Finding treasures at the Islamic Arts Biennale’s Al-Matjar in Jeddah
Sustainability key to the concept store; more than 620 rare, custom-made items on display
Updated 26 March 2023
JEDDAH: Visitors to the inaugural Islamic Arts Biennale in Jeddah can pick up Ramadan-themed items and intricate works of art at the on-site Al-Matjar concept store, a retail space developed by the Diriyah Biennale Foundation.
“The biennale store is never, ever the same. We change it every week. The only constant is that you’ll see is the Diriyah Foundation merchandise,” Dalia Al Akki, the store representative, told Arab News.
According to Al Akki, the DBF hopes the shop can become one of Jeddah’s new cultural destinations. It aims to have something for everyone — and allow them to take a bit of the Biennale’s “Awwal Bait” (First House) theme back home with them.
“The idea of this collaboration is that the Diriyah Foundation wants to open a platform to support digital artists. It’s like a marketing tool for us to use their illustrations and create merch with them, or stationery, or puzzles,” she said. “We didn’t want to just do merchandise this year; we wanted to really enhance this idea of collaboration.”
Since the biennale is a temporary exhibition, the idea was to create tangible items that people can take back home with them.
After thorough research, they reached out to around 180 brands, of which 95 made it to the shelves. Since the DBF is a non-profit organization, it was obligated to use the space as a launching pad for brands and to cultivate creativity.
“Some of these items are very rare and very beautiful, and soon they’ll be collectible,” Al Akki said proudly.
The store prioritizes collaborating with brands that focus on sustainability, and many of the over 620 items are rare and custom-made. According to Dalia Al Akki, every item in the store will be reused, including the wayfinding flags that will be repurposed into tote bags later.
It was always meant to be a pop-up shop, which is perhaps part of the allure. If you like something, pick it up and buy it instantly or it might be gone. Maybe forever. Many items were custom-made for the shop and won’t ever be sold anywhere else.
There’s one section that is distinctly pre-owned. It is dedicated to selling secondhand books and Al Akki hopes this will help shift people’s perception of pre-owned and think of it as ‘pre-loved.’
“We know a guy that collects books from all over the region, so we really wanted to add that in,” she explained. “A lot of artists actually just buy books and end up throwing them. A lot of people in the Kingdom don’t know the value of these books. But for us, secondhand books are still valuable. We even have vintage magazines.”
She said that she has been surprised by the popularity of the secondhand books and have had to replenish their stocks.
“We also work with a lot of product makers (who focus on) sustainability. Nothing in the store is going to be thrown away; everything is going to be reused — even the wayfinding flags; we are actually taking them and making tote bags out of them for next year,” she said. “We are supporting local and international artists and sustainability is a main goal.”
It was crucial for the curation of the products to be inclusive of different countries and styles, as well as price ranges, and to provide something that non-Muslims could buy too.
“What’s amazing about the whole idea of this pop-up store is that we really get to know the community — beyond the Kingdom. We can’t wait for the (next Biennale cycle) because there’s so many places you could go. I mean, this was limited, challenging, but definitely worth it,” Al Akki said. “We’ve learned, we’ve grown, we’ve met many beautiful people along the way.”
One of those people is Sultan bin Mohammed, the shy-but-charming millennial leader of the Galag Garage clothing brand (Galag translates to “nuisance”).
He was proud to take part in this pop-up store in his hometown of Jeddah and is shaking up the shop — one stitch at a time.
The filmmaker and entrepreneur showed Arab News his exclusive capsule Galag collection, created in collaboration with the Diriyah Biennale Foundation store. Rows of durable-but-soft hoodies, t-shirts, tote bags and caps with the word “Galag” written in Arabic using the custom biennale font and typography.
“They (Diriyah Biennale Foundation) wanted really to represent the structures in the Hajj terminal. So I wanted to recreate that, but give a bit of a retro-wave design,” he told Arab News.
He also added elements that are distinctly ‘Galag,’ such as images of vintage cars.
