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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Best-selling Saudi novel ‘HWJN’ turns into live action

Best-selling Saudi novel ‘HWJN’ turns into live action
Updated 03 December 2022

Best-selling Saudi novel ‘HWJN’ turns into live action

Best-selling Saudi novel ‘HWJN’ turns into live action
  • The idea of adapting the novel has been tickling the ambitious mind of the producer-turned-director Yasir Al-Yasiri after he was gifted the book in 2017 by his friend, Emirati filmmaker Majid Al-Ansari

JEDDAH: A panel discussion was held today in Jeddah during the second edition of the Red Sea International Film Festival, titled “Hawjan: From the Novel to the Screen,” to shed light on the journey of transforming the best-selling novel “HWJN” into a movie.

From written words to the screen, the speakers explained the success of the famous fantasy novel and the complexities of transforming it for the big screen.

The book, pronounced Hawjan, was the number one best-selling novel in the history of Saudi Arabia when released in 2013. It is the first book of a series of metaphysical and supernatural novels that depict the results of interacting with the unknown realm of the jinn, which co-exists with the human world.

Translator Yasser Bahjatt, Actress Al Anood Saud, Director Yasir Al-Yasiri, Actress Nour  Khadra, Actor Baraa Alem. (AN photo)

Written by Ibraheem Abbas and translated into English by Yasser Bahjatt, the action-romance story details the interaction of two worlds and the unity of two different species to stop the evil of their worlds from slipping into each other.

It also sheds light on good jinns and shows the world from their perspective, with humans haunting their homes, and shows how some humans are more evil to each other than jinn are to them.

The idea of adapting the novel has been tickling the ambitious mind of the producer-turned-director Yasir Al-Yasiri after he was gifted the book in 2017 by his friend, Emirati filmmaker Majid Al-Ansari.

At first, Al-Yasiri did not take an interest in the book, until his friend insisted he reads it. “I read it overnight and I was actually like: Woah, this is something I want to work on,” said Al-Yasiri in a press release at The Ritz-Carlton Jeddah on Saturday.

He added that he decided to work on it because it “tackles a genre that is rarely addressed in the Arab world” and to “break the norm and bring something fresh.”

The two men immediately started working on the script and started the casting and filming process in 2018 with Al-Ansari as a director and Al-Yasiri as a producer. In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic restricted Al-Ansari from coming to Saudi Arabia, leading Al-Yasiri to become the director, and he proceeded with filming.

The story introduces Sawsan, a medical student from the world of humans, and Hawjan, a curious man from the realm of the jinn, which humankind cannot see. The jinn man takes an interest in knowing Sawsan and her family after they move to a new house, where Hawjan and his family have been living for years.

While trying to maintain the boundaries between his life in both worlds, Hawjan discovers that he comes from a royal bloodline and tries to reclaim his right to the throne.

The script, written by both Al-Ansari and Al-Yasiri, ensures that the story has the necessary changes for the screen, but does not drift away from the book.

One of the biggest challenges the crew faced was creating a city that exists in the jinn world —Milaj City, which no human has seen. Al-Yasiri said they had to bear in mind the civilizational scenery of the jinn world, which existed before humans.

Casting the actors was a bit tricky, trying to find characters in the actors rather than actors who could portray them. This led to the casting of the brilliant Saudi actor Baraa Alem as Hawjan, Nour Khadra as Sawsan, Nayef Al-Dhufary as Zanan, and Al-Anood Saud as Jamara.

As the book became a major hit in 2013, the publishing houses were ordered by the religious police to stop selling it 11 months after its release, as it stirred controversy among parents who started complaining that their children were learning black magic, and how to call upon jinn.

One month later, the book was back on shelves after the editors, and the reviewing committee, made sure it was clear of the claims.

A teaser trailer was released earlier today by Vox Cinema, giving a glimpse into the world created by Al-Yasiri. Produced by Image Nation, MBC, and Vox Cinema, the movie will be out in 2023.

 


Asir governor, ministers attend Aseer Investment Forum launch

Asir governor, ministers attend Aseer Investment Forum launch
Updated 03 December 2022

Asir governor, ministers attend Aseer Investment Forum launch

Asir governor, ministers attend Aseer Investment Forum launch
  • The forum seeks to achieve the national strategic investment goals by attracting investments to the promising sectors, namely tourism, agriculture and sports

ABHA: Asir Gov. Prince Turki bin Talal bin Abdulaziz, who also heads the region’s development authority, sponsored the launch of the Aseer Investment Forum at King Khalid University in Al-Qaraa on Saturday.

