Lihyanite ‘monumental statue’ from Saudi Arabia’s AlUla goes on display at Louvre in Paris

Special Lihyanite ‘monumental statue’ from Saudi Arabia’s AlUla goes on display at Louvre in Paris
Guests at unveiling ceremony of the statue listen as the CEO of the RCU Amr Al-Madani (far L) speaks. They include Princess Haifa bint Abdulaziz Al-Mogrin (right of statue), Director of the Louvre Museum Laurence Des Cars (far R), and former French culture minister Jack Lang (3rd from left). (AN photo by Tarek Mussa)
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Updated 07 September 2022

Lihyanite ‘monumental statue’ from Saudi Arabia’s AlUla goes on display at Louvre in Paris

Lihyanite ‘monumental statue’ from Saudi Arabia’s AlUla goes on display at Louvre in Paris
  • The statute, which dates from 5th to 3rd centuries BCE, will be on loan to the French museum for five years
  • Tuesday’s event marks the beginning of a new relationship between the Louvre and Royal Commission for AlUla

PARIS/ROME: A rare statue from the Lihyanite period that was found in northwestern Saudi Arabia has been unveiled at the Louvre Museum in Paris. Dating from the 5th to 3rd centuries BCE and measuring 2.3 meters in height, the statue represents a realistic rendering of a masculine figure standing upright and in a static frontal pose. 

Carved in sandstone and positioned with its arms aligned to either side and its legs straight, the 800kg statue, which is missing its head, most probably depicts a Liyhanite king, if not a priest or a praying figure.

The statue’s unveiling on Tuesday in the Louvre’s hall of Oriental Antiquities is significant in that it marks the beginning of a collaboration between French museums of heritage and the Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU).




The statue, which is missing its head, most probably depicts a Liyhanite king, if not a priest or a praying figure. (AN photo by Tarek Mussa) 

“The statue is a very important symbol of France’s cultural cooperation with Saudi Arabia,” Laurence des Cars, director of the Louvre Museum, told Arab News.

“It is a masterpiece of ancient sculpture that testifies to the archaeological research undertaken by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for more than 20 years, often in collaboration with France.

“We are very happy to be able to present for five years to visitors to the Louvre this masterpiece in the context of our collections of the Arabian Peninsula. It stands as a strong symbol of this collaboration.”




Laurence des Cars, director of the Louvre Museum, with the CEO of the RCU, Amr Al-Madani, on Tuesday, when a statue discovered in AlUla went on display in the hall of Oriental Antiquities. (AN photo by Tarek Mussa) 

The statue was discovered at the Dadan archaeological site in the oasis of modern AlUla, in northwestern Saudi Arabia, during excavations conducted by teams directed by King Saud University in Riyadh from 2003 to 2019.

It dates back to around 2,800 years ago, when Dadan was one of the most important trade route stations of the ancient world. Around the second half of the 1st millennium BCE, the Dadan kingdom was ruled by the kings of the Lihyan tribe, who retained power for several centuries.

“This is the first Lihyanite statue found in northwestern Saudi Arabia that will be exhibited for five years at the Louvre after an official agreement between the Louvre and the RCU,” Dr. Abdulrahman Alsuhaibani, acting collections executive director for the RCU, told Arab News.




Dr. Abdulrahman Alsuhaibani, acting collections executive director for the RCU, poses with the statue at the Louvre Museum in Paris. (AN photo by Tarek Mussa) 

“Last November, during the archaeological excavations at the sanctuary that has already been excavated by King Saud University, another statue was found of almost the same size as this one that is on display today. But the second one is currently undergoing conservation and restoration.

“We recovered the statue, we managed to stabilize it, and now we are working and making efforts to conserve it before putting it on display during the exhibition.”

Several colossal statues, believed to depict kings and priests, were discovered between 2005 and 2007 during archaeological excavations of the sanctuary of Dadan led by researchers from King Saud University.




A rare statue from the Lihyanite period that was found in northwestern Saudi Arabia is unveiled at the Louvre Museum in Paris. (AN photo by Tarek Mussa) 

“The team from the King Saud University moved to the site of Dadan where a long scientific project was launched to excavate one of the most important archeological sites in the northwest of the Kingdom,” Saeed Al-Saeed, who was dean of culture and archaeology at King Saud University when the statue was discovered, told Arab News.

 

“After the work started, further discoveries were made and Dadan city and some of its architectural details were discovered. Key discoveries and artifacts included huge statues, one of which is on display today at the Louvre.”

Experts say the statue dates back to the period when the Lihyan kingdom controlled the ancient caravan route from their capital in what is today known as AlUla, historically located along the ancient incense routes that ran from southern Arabia, north into Egypt, and beyond.