“We wanted something that’s wearable, has a bit of style, has a bit of weight to it — something that people would be happy and comfortable with. We decided to do very simple but high-quality material with interesting colors,” bin Mohammed told Arab News.
Most of those color inspirations were derived from local nature. The sandy hoodie has a bit of saturated blue that pops — meant to represent the sky. The white hoodie, in contrast, was meant to be muted.
“Every color choice here is meant to look better with age; so the longer we wear it, the better it looks — that was the concept,” he said.
Like Al Akki, bin Mohammed was adamant that he wanted to produce something that would last.
“Sustainability is a huge thing. We really wanted to use something that lasts — something that you can wear for years, maybe put in your closet then bring it out and it still keeps its shape; it keeps the quality and it doesn’t disintegrate,” bin Mohammed said.
He was also keen to have the date incorporated into the t-shirts. “It’s the first Islamic Arts Biennale and to have the date on it to commemorate it was really important. I think it’s really cool to have a piece of history. It’s great that we’re a small part of that,” said bin Mohammed.
King Salman, Crown Prince congratulate President Sakellaropoulou on Greek national day
Updated 25 March 2023
RIYADH: King Salman sent a cable of congratulations to President Katerina Sakellaropoulou of Greece on Saturday on the anniversary of her country’s Independence Day.
The king expressed his best wishes for the president’s good health and happiness, and for the government and people of Greece steady progress and prosperity.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman also congratulated President Sakellaropoulou on the Greek indepedence day, Saudi Press Agency reported.
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Earlier this month, Alexis Konstantopoulos, the ambassador of Greece to Saudi Arabia, highlighted the importance of enduring relations between the nations at the European country's national day celebration on March 15.
Konstantopoulos told Arab News: “Greece and Saudi Arabia are stronger together, and as we celebrate joys and successes, tonight we celebrate not only our national day but our vibrant, strong and strategic partnership.”
Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim leaves Madinah
Al-Jasser said that Malaysia is a model of success embodied in social and economic achievements
Updated 25 March 2023
MADINAH: Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim on Saturday left Madinah after visiting the Prophet’s Mosque, where he performed prayers.
Upon his departure from Prince Mohammed bin Abdulaziz International Airport in Madinah, the prime minister was seen off by Prince Saud bin Khalid Al-Faisal, deputy governor of Madinah, and other key officials.
On Wednesday, Ibrahim arrived in Jeddah. Later, he performed Umrah rituals at the Grand Mosque in Makkah.
During his trip, Ibrahim met Chairman of the Islamic Development Bank Group Mohammad Al-Jasser.
Al-Jasser said that Malaysia is a model of success embodied in social and economic achievements.
Ibrahim also acknowledged the valuable role played by the IDB in both the economic support it provided to member states and the humanitarian assistance it offered to vulnerable societies worldwide.
He added that his visit constituted an excellent opportunity to discuss strengthening cooperation between the IDB and Malaysia.
17k held for labor, residency, border violations in Saudi Arabia
A further 68 people were caught trying to cross into neighboring countries, and 18 were held for involvement in transporting and harboring violators
Updated 25 March 2023
RIYADH: Saudi authorities arrested almost 17,000 people in one week for breaching residency, work and border security regulations, according to an official report.
From March 16 to 22, a total of 9,259 people were arrested for violations of residency rules, while 4,899 were held over illegal border crossing attempts, and a further 2,491 for labor-related issues.
The report showed that among the 1,132 people arrested for trying to enter the Kingdom illegally, 45 percent were Yemeni, 52 percent Ethiopian, and 3 percent were of other nationalities.
A further 68 people were caught trying to cross into neighboring countries, and 18 were held for involvement in transporting and harboring violators.
The Saudi Ministry of Interior said that anyone found to be aiding illegal entry to the Kingdom, including transporting and providing shelter, could face imprisonment for a maximum of 15 years, a fine of up to SR1 million ($260,000), or confiscation of vehicles and property.