The ceremony saw the participation of Investment Minister Khalid Al-Falih and Tourism Minister Ahmed Al-Khateeb, along with  Secretary-General of the World Tourism Organization Zurab Pololikashvili.

In his opening speech, Prince Turki said: “The Asir region is of great interest to the wise leadership and benefits from its continuous support to promote all of the developmental projects and underline its strong points and uniqueness in all its fields. The forum was held after the region’s infrastructural development was completed and the economic studies, which will provide accurate information regarding the investment opportunities, were conducted.

“The forum seeks to achieve the national strategic investment goals by attracting investments to the promising sectors, namely tourism, agriculture and sports. These sectors would, in their turn, contribute to the achievement of the objectives of Asir’s development strategy, stimulate local and foreign direct investments and turn the region into a global tourist destination all year round, while also expanding the investment radius to cover all of the region’s provinces, characterized by the diversity of their environments,” he added.

Al-Khateeb stressed the leadership’s keenness to develop the Kingdom’s tourism sector, utilize the attraction elements and benefit from available opportunities by raising the sector’s contribution to the Kingdom’s gross domestic product from 3 to 10 percent. “The launch of Asir’s strategy has helped the ministry implement several of its initiatives and projects, which are aimed at developing the tourism sector as well as locally and internationally promoting the region’s tourism sector,” he said.

“The Kingdom has allocated SR450 million ($119.7 million) to train 100,000 young Saudi men and women with the aim of providing tourism facilities with trained employees. More than 70,000 young men and women have received the necessary training, including 7,000 who were sent abroad to be trained according to international standards,” he added.

Al-Falih said that “the ministry is working to support economic projects in Asir and encourage businessmen to establish services and tourism projects in order to develop the region and stimulate investments through the privatization and partnership system in place between the private and public sectors.

“The ministry is also keen to receive suggestions, listen to the investors and work on resolving all the difficulties they might face,” he added, lauding Asir’s strategy for “what it has achieved in terms of establishing an investor-attracting environment, inviting the investors and providing them with all the information and data that would help them set the region’s investment compass.”

Pololikashvili commended the Kingdom for “the qualitative leaps it has achieved when it comes to tourism, developing tourist destinations and facilitating the required procedures to visit the country,” recognizing how rich Saudi Arabia’s various regions are “in terms of natural elements and environmental diversity, which support its aim of becoming a global tourist destination.”

 


Super Hero experience tells Boulevard World visitors the story of The Avengers

Visitors can live the details in a 3D simulation, by standing in front of the heroes and taking pictures with them. (Supplied)
Visitors can live the details in a 3D simulation, by standing in front of the heroes and taking pictures with them. (Supplied)
Updated 03 December 2022

Super Hero experience tells Boulevard World visitors the story of The Avengers

Visitors can live the details in a 3D simulation, by standing in front of the heroes and taking pictures with them. (Supplied)
  • The Super Hero experience includes the old TV room, which contains a TV set with distorted frequencies, to enhance the feeling of fear and tension among the participants in the experiment

RIYADH: The Super Hero experience takes visitors of Boulevard World, one of the 15 entertainment zones of Riyadh Season, on a training trip to Marvel World with the SHIELD team, accompanied by Stan Lee, who tells the story of the Avengers and how to use the team’s weapons in a digital experience that turns visitors into distinguished heroes.

The experience takes visitors to the shooting wall, where they learn to use the weapons of their superheroes and choose the appropriate items for each stage. Through the training area, visitors also have option to solve puzzles, search for missing data, and impersonate heroes to measure their physical capabilities.

Through the experience, visitors can live the details in a 3D simulation, by standing in front of the heroes and taking pictures with them in a form closer to reality than imagination. Visitors can also have fun in the Marvel World, the Hall of Superheroes, the Draw Your Hero activity, and the augmented reality mirror.

HIGHLIGHT

The experience takes visitors to the shooting wall, where they learn to use the weapons of their superheroes and choose the appropriate items for each stage. Through the training area, visitors also have option to solve puzzles, search for missing data, and impersonate heroes to measure their physical capabilities.

The Super Hero experience includes the old TV room, which contains a TV set with distorted frequencies, to enhance the feeling of fear and tension among the participants in the experiment. It also has a street room where people are chased by zombies.

The zone allows visitors to shop in the Super Hero store, which includes a huge assortment of Marvel, DC and Comic-Con products, including collectibles and costumes.

Tickets can be booked via the link: https://ticketmx.riyadhseason.sa/en/d/2430/boulevard-world

Boulevard World is at the heart of the third Riyadh Season. It includes the 10 culturally-oriented subzones from all over the world, featuring customs and lifestyles, folklore, dances, and prominent aspects of design and construction.