Dr. Abdulrahman Alsuhaibani, acting collections executive director for the RCU, talks about the statue at the Louvre Museum in Paris. (AN photo by Tarek Mussa) 

“Few civilizations have not been studied: Assyrians and Egyptian civilizations have all been studied,” Amr Al-Madani, CEO of the RCU, told Arab News. “What remains now is to unpack the role of Lihyan and Dadan, a civilization that ruled northern Arabia from AlUla.”

A repository of 200,000 years of history, AlUla is quickly becoming Saudi Arabia’s center for tourism and culture. Located in modern Saudi Arabia’s Madinah province in the Hejaz region, it is also home to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Hegra.

“The amount of undiscovered archaeology and the discovered archaeology that has not visited the world is magnificent in Saudi Arabia,” said Al-Madani. “We have recently unpacked many findings in AlUla.

 

 

Some of these are monumental sculptures. They are currently being studied, renovated and, certainly, will join their well-deserved place in the global network of world museums.”

The city of Dadan, the former site of both the Dadan and the Lihyan kingdom capitals, was first discovered by English poet and explorer Charles Montagu Doughty in 1876.

“Little remains of the old civil generations of el-Hejr, the caravan city; her clay-built streets are again the blown dust in the wilderness,” he wrote in his “Travels in Arabia Deserta,” published in 1888.

“Their story is written for us only in the crabbed scrawlings upon many a wild crag of this sinister neighborhood, and in the engraved titles of their funeral monuments, now solitary rocks, which the fearful passenger admires, in these desolate mountains.”




A rare statue from the Lihyanite period that was found in northwestern Saudi Arabia is unveiled at the Louvre Museum in Paris. (AN photo by Tarek Mussa) 

In 1909 and 1910, the site was carefully documented by the French Dominicans A. Jaussen and R. Savignac, who identified it as the biblical Dedan, mentioned in the Old Testament among the main caravan towns of Arabia.

Thanks to the hundreds of inscriptions in Dadanitic found at the site and among its surroundings, it was established that the city had been the capital of two successive kingdoms: First the oasis kingdom of Dadan in the first half of the 1st millennium BCE and then the vast tribal kingdom of Lihyan in the second half.

The statue was previously displayed as part of “Roads of Arabia,” a traveling exhibition that first appeared at the Louvre Abu Dhabi from November 2018 to February 2019, before heading abroad to Rome, Berlin, Paris, Barcelona, St. Petersburg, Houston, Tokyo, and beyond.

Roads of Arabia celebrated the archaeological treasures of Saudi Arabia and the UAE, exploring how the civilizations of the Arabian Peninsula served as a meeting point of the Indian Ocean, the Horn of Africa, Egypt and Mesopotamia.

Now, the new Lihyanite display in Paris offers a fresh opportunity to examine these ancient civilizations and the role they played in shaping the region.




Gerard Mestrallet, the executive chairman of the French Agency for the Development of AlUla, speaks at the unveiling of the statue at the Louvre Museum in Paris. (AN photo by Tarek Mussa) 

Determining the identity of who the statue is supposed to depict, however, will require careful study of the archaeological record and a fine examination of the details.

“We know that this statue is a Lihyanite statue that was found in a layer dated to the Lihyanite period, during the second half of the first millennium BC,” said Alsuhaibani.

“There is also another statue that was also found at the same layer. The word “king” was found written on the back of another statue that resembles the one on display today.”

The statue is dressed in a short tunic while on the body are traces of red pigment. On his left arm he wears a bangle that possibly is decorated with a pearl, worn in the crease of his elbow, while beneath his right foot there are the remains of the sole of a shoe, most likely a sandal.

Of note is the particular attention given to the rendering of the man’s anatomical form and its smooth surface, intricately depicting the muscles of the torso, abdomen, and the remains of the limbs — characteristic elements of the Lihyanite school of sculpture.

According to archaeologists and art historians, the statue is distinguished by its particular local style and reflective of artistic influences from ancient Egypt and Greece.

Preserving and celebrating the ancient heritage of Saudi Arabia forms a key part of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 social reform and economic diversification agenda, which includes investment in tourism infrastructure and attractions.

Among these developments is the “Journey Through Time” master plan, which will see AlUla valley transformed into a living museum designed to immerse visitors in 200,000 years of natural and human history.

“AlUla is the world’s largest living museum and a place of heritage for the world, holding thousands of years of history of cultural exchange,” said Al-Madani.

