7R Mark IV, a 60 megapixel camera, with a variation of zoom and wide lenses to capture even the smallest of details. Standing parallel to his work easily gives the audience the instinct to reach out and feel the texture. 

He quite frequently uses drones and stitching methods to ensure that the details are vibrant enough even for the human eye to spot. 

“I am going to usual places and trying to capture them in an unusual way … By design, the drone camera is wide. So it will capture the whole thing even if you are at 200 meters, but nobody used it to cover a 4 square km area. I did a sky scan in order for me to show these amazing details,” he said.

In his astonishing “Earth’s Veins,” he took 21 photos from a 500 meter distance, stitched together to reveal the red dunes and mountains near Thadig, a historical city north of Riyadh. 

The unusual landscape scene stretches across 3 km formed by wind and rainwater that pushed through the crevices of the land. 

As a photographer who’s been traveling across the Kingdom for years, his work acts as documentations of the landscape before the initiation of several giga projects under Vision 2030, such as NEOM and Qiddiya. 

He sees the projects as elevations to these spaces, not tampering with the environment. They actually reflect the underlying history of the region.  

“NEOM, which is The Line, is mirror. So it will not intervene with the environment. It will be within it … Saudi Arabia is the land of civilization. The history of the whole earth started from the Arabian peninsula,” Bin Zarah said. 

“The new projects are good for the citizens, and I’m so happy that they are putting in mind the environment. They’re not destroying anything and are actually conserving it.”


Who’s Who: Abdullah Al-Assaf, co-founder and chairman, OCEANX Consulting Firm

Who’s Who: Abdullah Al-Assaf, co-founder and chairman, OCEANX Consulting Firm
Updated 04 October 2022

Who’s Who: Abdullah Al-Assaf, co-founder and chairman, OCEANX Consulting Firm

Who’s Who: Abdullah Al-Assaf, co-founder and chairman, OCEANX Consulting Firm

Abdullah Al-Assaf is the co-founder and chairman of OCEANX, a Saudi consulting firm that provides consultative services to the government and private sectors through a selection of experts and competencies.

With over 14 years of experience, Al-Assaf has significantly contributed to the entrepreneurship sector. His specialties include financial engineering, developing financial models, redesigning financial plans and creating governance systems for various government and private entities.

He is also an approved valuer of economic facilities by the Saudi Authority for Accredited Valuers, also known as Taqeem.

During his early years, he established small manufacturing plants and cafes in 2005. While completing his university studies, he began working part-time as a business developer for a real estate company in 2006.

He worked as a financial business developer for the Badir Program for Technology Incubators from 2011 to 2012, following his bachelor’s and master’s programs.

In 2012, Al-Assaf was a vice president of finance at Gulf Furnishing Group. Subsequently, he co-founded OCEANX, and established the International Senbar Group, where he is currently a Chairman.

In 2014, Al-Assaf established Aram Investment Holding, affiliated with several manufacturing, wholesale and retail companies. Additionally, he co-founded VEST Investment Co., VoM Cloud Accounting Platform, and Fuel for Funding.

Moreover, Al-Assaf gave workshops on topics related to entrepreneurship and financial management in collaboration with public universities, including King Saud University, Taibah University, King Saud bin Abdulaziz University for Health Sciences, and chambers of commerce, such as the Riyadh, Al-Ahsa, and Abha chambers.

He holds a master’s degree in international business and finance from De Montfort University, UK, a bachelor’s degree in finance from Qassim University, and diplomas in investment and management, finance and business strategy.