Visitors can learn about the cultures of China, Italy, France, India, Morocco, Spain, America, Japan, Greece and Mexico.

For both families and individuals, Boulevard World is a premier entertainment destination, featuring a host of experiences, including rides in hot air balloons, submarines and boats.

It has the largest man-made lake in the world, where boats can travel between cities through 11 stations. It also offers the Area 15 experience from Las Vegas; The Sphere, the biggest spherical theater in the world; a city for gaming fans; comic book and anime-themed activities; and plenty of family-friendly entertainment options.

Visitors can enjoy a ride in a Venetian gondola, taste American cuisine, shop for the best Spanish products and watch flamenco shows.

 


Virtual Reality Zone hits center stage at Red Sea International Film Festival

The VR scene in Saudi Arabia is still predominantly a medium for the young. (Supplied)
The VR scene in Saudi Arabia is still predominantly a medium for the young. (Supplied)
Updated 03 December 2022

Virtual Reality Zone hits center stage at Red Sea International Film Festival

The VR scene in Saudi Arabia is still predominantly a medium for the young. (Supplied)
  • Liz Rosenthal told Arab News: “Virtual reality is many different things. One project is entirely different from another
  • The projects range from video games to stories and art galleries

JEDDAH: The Virtual Reality Zone came into its own at the Red Sea International Film Festival in Jeddah on Saturday, showcasing 10 different projects, six of which were directed by women, ranging from video games to stories and art galleries.

Liz Rosenthal, the curator of the zone, said that in terms of telling stories, the VR medium “is in a league of its own.”

She told Arab News: “Virtual reality is many different things. One project is entirely different from another.

“Unlike movies, where you know that it has a beginning, middle, and an end on a flat screen, in VR you may be doing something with one person, two, or 100.”

The curator is seeking to show what is possible within the VR world. The projects were chosen with the Saudi audience in mind.

She added: “We make sure that we have something for everyone, so there are things for younger people, families and people who have different tastes.”

The VR scene in Saudi Arabia is still predominantly a medium for the young.

Rosenthal said: “Even in countries like the UK, in the European region, (even in) the biggest companies, it is still too young.

“Ithra in Saudi Arabia started a year-and-a-half ago and they have made their projects, so that’s really great to see that Saudi is trying to appear on the map for VR products.”

Rosenthal added that it is important to develop further as the VR world needed people with the knowledge and tools to tell stories and create experiences into the future.

She said: “In some ways it is easier to come into a new medium because there is less of a structure stopping people, compared to something that has been going on for years like the cinema.

“It is difficult to break in, but here people are so much more welcoming.

“Another thing you need to understand is that it is real time; you are interacting with things that are around you.

“You need a lot of skills to create a good experience. Being just one thing is not enough: you need to be a good artist, a good architect, and much more.”

A recent development has been a gaming project called “Eggscape,” a multiplayer game. It allows the player to see through the lens of a VR headset and into their own surroundings. The game then projects characters and the player interacts.

Rosenthal said the game shows the future potential of VR, and the direction in which the medium is going.

 


Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea Souk welcomes storytellers

Twitter (@RedSeaFilm)
Twitter (@RedSeaFilm)
Updated 04 December 2022

Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea Souk welcomes storytellers

Twitter (@RedSeaFilm)
  • Event offers creatives, professionals chance to create business opportunities
  • It is part of the Red Sea International Film Festival in Jeddah

JEDDAH: The Red Sea Souk returned for the second Red Sea International Film Festival in Jeddah on Saturday.
The four-day souk will be packed with pitching sessions, meetings, screenings, industry talks and networking events.
Last year’s souk had more than 3,500 accredited industry professionals and organizers, with executives from 46 countries. This year is expected to have an even bigger number of people making it happen.
Zain Zedan, souk manager at the festival, said: “I’ve been working with the RSIFF since 2019. It has been a great pleasure to see the growth of the festival over the years, and where it’s leading, and the number of great films we’re having year by year, and the projects we’re supporting and funding.”
In the souk’s exhibitors’ area, the number of companies has more than doubled since last year, from 19 to 43 from nine countries.
“We’re always trying to expand and bring an international presence … whether it’s from Africa, Arab regions or Europe,” said Zedan.
“Since it’s an international festival, we’re always trying to welcome everyone and show them the abundance of potential we have in the region.”
Referring to a challenge earlier this year whereby people created short films in 48 hours, Zedan said: “They produced them in such a short time and the results were amazing. Two of the films were selected to be part of the RSIFF. So we’re supporting people in different ways, any way we can.”