“Cultural exchange is an economic activity. It creates a place for people to know each other better and trade in business. Today we trade commodities, we trade products and what we really have to encourage now is we trade culture as the baseline of economic growth.

“What we see here is a king of Lihyan — a civilization that dominated northwest Arabia and played a significant role in the incense route and trade network of the past. Today the king stands here to welcome everyone back to AlUla, as we establish it as a major oasis of exchange, art, culture, heritage and hopefully fantastic memories for life.”

The rebirth of AlUla
Hegra, ancient city of the Nabataeans in Saudi Arabia’s historic AlUla Valley, is emerging from the mists of time to take its rightful place as one of the wonders of the world

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Saudi Arabia condemns the attack on Azerbaijan embassy in Tehran

Saudi Arabia condemns the attack on Azerbaijan embassy in Tehran
Updated 27 January 2023

Saudi Arabia condemns the attack on Azerbaijan embassy in Tehran

Saudi Arabia condemns the attack on Azerbaijan embassy in Tehran
  • On Friday morning a man armed with a Kalashnikov-style rifle stormed the Azerbaijan Embassy in Iran’s capital

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia on Friday condemned an armed attack on Azerbaijan embassy in Teheran that killed one security personnel and injured others.
In a statement the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed the Kingdom’s complete rejection of all forms of violence and voiced solidarity with the Republic of Azerbaijan and its people, calling for the respect of diplomatic missions and punishing the perpetrators, reported state agency SPA.  
On Friday morning a man armed with a rifle stormed the Azerbaijan Embassy in Iran’s capital, killing the head of security at the diplomatic post and wounding two guards, authorities said.


Woman arrested in US accused of murdering Saudi student in knife attack

Philadelphia police arrested Nicole Marie Rodgers on Friday for the murder of Alwaleed Algheraibi
Police found the body of Alwaleed Algheraibi, 25, inside a property on Hansberry Street, in Germantown Philapdelphia. (Internet)
Updated 27 January 2023

Woman arrested in US accused of murdering Saudi student in knife attack

Philadelphia police arrested Nicole Marie Rodgers on Friday for the murder of Alwaleed Algheraibi

DUBAI: Philadelphia police arrested a 19-year-old woman on Friday in connection with the fatal stabbing of a Saudi student, local US media have reported - it is understood the woman was the victim’s neighbor.

Police found the body of Alwaleed Algheraibi, 25, inside a property on Hansberry Street, in Germantown Philapdelphia, he had suffered a knife wound to the neck on Monday at about midday local time.

He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Investigating officers told local press that the victim’s phone and other valuables were taken.

Police confirmed Friday that Nicole Marie Rodgers was in custody following a week-long manhunt.

She faces charges of murder, robbery, burglary, theft, and possession of instrument of crime, police said.

Alwaleed Algheraibi was nearing the end of his studies and was due to return to Saudi Arabia.

The victim’s uncle told local Saudi media that his nephew’s suspected killer was a neighbor who lived in the apartment opposite.


Study on Saudi workplace wellness identifies key challenges, suggests solutions

Study on Saudi workplace wellness identifies key challenges, suggests solutions
Updated 27 January 2023

Study on Saudi workplace wellness identifies key challenges, suggests solutions

Study on Saudi workplace wellness identifies key challenges, suggests solutions
  • Report by Tuhoon, a Saudi tech startup founded in 2021, incorporates feedback from 4,000 employees
  • Culture surrounding mental health in the Kingdom appears to be improving despite limited available data

DUBAI: Although mental health issues present a significant challenge to productivity, a benchmark survey in Saudi Arabia has revealed yawning gaps between the services that human resources departments claim to provide and what employees believe is actually on offer, with employees largely unwilling to discuss workplace stress.

For the report, entitled “State of Wellness at the Workplace,” researchers talked to 4,000 employees in the Kingdom’s public and private sectors to assess where challenges arise in the workplace and how to fix them.

The study, which was compiled by Tuhoon, a Saudi tech startup founded in 2021, was carried out in collaboration with the Saudi National Center for Mental Health and the Ministry of Health. 

“The surveys were filled out anonymously, which made workers more receptive to talk about their issues,” Tuhoon CEO Fares Ghandour told Arab News.

“We found females are more willing to talk on a personal level but they opt out of discussing their mental health in the workspace as they do not wish to be perceived as weaklings. We also found workers above the age of 45 are less likely to talk about their mental health than younger generations.”

Tuhoon recently launched a smartphone app designed to help users improve their mental health, manage stress and get better quality of sleep through personalized, culturally relevant audio content.