Suspected violations can be reported on the toll-free number 911 in the Makkah and Riyadh regions, and 999 or 996 in other regions of the Kingdom.
Digitalization to reform Kingdom’s maritime sector
Area is a key driver of Saudi economy and critical pillar of Vision 2030, says tech firm official
Updated 25 March 2023
HUSSAM AL MAYMAN
RIYADH: The Kingdom’s maritime sector is progressing in alignment with the National Transport and Logistics Strategy and Saudi Ports Authority’s targets, which aim to position Saudi as a global logistics hub.
Increased digitalization and greater reliance on autonomous applications and big data are integral to driving maritime innovation and progress in Saudi Arabia.
David Tyler, commercial director of Artemis Technologies, said that the maritime sector is a critical pillar for the Kingdom’s Vision 2030.
He said: “As Saudi Arabia makes significant headway toward achieving carbon neutralization, technology remains instrumental in this journey.”
He added that following years of underinvestment in innovation by the global maritime transport sector — when compared to the automotive industry, aviation and rail — the sector was under pressure to develop and adopt disruptive technologies to hit ambitious emission reduction targets.
Tyler said: “The case isn’t too different for the Middle East and the Kingdom. Due to a lack of viable low or zero-emission solutions available, most vessels continue to use aging, inefficient and polluting propulsion systems.”
He added that innovation in Saudi Arabia’s maritime sector is possible through the efficient implementation of new advanced technologies, which will help enhance fleet utilization, streamline commercial processes and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Tyler told Arab News that Artemis Technologies has ambitious expansion plans for the Middle East.
He said: “The Middle East has grown as a region of opportunity for sustainability and will serve as the host for COP28.
“Saudi Arabia presented 66 initiatives as part of its environmental plan at COP27 in Egypt last year, in line with the Saudi Green Initiative. We are aligned with the Saudi Green Initiative targets of reducing emissions by 278 million tons per annum by 2030.
“We are keen to transfer technical know-how to Saudi youth in the area of electrification, as well as drive transferable skills relevant to other mobility sectors.
"There is an evident paradigm shift taking place in Saudi Arabia’s maritime sector, toward a new era of digitalization.”
The digitalization of vessel operations has raised the performance of ports within the Kingdom, with King Abdullah Port earning the title of the world’s most efficient, according to the Container Port Performance Index developed by The World Bank.
Tyler added that sustainability is also a key determinant of the performance of the Kingdom’s maritime sector.
He said: “Decarbonisation of the maritime industry is underway in Saudi Arabia, led by the design and development of transformative technologies and zero-emission vessels.
“Such transformative technologies will help propel the regional maritime sector’s alignment with the targets set by the International Maritime Organization for the shipping industry to reduce its carbon emissions by 40 percent by 2030.”
Artemis recently launched high-speed, zero-emission electric ferries in Dubai, with claims that they can cut fuel costs by up to 85 percent.
Tyler said: “A high-speed electric passenger ferry service seems like the obvious opportunity for the Kingdom, given its shift towards electrification across transportation services. This would be the fastest, greenest, and most enjoyable way to get around.”
Maritime trade plays a key role in the Middle East region. The tourism industry is booming and Saudi Arabia recorded a total of 93.5 million tourists in 2022, according to figures released by the Ministry of Tourism.
Tyler added that Saudi Arabia’s sustainable megaprojects such as the Red Sea Project, Diriyah Gate, AMAALA, Qiddiya, and NEOM will help it achieve its goal of attracting 100 million visitors a year before 2030.
He said: “Sustainable and futuristic transport systems form the crux of these megaprojects: from NEOM’s 170-kilometer-long car-free mirrored city The Line, to a fleet of electric buses across the Red Sea Project.
“There are a number of exclusive island resorts being developed in the Kingdom, and this is leading to an increase in the need for sustainable passenger ferries and water taxis, which are being demanded by more eco-conscious travelers coming into Saudi Arabia every year.”