This content includes meditation and mindfulness exercises, sleep stories, masterclasses, book summaries, deep-focus music, and emergency playlists. It is curated by doctors, clinical psychologists, and certified meditation and self-awareness coaches.

The study indicates that more than 80 percent of Saudi workplaces have no budget to support the mental health of their employees, despite the rising number of workers reporting a decline in their well-being.

The report says that the lack of mental health monitoring has taken a significant toll on the cultural and economic performance of many organizations, and the private sector is perceived as offering less assistance than the public sector.

According to the report, most workplaces are failing to prioritize the mental health of employees. It says that 78 percent of organizations do not measure their workers’ mental health at all, 82 percent have no dedicated resources for mental health services, and 52 percent do not provide health insurance cover for mental health.

It also says that at least four out of five employees experienced at least one mental health problem in the past year. The most common symptoms were anxiety, burnout and stress, as well as depression, relationship challenges and loneliness.

The available data on the issue of wellness in Saudi workplaces, including details of programs and benefits employers offer their workers, remains limited but the culture surrounding mental health does appear to be improving.

However, the Arab world in general lags in this regard which Ghandour says is why he founded Tuhoon.

“I have been investing in tech businesses for nine years,” he told Arab News. “I decided I wanted to build and invest in something I am passionate about, and the mental health cause is dear to me.

“I approached Dr. Naif Almutawa, a clinical psychologist, and Aymane Sennoussi, who became co-founders, and I put my time, energy and effort into making Saudi Arabia and the Arab world a happier and healthier place.”

Mental health problems are among the leading causes of disability worldwide, with depression topping the list. They can affect people regardless of age, culture and socioeconomic status.

The World Health Organization estimates a quarter of the global population will suffer a mental health issue at some point during their lives, and that about 12 billion working days are lost each year to depression and anxiety at an annual cost of $1 trillion in lost productivity.

The Tuhoon survey of Saudi workplaces posed the question: “How would you rate your mental health over the past 12 months on a scale, from 0 to 4?” It found that 24 percent of respondents ranked their mental health as below average.

Almost a quarter of respondents ranked their mental health below average, with 44 percent of Saudi women and 32 percent of Saudi men in the workplace prone to burnout. (Shutterstock)

Among the respondents, women were 62 percent more likely to develop a mental health problem than men, while 44 percent of women in work were found to be prone to burnout and anxiety compared with 32 percent of men.

The research also revealed that 57 percent believed work-related stress affected their mental well-being.

Of the 50 human resources departments that were surveyed, 59 percent said their organizations did not provide mental health insurance coverage, and 82 percent said their companies did not have an employee assistance program. EAPs are designed to help workers resolve professional and personal problems that might be affecting their productivity.

The results of the Saudi surveys compare with the findings of a 2022 workplace report entitled “Mental Health in America” in which one-third of HR professionals said their organization provided no mental health services to employees, 27 percent said their organization was not sure of the proper benefits to provide, and 18 percent said their organization was unsure of what plan or insurance to offer workers.

In the UK, according to a 2022 study by the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development, there is weak leadership on the issue of mental health in the workplace, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic. Figures show that only 29 percent of employers are able to spot early signs of mental health problems in their workers. Less than half (42 percent) of employers said that their leaders focus and encourage positive mental health by actions and behavior.

Good mental health is viewed as a key measure of prosperous and successful nations and organizations.

The Kingdom’s public sector scored higher (45 percent) than the private sector (36 percent) in terms of the proportion of employers that offered health insurance coverage that includes mental health services. Ghandour believes this is because the public sector plays such a major role in the Saudi economy, and so employees are looked after relatively well in an effort to maintain high productivity levels.

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According to studies by the Arab Barometer research network, however, more than half of residents in the Arab world find it hard to find decent mental health services. And globally, organizations struggle in the execution of HR policies designed to support mental health.

In 2019, the Saudi National Mental Health Survey found that 34 percent of people had experienced a mental health issue at some point in their lives, with blue collar-workers more open to reporting the challenges they faced than their white-collar counterparts.

It also found the most prevalent mental illnesses in the Kingdom were separation anxiety disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, major depressive disorder, social phobia, and obsessive compulsive disorder. 

Better-educated Saudis were more prone to such conditions.

Some 80 percent of respondents afflicted by a serious mental illness said they had not sought any treatment, while 8.9 percent said they had gone to a religious adviser or non-medical healer for help.

Experts say that to promote a healthier work culture, employers need to prioritize well-being, work to reduce the stigma that still surrounds mental illness, and provide mental health coverage for employees.

Tuhoon believes workplaces need to start viewing mental health as a collective issue rather than an individual problem. It recommends nine cost-effective steps to improve workplace mental health and, as a result, boost productivity.

These steps include workshops to raise awareness of the issue, and webinars on topics such as stress management, dealing with burnout, and increasing connectivity between workers. It also suggests offering additional days off to increase morale, training managers to spot mental health problems in workers, and creating a more welcoming and trusting work environment.

I decided I wanted to build and invest in something I am passionate about, and the mental health cause is dear to me,” said Fares Ghandour, CEO of Tuhoon. (Supplied)

Furthermore, Tuhoon urges employers to promote workplace behaviors that reduce burnout by encouraging workers to take time off if needed, offering a more flexible work environment, promoting a healthy balance between work and personal life, and creating a “check in” culture.

Additional recommendations include encouraging employers to use mental health assessments as a tool to measure stress and challenges, and to connect workers with helpful resources if needed.

Tuhoon says mental health “first aid” courses could also provide staff with the skills they need to detect the early signs of stressors and provide solutions and rapid responses to help distressed workers.

This could further reduce the stigma surrounding mental health in the workplace. Appointing “mental health ambassadors” would also contribute to more open and supportive conversations in the workplace.

Regarding the well-being of women in particular, Tuhoon urges employers to adjust workplace policies and encourage female employees to report harassment and sexual assault through the provision of a proper platform for doing so. Salaries and promotions must also be fairly determined regardless of gender.

Finally, employers and employees are encouraged to show gratitude in the workplace and introduce mechanisms through which workers feel able to talk about things or people they are grateful for inside and outside of work.

Tuhoon believes this could lead to enhanced job satisfaction, fewer sick days, the promotion of a positive and more trusting work environment, and increased productivity.


Saudi heritage event in ancient Uqair port attracts more than 60,000 visitors

Saudi heritage event in ancient Uqair port attracts more than 60,000 visitors
Updated 27 January 2023

Saudi heritage event in ancient Uqair port attracts more than 60,000 visitors

Saudi heritage event in ancient Uqair port attracts more than 60,000 visitors

RIYADH: The “Uqair Inscriptions” event held along the banks of the ancient seaport city in Al-Ahsa in the Eastern Province concluded on Wednesday with more than 60,000 visitors attending, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Thursday.
The event, organized by the Kingdom’s Heritage Commission in cooperation with the Culture and Arts Association in Al-Ahsa, included heritage and folklore performances and traditional handicrafts unique to Al-Ahsa through dramatized scenes of life from the past in the historic port.
The scenes also depicted its position as an important commercial gateway on the coast of the Arabian Gulf, from the arrival of sailboats to the port to loading the camel convoys with goods headed toward Al-Ahsa and Najd.
The event also included a photographic exhibition displaying pictures of the founding king in Uqair in 1915.
Uqair is the first seaport in the east of the Kingdom on the Arabian Gulf coast, the economic gateway since the beginning of the establishment of the state, and the main port to reach the east and center of the Kingdom.
During that time, the state worked to develop the port by establishing customs, passports, a principality building, and fortress, and goods and foodstuffs were brought to the heart of the Arabian Peninsula and the capital, Riyadh, through this port.


Saudi chief of the general staff meets number of officials in Italy

Saudi chief of the general staff meets number of officials in Italy
Updated 27 January 2023

Saudi chief of the general staff meets number of officials in Italy

Saudi chief of the general staff meets number of officials in Italy

ROME: Saudi Arabia’s Chief of the General Staff Lt. Gen. Fayyadh Al-Ruwaili on Thursday began an official multi-day visit to Italy, where he is scheduled to hold talks with a number of high-ranking Italian officials.
Upon arrival at Ciampino Military Airport in Rome, he was received by the Italian Chief of the Defense Staff, Admiral Giuseppe Cavo Dragone.
Al-Ruwaili met with Italian Minister of Defense Guido Crosetto and discussed bilateral cooperation and opportunities to bolster joint military coordination.
Al-Ruwaili visited the headquarters of the Defense Staff, where he met with Dragone and discussed a number of topics and means to enhance that cooperation.
The Saudi commander then met with Secretary General of Defense and National Armaments Director Lt. Gen. Luciano Portolano.
During a meeting with Gen. Francesco Paolo Figliuolo, commander of Italian Joint Operations Headquarters, Al-Ruwaili also discussed bilateral relations as well as means to enhance defense cooperation with him.
He also toured several companies linked to the Italian defense industry, including Fincantieri shipbuilding company, electronic-warfare specialist Elettronica, Leonardo Defense, and European multinational developer and manufacturer of missiles MBDA, where he was briefed about their military and defense products.